his is it! I thought, like the show’s theme song lyrics, as the credits rolled on the fourth episode of the new season of One Day at a Time. “One Halloween at a Time” is ODAAT at its finest, finally settling comfortably in to its new home on Pop TV. The episode combines costumes and comedic timing with tense and dramatic plot developments, as we learn that someone in the extended Alvarez crew is pregnant.
As Halloween approaches and everyone tries to figure out the best couple’s costume, Lydia finds a positive pregnancy test in the kitchen trash. She’s convinced it belongs to Penelope, and thinks her suspicions are confirmed when she overhears a vague phone call between Penelope and Max. Meanwhile, Alex has dyed his hair silver not just for Halloween, but for real; Schneider is determined to win his country club’s costume contest with Avery, first with an elaborate “Goat Yoga” getup, and then as a spectacular drag queen and drag racer (“The full title is Drag Race: A Drag Queen Started Stonewall”); and Elena and Syd want to use the door-to-door holiday to get their neighbors to sign a petition on climate change by trick-or-treating as Greta Thunberg and a melting iceberg. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Elena’s blonde braids and “Skolstrejk” poster on many kids come October, which may have been when this episode was supposed to air—the premiere date for the fourth season was in flux for a long time.
Lydia and Dr. B, dressed as the title couple from Beauty and the Beast and scheming as always, confront Penelope as she goes for some Halloween wine: “Chardonnay is not for babies!”, Lydia wails. Dressed as Sandy from Grease, Penelope must disappoint her leather-clad counterpoint—the test isn’t hers (remember, the two originally broke up because Max wants to have kids and Penelope’s done with diapers). This only leaves one option left for the now panicked mom: The test must belong to Alex’s girlfriend Nora.
This leads the gang to Nora’s house, where her parents, dressed like the “tethered” clones from Jordan Peele’s Us, are hosting a Halloween party. The parents scold their respective children as Max attempts to show off his Spanish, leading Alex to reluctantly admit to the crowd of adults that he and Nora have never had sex.
“One Halloween at a Time” is full of improv jokes from Syd, great costumes, emotional reflections, some classic Lydia snooping, and a perfect comeback from Elena when Penelope checks that the test isn’t hers: “How many times do you want me to come out?” It all leads to a heartwarming conclusion when Avery (India de Beaufort, who’s actually married to Grinnell), dressed as the Khaleesi to Schneider’s dragon, reveals that she’s the one who’s pregnant, having hidden the test from Schneider in the Alvarez’s trash. This is undoubtedly the best episode of the season so far, and if the rest of the fourth season is as strong as “One Halloween,” the Alvarez family should stay on Pop TV for a long time to come.
Amelia Merrill is a New York-based journalist and theatre artist. Her writing can be seen on Shondaland, American Theatre magazine, Bright Wall/Dark Room, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @Miajmerrill.