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Monday, September 1, 2014

Welcome to Sweden: Episode 8 and the Season Finale

So, when we sat down to watch this week's episodes I was utterly confused. NBC skipped an entire episode which moves the plot along so if you were confused about why Emma's dad was in the hospital and who the pony-tailed guy named Marcus was, be of good cheer. You never saw how this plot developed. If you live in the US, you can watch the full episode online. Not sure why NBC would do this but apparently they thought it would be fun to throw an online episode into the mix. It is available until Sept. 27 and you can see it here. :// A very brief written summary of the show is available there as well that will get you a bit caught up.
The last two episodes to air in the US had a lot of Swedish in them and not as much humor as they were used to really move the plot along. Even so, there were some things worth noting.
Episode 8 opens up with Bruce back in New York at a restaurant overwhelmed by how great it is to be back in the US! Of course, the waiter mistakes Bruce as a gay European which Bruce takes great offense to, defending himself by stating that he bought his clothes at H&M, the cheap but fashionable iconic Swedish clothing store that has grabbed the world's attention! And of course, the waiter recommends the meatballs! And of course, Bruce makes all kind of statements about food and eating to ensure that he comes across as American. I want four servings of apple pie and super weak coffee and I will eat more than I should because I'm an American! When the waiter tells Bruce that his English is excellent for a foreigner I had to chuckle. I can't tell you how many people in the US tell me that my English is excellent after I tell them that I live in Sweden. My mom even had someone tell her that I speak excellent English and my mom was like, uh, yeah, she was raised here! Funny assumptions people make.
Amy Pohler's commentary on Sweden was pretty funny when they are sitting in the bar. Talking about Swedish films moving at a snail's pace, Bruce trying to look people in the eye before they drink, and him asking the bartender to put on the soccer match! Such silly ways to portray the differences in culture, indeed.
The bar that Emma and Viveka are in is called O'Leary's and is a Boston themed type pub. They are all over Stockholm and offer cheap bar food and lots of sports, even American football! The one they were in is on Södermalm and was the only place we could watch NFL when we first moved here. Because of the time change, the games didn't start until 10.30pm so we'd venture over there to watch Viking games late at night. Good memories of our early years here. I love the snarky comment from Emma to her mother about being dressed like Lisbeth Salander! Anyone who has read the Millenium novels will understand that this is a good joke. Actually, that pub is very close to where Lisbeth Salander lived!
Meanwhile, Bruce and Aubrey are back in NY getting into all kinds of trouble and Marcus and Emma end up in a fancy, beautiful cellar restaurant likely in Gamla Stan. These are lovely and worth the splurge if you are ever in town. Our favorite is called Fem Små Hus meaning Five Small Houses. I thought the detail of Emma opening the menu and seeing the ring thinking it was from Marcus was pretty good. Turns out, it was just the waitress who had lost her ring earlier her shift! Perhaps that was a fateful turning moment for Emma and Bruce however as it caused Emma to kick Marcus out of her life for good.
While not as funny as the other episodes, this episode does explore the great question of Can Love Conquer All? Both Emma and Bruce and Birger and Viveka are exploring this reality from differing points of view.
On a side note, I have to laugh a little that the US market is airing commercials for Gevalia coffee. While seen as the top gourmet Swedish coffee brand in the US due to clever marketing, it's actually more like the Folgers of coffee here in Sweden! I don't know of many who buy it here. My coffee of choice is the fantastic Zoegas. 
Too bad you can't buy that in the US!
Finally, the season finale is upon us. Emma is trying to get her parents back together while Gustav is dreaming of how great a divorce would be: Two of everything. Two birthdays, two Christmases, etc. Sad but maybe real commentary on a kid's view of their parents splitting. Emma, disgusted, asks Gustav if he's 12 and has he considered that his mother will kick him out and he'll have to grow up, get a job and pay rent. Faced with this terrible reality, he works at getting his parents back together as well. The references to Sweden from the Americans include a mention of Volvo, Ikea and herring. Admittedly, these three things do figure broadly into Swedish life! The first two I like. The third, I would never, ever miss. Bruce and Emma both realize that being together is what they want so in true romantic comedy fashion, they make plans to go to one another at the same time. Bruce engages all manner of people at the airport who will listen to his lovelorn story. One goofy detail was when Bruce was supposed to be at the airport in New York, the signs behind him were clearly the signs at the Stockholm airport! Guess they didn't want to spend the money to film in New York but perhaps they could've been a bit more careful about the background details!
Not so very much to say about the finale. Birger and Viveka get back to together. The summer house goes up for sale (which probably would never, ever happen in real life. People hang onto their summer houses and pass them from generation to generation!) and Bruce and Emma have a serendipitous meeting at the Stockholm airport on the escalators thus setting up the next season.
Perhaps a bit anti-climatic, at least the story line is developing a bit as we close the season. I would imagine that the second season must include winter as that is such a big part of Swedish life and one of the more difficult aspects for foreigners to adjust to. It's not the cold, it's the dark!
So, the first season is a wrap. It's been fun to journey through my second home with all you. If the US decides to do a sitcom based in Palm Springs, CA, I'd be delighted to star in it or at the very least, write my reflections. Not sure when the second season is coming out but until then, I'll keep blogging about my real life in Sweden! For now, raise a glass with a friend, look them and everyone else around the table in the eye and shout skål.
The King and Queen of Sweden at a party we hosted!
Perhaps that's as close to Sweden as you'll get for now!