Welcome to Firefly Lane, a place our protagonists Tully (Katherine Heigl) and Kate (Sarah Chalke) can’t escape no matter how hard they try, or how old they get. The brand new Netflix series, based off the book Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, follows these two best friends from their first meeting through the following 30 years of their lives, and all the ups and downs along the way.
Tully and Kate are complete opposites, even from the very beginning. Kate comes from a loving and happy home, lives with both parents and her older brother. She fits the nerdy teen trope to a T, and doesn’t have a whole lot of friends. Tully, on the other hand, has an absentee drug-addicted mother who frequently forgets to pay the bills, so they’re always running out of food. To cover the truth about her home life, Tully tells everyone that her mother is suffering from cancer. But after the girls meet by happenstance, little do they know they’ve made the only life-long friend they’ll ever need.
If you've read the book, you may think you know where this is all going, but Firefly Lane includes a few twists to give it life beyond a single season. While the actions of Netflix’s Firefly Lane closely mirror the events of the book, they do diverge in a few different spots — for the drama, obviously. So, if you’re hoping that the big mystery is wrapped up by the end, well… maybe quell that hope right now.
If you're new to Tully and Kate's world, everything is told in flashbacks, jumping between the '70s, '80s, '90s, and early 2000s; so it’s got the dramatics of Big Little Lies and the timeline of This Is Us, only way more confusing. It can be a little hard to follow along with every single thread as the narrative weaves back and forth and due to the fact that we learn about some events before we actually see them happen. So, in lieu of a straight recap, we're breaking down the events of Firefly Lane decade by decade, starting from the very beginning.
Episode 1: “Hello Yellow Brick Road”
In The Very Beginning...
The long and the short of it is this: Tully is having a very rough childhood. Her hippie mom, Cloud a.k.a Dorothy (Beau Garrett), takes her young daughter to a protest and as soon as the two start marching, Tully finds herself lost in a crowd of strangers. Not knowing where to go, let alone what to do, Tully makes her way to a park bench where she curls up and cries. This little moment may seem insignificant at the time — most people remember getting lost in a Target or a grocery store as a kid — but this moment sticks with Tully for the rest of her life.
Seeing that she’s not fit to parent Tully, Cloud leaves the young girl with her grandmother, and things seem to be going fine after that. That is, until a few years later, when Cloud shows up and takes Tully to live on Firefly Lane.
There are new neighbors on Firefly Lane, so that means that Kate’s mom Margie (Chelah Horsdal) wants to send over some Hamburger Helper. Walking across the street, young Kate (played in '70s scenes by Roan Curtis) meets young Tully (Ali Skovbye) and Cloud for the first time. Kate can’t help but notice that Cloud is seemingly out of it, and smoking up a storm. Trying to hide the fact that her mom is completely stoned, Tully explains that she’s got cancer and going through treatment, so that should explain the smell of weed. Kate buys it.
While walking home one night, Tully happens to see Kate’s older brother Sean (Quinn Lord) kissing a neighbor boy, Robbie (Synto D. Misati) — who Kate very clearly has a crush on. Startled, Sean begs Tully not to tell anyone, and Tully implies that she didn’t see anything. This is the start of their deep, 30-plus year friendship, too.
“Women are the future of journalism, and the future is looking bright” or at least that’s what Kate (Chalke, in the '80s and beyond) says to herself again and again in the mirror ahead of her job interview — except it’s not really a job interview. Rather, Tully (Heigl) has decided to ambush her boss, Johnny Ryan (Ben Lawson), demand that Kate get a job at the KPOC TV station, too. Johnny is less than thrilled about this, but Tully makes the case that Kate can do everything Tully can't do. Or more realistically, everything Tully's really supposed to be doing at work, only she's far more focused on getting on air than answering phones and getting coffee. Reluctantly, Johnny agrees.
Kate is fine with taking on the grunt work, since part of her job is bringing Johnny food — everything from sandwiches, to coffees, to even soups. Thanks to a montage of her doing this endlessly, we know that she does this for a while before Johnny finally notices her, and compliments her on how well she’s working out at the station. She’s also a great copy editor though, so before you know it, Kate becomes an indispensable problem solver around the office, slowly but surely becoming someone Johnny can rely on.
Kate and Johnny are now going through a divorce, and it’s taking the biggest toll on their daughter, Marah (Yael Yurman). She starts acting out in school, which means that she’s wound up in the principal’s office yet again. Kate rushes down to bail her out of trouble, which means she misses a job interview — the first one she’s lined up in years. It’s a gig with Seattle Digest, and one Kate is apparently under qualified after having been out of the game for the last decade. But, when she shows up late for the interview, she manages to talk herself into being hired after she promises Kimber, the image-obsessed editor of the magazine, an exclusive interview with her celebrity friend, Tully.
So we should probably mention that at this point in her career, Tully is the mega famous host of The Girlfriend Hour. The title is also tied to Kate, an inside joke and reference to Kate's brother Sean’s wedding, where they and the other women sat around and gossiped for a “girlfriend hour” before the nuptials. The show is a huge success, but Tully does mention at one point in the series that she's not quite at Ellen or Oprah level. In a role reversal, Johnny now works for Tully as her producer.
We meet this era's Tully as she's feeling bored, so she heads to a bar to drink alone. A fellow solo drinker (Jon Ecker) catches her eye and though she brushes him off at first, they eventually end up having sex back at her place. She’s happy for the quick one-night stand, but this guy — who has a name, by the way, Max — isn’t so keen on the idea. The 20-year-old is fresh off a divorce and says he really likes Tully. But then he admits that he used to have a crush on her when he was growing up, and that (quite predictably) does not go over great with Tully.
Speaking of having sex, Kate's daughter Marah is thinking about going on birth control, but she can’t do it without parental consent. She knows asking Kate is a no-go, but what about Aunt Tully? Reluctantly, Tully agrees to sign the forms as long as Marah promises to talk to her mom about it later. Unfortunately, Kate finds the forms that night.
Before that though, Kate has to run a school function, and since her estranged husband is away, she's upset about having to go alone. At the last minute, in swoops Tully to not only be her date, but also to lend Kate a banging (pardon the early aughts slang) silver dress. While Kate is happy to have her best friend by her side, she’s less than thrilled to see Tully out on the dance floor, apparently flirting with another parent, Travis (Brandon Jay Mclaren). A recent widower, Travis and Kate had initially started flirting, but after seeing him with Tully, Kate suddenly has a rush of bad memories of the last time Tully flirted with a man Kate was interested in. In the memory, that man is her soon to be ex husband Johnny. Kate abandons the dance and heads home to Marah.
Tully makes her way home too, where she finds Johnny waiting at her door. I know what you’re probably thinking: oh no.
Megan O’Neill, "Time in a Bottle" — The series opens with this ridiculously melancholy rendition of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle." Those who know the lyrics (If I could save time in a bottle / The first thing that I'd like to do / Is to save every day / Till eternity passes away / Just to spend them with you) will see how closely the song matched up to Kate and Tully's friendship.
Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" — The song plays a few times in the series, in different decades, usually when Tully has abandoned Kate, but it's this episode's namesake.
Episode 2: “Oh! Sweet Something”
Content Warning: The following recap contains references to sexual assault.
While Tully is really fascinated by Kate’s horse, Sweet Pea, she's not fascinated enough to skip a party in the woods. (Sweet Pea should really get more screen time than she does, but in about 30 years we will see that Kate has horse pictures in her adult bedroom, so that's something.) Abandoning Kate, Tully goes off with a popular boy named Pat, who gets Tully drunk and takes her into the woods, far enough away from the rest of the group that no one can hear or notice them. Pat immediately begins groping Tully, who repeatedly begs him to stop and tells him "no," but Pat doesn't acknowledge her pleas and eventually rapes her. The young teen is rendered completely frozen and speechless. She eventually finds the strength to get up, so she walks home and finds Kate still sitting outside.
Tully tells Kate about what happened, and Kate wants to tell someone about it. Tully begs her to let it go because she's concerned no one will believe her because she was drunk. Kate is distraught but instead of pushing, hugs Tully, and in this moment, their friendship bond is born.
Adult Sean (Jack McKinnon) stops at Kate and Tully's news station after returning from service. Tully is eager to throw a big party, and soon everyone is completely drunk. While no one else is around, Tully and Sean talk about life now, and Sean confesses that he’s actually been seeing a man lately, and Tully is eager for details. She’s still the only one who knows he’s gay.
After Tully falls through a glass table, Johnny scoops her up to bandage her bloody leg and they almost kiss — which ends up being a callback moment later in the 2000s.
First, let's get this out of the way: Nothing happens between Johnny and Tully. They end up talking like old friends and Tully tells Johnny that Kate still loves him. (We know.) Unfortunately, the conversation ends with Johnny suggesting they all could have made different choices back in the '80s, alluding to those past hints of a romantic connection with Tully, but she tells him to sleep in the guest room.
Unaware of any of this, Kate is furious with Tully over the consent forms she found in Marah's backpack. At this point, it sure seems like a regular misunderstanding between adult friends, one with kids and one without. But as the season soon begins to make clear, this moment is indicative of Kate and Tully's friendship unraveling as a result of their increasingly different lives.
But Kate still has other problems to deal with, like the fact her boss Kimber (Jenna Rosenow) has given her the demeaning task of expressing her dog's glands. As she's holding the dog over the office toilet, she runs into the new young (attractive) Seattle Digest photographer Gideon (Andres Joseph), who seems charmed by the word vomit that Kate spews when he finds her in this predicament.
Kate is also struggling with the fact that that Johnny’s back from his trip to New York City with a shiny, new job offer. He wants to return to his first career as a reporter on the frontlines of international conflicts and war, and he’s planning to accept the job and leave in two months. Kate is clearly upset about it — and not just because he's the father of her child — but she knows there’s nothing she can say to stop him.
