Themes within themes within themes. That’s why we can devote an entire blog about one show; each word, each scene, each episode, and ultimately the entire season, has multiple and interweaving thematic threads.

So here’s the one I noticed as I sat down to re-watch the Wheel.

Family Values

That is, the value of family.

1st scene: Pete and Trudy with Trudy’s parents. Her father says to Pete, “I’m gonna treat you like a son, ‘cause I feel that way towards you.” Pete, for a guy who doesn’t get an ounce of love or respect from his own father, is remarkably unmoved.

2nd scene: Betty and Don in bed, discussing Thanksgiving. Betty to Don, “I don’t understand why you can’t make my family your family.” Which I find amusing, considering that everything she has just said about her family… well, let’s just say it ain’t a hard sell.

3rd scene: Harry on the phone with Jennifer. Here we finally see a man who actually understands the value of family, who is completely in love with his wife, and yet he is the one whose marriage is in an (acknowledged) shambles.

4th scene: Bert Cooper and Don. Bert informs Don (actually, implies that Don would already know) that Rachel has left on a three month ocean voyage. He is not happy, as the call he received was from Abraham Menken. “It’s the tone of his voice; he’s her father.” Say what you want about our machiavellian yoda, he seems to get the relationship of a father and daughter.

And the 5th scene is Francine, half-crazed. On top of what seems to be postpartum psychosis, she has finally figured out that her husband is a cheating rat bastard. She is actively and audibly fantasizing about going Medea all over his ass. And the asses of his parents, her parents, and her kids. Over the river and through the woods!

Of everyone here, I am rooting for Harry, and not just because I have a blog crush on Rich Sommer. (We’re still allowed to get those, right? Even if we’ve seen the guy on tv?) Ironically, Harry knows what it takes to be committed, even though he deviated so royally from the plan. Harry also, I suspect, ‘gets’ women. I mean, I’m sure they confound him with their wiles and curves and all, but in listening to how he dealt with Jennifer on the phone, you could hear strains of real understanding on his part (even though he was fucking it up by being coyishly coercive in trying to get her to allow him come home). I suspect that if this marriage comes back together, it has a shot at the long-term. Harry will adjust better than the average guy to the just-around-the-corner changes. When Jennifer wants to go back to school or start a career, I think Harry will have space for that. I think Harry will water the garden that is Jennifer, while some of these other guys will, you know, keep them from the sunlight. As Trudy’s dad weirdly said, “Tend your own garden. That means, you know, start growing things.”

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