“The Goode Family” Recap: Freeganomics

By Stacey Harrison

goode-family_freeganomics_24There’s a thin line between being a responsible recycler of resources, and just being a bum. Thanks to a new houseguest, the Goode family gets to see that line crossed like never before.

In order to spice up their annual eco-friendly block party — and to show up that busybody Margo — the Goodes take in famed “freegan” Heinrich. Freegans are people who live entirely off the disposed products of others. They eat or wear nothing that someone else hasn’t thrown out.

Despite their best efforts, Heinrich is not impressed with the Goodes’ proposed block party, pointing out all the ways it is a monument to excess. He refuses to stay with them until he catches a peek at Helen’s voluptuous friend Penny, and decides maybe he can stick it out a few days. From there, it quickly becomes apparent to the viewing audience — but not to the Goodes — that Heinrich’s hard-core environmentalism also involves a prodigious amount of mooching. It all depends on how you market yourself, I guess. While sharing a room with Ubuntu, Heinrich insists that he cannot in good conscience turn on the light. But if Ubuntu were to flip it on, he would have to endure it. And, if he happened to have TiVo’d Housewives, he’d have to sit through that, too. It reminded me a lot of my parents’ Amish neighbors, who can’t own a freezer, but use the one my parents own quite frequently. Same with their phone.

But the Goodes, Gerald especially, still have stars in their eyes when it comes to Heinrich, and spend much of the episode shaming themselves that they can’t live up to his level of dedication. Heck, the guy even left two different families with several children in order to pursue his Dumpster-diving lifestyle. They see it firsthand when Helen offers him a nice plate of food, but Heinrich insists on devouring trash. When Heinrich is laid up with gout, Gerald seizes his opportunity to make a difference and take up Heinrich’s quest. He leaves the family for what he says is an indefinite spell and starts wandering the earth, a newborn freegan. He finds out pretty quickly, though, that he’s just not cut out for it. The first bit of putrid fruit he bites into sends him into wacked-out hallucinations, and back home.

Meanwhile, the family has started to grow tired of Heinrich, and start to conspire to get rid of him. The answer lies with Penny, who’s been enjoying a hot and heated affair with him, but was recently dumped. Remembering his phobia toward commitment and responsibility, the family has Penny tell Heinrich she’s pregnant, after which his gout clears up immediately and he’s on his way.

The Goode Family scores more points here, poking holes in holier-than-thou types, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say they seem to let them get off too easy. Last week, there were the condescending urban-chic lesbians ruthlessly mocking their more butch, small-town counterparts and getting off with merely a “Hey, you shouldn’t do that. Please leave”-type of comeuppance. And this week Heinrich is exposed for being a jerk, but is never directly confronted about it. He even gets a parting shot off at Gerald, who never really loses his idyllic view of the bum. I’m satisfied with the show’s motif of having the Goodes get past the trappings of being PC and arriving at a more practical outlook, but I’d like to see them ditch the pacifism once in a while.

I also wasn’t happy to see the return of Gutterball, but thankfully the disgusting creature was left to the background, save for one hairball bit. Used in the right moments, he could actually be an asset.

Photo: © 2009 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.