I can’t even follow all the plotlines that started and stopped this episode! I’m gonna try, but this review won’t be complete because SO MUCH. (full index of reviews here)

Okay, I think I have to think about each character separately to even remember what all happened. Karisma and Sanjay Suri had a big fight that had been coming for a long time. First, Karisma dropped the ball on helping their kids study for exams, Sanjay blamed her for that and brought his mother down to help them, then let loose on Karisma about how they are living close to the school for the kids, but he has to commute 4 hours a day, and work extra hours to afford the tuition, he IS contributing to the household by NOT being there, she has to stop blaming him and saying isn’t around. And she has to take responsibility for these choices. And then Sanjay goes off on her a second time about Dino Morea and their affair. Karisma says there is no affair, Dino says he is in love with someone else, Sanjay points out that doesn’t matter if Karisma is trusting Dino with things she should be sharing with her husband, first thing in the morning and last thing at night messages, emotional conversations, and the secret bank box where she has been hiding her jewelry. After all of this, they finally talk at the end of the episode, Sanjay acknowledges that he wants the kids in the best school too, it was a joint decision to live their life like this. And Karisma acknowledges she was wrong to listen to her mother and hide her jewelry when the family needs the money. They make up and make out and everything is happy. I think this is Story Closed on Karisma and Sanjay’s marital strife, all the secrets are out, everything is said, and both are resolved to alter their behavior and be slightly better partners.

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Sandhya’s story is mostly just a tagalong from last week with some twists. It’s test time at school, she is pushing her daughter to do better, her daughter is resisting because of residual “your not my real Mom!” resentment. And there is an undercurrent of unspoken fear in both of them that, since Sandhya isn’t her “real” mom, her daughter simply may not be as smart as her mother is.

Tillotama has the big movement and also might be “season close” on her storyline. She is pushing her kids to study and getting push back from her husband about it again, some more. And then her husband turns on the TV while their oldest son is trying to study, the son tells him to stop and shoves him and then says “what’s wrong with shoving you? It’s what you do to Mom, isn’t it?” This leads to, finally, a happy ending. Tillotama’s husband sits down to talk as a family and explains that he never had any education, Tillotama’s family wanted her to marry someone smarter and better, but she loved him. And he went to her family and said that he will marry their daughter and she can come to his house with a big whip to train him to be better. He’s forgotten that, and he is sorry, but from now on he is going to listen to Tillotama and respect her and be better for her, and his son’s should do the same. It’s kind of a surprising twist, but I think not unearned. We saw her husband constantly dismiss her wishes, but never actually hit her. And for the past few episodes Tillotama has been standing up for herself more and more and he has been backing down. I can buy a storyline of them being happy and in love and no problems until the past few years, and now her husband turning a corner and being ready to change just as Tillotama has started to change over the course of the season.

The three storylines left open are Shruti, Dino, and Sandhya. Sandhya I kind of guessed was going to be the big season finale special with the way she has been the center of most stories and the slow way her marriage problems were built up. This episode takes a big leap forward there. We know her husband is abusive, but we don’t know how Sandhya justifies it in her head, or who is going to be the first person to figure it out. This episode, she talks with Tillotama about her marriage and tells Tillotama to leave now. Tillotama says her husband has never hit her, but Sandhya says it starts with him disrespecting her and shoving her and then escalates. Tillotama is smart and gently asks if Sandhya’s husband has done this, and Sandhya gets up and crosses the room to another chair and then firmly says of course not, her husband is perfect. And Tillotama backs down and says of course, Sandhya is so strong, she would never stand for that.

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Brilliant! This is why so many women stay in abusive relationships, they feel humiliated to admit their “weakness” in “allowing” their husband to treat them that way. And this is why Sandhya is always so strong in public, she needs these moments of power and control so she can keep surviving with no control in her marriage. Tillotama came close to the truth, and it rattled Sandhya, which makes me think Sandhya is on the way to doing something, or at least telling someone.

Shruti is now fighting with her ex over custody, she is allowed to see her son but only under supervision. Blah blah, how is the story of the divorced single Mom with custody issues the most boring part of this show? It almost feels like Shruti’s character was added last minute and they rushed to right in any kind of scene for her. Unless she ends up being Dino’s love interest, in which case I am fine with it all.

Dino! Almost nothing to do this episode, and then comes in STRONG at the end! He is about to tell Karisma who the woman he loves is when Sanjay Suri interrupts them, so that reveal is still pending. But the important part is that in the middle of the episode we see Dino’s tiny daughter being tempted away from the school bus by someone waving a toy, and at the end of the episode we see her crying about not wanting to go to school and then Dino bursting into the principal’s office to declare that his daughter was molested at school. !!!!!!

