Ghosts Recap: Whiskey in the Walls
The Liquor License
Season 2 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Bertrand Calmeau/CBS
I’ve been wondering when Ghosts would get back around to showing us Sam and Jay actually making a little money with their bed-and-breakfast endeavor. I know this is only a sitcom and who cares about financials, but, I mean, I do! I care! I am very concerned about the Arondekars’ livelihood, okay? Those two well-meaning dummies are precious to me. This week, in order to drum up some good PR, Sam and Jay are throwing a high-end whiskey-tasting event at the Woodstone B&B and a write from Sipper NY (like Eater NY, an explanation that is still very much lost on the ghosts), which is very good and savvy! But, whoops, Jay forgot to get the liquor license way back when and even though he’s put in several calls to get the process expedited, it still looks like it’s a no go — and that’s very bad and whatever the opposite of savvy is!
When Sam and Jay realize they’ve been serving alcohol without a license for some time now and have yet to be caught, they figure, what’s one more day? Most of the ghosts are onboard — Alberta, especially, who is eager to relive her bootlegging days — although Pete is honestly aghast that Sam and Jay would flout the law like that. Our dear, sweet rule-follower Pete Martino spends the majority of this episode on edge. The biggest rule he ever broke while living was parking in a loading zone at the movie theater that one time — although he admits “it was a Sunday, so it probably was allowed” and yet still, “it ruined Gremlins” for him. So when the liquor-board inspection officer pops by after a cancellation while Sam and Jay are already entertaining their whiskey tasters — including the Sipper guy (played by Veep’s Nelson Franklin, who should’ve been given much more to do here) — you can imagine the level of anxiety Pete feels.
And yet, no one needs to worry! They’re in the presence of a professional here. Alberta is no stranger to hiding hooch from the authorities. She reminds Sam that, duh, she and Jay have access to a hidden vault inside this very mansion — it is the perfect location for a speakeasy. That vault has really come in handy, hasn’t it? Now it’s not only a great place to stash the whiskey event while the inspector does her thing, but the attendees really eat up the whole “experiential event”–type vibe the hidden passageway and vault gives the whole thing — they’re even into Elias’s skeleton hanging out in the corner. They assume it’s fake and no one is going to correct them!
You’d think all of Sam and Jay’s problems would be solved and they’d be guaranteed a great write-up in Sipper, but unfortunately for them, Mr. Sipper himself is a little underwhelmed by the whiskey selection. Again, Alberta comes in with the big save: She and her boyfriend once hid a stash of booze in the walls here. What’s more impressive to a drunk snob than 100-year-old bootleg whiskey? The only problem, of course, is that they’ll have to bust into the wall to get the bottles and that pesky liquor-board inspector — who gives them a passing grade, by the way — is still hanging around doing her paperwork. There’s only one way out of this: They’re going to have to Shawshank it. Like Andy Dufresne patiently waiting for claps of thunder to mask his prison escape, Jay goes to town on a rib-eye steak to mask Sam breaking into their wall for the booze. Ah, sitcom high jinks — don’t they just soothe your weary soul?
Oddly enough, it all works out in the end! They get the stash of whiskey out (sure, they have to look at a disgusting possum skeleton to get to it, but it’s worth it), their liquor license is approved, and Sipper guy has a great time, which will surely translate into a positive article on Woodstone. That’s a win right there! Even Sam and Jay are impressed with themselves: “Are we great business people?” they wonder. That moment of optimism (or denial, maybe) is completely blown apart when they’re told that they just passed out six bottles of whiskey easily worth $5,000 apiece to a bunch of idiot college kids like it was nothing. They’re forced to revise their earlier theory about themselves: “Are we bad business people?” It’s not a total loss, but, yeah, that one’s going to sting for a bit.
Speaking of! Anxiety-ridden Pete gets a taste of “living” on the wild side and getting away with it, even for one night, and it’s inspiring. Alberta shows him that breaking the rules can be fun, if you let it. She reminds him that he spent his entire life being ruled by fear — maybe it’s time to switch it up in his afterlife. Pete finally gets what she’s saying and he is going to try and take more risks. The first? He leans in to plant a kiss on Alberta, the object of his affection, and … he’s met immediately with her hand to his face. She tells him not to be too defeated by his big move, but it’s hard to see it any other way. Just wait until the other ghosts hear about this! I still have high hopes for Alberta to eventually warm up to Pete — I mean, he hasn’t even been around for 40 years yet, there’s still time to win her over!!
