Season finales of FOX's Raising Hope usually come with a revelation about Lucy (Bijou Phillips)-- and usually that revelation is that she's not actually dead after all. But season three put all that behind the show, and now, the finale revelation is hitting much closer to home for the Chance family. With a visit from Burt's parents (guest stars Shirley Jones and Lee Majors), he learns he is part Jewish. And since that "part" is on his mother's side, tradition says that makes him Jewish, too. Immediately his mother lays on the guilt for him to embrace that side of himself and have a Bar Mitzvah, which leads into the best penultimate episode of a season this show has ever delivered, but-- dare we say it?-- it may also be the best episode in general. "Burt Mitzvah" is a musical extravaganza (featuring all original tunes) to celebrate family, tradition, and of course pop culture-- as is the Chance way.
"Maybe that's why they call it Jewish: because when people find out, they feel Jew-ish," Burt (Garret Dillahunt) initially starts, reluctant to give up Santa and Easter and the like for a religion he knows nothing about. So his family sets out to actually learn about this religion-- from asking a kosher butcher for a full explanation along with his corned beef, pickles, and "pink fish," to attending Hebrew school, to adopting the Yiddish terms of endearment for his parents.
It should be no surprise that "Burt Mitzvah" is Dillahunt's episode in which to shine, and he truly does. It's the little details that he infuses into his performance as a nervous, boy-like Burt just wanting to make his parents proud that really set what he does here apart. Keep a special eye on the way he fiddles with the strings on his prayer shawl as he speaks to those who have come to watch his Torah reading. It's a very little thing, but it makes all the difference.
While there is a lot of fun had with the stereotypical or otherwise misunderstood representations and customs (from Hebrew pronunciations, to over-bearing mothers, to beliefs about smarts versus sports) in this episode, the focus is really on Burt wanting to be a better man for his family. As someone who never graduated high school, he feels he needs the rite of passage of a Bar Mitzvah to become a real man and set a proper example. Though we don't particularly agree with his claims that he never finished anything (he raised a son and is running a business he started, for example!), anyone who wants to do better for and by his family is doing something right.
And the fact that the payday from the Bar Mitzvah never crossed his mind makes his journey all the sweeter and more special because it was pure.
Of course Virginia (Martha Plimpton) struggles with Burt's new decision, mostly because she can't properly cook a Seder dinner (though surprisingly she takes to the slang quite nicely), but she, too, does everything she can to help her husband along. When Burt has his doubts about his ability to follow through this time, she and Jimmy (Lucas Neff) inspire him with a 80s-style rockstar anthem. Though at times the episode feels a bit like a PSA on understanding a different culture, at the core the emphasis is once again on the strong, bonded families, which should make it relatable to all. Regardless of religion, the Chance family has always been that, and that is what this episode really celebrates.
But personally, we're hoping for an EP from this episode to be released on iTunes to follow, too, because the musical numbers are really spectacular productions in and of themselves. All original music, guys; that alone is notable and celebration-worthy! It's cheesy, but we're going to say it anyway: this season is certainly going out on a high note.
Raising Hope will air its back-to-back final two episodes of season three on March 28 2013 with "Burt Mitzvah- The Musical" at 9 p.m.
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