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TV Recap: “Little Fires Everywhere” Episode Seven – “Picture Perfect”

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Elena (Reese Witherspoon) and Lexi (Jade Pettyjohn) attend the neighborhood Christmas lighting in "Little Fires Everywhere" Episode Seven.

We may be finally at the great big Bebe vs. McCullough court case, but Episode Seven of “Little Fires Everywhere” begins with one of its other feuds. Izzy (Megan Stott) and April (Isabel Gravitt) are headed to a party that Izzy thinks will be all “Lexis in training bras.” It becomes pretty clear that the two do more than just “lounge around Borders” (great 90s reference only 30 seconds in). While at the party, the two get chosen for spin the bottle and go into the closet to kiss, which April notes they have done all the time alone together. However, they’ve never done it with classmates spying on them. When the kids discover them kissing, April pushes Izzy off her, claiming Izzy forced herself on her. It’s only taken seven episodes, but we’ve finally found the impetus for the Ellen nickname.

Before we lounge around in Borders with Izzy, let’s get through some of the court case plot details. Now that Elena (Reese Witherspoon) knows the truth about Mia (Kerry Washington), she wants Bill (Joshua Jackson) to use it to his advantage in the case. According to Elena, she’s broken three cardinal sins: taking advantage of them, kidnapping Pearl and (even worse) lying about being poor. Bill balks, preferring to do things his own way. When Bebe (Lu Huang) takes the stand on the first day, her lawyer builds the case that she passed out, did not know what she was doing and was suffering from a post-pardum episode. As the prosecutor, Bill brings out his first exhibit, the frostbitten hand of Mirabelle/May-Ling the night she was left.

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Elena (Reese Witherspoon) and Mia (Kerry Washington) square off against each other in a courtroom bathroom.

While Bill fights for the McCulloughs’ in court, Elena takes on Mia in the bathroom. She makes it abundantly clear that if Mia takes the stand the next day, she will have Bill reveal she stole Pearl by lying to the family she was acting as a surrogate for. “Is fighting for someone else’s child worth losing your own,” Elena hisses. Mia breaks down in tears and goes to Bebe at Lucky Palace. It’s not worth it. She tells Bebe she can’t testify.

When she returns home, Mia finds that Pearl (Lexi Underwood) has found out from Tripp (Jordan Elsass) about how much she sold the painting for. If she was always sitting on so much money, why did they have to move around so much and live on so little? Mia tries to calm Pearl down, but she doesn’t give her any more details about her Father. It’s no use, Pearl yells for Mia to get out of her room, the first room to herself that she has had in her life. Mia tearfully leaves, she can’t find a way to take the moral high ground here.

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Elena (Reese Witherspoon) argues with her daughter, Izzy (Megan Stott), over Christmas card attire.

Mia isn’t Elena’s only adversary. There’s a war going on at home too. Elena has come up with a tartan theme for the Richardson family Christmas card. “It’s the tartan that makes the photo” she chirps, handing Lexi her Yale printed tartan sweater. Izzy shows up for the photo in the grunge clothes that make her comfortable. Elena’s temper instantly activates, and they get into a blow-up fight. “You’re not everyone else,” Elena shrieks, confirming that she thinks of Izzy as something other. “This is not about you. This is about us, and if you want to be part of this family and live in this house, then put on the f**king Keds!”

This confirms it for Izzy, she’ll never win her mother’s love. Still, there’s someone she might be able to win over. She drops a note for April to hang out. Secretly, April accepts her invitation. While together, Izzy informs her of her plans to inch more visibly out of the closet. “I want to stop being someone that I’m not,” she says.

While Izzy’s coming of age is certainly important, we’ve still got a court case at the center of this episode. In preparation for the day, Elena tells Bill not to worry about Mia, as she threatened her to not take the stand. Bill gets incredibly mad at Elena, saying her actions could get him accused of witness tampering. Still, Mia shows up and boldly decides to testify. While on the witness stand, she recounts how the McCulloughs’ offered Bebe $10,000 in exchange for Mirabelle/May-Ling. Bill questions her about her sources of income primarily and whether Bebe has the resources to be a mother. What he doesn’t do is expose the secret of Pearl’s father. This inspires a fury in Elena, who stands up and walks out of court.

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The McCullough Family (Rosemarie DeWitt, Geoff Stults) rely on their lawyer and friend, Bill Richardson (Joshua Jackson) in the custody battle for Mirabelle/May-Ling.

