'Ghosts' Season 2: Why 'Alberta's Podcast' Is One of the Most Important Episodes on Primetime TV

Following a Season 2 return that smashed its previous series debut record last October, Ghosts has been firing off on all cylinders since it was first introduced on CBS for its 2021-2022 TV season. The Joe Port and Joe Wiseman single-camera comedy has been a welcome and wholesome spot on primetime ever since. But the latest episode, "Alberta's Podcast" written brilliantly by Talia Bernstein (the thoughtful and proficient writer behind episodes like, "Trevor's Pants" and "Halloween") immaculately fortifies the series as one of the most meaningful among the primetime landscape of comedies. 

Pushing the boundaries of what it means to normalize conversations around female liberation through self-love in its various facets, "Alberta's Podcast" is a dynamically brave kaleidoscope lifting up the narrative of women in both the past and present. Not to mention, it's an incredibly funny 22 minutes filled with reflective, candid admissions normalizing what it means to be a woman free of oppressive narratives while doubling as arguments across the layered subject of self-love. As television has played an influential part in informing and reflecting the cultural norms of society at a specific time, Ghosts doesn't intentionally set out to comment on such a complex issue but it does raise very empowering conversations through its spirited female ghosts, Alberta Haynes (Danielle Pinnock) and Henrietta "Hetty" Woodstone (Rebecca Wisocky) with the help of Flower Montero (Sheila Carrasco). [Spoilers are ahead for Season 2, Episode 2: "Alberta's Podcast] 

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(Photo: Paramount / CBS, Bertrand Calmeau)

"Alberta's Podcast" finds the episode's titular heroine snitching on a rival singer because of her own insecurities stemming from socially constructed norms and body standards of how women should look — an issue women are still plagued with today. With Alberta being someone who fits her own mold, she states the underdog story of getting her big break was all a lie. Noting how Clara Brown (Mercedes Morris) was a no-show one night because she was arrested, Alberta reveals she was the one who ratted her out because a "woman of her size," with the exception of Ma Rainey or Bessie Smith, never got a chance to perform on stage. Tired of being overlooked after the club owners pick Clara over Alberta to be their headliner, the Woodstone ghost initially agreed to stay as one of the backup singers, hoping her talent would win out. But after two years, that never happened.  

At that time, Alberta believed Clara was "less deserving" of her success and when she discovered the singer dabbled in bootlegging, the Woodstone ghost saw it as an opportunity to rat her out. Sam assures Alberta that what she did was understandable even if it was hard for the singer to open up. Alberta admits that while everyone sees her as a "super confident diva," it's an "armor" she wears most of the time. "I struggle like everyone else but I don't let that show. I need to be my loudest fan 'cause God knows there's always been plenty of folks trying to tear me down," she said in an emotional confession, which will no doubt be part of a larger turning point for Pinnock's career as Alberta leads her into a showstopping performance this season. Sam, most enthused over the admission alongside Sasappis (Román Zaragoza) and Pete (Richie Moriarty) says she loves her even more for being vulnerable and that this makes her more relatable.

While talking to PopCulture.com, Pinnock admitted while this episode was a personal one for her, it's a significant one for audiences too, especially those who have struggled with confidence, particularly body image. "This episode is about self-love for both Hetty and Alberta. Alberta has been seen as a badass for most of Season 1 and in this season we really get to peel the layers back on who she really is," she said. "We get to see her struggles back in the day and how she was made to feel so small by other performers. It's a simple reminder that even the most confident people struggle. I can totally relate to this and finding the beauty within myself has been a journey. I'm excited for Alberta's journey to self-love this season and can't wait to hear how the audiences possibly even relate to this episode."

The award-winning solo performer, who is also an advocate and voice for body image with her brand Body Courage, has long been working toward the understanding for women that the mirror does not reflect our inner truth. Morphing narratives and stories with ease and comedy on her various social networks to challenge perceptions of what it means to be beautiful, Pinnock shares the advice she would offer Alberta is how even in the afterlife, loving yourself will take time. "Allow yourself to do things that challenge you, bring you joy, and most importantly, allow you to feel how amazing you are as a human being," she told PopCulture. "Live boldly, and know that you are everything and more."

Alberta\'s Podcast
(Photo: Paramount / Bertrand Calmeau, CBS)

In the second storyline of "Alberta's Podcast," Hetty's unusual relationship with the broken washing machine is finally revealed to be a moment in the uptight Gilded Age matriarch's sexual awakening thanks to Flower. Hetty, frustrated by the noise as it has ruined her sleep, urges Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) on the chance he can hear her fix the monstrosity but to no obvious luck. Flower, catching Hetty one afternoon yelling about it states there is an "upside to a broken washing machine" and encourages her to "sit on it." Confused by the suggestion but trusting her hippie friend, Hetty finally sits on the machine and it's at this moment we all witness the uptight and reserved lady of the house orgasm for the first time following some very vigorous spin cycles. It is also a hilarious, brilliant performance by Wisocky who brings another layer to her character, who has very pent-up desires that have literally kept her corseted and tied together. 

