Warning: Spoilers below for the most recent episode of The Conners. Be sure to come back once you’ve caught up!
Now that Darlene and David’s marriage is officially over, Darlene is trying (again) to move on with her love life, and this time she may have met her match in a tricky proposition. After a few weeks of obvious flirting, Darlene is giving things a go with her new boss, Ben (Jay R. Ferguson), but is this a real love match or just a reactionary move?
When the episode starts, Becky notices that Darlene is dressed up for work, having added a very professional blazer to her usually super casual look, and asks Darlene if she’s going to court. When she says that she just wanted to look nice for work, Becky begins to tease Darlene and tells Geena that this new look must be for Ben, Darlene’s new boss at the trashy crime tabloid Lock ‘Em Up.
When we see her and Ben at work, things get slightly flirty between the two (again), but Darlene wonders aloud what they’re doing, since he is, after all, her boss. Ben says that she’s right, and he has a responsibility to make her feel comfortable in the workplace. But, to him, this means that Darlene has to make a move on him instead of the other way around, and to help things along he gets up from his desk and bends over so that Darlene has a prime view of his, well…assets. After they laugh and Darlene asks if they can just get back to work because things are getting awkward, though, she goes over to borrow his stapler but quickly kneels on his desk to kiss him and the two immediately begin to make out in the office.
After work, Darlene reveals to Becky that she and Ben had sex twice in the office that day, but that this could be something real, since he invited her to dinner at his apartment. Becky, being the very honest sister that she is, wastes no time in telling Darlene that she smells disaster. When Darlene says she knows it seems like she’s jumping in too quickly after their mom dying, her money troubles and divorcing David, Becky notes that none of that is the problem.
See, to Becky, Darlene always picks the wrong guy for herself, and she tells her that she fears she’s doing the same thing with Ben. But Darlene disagrees, mostly because Ben is gruff, stubborn and opinionated, unlike David and Neil (Justin Long), whom she recently broke up with. Darlene thinks she’s finally met her match, but Becky says this might be even worse and that the two of them may end up being like two runaway trains heading straight for each other.
As it turns out, Becky might have a point. When Darlene goes to Ben’s for dinner they clash from the moment she gets there when he asks her to take her shoes off at the door and she refuses, which leads to a standoff until she finally relents to get him to stop talking about how bad it is to wear your shoes outside and all around your house. Eventually, when she’s stirring the paella he made for them in an effort to keep the peace and be helpful, she tastes it and tries to add salt to the dish he’s been working on for hours, and everything boils over. They argue over how he put a lot of effort into trying to make sure she could relax and not worry about anything once she got there, and Darlene counters that he should simply let her enjoy herself the way she wants to. When things escalate to the point that Darlene can’t take it anymore, she leaves so that she can “wear shoes and salt everything at home.”
Darlene then gets some unexpected advice from David’s girlfriend, Blue (Juliette Lewis), who has come in David’s place to talk to Darlene about the kid’s Christmas lists. Once Blue reveals that she’s having trouble with the fact that David can’t make decisions about even the smallest things, she notices that Darlene is tense and gets her to open up about Ben. After slyly revealing that she used to be a dominatrix, Blue tells her that people who are used to being in charge all the time usually want somewhere in their lives to give control over to someone else, and she suggests that Darlene ease up and let Ben be in control a bit if she wants a relationship with him. Blue then tells Darlene that if she gives it a try, she might actually like letting someone else take the lead for once.
At work the next day, Ben lobs terrible ideas at Darlene in an attempt to rile her up when she says she doesn’t want to talk about their disastrous dinner date. He slowly gets her to open up by apologizing for getting angry and saying that he’s just used to being the alpha, which leads Darlene to say that she is, too. Ben says they’ll each have to let go by learning to trust each other, even though they might end up ripping each other’s hearts out. And, in the end, they decide to try to make things work without a clear plan for who should take charge. You know, like in a normal relationship where each person just gets a turn at being in control of how the couple does things. Novel idea, right?
While this might seem dandy, it’s clear these two will have their work cut out for them. Becky was clearly on the right track when she said they might end up being too similar for any kind of romance to work, and something tells me that after decades of leading the way with David, Darlene may just be trying something new on for size that will only lead to more heartbreak. Could their burgeoning romance be the stuff of legend, or will it burn bright and die out fast like two suns that crash into each other? Only time will tell.
You can see how Darlene and Ben deal with dating and working together when The Conners continues on ABC every Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST.