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While the champagne was there, Walker's "Champagne Problems" covered a lot more problems than that.

This episode had a few different big plotlines going on and gave a decent amount of time to each of them. It could almost be said that there wasn’t really an A plot at all. While any one of the “bigger” plots could have easily taken up one episode, I think they were all handled well here and didn’t feel too rushed, even if they did share the screen. Of course, the main event is the 40th anniversary party for Abby and Bonham but I think it serves more as a vessel for other stories to be told than a story on its own. So, I’m going to do things a little differently this time and cover the events of this episode in order from start to finish.

"Champagne Problems" opens with the family making breakfast for Abeline and Bonham on their anniversary. They both seem surprised, but happy, about this and Abby even notices the flowers that August may or may not have stolen from the old ranch. She tries to step in and take over cooking but neither her children nor her grandchildren will hear of it and the happy couple is soon escorted outside with their meal.

With listening ears gone, the remaining Walkers go over the plan. Cordell is in charge of decorating the Side Step for the main event. Meanwhile, Liam is tasked with getting a special champagne that they used at their wedding and Cordell suggests he take Cassie with him to help. Stella and August are also to help with decorating, but their main task is getting Abby and Bonham to the Side Step for the party and keeping the secret. During this discussion, Cordell gets a notification on his phone signaling that Twyla “liked” his text wishing her good luck on her first day at her new job.

When everyone disperses, Bonham reenters the house and tells Cordell that they overheard a little of that conversation through the window and he has his own input. He says that Abby still feels awful about how things went down with Geri and that it would mean a lot to her if Geri came to the party. Cordell says that he’ll try but it’s not going to be easy.

In the next scene, we see Gale dropping Geri off at her house on the return from the girl’s trip mentioned in the last episode. Gale apologizes for Denise’s frosty behavior but Geri waves it off, claiming that it’s to be expected given the situation they’re all in. Gale then mentions that they have yet to have any meaningful mother-daughter time and suggests that Geri come over to her place later and learn some family recipes. Geri seems surprised but happy about the idea and agrees to come over.

In the next scene, we see Cassie talking to a Wine Guy at a specialty shop. She gives him an impassioned speech about why she loves wine and is offended that he doesn’t recognize it as a movie reference. Meanwhile, Liam is accomplishing the task at hand and is speaking with another employee about the wine needed for the party. It is a rare champagne, but this man seems determined to find it and offers to call a few other collectors in the area. While this conversation is very professional, there is a bit of a flirty undertone, which is completely shattered when Cassie arrives on the scene. She recognizes the man as Ben, her older brother and neither of them seem happy to see each other. Ben immediately walks away, saying he’ll get another employee to handle Liam’s order while Cassie is left speechless. When Liam asks her what happened, she explains who Ben is and calls him “everyone’s favorite Perez.”

Next, we have Stella and August sitting outside of the Side Step putting together more decorations for the party. After Stella calls him gross for burping, he asks her how all her drama with Todd and Colton is going. He seems to think it’s going to end badly and claims that it will ruin not only his band but deprive him of his only male friendships. Stella brushes off the severity of the situation. She parallels her current dilemmas about Todd, Colton and her future to the night when Abby and Bonham met. She says that they met by fate one night and Abby’s life was completely changed as a result. So, Stella's decided to take a page from that book of wisdom and wait for a sign toward the right decision, letting the universe decide her future for her. August seems very skeptical of this approach but goes back to making decorations.

Meanwhile, inside the bar, Cordell has managed to use a hammer without hurting himself! While he puts the finishing touches on the decorations, Liam and Cassie return for a status check and they are very much wineless. When Cordell asks why, they explain that Cassie ran into her brother at the wine shop and things didn’t exactly go well. This prompts him to ask, in a borderline accusatory tone, why this is the first time he’s heard of her brother. Cassie just says that there wasn’t time to tell him “between ‘get in the trunk’ and” learning the truth of her partner’s demise. She’s clearly still agitated from the run-in earlier and Cordell’s attitude isn’t helping. Liam pulls Cordell away under the guise of talking about decorations and tells him to cool down when talking to Cassie. He saw the way they were around each other, and he thinks a more delicate approach would be best. He then tells Cordell to go out and try to talk to Geri while he tries to get more information out of Cassie. “Divide and conquer” is a strange way to describe a counseling session but I’ll allow it.