That’s all the big character storyline stuff, but the central theme of the episode is also really really good. That’s how it feels so over-stuffed, there is enough with the isolated theme alone, let alone all the stuff with Sanjay and Karisma’s marriage and Dino and things. The theme is final exams, testing time, and the pressure that puts on parents and kids. Actually, no, the theme is that you can’t look at life as a test, nothing is that simple.

Obviously the whole concept of final exams is a terrible way to teach, and just generally stupid and backward and as weird to me watching this as it is when I see someone washing clothes by hand. Especially with children and their little brains! Cramming before a test means you will forget what you learned because your brain can’t process it that way. If it goes in fast, it goes out fast. Sure you pass the test, but you don’t really get knowledge. And on top of that, there’s the whole idea of rote knowledge. If you are actually able to cram for a test and do well, it means the test is flawed, it is just about memorization and not thinking. Blech, this is a problem I see all the time just in the Indian film coverage and fandom world. People read a thing and never question it. Because they were taught their whole lives that you read, believe, and memorize. Don’t THINK.

Jab Harry Met Sejal - Wikipedia
“This is a terrible movie” “did you see it?” “no, but I read all the reviews and I know that is the right answer”

That’s what this whole episode is about, little kids being forced to study so they can do well. It’s just so weird to me! I never studied like this, even in college. I mean, I studied, but I did class discussions, and wrote papers, and memorized big formulas. This is talking about revising a poem? What does that even mean? You read the poem, you figure out your own interpretation of the poem, you write the interpretation. What’s to study? Or revise? And most of all, what is with this idea of “study hard, and you will get good grades and get into the best college”. No, if you are born smart and skilled with schoolwork, you will get good grades. If not, not. It’s not something you can control by following certain steps. And most of all, one exam is not going to define everything.

At the start of the episode, I was rolling my eyes about the craziness of this idea that every child should get an A if they work hard. But by the end of the episode, I was going “huh! That was actually the point of the episode!” It starts by establishing stakes. Sandhya has suggested that the school start A and B classes, the A classes getting the high quality teaching and the B classes being a little easier. So the bad students don’t hold back the good students. This is how a lot of schools actually work, but the difference would be Sandhya isn’t saying “let’s keep the high quality of the current classes and also create EVEN BETTER classes for the top students”, she is saying “let’s keep the high quality of the current classes only for the top students, and let the others fall back”. It’s not a reward for the good students, but a punishment for the bad. Which is why it feels different than the gifted classes or advanced placement or whatever that most schools already have. (The episode doesn’t say that, it’s just me working it out on my own, because I was slow to see it)

Because of this premise, the parents really REALLY care about tests this year. Based on how the episode ends, I think we are supposed to understand that usually Tillotama and Karisma are more sort of “do your best and don’t kill yourself over it” parents, but this year they know something their kids don’t know and therefore have to go beyond what is comfortable for them in forcing the kids. Sandhya and Shruti are always power parents, but both of them are beginning to get push back from their kids as they see the studying goes beyond anything reasonable or logical. Yaaaay, forcing your kids to study and obsessing over tests is not blindly encouraged!

Hichki - Wikipedia
This movie was infuriating in many ways

That’s the starting point, but then the episode goes on to consider the actual concept of “tests”, the idea of one objective make or break measure of how good you are as a parent. That’s what the fight is between Karisma and Sanjay. Karisma fails to help their son study, he runs away from school because he is afraid of doing poorly, and Sanjay is angry with Karisma for this because he feels that she has failed her “test” as a mother. And he is angry when he learns she opened a secret bank account with Dino’s help, feeling she failed her “test” as a wife. But he feels like he passed his “test” as a husband because he has worked hard and brought home the money. The stress kept going up between them through the episode and I didn’t like the way Sanjay was talking to Karisma, or how black and white he was putting things, and her acceptance. But then the last scene wiped that all away. They talked honestly and the idea of a simple pass or fail of a basic exam went away. Sanjay chose to take this job and commit to making the money, but he still needs to do more. Karisma made a mistake, a couple mistakes, but their marriage is about more than that, it’s not a simple right answer-wrong answer situation, or something that can end just like that.

Same with Tillotama. She is asking for this testing based system not to happen because her boys are trying even if they aren’t the best. And in the end, that’s what her marriage is too. Her husband has failed a lot of “tests” along the way, but a marriage isn’t that simple. He’s willing to try to do better and that means something, even if he isn’t perfect now.

And then there’s Sandhya. Her husband does look at it as a simple test that she can fail. Her kids don’t do as well as he wanted on their exams, he blames her entirely and tells her she has “failed”. This is the bad example, a bad husband and a bad marriage and ultimately a bad way to live, leaving behind everyone who isn’t perfect every single moment, who fails the arbitrary measures you set for them.

So here we are! 2 episodes left, Dino’s kid is being molested, Sandhya’s marriage is escalating in abuse, and we still haven’t met Aryan Khanna!

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