When I was in college, I dating a guy with a lot more money than me. I remember he offered to buy me some Lucky jeans (which at the time were very popular and out of my price range). I rejected his offer but looking back on it, I wish I’d taken the jeans! Then, I’d have at least gotten something out of the relationship. Of course, I, like Beto, didn’t want to take gifts I couldn’t reciprocate from someone I was dating. And like Beto’s cross-tax-bracket relationship, mine too was doomed to fail.
That’s the thing about this iteration of Party of Five, it’s relatable, exploring what it’s like to be young and Latinx in the U.S. Now dating someone who’s in a totally different economic class than you is rough and something a lot of us have to learn about the hard way. Beto and Ella’s break up scene was spot on with both of them dropping truth bombs: Beto accuses Ella of liking him because her dad doesn’t, Ella says that losing his parents screwed Beto up because now he doesn’t believe that being a good person is enough. They’re both right. And they probably can’t make it work because of it. The scene ends not with tears but with laughs. Ella says “I can’t tell what you’re thinking” and Beto responds “I just really need to pee.” High school boys! Remember them?
And just as relatable is Val’s plotline, imagining a less difficult life for herself. She just wants to take a dance class but her family can’t afford the one she picks (Ella picks up the bill) and once Val gets there, she introduces herself as “Amanda Davis,” the imaginary (and probably white) girls she’s been fantasizing about being. Amanda has a pool and parents who aren’t deported. The weight of geopolitical conflict doesn’t mess up her home. Remember, Val’s the girl who last episode declared “things generally don’t go our way.”
Now I didn’t invent a falsa persona in middle school but I certainly remember wanting to be someone else. Someone with a less complicated identity (mixed-race here!) who looked different (trading in my glasses for contacts was a revelation) and had more money (no one was buying me a car – I know boo hoo). Val has it harder than most so it makes sense her desire to be someone else would manifest stronger. We’ll just have to see how far she takes this “Amanda” thing.
As a high schooler, Lucia is through the worst of the girl-coming-to-age stuff but that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t have lessons to learn (don’t we all?). In this episode, she finally comes to the realization that her zeal to help Matthew regularize his status is perhaps more about her inability to protect her parents than about respecting Matthew’s wishes. After all, he’s been pretty clear about not wanting to go after DACA. All it takes is Lucia interacting with a professional advocate to remind us all that folks are experts in their own experience. Like Lucia, we may think we know what’s best for them but we don’t. And it turns out Matthew has a very good reason for his decisions (which is none of Lucia’s business and I won’t spoil here – but tune in to find out!). It’s the sort of lesson we can all use from time to time.
And lastly, there’s Emilio, still struggling with the consequences of his imperfect parenting. In response to Rafa’s lead poising last episode, he’s become hyper-vigilant, not wanting to leave Rafa’s side. The restaurant is suffering and the whole thing is not sustainable. Over course-correcting after a mistake is human but it’s much more heart wrenching when a baby’s involved. With my first, I constantly felt like I was failing, like I couldn’t take care of her well enough. And there are no take-backs, no second chances with kids. They’ll only ever be this age once, need this type of care in that moment. Luckily for the Acosta kids, a skilled au pair literally walks into the restaurant (and maybe Emilio’s heart?) in the name of immigrant Natalia. She’s beautiful and smart and wise. Help is a godsend. In childcare, in life, and in love. Long live Party of Five and its insights.