ILLNESS ALERT! But this episode is barely related to the current real life situation, so just block that from your mind with force of will and you can enjoy it. And it’s another Really Good episode! I have to say, from episode 3 on, this show has been super impressing me. Also, Dino is cute again, some more. (index of all Mentalhood reviews here)
Main theme this week! Child health! And how it can completely breakdown a parent to the rawest barest place. This is a wonderful episode for our characters, because the stressers serve to reveal who they are, deep inside.
Oh, and unrelated to the theme, DINO ALERT!!!! He has a conversation hanging out with Shilpa about being nontraditional parents (him as a single Dad with no mother for his kids, and her as a parent by adoption) and how it just felt right, like their family was complete. Which moves into Dino admitting he is in love with someone, and it just feels right, like she could be the mother for his kids. Shilpa seems to know who he is talking about and points out that this person is married.
Now, I am not an idiot, and I have seen a television show before, so I know this person can’t be Karisma even though the show WANTS us to think it is Karisma. So who is it???? Of our other leads, they are dealing with complicated difficult health situations this week, so it seems unlikely Dino would be all happy and casual while his girlfriend is struggling. But maybe? Maybe it is Tillotama, trapped with her horrible abusive husband, who has found solace with Dino. Or Sandhya, who we know is having an affair, maybe it’s not with the family friend everyone thinks it is but rather with Dino? Or Shruti Seth, divorcing yoga mom, finally getting a plot?
I would love it to be one or any of them, but again, this weeks episode makes it seem unlike. It’s probably gonna be someone super boring, like the school art teacher. LAME!!!! Oh, and most disappointing, Dino and Shilpa clearly used female pronouns, so he isn’t gay. Could still be bi of course, but at least right now he is in love with a woman. BORING!
Okay, main plot. There is chicken pox at school. Karisma’s three kids all get it, and Sanjay Suri never had it so has to stay away. Karisma is completely physically drained and on edge and Dino is there for her (his kids are young and got it and got over it quickly while Karisma’s three are still driving her crazy). This ramps up Sanjay’s jealousy, but also does some interesting things with the Dino dynamic. Dino is there for Karisma, but later in the episode he also hangs out at a group hang with the husbands. Sanjay points out that this is a bit odd, but Dino casually says he has the time, he can hang out with both groups. And while hanging out with them, he and Sanjay have a private conversation and Dino suggests he really needs to do something to help Karisma. Sanjay takes offense but, to me, it read as more of a correction. Dino is being a couple friend now, not just Karisma’s friend. It would be more wrong if he DIDN’T say something to Sanjay. Anyway, Sanjay shows up with food for Karisma and the kids and tells her he will be bringing food by from now on, so she doesn’t have to worry about cooking. And by the end of the episode, he has just gone ahead and moved back in to their (realistically destroyed) apartment to tuck Karisma under blankets and give her soup while she is tired. Again, Karisma is the unperfect-but-healthy center. Sanjay may be a little jealous of Dino, Karisma may struggle to stop her kids from scratching themselves and let her apartment be destroyed, but they all love each other and rub along okay.
Meanwhile in Sandhya’s house, all is calm and peaceful. Her son is sick and she is agonized over it which comes out in the form of obsessing about his exams to other adults, and being sweet and supportive to him. Sandhya (if I haven’t mentioned it before) does a fabulous job in this role. And the writing supports her. We can see that she lashes out about these silly things like exams to hide her human worry over her kids, and that she lashes out at every other adult around her because she is afraid to lash out at her husband. This episode ramps that up a bit, when her husband wants to go out to the meet-up with the other men, she suggests he stay since their child is ill. He refuses, she brings it up again, and he shoves her against a wall and tells her to be quiet. She swallows it down, takes care of her kid, and then lashes out hard at Karisma later. But the house is still clean, the doctor came, there is none of the mess and destruction we see at Karisma’s. Surface is perfect, underneath is bad, opposite of Karisma.
Tillotama and Shruti, FINALLY, got the big movement this episode. Tillotama learned her oldest son is diabetic, probably because his father lets him eat junk all the time, encourage sit even. She struggles to enforce diet rules, and forces herself to give him insulin shots. The best (very subtle) part of this storyline is that Dino tries to reassure her right after the diagnoses “oh, it’s a lifestyle disease, you can just change what you feed him”. Not understanding the enormous pressure and guilt Tillotama feels, just as the doctor who gave her the diagnosis doesn’t understand it. Tillotama is a mother and therefore her child’s body is an extension of her own, if it fails that means SHE has failed. Dino is a loving present parent, but he doesn’t come with the baggage Tillotama has. And neither he nor her doctor understand just how difficult it is for her to make any changes in her household with the husband she has. However, this increasing pressure is just ratcheting up the possibility of Tillotama FINALLY leaving her husband for the safety of her children.
And then Shruti! After wandering lost in the background for literally half the season, actually gets a plot! We knew she was a bit of an earth mother type, we knew she was divorced and fighting with her ex over custody issues, and this episode we are thrown into the middle of her current situation when we learn her son has had a fever for the past two days, after she took him out to play in the ocean. And Shruti doesn’t want to give him medicine.
The show doesn’t judge her for any of this, taking him to play in the polluted ocean or choosing not to give him medicine, and I think they did a good job with deciding the exact culpability of the situation. Yes, it is risky to let him paddle in polluted waters, but he wasn’t swimming or swallowing it, and playing on the beach is such a basic right of childhood, you can understand why Shruti risked it. And yes it was a choice not to call a doctor or give him even over the counter medicine for his fever, but that could be a reasonable choice, it’s not like he had a broken leg or something. Fevers aren’t always a big deal, it’s about how long they last. And you can really treat them without medicine, cooling clothes and liquid and stuff can help, it’s not all healing crystals instead of antibiotics. Shruti, after getting increasingly unhinged all episode, finally takes her son to the hospital where he is admitted and the doctor says “good you brought him in now, any longer it could have been pneumonia, why did you wait?” Again, perfect. Shruti DID bring him in on time, her mother decisions were correct. She let it go 4 days and then brought him in when the fever hadn’t broken. The doctor says that, she brought him in before it got really bad. And then follows it up by suggesting she should have brought him in sooner, that she could have been even better. And of course that is what Shruti hears loudest, that she isn’t good enough.
Shruti in this episode goes from being calm and sure of what is right for her son, ready to stand up even to his own father for him, to being unsure of anything and ready to hand over full custody to her ex-husband. This episode is built in a way that is a bit of a pay off for the previous 4 when Shruti was always in the background. She’s in the background here, Sandhya is obsessing over who gave her son chicken pox, Karisma is falling apart tired, Dino is being suspected by Sanjay, and there’s Shruti in the first scene calmly encouraging homeopathic methods. And then again, talking about doctors and reluctantly taking a name of a doctor from Dino. Until finally at the end, she locks into focus. She has seemed so calm, so sure, that even her friends don’t really notice what is happening with her. And therefore when it all shatters, it shatters HARD.
The episode ends with Shruti’s ex-husband taking custody from her (not even a moment of “no no, you love him, he needs his mother” BOOO!), and then Shilpa rushing to the hospital and embracing her. I am super excited to see where we go from here! Heck, just Shilpa being there is exciting! She’s been so side-lined this episode and the other recent ones, but the ending here suggests that she is going to take over the role of Mama Bear protector for the friend group and start meddling in all their lives.