'Roseanne' Season Finale Takes on Healthcare and the Greater Price Women Pay to Get By

Dan has to decide if he’ll risk his career to afford Roseanne’s knee surgery, while Darlene learns how to debase herself for money.

Hey, sometimes everything really does work out in the end, even if it quite literally takes an Act of God to get there. If this "Roseanne" revival hadn’t been intended as a one-and-done season, it probably wouldn’t have gone down that way for the Conners, either.

Already this season Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) had been dealing with a bum knee and a needed surgery her family can’t afford, while Dan (John Goodman) had started losing out on drywall bids thanks to other contractors hiring undocumented workers so they can pay them below union minimum wages. Then, she developed an addiction to her pain pills and this was a family in crisis.

And it’s a crisis familiar to too many middle class families in a nation where healthcare is tied to employment, and even then it can be prohibitively expensive. When faced with a choice of your house or your health, food on the table or your health, the needs of your kids or your health, you can bet your health loses out every time.

This week, it all came to a head when a bad storm ravaged Illinois and added a flooded basement to their problems. Because when you’re poor, it doesn’t just rain hardships on you, it pours.


The most advanced nation in the world doesn’t have a system that efficiently and affordable takes care of its citizens. It’s one of the most bizarre aspects of America that other countries still struggle to try and understand. The whole plot of "Breaking Bad," where Walter White became a drug czar to afford his cancer treatments, is just so alien to them, and yet Americans take it for granted that getting sick can mean the end of your financial existence.

Another thing many Americans lament is the lack of care in healthcare, and especially if you are uninsured or under-insured. When Dan asked if Roseanne had scheduled her knee surgery yet, she replied, "You know how doctors are, Dan. They say they can see you in a month and then when you tell them you can’t stand the pain any longer, they say, ‘We’ll see you in a month.’"

When he pushed the issue, she countered with, "We don’t have the money, Dan. And a surgeon is not gonna give it his best shot when you’re paying him with a coffee can full of nickels."

There’s a perception now that doctors and hospitals are more interested in profit than treating patients, which is one of the reasons more and more people are looking abroad for both their prescription medical needs, as well as surgical needs.

  • "Should have gone to Mexico. They charge like half of what they charge here," Chuck suggested to Dan and Roseanne.
  • "I’ve heard that," Dan said, looking on his phone. "Oh, here’s a doctor in Juarez who will only charge us a grand for a new knee, and he’ll throw in moving your nipples for free."
  • "Do I have to? What if I like my nipples where they are?"
  • "Doesn’t say."


With their backs against the wall thanks to the exorbitant cost of Roseanne’s knee surgery ($3,000), Dan found himself even more desperate to land the next contract that comes along, no matter what it takes.

  • "I’m gonna get the next drywall job no matter how low I have to bid," he told Roseanne.
  • "I wouldn’t start the negotiations like that."
  • "I’m gonna cut costs by doing what everybody else is doing."
  • "Don’t tell me you’re going to hire illegals."
  • "Hey! I’m also going to use substandard materials."
  • "You know, if the union finds out you’re hiring those guys, they’re gonna kick you out."
  • "That’s a risk I’m gonna have to take. I’m not gonna stand by and let you suffer anymore, and I’m not gonna let you go back to taking too many pain pills."

Sometimes there are no good choices, and it’s down to choosing from the best of the terrible choices presented to you. And there was a personal cost to pay, as well, when Dan did what he had to do to compete against other contractors.

His long-time friend and work buddy Chuck felt understandably betrayed that Dan had hired undocumented workers rather than him, and he wasn’t afraid to tell him so. Of course, he couldn’t have chosen a worse time as Dan was standing shin deep in the flooded basement he’d just discovered.

  • "What do you want me to do?" he asked. "I got three extra mouths to feed since Darlene moved back in. Roseanne started popping pills because we didn’t have the money to fix her knee. And now I got $20,000 of water damage. I spent my whole life hanging on by my fingertips, telling everybody not to worry, that I was going to make it okay, because that’s my job!
  • "Well, now I can’t promise that anymore, so yeah. It makes me sick, but I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to take care of my family. Because I’m old, I’m tired, and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on." It was a powerful speech
  • "Well I’m old, too. And I’m tired. And now I’m unemployed," Chuck countered.
  • "I always told you if I’m eating, you’re eating. I’m not eating."

We’d like to take this moment to remind everyone that John Goodman was nominated seven years straight for an Emmy for his work on the original run of "Roseanne" and he never won. He’s such a brilliant comedic and dramatic performer, that it’s a travesty he was overlooked. Here’s hoping this second run gives Emmy voters a chance to right this wrong.


Throughout this episode, a massive storm was seen ravaging the city in the background. It turns out that was about more than just flooding the basement.

  • "Hey the president’s holding a press conference. The governor’s trying to get him to declare a state of emergency," Darlene said with the family gathered in the living room.
  • "Oh wow, look at this. Half the state is underwater. They took all these senior citizens from one of those old folks homes and put ’em on the roof of the building," Roseanne noted on her phone.
  • "That’s great news," Dan said with a grin.
  • "But it’s also kind of sad in a way," Jackie countered.
  • "No, no, it’s terribly sad," Dan agreed. "But if they declare a state of emergency, FEMA will give us some money to repair the basement. I can do it for half of what they give us and use the rest for Rose’s knee."

When it happened, the whole family erupted in cheers as a chance Act of God is what it took to save their bacon. We get that "Roseanne" wanted to give fans an uplifting and definitive end after the disaster that was Season 9, but it was also a rather appropriate solution to their problems … because otherwise there were no good solutions.

The truth is that without the state of emergency, things would have continued down a dangerous path for the Conners. Dan was risking getting in trouble with the union, and after upsetting Chuck and his guys the chance of him getting ratted out was pretty high. The Conners needed a miracle, and they got one, but it’s not so easy for most of the middle class in America. Medical expenses are the number one reason Americans file for bankruptcy, and has been for the last several years, according to recent studies.


While the bulk of the episode dealt with medical expenses and the havoc they can wreak on our lives, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson) were immersed in the ugly reality of what it’s like to be a woman in the service industry. Beck’s been dealing with it for awhile, but this waitressing job Darlene picked up at the casino is new for her. That’s why big sister dropped by with some practical advice.

  • "Mom said you weren’t making a lot of tips, so I brought you something that might help. It’s called the waitress’ best friend," Becky said, tossing a bra at a napping Darlene.
  • "Aw man, this is perfect," Darlene said, putting it over her eyes.
  • "It’s a push-up bra. It’ll make you look anatomically correct."
  • "When do men ever have to do anything like this to earn a living?"

But if Darlene wants to score better tips, she’s going to need to turn on the charm and sex it up a little bit.

  • "The kind of guys you’re waiting on are very simple creatures," Becky explained. "All you gotta do is tell them you like something about them. Like when a guy orders, say, ‘That’s what I drink.’"
  • "I really appreciate you trying to help, but we’re very different people. I’m kind of an introvert and, um — I wanna get the words right here — you’re an alcoholic tramp."
  • "Why do we have to be hurtful? All I’m trying to say is you’re not an appealing person. You will have to flirt. And probably a lot. To take care of your kids."
  • "I didn’t even flirt to have my kids."

We do not live in an equal society, with women already having to settle for fewer opportunities and lower pay than men. But it’s more than that. Some of them also have to debase themselves for men, or at least pique their sexual interest, in order to make ends meet. It’s an ugly truth and a reality Darlene is very reluctantly embracing. Unfortunately, no Act of God can save her from this one. That would take an act of mankind.

That’s it for this season of "Roseanne," which will return in the fall for another 13-episode run.

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