How The Conners Set Ben, Darlene And Two Other Couples Up For A Hectic Season 4 Finale

Ben and Darlene smiling in living room on The Conners
(Image credit: ABC)

Spoilers below for The Conners’ latest episode, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched!

The Conners pulled a fast one on viewers with its antepenultimate Season 4 installment, making us all pay attention to Christopher Lloyd’s guest-starring return as Lou, only to have Ben and Darlene leap into a serious relationship at a moment’s notice. (Well, okay, Darlene fell through a roof and went to the hospital, so it took slightly longer than a moment.) The episode “Three Ring Circus” gave fans a peek at how things panned out for the new-old couple post-hospital, while also providing some key relationship upgrades for Jackie and Neville, as well as for Harris and Aldo. The season finale is clearly heading for an episode full of wedding bells, but you just know at least one of those bells is going to crack in half, considering this family’s track record with weddings.

In lieu of an article that solely hypes up how much I love Joe Walsh’s Jesse, and why that character should get used in tons of other TV shows out there, it’s probably more relevant to talk about how The Conners ramped things up for its three biggest as-yet-unmarried couples. Let's start things off with the couple that landed the first official proposal.

Jackie and Neville hugging on The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

Jackie And Neville: Way Too Happily Engaged

Despite displaying some massive (and injury-causing) jealousy issues earlier this season over Neville's ex and the mother of his child, Jackie has been more level-headed than not in more recent weeks, at least when it specifically comes to her relationship with Nat Faxon’s vet. (Lord knows Jackie is at full-tilt 24/7 in any other capacity.) And true to her standard manically frantic fashion, she ended up taking the wind out of Neville’s proposal sails by never letting him actually pop the question, and instead repeatedly interrupted him with rousing positivity. Laurie Metcalf’s energy was truly at “high school football team winning a state championship” levels during that opening scene, and who wouldn’t want to marry someone like that?

Other than Dan and Louise, whose early marital problems have been highlighted every now and then, Jackie and Neville are as strong a coupling as The Conners delivers, so one can only hope that they make it through the three-pronged wedding with the current remnants of their combined sanity. Except that probably won’t happen at all, since this episode’s final scene featured Neville talking to Dan about inviting Jackie’s mom Bev to the wedding, despite knowing that setting up such a foolish act would spit directly into the face of Jackie’s wishes to NOT have her mother there. Granted, The Conners fans are due another guest spot from Roseanne vet Estelle Parsons, but not at the risk of Jackie going full ham on Neville in front of loved ones, particularly if she gets her wish of "wearing" a dress of nectar-stuck butterflies.

Now let’s jump to arguably the least stable partnership, and the one that had the most people attempting to thwart it during the episode.

Aldo and Harris outside on The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

Aldo And Harris: Sort Of Happily Engaged

This proposal seemed doomed from the start, and I’m admittedly not so sure whether I mean the start of “Three Ring Circus” or the start of Aldo and Harris’ relationship itself. There’s clearly a spark between them — “‘til death do us spark” — but any courtship that involves someone going homeless for a while seems slightly less than perfect. And it’s no big secret, either, with Becky, Louise and even Jesse each taking a shot at talking the couple out of going through with it. Becky had the strongest argument, as she referenced also being 17 when she entered her cautionary-tale marriage with Mark, which was at the center of one of Season 3’s most emotional installments. Slightless less convincing was Louise’s suggestion that Harris enjoy a buffet of dudes before settling down later in life. But all one really needs as proof is the notion that Aldo's proposal was initially based almost entirely on impulse, and then enhanced by someone else footing the bill.

But you know the old saying: you can’t come between an orange-and-black-caped man and the tiger he invited to his wedding. So Aldo was still gung-ho for the paid-for nuptials in the end, while Harris was left slightly less enthused about it. Though not because of what anyone outside of their relationship had to say about it, but rather Aldo himself. Harris was not altogether pleased to hear about Aldo’s post-wedding attempts to have children together, especially since he’d come to that foregone conclusion without ever asking for her approval or any input at all. Emma Kenney’s rebellious teen may not be the sharpest knife in the block, but she probably knows better than to become a mother within this bloodline without having one’s life completely figured out first. Not that knowledge is a guarantee that it won’t happen, but still, that might just be enough to have Harris pulling out of the finale’s wedding day festivities.

And now, the little Conners relationship that thinks it can, that thinks it can...

Ben and Darlene talking at kitchen table on The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

Darlene And Ben: Just The Right Amount Of Happily Engaged

For a large stretch of The Conners' second-to-last Season 4 episode, Ben and Darlene attempted to keep their rekindled romance and ensuing engagement a secret from others, if mostly because Neville and Aldo completely screwed up their announcement plans early on. This plot point was probably the most sitcom-my element of the episode, given how unconvincing both Darlene and Ben were in their adamant denials, but it did lead to one of the funniest lines, as delivered by Katey Sagal.

  • Ben: Can’t stand ya. Wouldn’t have ya. Can’t imagine a worse way to spend a day in my life.
  • Louise: Oh, there’s a worse way, and we’ll all be there to see it. And then when the tiger drags off one of the guests, we’ll watch it again on the news.

It seemed for a second like Darlene and Ben might legitimately pull off running away for a weekend elopement, complete with a reference to smothering someone with a pillow. Alas, Dan became aware of their scheme, and guilted the pair — more Ben than Darlene — into sticking around to consider taking part in the family-filled wedding. In the end, they agreed, and surprisingly enough, "Three Ring Circus" ended without any last-minute record scratches indicating impending problems as it went for the other two couples. I mean, unless Jackie did legitimately crush some of Darlene's vertebrae with her overenthused celebration. 

When CinemaBlend spoke with The Conners star Ames McNamara recently, he did tease the finale as being exciting and dramatic, and implied that Mark would be pleased with the outcome. Considering Mark has been a cheerleader for Ben and Darlene, and considering how many problems they've already faced before breaking up, it may just make perfect sense that they would be the only couple whose wedding experience plays out undeterred by disaster. Wait, what am I even saying? Of course there will be some kind of disaster involved. 

The Conners Season 4 finale will air on ABC on Wednesday, May 18, at 9:00 p.m. ET, with episodes streaming for Hulu subscribers the next day. Check out our list of other big TV finales to see what else is wrapping things up posthaste.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.