With Cordell gone, Liam returns to Cassie. He says she doesn’t have to explain everything, but he would like to know what was going on between her and her brother. She says that they used to be very close (“wearing matching Christmas sweaters by choice close”) but then something happened between them and now they aren’t speaking, and she isn’t sure how to bridge that gap. Liam harkens back to when Emily died and Cordell was gone in more ways than one and how desperate he’d been to make contact to try and get him back. This is not quite how I remember it happening, but I’ll let it slide because it leads to some good advice. Liam tells Cassie to try reaching out to Ben on her own and just take it one step at a time.

In the next scene, we see Geri and Cordell on the Sacred Hearts High football field. Geri jokingly asks if they’re skipping class and Cordell retorts that, actually, he wants to copy her homework answers under the bleachers before his next class, referencing their days as students at the school.

But they aren’t there for fun and games. Cordell starts off by apologizing for how he reacted to Gale’s text during the concert at the ranger fair. He tells Geri that, despite her connection to the Davidsons, he’s committed to their friendship. He's so committed, in fact, that he’s ignoring a very insistent caller while he talks to her. He tells Geri about the surprise party at the Side Step that night and asks her to come, if only for Abby. She seems unsure about the idea. Abby hurt her with her decisions and she’s not sure she can just let that go. But, given the special event, she’s willing to think about it. They hug and she leaves, giving him room to finally answer the phone. Twyla is on the other end and something is very wrong.

We pick up at Twyla's job. Her boss is accusing her of stealing $800. She insists that it wasn’t her and even points out that the way this “con” was carried out was incredibly stupid and if she had stolen the money, she would’ve done a much better job. Her boss refuses to listen and insists that the police officer on the scene arrests her. The boss believes her criminal record is more than enough evidence to convict. Cordell uses his status as a ranger to hold off the officer and insists on a proper investigation.

Just then, he gets an SOS text message from Liam and steps away to call him. Unfortunately, Liam is a little drunk and he misuses his text lingo to tell Cordell he’s made a new drink to make up for not having the wine. Cordell admonishes him for interrupting him with something so trivial while he’s trying to prove Twyla’s innocence. Liam sobers at the mention of Twyla and asks if Cordell is sure it’s a good idea to be around Twyla right now. He’s concerned that her presence may cause trouble with Geri given the Rodeo Kings’ role in Hoyt’s death. Cordell assures him that it won’t be a problem and hangs up to go do his job.

Next, we see Gale and Geri in the Walker’s old kitchen. Gale is showing her how to make a brisket, but Geri suggests they move on to something more exciting and asks for the Barn Burner chili recipe. Gale is surprised but agrees and asks Geri to get the spices. When Geri opens the wrong cabinet, we see that Gale has reorganized Abby’s kitchen, which sets Geri off kilter. Gale notices something is wrong and asks about it. Geri explains that it’s just very strange being back in the house, and that kitchen, without the Walkers there and mentions the invitation to the anniversary party later that night. She reiterates her frustrations with Abby and, in a shocking turn of events, Gale comes to Abby's defense. She says that while Abby did sit on that secret for a long time, it wasn’t fair for Marv to tell her in the first place. She also gives Geri her blessing to go to the party if she wants, not that she needs it.

Back at the bank, Cordell gets off the phone with financial forensics and tells Twyla’s boss that they were able to find the missing money, but they also found it was his error, not Twyla’s. The boss is surprised by this and tries to explain why he jumped to conclusions. But Cordell isn’t having it and explains all her qualifications and that all she really did was make a minor error in an otherwise shining career in finance. In the background, Twyla smiles gratefully.

