In a future classroom, a pink cat named Ruthie gives a presentation on her strong and brave ancestor, Princess Carolyn. On a particularly challenging day in 2017, Princess Carolyn had to face a number of difficult challenges. Meanwhile, her friends Diane and BoJack tangled with City Hall in an attempt to get access to Hollyhock’s birth certificate.
Although the title of “season four experimental episode” should probably go to either The Old Sugarman Place or the upcoming Time’s Arrow, BoJack has never shied away from playing with animation styles or narrative devices even in its more standard episodes. In Ruthie, the whole story is related as an “Ancestry Day” story by a descendant of Princess Carolyn, although this in itself is later revealed to be her way of coping with bad times.
And this is nothing if not an onslaught of bad news for everyone’s favourite pink cat. First up, she loses Courtney Portnoy as a client, humiliating her right after she delivered a sick burn to her eternal rival Vanessa Gekko. It’s easy to feel like we see a lot of Princess Carolyn being bad at her job on this show, so let’s just take a moment to remember her successes. She rediscovered JD Salinger and got Mr Peanutbutter on board the hit show that was Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities, What Do They Know? Do They Know Things? Let’s Find Out. She finds work for BoJack, even when he turns most of it down. She’s successfully managed the career and social media presence of big stars like Sextina Aquafina. She’s not perfect at her job by any means, but nor is she completely bad at it.
Other bad news arrives at the jewellery store, where she both finds out that her beloved family heirloom necklace is just a cheap piece of costume jewellery. Worse yet, an encounter with Charley Witherspoon reveals that Judah declined a merger with Vim on her behalf. Even her most trusted assistant can’t always be relied upon to be open and honest.
What I’ve saved until last, however, is the worst news of all – Princess Carolyn has suffered a miscarriage. We already knew that she had one at the start of the season, and it turns out that these are just two of the five she’s had in total. With that in mind, Ralph suggests that they explore other options for parenthood, but Princess Carolyn is having none of it. In fact, she feels so angry and defensive about even the suggestion that she can’t have a child, that she flees back to her apartment and breaks up with Ralph.
It’s easy to understand Princess Carolyn’s depth of emotion at this time. A miscarriage is a horrible thing for anyone to go through, and Princess Carolyn has experienced five – at least two while desperately wanting a baby. It’s said that around 20-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but there’s still a lot of stigma and shame attached to it. As the albino rhino gyno says, “Maybe you just wanted the baby too much. Maybe you didn’t deserve it because you were unkind once. Maybe you ran afoul of a trickster God or wood nymph who is now exacting revenge”. As always, BoJack perfectly skewers society’s attitude.
Was Princess Carolyn right to break up with Ralph in this moment? Just earlier in the day, Ralph says “Everything is so easy with you, Princess Carolyn. I mean, that’s why I love you”. As well as being angry and upset over the events of the day, Princess Carolyn really seizes on this point. She’s clearly not sure that Ralph would be as loving and supportive during the more difficult times, and, unwilling to risk that, she instead pushes him away. I’m not going to say more now, but I will return to this point in season five.
The episode’s “unauthorised B-story” sees BoJack and Diane dealing with bureaucracy in City Hall in an attempt to get Hollyhock’s birth certificate. It’s a lighter-hearted diversion from the heavier Princess Carolyn content, and also serves to keep the Hollyhock storyline ticking over.
- Someone mentions George Clooney in this episode, and is met with a “Don’t you mean Jurj Clooners?” reply.
- I previously incorrectly stated that Judah was secretly working for Vim – in fact, he was just there to decline the merger.
- The early minutes of this episode are packed with classic BoJack wordplay, including “settle for Kattan” and “Who knew Portnoy had so many complaints?”.
- At City Hall, a zebra in a cast and neck brace is getting divorced from a leopard.
Summary – Ruthie: “She could take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.”