But while it might seem crass to some that the stern character has resorted to sitting on a vibrating washing machine to let loose, Ghosts manages to enter the complex conversation surrounding female pleasure to break the stigma and challenge patriarchal norms. With her on-screen counterpart having the furthest to go, Hetty's progression to this sexual awakening isn't something new nor out of the blue for ratings. The writers are working very naturally with this movement as there have been sprinkles of Hetty's character changes since Season 1. Seen most recently in standing up to her ex-husband Elias (Matt Walsh) and understanding the value of voting thanks to Alberta, Hetty has been learning plenty from the female ghosts as well as her descendant Sam. With these walking examples helping her move out of old, patriarchal models that have often weaponized modern feminist ideals against women into more negative narratives, it can be noted how independence and self-love during Hetty's time were regarded as taboo. Bordering ideas from The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan outlining how women assumingly only find satisfaction in life through the routine of domestic spheres, performing chores and taking care of children, Hetty is someone who was born with plenty of privilege but remained powerless up until her death. 

When the other ghosts —  Isaac (Brandon Scott Jones), Alberta (Pinnock), Trevor (Asher Grodman) and Pete (Richie Moriarty) — all learn of her "magical encounter" with the washing machine upon seeing a more "relaxed demeanor" from Hetty trying to calm down the 1920s jazz singer over her upset about Todd's podcast involvement, Flower reveals the washing machine left her sexually aroused. Suddenly ashamed by the entire encounter, Hetty says it won't happen again and asks them to "please look away." While guilt and shame are delicate human experiences, Hetty's is ingrained from an era that didn't allow women to be anything but extensions of their husbands, fathers, and families. It left much of their own identities up in the air, causing discomfort and mental anguish from this distinct set of challenges that creates a model of shame that is insidious and almost second nature. Taught to always be feminine by obeying norms and thinking "clean, happy thoughts" while remaining passive over circumstances like in Hetty's case, never speaking up about Elias's affairs, the matriarch succumbs to her "demons" as a woman again, returning to the washing machine for another round.

But upon a later conversation with Flower, she admits she feels great shame over her second encounter. With Flower reassuring her that it's OK to do what she did, Hetty disagrees most painfully, stating how it's "weak and immoral." The whole moment thanks to a beautiful performance from Wisocky is a heartbreaking scene as Hetty, vulnerable and ashamed, hits a breaking point in her reserved character — a being that has lived tragically, most sheltered and free of any passions up until her death. Carrasco also gives a warmhearted performance as a soul looking out for her friend and wanting them to feel complete in many ways through their own choices.

Disagreeing with Hetty's understanding, Flower exclaims, "It's your body, isn't it? I mean, you're in charge of it, right?" to which Hetty asks, if she means after Elias passed. Stunned by the reply, Flower says "No, since always, man!" The exchange is one that no doubt parallels recent topics of conversation revolving around the news cycle in terms of women's bodily autonomy but the narrative in the episode never gets political, nor does it get redundant. After all, there is nothing political about women having rights to their bodies and making decisions for themselves.

"Being ashamed of female pleasure was just some BS thing that men thought up to control women. There is nothing wrong with feeling good Hetty, and you don't need a man's permission," Flower said. When Hetty assumes men still need to build the machines that provide such satisfaction, Flower says "women can do that too." As Jay later resolves the broken washing machine issue much to Hetty's upset and gets the quietest one on the market, Flower reveals there are other ways for Hetty to find pleasure without the mechanical aid. The two stroll down their home's path, which finds them arm-in-arm as Flower offers some nuggets of wisdom to a shocked but curious Hetty.

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In an interview with PopCulture.com, series star Utkarsh Ambudkar — who plays "Living" Jay — commented on Hetty's awakening, stating it will be both "satisfying and hilarious" for viewers this season. "[Hetty] grew up in a time where women weren't really allowed to express themselves at all in a way that I think did a disservice to her. And so now in this season, thanks to Flower and some of the other ghosts and Samantha, she's getting a chance to emancipate herself, so to speak."

With comedy effectively breaking down social barriers and introducing audiences to social issues or new norms in non-threatening ways to support connection and relativity rather than alienation, "Alberta's Podcast" is one of the best episodes on primetime TV from the past decade. Through the writing and performances, the 22 minutes of joy provides a healthy exposure to a complex issue facing women today — many of whom just can't learn to love themselves due to social stigmas, patriarchal models and normative patterns. 

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From a very early age, women stop loving themselves and are told to put others first, whether it's family or a partner and through the noise, they judge themselves based on what others think of them. Women are inundated with images of what a woman needs to be and look like today, whether it's magazines on the newsstands or even casting choices in some of the biggest blockbusters. But as the episode demonstrates most aptly, you need to be your own loudest fan sometimes and provide for your own needs — and that means, believing in yourself and most importantly, loving yourself free of assumptions or discomfort of others, particularly men. As Ghosts continues to produce smart, refreshing conversations through comedic situations and portrayals to push the envelope, the show with episodes like this, is well on its way to cementing itself within the vernacular of TV's best by breaking down barriers for acceptance and most of all, lessons in being kinder to ourselves.

Ghosts airs every Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS and streams exclusively on Paramount+. For more on the show and everything you need to know, follow PopCulture.com for the latest.