Dec 23, 2019
19 Kids and Counting: The Unexamined Life of Jessa Duggar
What’s a 19 Kids & Counting bachelorette party like? Well, we can honestly say Jessa’s ass gets used and abused. From sitting around doing nothing. Plus, we get a highlight reel of Jessa’s entire life to date! Yeah, it’s a lot of sitting around doing nothing, too.
I’ve come to genuinely enjoy writing these 19 Kids & Counting recaps. Your comments and messages brighten my week, as well as feed my ravenous ego, so all and all, it’s pretty damn awesome. But I still get no joy out of watching the show, which remains a painful chore every week. So when the world’s cutest baby (who just happens to live under my roof and share my DNA) decides my notes look absolutely delicious and crumples them up and shoves them in his adorable little chipmunk cheeks, the idea that I have to watch the damn thing again is positively oppressive.
But I’m all caught up now and excited to get typing.
On the plus side for you, my dear readers, this means I’ve got THREE SOLID HOURS of 19 Kids & Counting to roll out for you in snarky recap form, including Jessa’s one-hour bachelorette party special and her two-hour wedding special. I’ll be posting them in chunks every day until we’re all caught up for Tuesday’s new episode. Yes, it’s like Christmas has come very early this year. Enjoy!
We begin at the Duggar Compound, which is filled with extended family, not a one of whom get a single moment of TV time, so fuck ‘em. They’re all in town for Jessa’s wedding, of course, and Ma Duggar says, “I can’t be believe that in just a few short days I’ll be giving another daughter away to be married.” Try harder, Ma. If you can 100% believe some chick turned into a pillar of salt for a wistful look over the shoulder, I pretty sure you can wrap your head around this.
“Being a wife and just taking care of Ben, I think she’s ready for it,” says spinster Jana with a smile. Yep, that’s what wifedom is all about. In fact, it’s probably the only thing poor little Jessa is ready for in this world: cooking, cleaning, and otherwise catering to a man-child and his children. Pretty much sums up her entire 21 years of life experience so far, doesn’t it?
What is Ben ready for? Five-year-old Josie has the answer: “Ben’s big, and he can hold, like, big clouds and stuff.” If so, it’s the first useful thing we’d see him do.
Sadly, six-year-old Jordyn is standing by to pop that bubble. “No, he can’t. He can hold Jessa,” she says. And he’s managed to turn it into a profitable reality TV career, so maybe that’s the only job skill he needs.
Jessa explains to the camera that she and Ben are going to have a joint bachelor/bachelorette party with lots of strippers and blow flag football. Ben orders everyone into the caravan of vehicles so we can all head over the high school football stadium.
The bachelor/ette party is going to be every bit as boring as you’d imagine, so the producers have decided to intersperse it with a retrospective of Jessa’s life to fill up the hour. We get a few photos of Jessa as a splotchy, red-faced newborn, while Ma Duggar tells us, “From the time Jessa was a baby, we knew she would have a special place in our family.” No shit. That’s pretty much what having a baby means, particularly when you’re doing it on purpose. Not many parents look at a newborn and think, “Huh, we may have to store this one in the woodshed.” On the other hand, around baby number 11 that woodshed thing would probably start making sense, so maybe I should cut her some slack.
Jessa was always full of energy as a young child, says Ma. She was so darned strong willed. They must have medicated/Bible-slapped that out of her, because the Jessa we know is about as emotionally invested in life as a garden slug, only with slightly less pep.
“She will tell you exactly what she’s thinking,” says eldest brother Josh. Fine, that shouldn’t take long.
The rest of the family continues to describe Jessa a straight-shooting whip-cracker, but the video tells another tale. A young Jessa, maybe age ten, complains that she doesn’t like cleaning around the boys’ toilet. It’s a fair complaint and pretty adorable, but it’s the same “I’d rather be doing nothing” Jessa we’re used to. All the cutesy cutaway videos are the same sort of thing.
Ma Duggar tells the camera that they decided to be a homeschool family when firstborn Josh was just eight months old. Then there’s a weird clip of Ma telling the young kids that today they’re going to learn about bankruptcy law. Dafuq? I guess if you have zero science and only six thousand years of history, you’ve got to fill up the school day with something.
Then Ma Duggar tells the camera that she planned to delegate homeschool lessons to the older kids as quickly as possible. “My goal was to work myself out of a job,” she says. If you think we could fire all the seventh grade teachers and replace them with ninth graders, I suppose this plan makes sense. Otherwise it sounds like you have too many kids to do your damn job as a homeschool parent. I think Momma Michelle is unintentionally showing us where Jessa learned her favorite trick of disappearing into the background while everyone else takes care of everything for her.
