“Scroggin” is an episode that separates itself from the rest of Josh’s stories. The music is switched off, and two of our characters – Josh and his mother, Rose – are taken away from Melbourne, spending five days tracking through Tasmania, a part of Australia that I never realized was so beautiful.
The episode is slightly painful, fairly funny, and incredibly, powerfully honest. Before I knew it, twenty-five minutes had passed, and Josh and Rose were boarding their boat, on their way back home. The music returned to the show, and the episode – perhaps the series’ best, and certainly their most powerful – had finished.
“Scroggin” doesn’t feel like a scripted episode of television. It’s something about the scenery, the small number of players in the scenes, and the lack of background music that makes it so realistic. It’s also because of the subject matter at hand. It’s not that the show usually focuses singularly on the pointless, but more that it doesn’t typically spend all of its running time on mental health issues like it does in “Scroggin.” Josh and his mum are in close quarters for five days – from the mellow, swimming in the sunshine, to the more painful, and somber scenes of Rose crying in the tent at night – and you can see how it begins to wear on Josh, that much time with anyone’s parents would, let alone someone who is sick.
Josh and Rose go on this hiking trip so as to take her out of the mental home after Ginger’s suicide, and it’s this that acts as the catalyst for their conversation on the issue. Rose continues to wonder why Ginger killed herself- and why she didn’t say anything to her about it- all the while constantly rebuffing the suggestion that it’s because of the same reasons that she’s tried to kill herself so many times. It’s different, she planned it, she tells Josh over and over again, as he continues not to see the difference. He understands that his mother is sick, but that doesn’t stop the frustration that occurs when she doesn’t get out of bed some days, and when she doesn’t seem like she’s even trying to get better.
In the end, she tells Josh that she wants to go back to the home – not that there’s much of a choice, because if not there, it would be a public hospital – but the episode isn’t about forcing Rose to realize that she has to work at getting better. “Scroggin,” instead, is a beautiful snapshot of a relationship between a mother and son, and the mental illness that has strained this relationship. Rose is still, clearly, the mother in their relationship, but Please Like Me has done something powerful with this episode: it has made Rose a character that is defined by more than just her maternal status or her illness. She is both Josh’s mother and a woman with a mental illness that makes her dependent on him, something that can be seen when she needs Josh to pull her across the river when she spots a snake, and then when she lectures him on his self-confidence issues.
Mothers in fiction are very rarely ever more than just characters catering to the whims of their children, but Rose is more than that, and she’s more than just her illness, too. “Scroggin” hardly feels like a real episode of television, but instead something else entirely that I can’t quite name – but Josh and Rose will be back on our screens next week, because they got on their boat and the music started up, just like it always does in television.
Life carries on; Please Like Me just took a moment to show us how difficult it can be for some people to carry on through.
Josh tires of Roses’s jokes pretty quickly: “Try not to be the Donkey to my Shrek.”
“Were you ever touched by a scoutmaster?” “No! No, why?” “I thought maybe you had but no one had ever asked you about it.”
“Is that marijuana? Where did you get that from?” “Tom! And he rolled it for me, too. Such a nice boy.”