(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Wednesday's episode of "The Conners.")
Becky swore at the end of last week's episode of "The Conners" that the one drink would be her last, but as anyone familiar with substance-abuse issues can attest, things aren't always so simple.
Wednesday's two-part episode saw Becky's bad decision turn into a full-blown relapse when her dream of going back to school puts a strain on her relationship with her baby, who now feels more comfortable with her father's relatives than with the always-busy Becky.
"It's kind of like damned if you do, damned if you don't," Lecy Goranson said in an interview with TheWrap. "Do I work? Do I make something out of myself to the detriment of my relationship with my daughter? What else can she do? She feels like she's out of options."
"When her drinking problem first came up, she just kind of stopped, cold turkey. So we always knew that we were probably going to wind up coming back to this," said executive producer Bruce Rasmussen.
The decision to have Becky's dinner with an old friend be the tipping point was Goranson's pitch to the writers, inspired in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think both the writers and I had an instinct that this was going to be something that would happen this season," Goranson said. "I think most of us have had a really, really hard time holding our mental and emotional state together during this time. And I think people like Becky, who are already vulnerable financially and who don't have access to mental health care readily ... It seemed like she would be someone who would be really vulnerable to falling back into some of her negative, self-destructive behavior."
The episode ends with Becky agreeing to check herself into rehab, a thread that will carry on into the rest of the season. "Becky is stubborn, and she doesn't really open to things readily," Goranson said. "So, in terms of her future journey, it's not easy."
Read TheWrap's full interview with Rasmussen and Goranson, including a discussion about the return of Danielle Harris as Molly after nearly 30 years, below.
TheWrap: How did you decide that this was the right time to revisit this part of Becky's story?
Rasmussen: When her drinking problem first came up, she just kind of stopped, cold turkey. So we always knew that we were probably going to wind up coming back to this. So at the start of the new season, we talked about it and we knew that at some point she was going to have a problem with drinking towards the end of the season. And part of it was just trying to build the pressure for her to get to that point. Lecy actually pitched the idea of Mikey [Darien Sills-Evans] coming. You know, somebody who knew you when you were at the top of your game -- because she was always the smartest one -- and how that affects Becky and leads to her drinking.
Goranson: I think both the writers and I had an instinct that this was going to be something that would happen this season. And part of that is because of COVID and how COVID has affected every one of us in terms of being driven to a breaking point. I think most of us have had a really, really hard time holding our mental and emotional state together during this time. And I think people like Becky, who are already vulnerable financially and who don't have access to mental health care readily -- it's not really part of the culture. It seemed like she would be someone who would be really vulnerable to falling back into some of her negative, self destructive behavior. And I think what's interesting about what happens with her old friend is that we don't see her just hitting the bottle because something devastating happens. We see her drinking with someone who loves her, who she wants to keep up her appearances with. She ends up lying to him, pretending that she's someone else. And I think it's interesting that the drink comes out of that rather than something really negative happening. It's almost like she's trying to be a different person and is thinking that this is something that normal people can do. Meanwhile, she's hiding so much of her demons.
That scene stands in pretty stark contrast with the scene at the laundromat, when she shares a drink with that stranger. What's going through her head at that moment?
Goranson: Well, it's coming out of that scene where she was planning this evening with her baby after having been neglecting her relationship with her baby because she's trying to catch up for lost time at work. And then when she can see that the baby has bonded with Emilio's cousin, that really sends her into a very dark place. It's kind of like damned if you do, damned if you don't. Do I work? Do I make something out of myself to the detriment of my relationship with my daughter? What else can she do? She feels like she's out of options.
Rasmussen: The thing that we always try to do with "The Conners," which they've been doing for years -- it's all through that economic filter. It's that she's drowning because to try to do better for her daughter, she has to work so hard that she won't see her daughter and might lose her relationship. It's an overwhelming thing.
The scene with Jackie and Becky starts out with this really honest moment where she says "trainwreck recognizes trainwreck," but then she immediately takes it to an 11 with the lie about the baby. How far was Jackie willing to go?
Rasmussen: Yeah, we talked about that. That was an interesting moment. Part of the conversations on all this stuff was, you know, how do you break through Becky's incredible denial about all of this? And when we shot it, Laurie really, really sold it. She had tears in her eyes and it really gets through to Becky, you can see it in Lecy's face, it just breaks her. And then for her to just turn around and be like, "Yeah, it was a lie" was hilarious.
Goranson: Truly Conner behavior. Just shameless. I mean, oh my God. [Laughs.] But I think it's so clever because she doesn't remember. It's the one thing she can't contest; it could have happened. Someone else might get mad at Jackie and say, you know, "Screw you, lady. You just lied to me." But Becky can't contest with the truth because she doesn't remember. And even the fact that the baby had a fever, I mean, that's bad enough. But to think of what else could have happened is truly horrific for Becky.
Rasmussen: That relationship is such a blast to write because they're so good together. They're so funny. And those tears in [Jackie's] eyes, I think were also based on the fact that this could happen. She loves Becky completely, and she knows that sometimes she has to be tough to break through.
Goranson: What I think is interesting in Becky and Jackie's relationship is that they're both levelers of the other one. Like when Jackie was talking about being life coach and Becky says she's never seen any of her clients. Jackie is kind of stopped in her tracks. They do that for each other, and I think it's really fun to watch.
Was there a scene in these episodes that was particularly difficult to play?
Goranson: I have to say that all of the things that you see in these two episodes really were the kind of thing that I would go home at night and just, you know, feel sad for Becky. I think maybe the most painful thing was when she's going after Jackie and she's angry. Like everyone says, there's really sadness underneath anger. And I feel like the angrier Becky is to Jackie, the more demanding she is, it's because under the surface there's a lot of sorrow that just kind of bubbles up. But I think the masking of that, the fact that she's on the defensive, when you see people in a rage like that, there's such a wound under there. That's really what I felt when she was lashing out.
Can you talk a little bit about Darlene's storyline with Molly in these episodes? How did you decide to bring her back and pair that with Becky's storyline here?
Rasmussen: It was tricky because we had Becky storyline from the beginning of the season and then he talked about a story where somebody dies and it puts Darlene into midlife crisis, basically. Originally it was just going to be an off-screen thing where they just find out that she died, that's the original idea was to just find that they find out that she died and that sends her off. I think it was Bruce [Helford] who then first came up with the idea that it was Danielle [Harris, who played Molly on "Roseanne"]. And he realized that if we can get her, we can make it feel a lot more real if you see that person and see Darlene have fun for once in her life. Putting them together was a tricky thing, because there's two big things going on at once and you don't want one to overwhelm the other. Because that affects the rest of the season for Darlene and what happens in these two episodes also affects Becky for the rest of the season.
Can you tease a little bit about where we go from here?
Goranson: Becky is stubborn, and she doesn't really open to things readily. So, in terms of her future journey, it's not easy. Shocker, I know.
Rasmussen: What? On "The Conners"? No way.
Goranson: I know. It's crazy.
"The Conners" airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on ABC.