In the next scene, Cassie returns to the wine shop to talk to Ben. She apologizes for surprising him earlier and claims she had no idea he was in the city. Ben doesn’t seem to believe her given the specialty nature of the shop he works in. She insists that it was an honest mistake and says that their mother didn’t mention that he’d settled down anywhere. Ben then says that he wasn’t going to stay in Houston after what happened with “Lucas.” He won’t listen to Cassie’s excuses of being busy, angry that she wasn’t there when Lucas, his boyfriend, died. He makes an additional dig by saying that, at that point, Lucas was too out of it to even notice she was gone. Cassie quickly leaves after that, going back to her car in tears.

Next, we see Abby getting ready for a celebration. While she’s putting on her makeup, Bonham tells her she’s just as beautiful as the day they met. They share a sweet moment appreciating their time together before they leave.

In the car, Stella and August tell them that Cordell got held up at work and he won’t be able to join them for dinner but they’re still set to go for their dinner celebration. Abby and Bonham don’t seem to believe them but they play along. Then, August gets a “text” saying that Liam is stuck in traffic so he can’t make it for dinner either. The grandparents make suggestions for alternative dinner spots, but August says he needs to go by the Side Step to get his “prescription” that he can’t remember the name of and Stella insists they all go inside. The grandchildren open the sliding door to reveal the surprise party, leaving Bonham and Abby speechless.

In the background of the celebration, Ben arrives and brings Liam the champagne he was looking for. While he’s there, Liam asks Ben to try his new drink. Ben likes it but he hams it up a bit, back on his flirt game. Liam takes it in stride, but the mood sours a bit when Ben sees Cassie again. Luckily, Cordell unintentionally breaks the tension by calling for a toast. He talks about how happy he is for his parents, to have been together for so long and for their relationship to have survived so many trials, especially the ones they’ve gone through recently.

Abby takes her turn at the stage then. She tells them all that while, yes, they’ve been through some trouble, she and Bonham are strong together. She says that while fate may have brought them into each other’s lives, they choose each other every day and that’s what really makes them special. In the background, Geri slips into the party. Abby sees this and begins to tear up, happy to see her family together again.

Outside the Side Step, Stella and August are unloading the trunk of her car. While they work, Stella says that she’s changed her mindset about the future in light of her grandmother’s speech. Just like fate brought Bonham to Abby, it’s brought her a lot of choices for her future. But, like Abby still had to choose Bonham, Stella has to make her choices as well, even if she doesn’t know what they are yet or how everything will turn out. August says that he’s sure things are going to work out for her, and she returns the sentiment.

Back inside, Ben is leaving the party. He tells Liam that he’s had a good time talking and heads for the door. On the way, he sees Cassie and briefly pauses before continuing out the door. Cassie looks after him, crestfallen, and Liam approaches her. He tells her that she should go after him; after all, Ben could’ve sent anyone with the bottle, and he didn’t have to stay that long.

Bolstered by the words of her new friend, Cassie rushes out after Ben. She starts off by apologizing for how she handled things earlier. She tells Ben that after they learned Lucas had Huntington's (disease), she couldn’t handle it. She loved Lucas too and losing Miles right after that was just too much. Ben is annoyed that she’s comparing their losses and she apologizes for her misspeak. She then goes on to explain that she used Mile’s disappearance as a coping mechanism. She could “fix” Miles being missing; she couldn’t do that with Lucas’ disease. So, she abandoned her family, her brother, when she needed to be there, and she deeply regrets it. Ben seems to accept her apology and they hug, letting the healing begin.

Back inside, Liam announces the presence of the special champagne and opens it for the crowd. He pours his parents a glass and starts to make a speech, but Bonham stops him. He has his own words he’d like to say. He gets up on stage and grabs a convenient guitar and starts singing “The Cowboy In Me” to Abby. Everyone else enjoys it, too.

In the crowd, Geri has found Cordell. He thanks her for coming and she says that “you make time for the people you care about." Cordell reiterates his commitment to their friendship and Geri agrees. She states that she wants to have both families in her life and he’s supportive of that. After all, they are good friends.