But that’s not what Ma Duggar is trying to show us, of course. The point is that Jessa has been serving as a homeschool teacher to the little ones. The video shows us exactly what this entails: Jessa sits and watches as her younger sibs quietly complete assignments on the computer. There’s even a nice plug for “SOS,” a.k.a. Switched-on Schoolhouse, a hyper-evangelical homeschooling system available on CD-ROM for parents (and older siblings) without any teaching skills or knowledge to impart. To Jessa, teaching is very little different than doing laundry: turn on the machine, then wait for the machine to tell you it’s done working.
(If you start typing in “SOS homeschool,” Google suggests you might want to throw “Duggar” in there, too. At least I hope it does that for everyone. If it’s just me, I’m going to be very depressed about what Google thinks of me.)
Okay, we’ve arrived at the high school football stadium, the only part of a public high school worth using. Ben is captain of one team, and Pa Duggar leads the other. It’s Jessa’s current master versus her future one. They pick teams, with Pa Duggar choosing Pa Seewald first, and the producers are kind enough to cut away long before we learn who was picked last. Feel free to cruelly speculate. But if you’re guessing it was a girl who was drafted last, guess again—because girls don’t play football, duh. They’re all in the stands.
Yes, Jessa’s bachelorette party is nothing but all the girls sitting on their asses watching the boys play flag football. That’s it. I shit you not.
It may well be the perfect metaphor of the life of a Duggar female.
More flashbacks. Pa Duggar takes the girls to pan for gold. They stay in cabins. Everyone has a good time. I’m not sure if Jessa was even there. Presumably, since this is her life story. Is this another metaphor? Or has the poor editor stuck sifting through old episodes looking for big Jessa moments already thrown in the towel?
Six-year-old Jordyn pops up on camera and says, and I quote, “That’s a boy thingie.” Is Jim Bob getting inappropriate again? No, she’s talking about football. Know your place, little girl. It’s in the stands cheering on the boys.
Ben throws a touchdown, taking an early 6-0 lead. Whoop-de-do. I hope some of Jessa’s friends had the good sense to sneak in a flask like it’s a real high school football game.
As we head back to flashback land, 21-year-old Jinger is genuinely tearful about her big sis moving out of the compound. They’re only 13 months apart, and they’ve been inseparable, which is probably the only reason Jessa hasn’t drowned while looking up in a rainstorm. If I were Jinger, I’d be pretty worried about Jessa wandering too far out of eyesight, as well.
If I were Jessa, on the other hand, this is the flashback sequence I’d be most embarrassed about. One day two years ago—and I mean literally one day two years ago—Jessa and Jinger worked at a coffee shop to raise money for charity. What’s so embarrassing about that? Does she dump coffee all over herself and a customer? Does she get tongue-tied in front of a boy she likes? Nah. In fact, nothing memorably happens at all. And that’s what’s so embarrassing. After half a lifetime spent on camera, this is what makes the highlight reel? The one uneventful day she had to work outside the home?
The entire Duggar family comes into the coffee shop and orders at once. “It was like, oh no, we’ve got to make all these drinks really fast!” says Jinger. Yep, that’s the whole story. What am I supposed to do with that? How many different ways can I come up with to call this one person boring?
No matter what the job is, “Jessa can organize it, and Jinger can get it done,” says Ma Duggar. She means it as a compliment. Bless her heart.
Various Duggars also try their best to assure us Jessa isn’t as lame as she looks. She’s a leader! She’s an organizer! She assigns tasks to other people!
Okay, great, she’s middle management.
The parents make the decisions, the other kids do the work, and Jessa just kind of supervises the process. Oh, and she makes lists. Lots of lists. Of things for other people to do. We’re pretty close to the bottom of the barrel of things the family can compliment her about. Pretty soon, we’ll be down to “punctual” and “doesn’t sweat much.”
Back on the football field, things are starting to unravel for Team Ben. Pa Duggar intercepts Ben’s pass at the goal line and runs it back half the field. In the stands, the women are subtly passing around a pink football to sign for Jessa. Half of them have to be revived from a boredom coma by the smell of the Sharpie.
“Jessa did a great job organizing the bachelorette party,” boasts Ma Duggar. I seriously laugh for 60 seconds straight. What “plan” would that be? Sit still and try not to fall off the bleacher? The only activity is signing the pink football, which Jessa knows nothing about.
On that high note, we’re wrapping up Part 1 of Jessa Duggar’s Life Story. Part 2 is here!