Is Dan Conner self-pitying, a bad friend, or is he racist?
Those were the issues that The Conners Season 3 Episode 10 wrestled with as Dan and Chuck had a falling out over Chuck's new boat.
Chuck couldn't wait to share with Dan that he bought a boat. That Dan wouldn't even venture outside to see his new, expensive toy had to be disappointing.
When you make a big purchase, you want to share it with your best friend. You expect them to be happy for you. And Chuck was assuming that Dan would be just as eager as he was to spend some time this summer out on the waters of Lake Michigan.
But that wasn't Dan's reaction, and as much as that was a downer, it also raised some questions viewers probably never saw coming.
In Dan's defense, sometimes it can be really difficult to show enthusiasm for your friend's good fortune when your own life feels like you're living under a dark cloud that refuses to go away.
Chuck seems generally happy. His wife is alive and he's got enough money saved up to buy a boat, while Dan's reality is far different.
But to Chuck, Dan's reaction came across as something else. It felt like Dan was saying that Chuck's success should only be allowed after his own. To put it more bluntly, that Chuck should know his place.
Was that the case, and if so, was that because Dan had owned the business first before he ever brought Chuck on as a partner, or was there underlying racism to those feelings?
As a viewer, that can be challenging to interpret. I saw this as Dan feeling sorry for himself. His friend and business partner, someone who probably had many of the same circumstances and opportunities as Dan, was doing far better financially.
Dan had to have his adult children move in and pay rent to help him keep his house, while Chuck gets to take his family out on his new boat. That has to be a bitter pill to swallow for Dan.
But Chuck had a point. He's been disciplined enough to save a little bit, week after week, for years, and now he gets to reap those rewards. Could Dan have bought fewer beers and saved a few more dollars?
But Chuck had another point to make, and it was one that Dan never even considered, at least not consciously. Dan made it sound like he had done Chuck a favor by bringing him on as a partner, and that grated on Chuck, even when he admitted he couldn't have made it without Dan.
Not because Chuck was less of a contractor or a businessperson, but because he was black.
Chuck: Are you kidding? Lanford, in those days, a black man running a construction company; it wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t get a lumber yard to give me credit. I couldn’t get a loan from a bank, and there were plenty of customers who wouldn’t trust me with their business.
Dan: You never talked to me about this.
Chuck: Come on, man. You’ve been in the world. Even if I told you, you don’t live it. You wouldn’t understand.
As someone who grew up in a small, blue-collar town with similarities to Lanford, what Chuck said had the ring of truth. He was talking about the kind of societal racism that was generally not talked about in polite company but existed all the same.
And if you're white, it's easy to ignore or dismiss because it doesn't affect you. So when Dan says he was doing Chuck a favor by making him a partner in the business, in his mind, it's probably an off-hand comment about helping out a friend.
But it was more than that, and on some level, Dan probably knew Chuck needed that "favor" because the odds were stacked against him as a black man, even if he never thought about it in those exact terms.
Chuck and Dan are friends and business partners, yet in 30 years, they've never talked about this. If two best friends can't talk about race, what hope is there for strangers who have no reason to trust one another?
But Chuck and Dan's friendship survived, and might even be stronger now, because they had this conversation, shared what they felt, and listened.
Chuck: You’re like a 14-year-old girl, Dan. I’ll get you a friendship bracelet.
Dan: I want the kind where we each get half a heart.
So no, I don't believe that Dan Conner is a racist, but I do believe that societal racism has affected how he sees the world, and acknowledging that is part of the battle.
The other half of this installment was Darlene dealing with her new, crazy assistant.
I empathized with Darlene. Interviewing is a skill, and it's not easy. Robin should have given her more pointers before throwing her into the fray.
Finding the right person for the job can be like sifting through mounds of dirt for one gold nugget because there are more Lisa's out there than most people realize. I know, I've hired some of them.
Darlene didn't want to fire Lisa. Darlene has been fired, and she knows how it can devastate someone. She didn't want to do that, not to Lisa, not to anyone.
But Lisa's particular brand of crazy helped assuage Darlene's guilt.
As someone who considered being your mentor, you should know that there’s something missing or broken in your head.Darlene
They could do an entire episode on Darlene interviewing candidates for her new assistant, and I'd watch. Maybe they could give us an installment of Becky dealing with her co-workers now that she's Union Shop Steward because that could be equally challenging and entertaining.
So what did you think, TV Fanatics?
- Did I get it right or wrong with Dan and Chuck?
- Will Jackie make it past that Jeopardy auditions? Do you want to see her as a contestant?
- Were you as happy as I was to get a little more Mary on screen?
- Did you need a break from Ben? After his attitude last week, I know I did.
So hit that big, blue, SHOW COMMENTS button down below, and agree or disagree, let us know what you think. Then check back in for our review of The Conners Season 3 Episode 11.
And until then, you can watch The Conners online here at TV Fanatic.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.