The real heart of the episode comes from a surprising place: the newly formed Ghost frat! When Trevor sees that one of the attendees of Sam and Jay’s event is a dumb frat kid trying to impress a girl, he reminisces about the good ol’ days in his college frat — Chunk from The Goonies was in his pledge class, so it was kind of a big deal. He thinks the ghosts should form their own exclusive frat (it’s exclusive because Pete and Alberta decline to join). He wants Isaac to help start it since he knows Isaac was a member of the Freemasons, along with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington (almost as cool as Chunk). It doesn’t take long to see that Isaac and Trevor have very different ideas as to what this fraternity should be. Isaac wants high-minded discussions about important topics. Trevor wants binge drinking and jumping off roofs. They decide to go their separate ways. Hetty and Sas stick with Isaac, but it’s clear that for Hetty it’s only out of loyalty to her friend, and for Sas it’s because he refuses to side with Trevor on anything. But as soon as they see Trevor’s frat (made up of Trev, Flower, and Thor) heading down to the speakeasy party, they bail. The chants of “Lame-da Lame-da Lame-da” and the smell of mini–hot dogs are just too strong to deny in the name of friendship!
When Trevor realizes that Isaac has been ditched by everyone, he decides he needs to go make things right. There goes Trevor and his secret kind heart again. Isaac admits that he lied about being a Freemason. In a few flashbacks to 1773, we learn that Isaac was mostly a joke in the eyes of Ben Franklin — and he only used him for his supersize carriage (it was “two-horse-powered,” you know), only paying attention to him when he needed something from him. He felt rejected then and feels it all over again now with this frat debacle. But Trevor explains that the ghosts weren’t rejecting Isaac; they were rejecting the Freemasons and their lame fraternity. He knows Isaac might be disappointed to have never been a Freemason, but now he has a new group to belong to: “You may not have chosen us ghosts, but you’re here now, and we’re lucky to have you,” he tells Isaac. See? A true soft king! That sounds like an insult, maybe? But I swear it’s not.
Anyway, Trevor also makes sure to mention that the statue of Ben Franklin on UPenn’s campus gets peed on by drunk college kids all the time. All of Trevor’s sentiments cheer Isaac up. Probably that last thing the most, though, let’s be honest. Regardless, down in the speakeasy, the ghost frat gives a resounding “huzzah!” to Isaac. It’s really quite lovely, once again proving that Ghosts has that silliness-to-sweetness ratio down pat.
While it’s been apparent from the pilot that Ghosts can blend humor and heart like the best of them, this second season has really excelled at showing off its deep bench of characters (and actors). Each episode seems to throw a new character pairing at us, and even the most unexpected ones — like Trevor and Isaac, for example — really work. You’d think there’d be a dud but, guys, there is no dud here. A true feat!
• The mystery surrounding Alberta’s murder continues! Aside from the bottles of booze and the possum skeleton, Sam and Jay also find a letter hidden in the wall. It’s addressed to Earl, Alberta’s bootlegger boyfriend, and says, “I can’t wait for us to be together once we get rid of you know who.” It’s signed by an unknown “T.” Call creepy Todd, baby, we’re adding Earl and T to the suspect list.
• Even Pete, who has been dead since the 1980s, is horrified to learn that Sam’s never seen The Shawshank Redemption: “Sam, it’s on like four times a day.”
• To keep up the speakeasy ruse, Sam tells everyone they need to know the password to get into the vault. She looks around for inspiration and lands on Pete. She decides the password is “arrow … nerd.” “I’m sure ‘arrow’ would’ve sufficed,” Pete responds.
• In 1773, Ben Franklin asks Isaac how he’s doing, and his response is said so matter-of-factly that it made me laugh and laugh: “Well, three of my five nephews survived the winter, so we’re pleased.”
• When Trevor suggests the first thing his frat does is jump off the roof, Thor is all in because it reminds him of a tradition in Viking society called Ättestupa, in which they’d make any of the elderly people who could no longer support themselves jump off a cliff (or get pushed off). As Flower puts it: “Just every story, man, it just keeps getting darker.” Classic Thor.
Ghosts Recap: Whiskey in the Walls