Side note: Did anyone else pick up on how careful Cordell was in saying he was committed to their “friendship”? Something tells me she didn’t quite pick up on what that meant.....

After Bonham's performance, he steps off the stage and hugs Abby. They kiss and then she steps aside to thank Geri for coming. Geri says that even if things are strange with her being a Davidson, she still considers herself a Walker, too. Abby is very happy to hear this and they hug.

With that, the party is over. As Abby and Bonham leave, people wave sparklers around and throw rose petals. We then see that August and Stella have decorated the car with streamers and an anniversary banner for their big exit. Stella gets in the driver’s seat to drive them home and the rest of the family disperses.

Liam goes with Cassie to Ben’s place. While Ben goes to the kitchen to make them a drink, Liam holds Cassie back and asks if she would be okay with him asking her brother out. She is very okay with this and steps out of the room to give them some privacy.

Liam approaches Ben and tells him that he enjoyed their time together at the party. He explains that he’s had a bit of a rough patch lately where he’s been trying to take care of his family without really making time for himself. After a bit of rambling, he eventually gets around to asking Ben out to dinner and Ben says yes. Cassie returns then and asks what they were talking about. Ben teases her with a memory of a time when they were kids and she went on a Pants Strike because a Hunger Strike was too hard, getting laughs out of everyone.

Back at the bar, Cordell has been left alone on cleanup duty. Someone enters the bar and he starts telling them where the lost and found is, only to turn around and see Twyla. She says she came by to thank him for helping her out at the bank, but she didn’t stop by earlier because she didn’t want to crash in on the family event. She wanders over to the jukebox and turns on the song that they danced to back when he was Duke. She then tells him that she didn’t understand it until earlier, but she recognizes that even when he was Duke, he was really getting to know her as Twyla. She invites him to dance but he declines, saying that there are too many bad memories attached to that song. She accepts his answer and asks for a drink instead.

He takes a break from cleaning and gets them both a beer. When he sits down, she asks about his day. He tells her it was a good day and starts going into detail, starting with breakfast.

Behind them, Geri walks up to the open door and sees them. She seems shocked to see them together and walks away without a word, walking alone into the night, leaving them both unaware of her presence.

And that brings us to the end of the episode. I thought this was a very lighthearted and fun story and a nice rest from all the drama. Though, given the trailer for the next episode, this is only the calm before the storm.

I thought the conflict between Cassie and Ben was interesting. I’m glad that Cassie made a complete, sincere apology for what was a very selfish act in her brother’s time of need. I doubt things are completely fixed between them but it’s good to see the healing begin. This is just another way her single-minded focus on Miles’ disappearance ruined her personal relationships and I can only hope that she learned her lesson and doesn’t do this again when she learns that Miles is, in fact, still alive and in hiding.

I’m glad to see Stella taking a little personal responsibility for her life and I’m curious to see where her choices lead. Abby and Bonham being a happy couple was a delight as always. While I am sad that we won’t be getting anymore Bret (RIP Briam, January 21, 2021 - May 5, 2022), I’m glad Liam and Ben are ready to try loving again. I’m also very happy to see Twyla and Cordell going about things like adults, with Twyla acknowledging that he does know the good parts of her and him voicing his mixed feelings about her and their future together.

Of course, there is still the question of the Davidsons. The last couple of episodes have tried to make them more sympathetic but I fear it may be too little too late. Geri’s involvement with both families and wanting both of them in her life is understandable, but the waters there might be too rocky to navigate safely. I can’t imagine a satisfying resolution to this feud by the end of the season and we’re all still waiting on the Walkers to get the ranch back. But now there’s a new question to be answered: how will Cordell and Twyla’s relationship affect Geri’s relationship with him and the rest of the Walkers?

All that and more awaits us in the future. June 2nd will be an interesting night indeed.

What did you think of this episode? Share your thoughts below, then return here over the next several days for more reviews of "Champagne Problems"!  
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