Rhonda is going back to Chicago to see Maureen Goodman. Maureen was the very first graduate of Starting Over. She was a 60-something bartender who wanted to become a stand-up comic, but had to get through some emotional issues she had been avoiding, including the deaths of two adult children and the possibility that her 3rd marriage might be falling apart. We get to see Maureen walking down the street, an American flag under one arm and a cigarette in her hand.
Meanwhile back at the house, Amy Harkin, also from Season One, shows up. (Jen scolds someone for calling out “come in” because they don’t know who is knocking at the door.) Amy is going to help the housemates work on why they are so resistant to their Life Coaches. They go outside to play tug-of war. (Chloe’s not with them.) They talk about how this game is like their relationship with their Life Coaches. (I was sad because when Sommer falls down, she gets up in such a hurry that she looks totally self conscious and also could pull a muscle or something.) Afterwards they all have a nosh and Amy commiserates with how hard and confusing it can be in the house. Kim, Towanda and Jen tell Amy their Life Coach is too harsh. They feel that with every success, Iyanla thinks it should have happened sooner or that it isn’t enough. Amy encourages them to take it up with Iyanla. Kim calls Iyanla and asks for a meeting, then narrates that she feels this will be a mistake.
Josie is playing with Chloe. Chloe startles, then giggles when Josie blows on her face. Josie narrates that she lost medical coverage by leaving Illinois, so now she pays for everything out of pocket. (The women get a weekly allowance and a stipend to cover their back-home living expenses while in the house.) She tells us that whenever she calls Chloe’s father, she gets voicemail and he doesn’t call back. She contacts someone from Child Support Enforcement and he tells her how to fill out some online forms to get the process started.
Kim has gotten a letter from her father in response to her “relationship inventory”. She’s nervous and has not opened it.
Back to Chicago where Maureen is describing what happened when her condo caught fire. She recounts how she started to leave, then remembered the bird in its cage and went back for it. (Some of us Maureen groupies have already learned from her, that this is her grandson’s beloved pet.) She tells Rhonda she has been handling this in her old traditional way, making jokes. She has not been able to sleep well. Larry observes that they need each other now, and starts to cry. He admires Maureen’s strength and feels guilty that he can’t be strong but Maureen can. Rhonda narrates that if Maureen continues to avoid the pain, she’s very worried about her.
Iyanla gets to the house for her emergency meeting with “the 3 sisters”. Kim tells her they need to get clear on the Board of Review grading process, again using the word “curious” when she really means “angry”. (I always feel like someone’s setting up a trap when they talk to me like that!) Towanda announces she will speak for the group and Iyanla nixes that, saying they must all speak for themselves. So Towanda says she feels her C grade was too harsh, and that positive changes are going unnoticed. Iyanla tells her “I hear `I got a C and I don’t like it and I want to know why’” but that Towanda didn’t really say it. (I feel like she did, but I like Iyanla this week so I will cut her some slack.) Kim pipes up that this is really about the differences in grading style between the Life Coaches. Iyanla scolds, “The bottom line is y’all don’t understand why Josie got a B!” She tells the women it has nothing to do with them and says the experience is different for everyone (but when she describes Josie’s experiences, broken home, not knowing where she would be living or where the next meal would be coming from – it sounds just like Jen’s life) Then she points out Kim hasn’t even been graded yet and Kim laughs about this and says in that case, she does not know why she is in this meeting. Iyanla nails her. “I’ll tell ya why: because you gossip. I don’t know what kind of yakka yakka has been going on behind the scenes, but there’s gossip behind it.” She gives a really good riff on how women dispel their power by misuse of the tongue, and how she abhors mediocrity. She narrates that what the women see as harsh, is simply her refusal to accept less than the best from them. She is going to make them walk through fire because “the healing’s in the fire.”
Towanda, Kim and Jen dictate a letter to Josie, who’s typing it into the computer. This will be Josie’s statement to the Child Support enforcement office.
Iyanla meets with Towanda, who feels much better after the emergency meeting. Iyanla tells her that because she has a tendency to “throw everything together”, she will have separate posters for each of her 5 steps. Each poster has grids to write out specific progress she has made toward each step. That will be her assignment for the day.
Back in Chicago, Rhonda is touring what’s left of Maureen’s condo. Maureen is looking teary but does not cry.
Towanda brings her posters to the meeting in the loft. She has written things like “learning to trust self” and a lot of “Being aware.” She feels that “giving honest answers” is one of her accomplishments and I chuckle when I recall yesterday’s “oooh, isn’t that good for YOU.” At this point it seems like more of a wish list. Nonetheless, Townada has earned a step toward her goal. Iyanla skips her up to the fourth step,”building communication skills”, planning to go back and work on the other 3 later. Towanda is exultant and Iyanla tells her it will be getting intense, but not to let Kim define “intense” for her, which makes Kim giggle.
Josie takes Chloe to the copy store to make copies of all her documents and pages for Child Support Enforcement. When she’s finished, she sighs to Chloe that it was scary. (Not as scary as how this guy might beat her up when it hits the fan. Because she already had a boyfriend and was on birth control pills the night they were together, she has not asked him to take responsibility and it does not bode well that he hasn’t stepped up.)
Kim meets with Iyanla and shows her the unopened letter from her father. She’s sure it will be nothing but criticism. Iyanla narrates Kim is still angry that he shattered her childhood fantasy. Kim says he apologizes constantly but never asks how his leaving affected her. Iyanla asks how old he is, and Kim tells her he’s 73. Iyanla wants to know how Kim expects a 73-year-old white American male to have the language or the consciousness to ask something like that. She tells Kim her father apologizes because he feels he did something wrong, and also because Kim hasn’t accepted it yet. She reminds Kim that she turned out ok after all, and wants her to forgive him. She opens the letter for Kim, who doesn’t want to hear what he has to say because she feels so wronged by him. It turns out it isn’t really that bad. In response to her questions, her father writes that he wishes Kim would have more patience with those who are not close to her, and that she should be less materialistic. “I don’t think I’m materialistic. He takes my money just fine,” Kim huffs, and Iyanla reminds everyone what a panic it was to temporarily lose her makeup, fancy clothes and the Louis Vuitton bag. They move on to her assignment for the day. Recalling the dinner plate Iyanla had encouraged her to break, Kim will get to choose a housemate to come with her to create a new plate that will stay in the house after she graduates. Iylanla assures Kim “You’re doing good work. If that’s not too harsh.” And they share a laugh. Kim chooses Jen to come with her and they paint a plate together.
We tour the burned condo some more with Rhonda. It really is gutted.
Iyanla meets with Kim on the deck outside the Starting Over house. Kim will blow up balloons and attach each one to a card, the affirmations that were written the day of the “sisterhood” exercise. The first one is the one Kim wrote to her sister, but Kim is reluctant to launch it because her sister hasn’t responded to it. Iyanla reminds Kim that it doesn’t matter because Kim’s cleaning up HERSELF. Kim narrates that she just wants love in return for all her efforts, and doesn’t believe this will return it to her, but she’ll trust Iyanla. They release one for each of her stepdaughters and her stepmother. (Just surrender this”, Iyanla tells her, “the universe is going to hear you.” (I hate this exercise. I think it’s littering. Balloons don’t biodegrade.)
We see Josie putting Chloe to bed and she narrates that she does want to share her with her father and his family, because not to do it would be robbing her of who she is.