Though the show certainly hasn't shied away from controversial topics since the revival season began, the latest episode, "Go Cubs," especially drove home that point, tackling three major issues affecting households in America: immigration and bigotry, job loss, and post-military life.
The ep kicks off with Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) pretending to rake leaves, but she's really spying on her neighbors. Convinced that the family is a sleeper cell stocking up on fertilizer to make bombs and are "getting ready to blow up" the neighborhood, Roseanne tries to convince Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and their friend, Anne-Marie (Adilah Barnes), that the family is definitely made up of terrorists. Jackie doesn't agree with her on the neighbors being terrorists, but she is shocked by how much fertilizer there really is in the lawn.
Dan (John Goodman) doesn't have too many thoughts about his wife's latest preoccupation. He and Chuck (James Pickens Jr.) -- Dan's business partner, who was a regular recurring character during the series' original run, as was Chuck's wife, Ann-Marie -- are busy with their own problems, namely prepping a contract for a drywalling job.
As Dan and Chuck are finishing up, D.J. (Michael Fishman) pops in with his daughter, Mary (Jayden Ray), asking if she can stay with her grandparents for the night. D.J. is a veteran and needs to get to the V.A. early in the morning, but his wife, Gina, is still overseas, stationed in Afghanistan. Mary needs to stay up for a 2 a.m. Skype call with her mom, so Jackie suggests that the Conner ladies, including Darlene (Sara Gilbert), have a sleepover to make Mary more comfortable with the idea of being away from her dad. Naturally, Darlene doesn't really have any interest in the fun but goes along with it anyway.
Dan and Chuck meet up with their potential employer, Al, at the Mexican restaurant Dan's oldest daughter, Becky (Alicia Gorenson) works at, only to learn that Al, who they've done a dozen jobs for in the past at low rates, is going with someone who put in an even lower bid. Dan is naturally upset to lose the job, but he's especially frustrated because he feels like the job went to "illegals."
The ladies of the Conner clan, including Darlene's daughter, Harris (Emma Kenney), and even her son, Mark (Ames McNamara), all come together to have the promised sleepover with Mary, right down to brownies, makeovers (which is basically just Mary drawing a mustache on her great-aunt Jackie) and ghost stories. Dan walks in right as Roseanne is telling a spooky tale, and they all overhear him on the phone, asking someone on the other line for any job they can give him and Chuck. "And then they went bankrupt and lost the house," Roseanne ends the story.
Dan and Roseanne sidebar in the kitchen, where Dan explains that he got underbid. "It ain’t right. Those guys are so desperate they’ll work for nothing and we're getting screwed in the process," he fumes to his wife. Roseanne quickly realizes that bills will now bounce. She had assumed Dan's job was a sure thing, so she paid the "final, final notice on time."
It's a problem immediately. Roseanne and Dan go to bed while everyone else stays downstairs for Mary's phone call. Darlene and Jackie have everything set up when they discover the Internet has gone out, meaning Mary might miss the chance to talk to her mom. The last time their Internet got shut off, the Conners stole their neighbors' Wi-Fi, but those neighbors are gone -- now the family Roseanne is convinced are terrorists are in that house.
They try to guess the password, with Roseanne coming up with more and more bigoted ideas, until Jackie finally tells Roseanne they need to just go over there and ask nicely for their help. Roseanne is not happy with the plan, but she goes over for the sake of her granddaughter, muttering, "I'll go and wake up the enemies of America."
The neighbors aren't exactly pleased to see someone at the door in the middle of the night -- unsurprisingly, they answer with a baseball bat in hand. Despite the awkward hour, Samir and Fatima listen to Roseanne and Jackie's plea anyway --- after Samir asks if the sisters if they're drunk. Fatima understands the dilemma and offers for them to bring Mary over to their house to Skype because the Wi-Fi connection will be stronger.
Samir quickly notices how uncomfortable Roseanne is with the idea, thinking that he and his wife will somehow figure out where Mary's mom is in Afghanistan and rat on them -- despite the fact that they're actually from Yemen. The one thing that can quickly take Roseanne down a notch, however, are children in pain, so when the couple's young son comes to the door wearing a bullet-proof vest, it tugs at even her heartstrings. It turns out that the family was recently threatened, and the son started wearing the vest to quell his fears.
Despite how many stereotypes Roseanne uttered, the neighbors end up obliging the late night request, partially to show their son that it's possible for people of different backgrounds and religions to get along, offering their password: "GoCubs." "We're big baseball fans," Samir explains. Oh, and all that fertilizer? Famita reveals that Samir just doesn't know how to order items correctly on Amazon.
The next morning, D.J. joins Dan in the garage, where both crack open beers even though it's only 9 a.m. He's had a rough morning at the V.A., where there was not only a long line, but he wasn't given the chance to reenlist. Instead, he'll be visiting a therapist after having a rough time reacclimating after serving.
Meanwhile, Roseanne runs into Fatima -- who is wearing her headscarf, as is customary for many Muslim women to do in public -- at the supermarket as both are checking out. Fatima has trouble trying to buy her groceries with food stamps, and when her card is declined because it's short $30, the woman at the cash register makes extremely rude, racist comments. Roseanne defends her neighbor, offering up her own EBT card. When Fatima leaves, Roseanne threatens to call the manager on the store clerk, telling the young woman that she's "ignorant" and has no idea how much the woman she was just cruel to is dealing with at home. A quick change of character on Roseanne's part? Yes, but this is sitcom time, and at least she's finally standing up for what's right. If she'll really change her views towards people who aren't her neighbors, however, is a lesson that was hopefully also learned.
With Wi-Fi finally obtained, Mary is finally able to talk to her mom, who we get to see for the first time. Shortly after, Samir comes over to give back the $30 Roseanne lent his wife.
"Did you have to come over at 2 a.m.?" Roseanne asks.
"Oh, yes," Samir says with a smile, before heading back home.
The episode ends up feeling a bit like Barr was just trying to make an episode about Muslims to either shut up or pander to middle America, but at least that storyline was wrapped up. Dan losing a job, and the hard-to-swallow comments he made about undocumented workers, doesn't get a follow-up, nor does D.J.'s attempts to reacclimate to the working world now that he's no longer in the active military. One can assume the working man storyline will be returned to, and, if Barr's tweet is any indication, so will many hot-button issues -- but only time will tell.
To hear more from newcomer Ray, watch the video below.