The next day at school, Izzy makes quite a display, but not about her sexuality. Instead, she marches into the halls and sets up a table filled with dolls of different races. Each baby has a different price based on their race, with black babies being sold for free. This “provocative” statement gets Izzy suspended from school. An irate Elena picks Izzy up. If she hadn’t made her feelings for Izzy clear before, she certainly makes them clear now. “It’s hard to be your Mom,” blurts Elena. “Then don’t be,” Izzy replies before getting out of the car.

She heads straight to Mia’s house. “I think I hate my Mom,” Izzy tells Mia, who cracks a small smile. “I think I hate your Mom too,” smirks Mia. As Izzy opens up about her frustrations, Mia opens up to her about her past relationship with Paula. Their heart-to-heart isn’t without reprimanding. Mia appreciates that Izzy wanted to make a statement, but takes issue with her delivery. Even though she had good intentions, she was treading on racial themes she didn’t understand or experience. “You’re not an exception because you want to be,” instructs Mia. Izzy seems receptive. This is feedback she can use.

Back in the Richardson household, Elena continues her descent into villainy. She’s busy cutting Izzy out of the family Christmas cards (literally), when Tripp (Jordan Elsass) enters with Pearl (Lexi Underwood). Pearl wants to make sure she’s still welcome at Elena’s house, but Elena puts her at ease. She’s always welcome. In fact, Elena wanted to have a discussion with her. Elena pulls Pearl into another room to tell her the truth about her parentage. Meanwhile, Izzy returns from Mia’s house to see her portion of the Christmas card in the trash.

We’ve got one episode left. How will everything turn out? Who will set the fire at the Richardson house? Will the little fires be everywhere? Come back to Awards Circuit next week to find out.

Quick Notes

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Izzy (Megan Stott) makes quite a splash at school with her baby booth, separated by race.
  • Megan Stott looks so much like Reese Witherspoon in “Election” when she marches in to school for her demonstration. It’s uncanny.
  • There is so much plot in this episode, it feels like a waste to deal with the Tripp-Pearl-Moody love triangle. Pearl keeps blowing Moody off because she thinks Tripp is hot. Moody will make his way through watching every Ethan Hawke moody 90s movie known to man. There will never be peace in the Richardson household. Life will go on.
  • Lexi does get into Yale, which provokes a groan worthy toast from Elena. “All the SAT tutors, the AP classes, the summer at Wellesley, you really worked your tail off for this,” Elena assures Lexi. “And no one handed it to you. You didn’t fill some quota to get it. You earned it.” Little did you know she got into Yale off the strength of an essay ripped from a black girl’s experience.
  • Rosemarie DeWitt and Geoff Stults don’t get a line throughout the whole episode as Linda and Mark McCullough. Still, they do look pretty and appropriately sad/concerned.
  • It was said before, but it bears repeating. Watching Elena cut Izzy out of each of those Christmas cards was hard. It’s hard to think of a more cold, cruel or literal way of figuratively cutting a child out of one’s life. Izzy’s face at the end of the episode when she finds her section of the Christmas card in the trash was utterly heartbreaking.

Best Line Reading

lfe 105 es 00073r scaledBreakups are hard, but breakup scenes on TV can be joyful to watch. Lexi has been asking for a breakup for a while, figuratively we mean. Tons of condescending, awkward Richardson family dinners have finally broke Brian (Stevonte Hart). When Lexi acts completely rude to a fast food worker (“That’s what happens when they don’t go to college”), Brian knows what he has to do. As the break-up is happening, Lexi can’t seem to get her privilege through her head. Luckily, Brian has the perfect example for her. “Whenever I tell people I got into Princeton, the first thing that goes through their head is, ‘Oh, it’s because he’s black,” says Brian. “But when you get into Yale, they don’t think it’s because you stole a black girl’s story.” Hart lands the burn with sincerity. There’s a justifiable anger towards knowing the reductive thoughts people have in their heads.

Episode MVP

lfe 107 es 02512r 1 scaledIzzy has solidified herself as the moral center of the show. Structuring this episode around her gave Megan Stott plenty of room to shine. While she may be “Elena’s problem child,” there’s an apprehension to her boldness. She wants to express the purest form of herself, but fears if she can handle the level of scorn that will be directed towards her for doing so. Her stunt at school with the different race babies was in bad taste, and she rightly gets taken to task for it by Mia. Still, Stott understands there’s a lovable weirdo trying to cry out for love and attention. Our heart breaks for Izzy. She can be in my family photo anytime she wants, Keds or no Keds.

What did you think of the “Picture Perfect?” Let us know in the comments below!

We are recapping every episode of the season! Check out our recap every Wednesday morning for more “Little Fires Everywhere!”

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Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman

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