Tully’s had a rough day herself, and after having differences with her team at The Girlfriend Hour, she does the thing she never does: She meets up with Max again. He’s still pursuing a relationship with her, and she’s slowly coming around to the idea. Very, very slowly.
That night, after Kate doesn’t return Tully’s calls all day, Tully just shows up at her house, throwing rocks at the window — a move she started back when they were teenagers. The memory of their teenage years convinces Kate to eventually comes down and they sit by the pool. “You’re my soulmate, you bitch,” Tully says, and Kate replies by launching into a monologue about her problems with Marah and Johnny. All seems to be well for now. "You're fucking stuck with me forever," Tully promises.
The Late 2000s
In the first time jump to "Two Years Later," somewhere around the mid-to-late 2000s, Kate and Marah are dressed for a funeral. "I miss her, I know you don't like talking about her," Marah says. Kate misses her too, and it's clear they're talking about Aunt Tully. What's not clear is whether they're headed to Tully's funeral, or someone else's.
The Velvet Underground, “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’”: It's a heartbreaking selection that plays as Tully walks home after her assault. Lou Reed sings "she ain’t got nothing at all” again and again, but we know better: She's got Kate.
Episode 3: “Dancing Queens”
Now that Kate’s mom Mrs. Mularkey has heard so much about Tully’s mom, she decides to head over and talk to Cloud herself. Mrs. Mularkey even has some tea that she just knows will help with Cloud’s chemo-induced nausea. There’s no use trying to talk her out of it, even though Tully desperately tries. Mrs. Mularkey marches across the street and kindly offers to help Cloud out with whatever she needs as she battles cancer. Tully's jig is up: Cloud, clearly stoned, is confused. “Who has cancer?”
Mrs. Mularkey confronts Tully about the lie, though she clearly has sympathy for her daughter’s best friend. Unfortunately, Tully lied to Kate, so Mrs. Mularkey gives her an ultimatum: Either Tully tells Kate about the lie, or Mrs. Mularkey will. Tully later tries to do so, but can’t manage to get all the words out before she’s interrupted. It starts to become clear that the issue Marah's consent form was absolutely not the first major lie Tully has told her best friend.
Later, Kate and Tully decide to crash the high school dance because Kate’s got a little crush on her brother’s friend, Robbie. When they’re both bored with the dance, they head outside and run into Pat and a bunch of his friends. He doesn't seem to understand how he wronged Tully and gives her some line about “meaning to call her." She's so shocked to see him that she can’t even muster a word or two. Kate manages to get her back to the car, and Tully hops behind the driver’s seat. Almost immediately, she drives her VW Van right at Pat and his friends in hopes of scaring him. Or running him off the road. Or maybe killing him? I'm not sure Tully's even clear on her intent. But whatever the reason, it sends a message loud and clear: Don’t mess with her again.
When Carol, the lead on-air talent at the news station, falls sick, Tully sees this as an opportunity to grab the spotlight for herself, if just for a minute. She and Kate beg Johnny for a chance to do a real, hard-hitting story — they pitch something about the mayor stopping the production of nuclear fallout shelters. (We did nearly have a nuclear world war in 1983, so it’s timely, though not exactly the usual local TV news stuff.)
When Johnny’s hard news interests are piqued, Tully and Kate start chasing down the story. This is easier said than done, considering the two have to go undercover — read: ambush the mayor’s assistant at the gym, while dressed in full ‘80s jazzercise gear. The mayor’s assistant is less than thrilled to talk to Tully and Kate, but they do get him to agree to talk to the mayor. Kate sees this as a loss since they didn’t really get anything, but Tully takes it as a win. At least they have an in. Kind of.
Unfortunately by the time they’ve made it back to the station and are ready to go on air, Carol is feeling well enough to go on and swipes her segment back from them. At least this proves that the duo can accomplish big things together.
Later Kate and Tully join cameraman Mutt (Brendan Taylor) and Johnny at the local bar, where they drown their sorrows in some beer and pool. Kate jumps at an opportunity to talk to Johnny alone, but to her dismay the conversation is all about Tully — namely how Tully always seems to get what she wants. This is where it starts to become clear why Johnny didn’t end up with Tully: Kate says Tully just believes in what she’s doing, but Johnny thinks that Tully only believes in herself, everything and everyone else be damned.
Tully also believes in making out. Out of nowhere. In front of everyone. As Kate and Johnny discuss her choices, Tully races across the bar towards a mysterious man and leaps into his arms. As they furiously make out, Johnny and Mutt are stunned. What the hell is going on? Kate, the BFF, fills us in: That’s Chad Wiley (Patrick Sabongui). We haven’t met him yet, but Kate’s tone suggests there’s a lot more to Tully’s new friend.
The ongoing divorce is clearly taking a toll on both Kate and Johnny — but before we deal with all that stress, can we take a moment to talk about their gorgeous, lakeside mansion with a sprawling backyard and a heated pool overlooking the sound? You know it’s heated, because the cameras constantly catch the steam coming off of it on cold days. The luxury. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been stuck inside an 800 square foot apartment for almost a year, or maybe it’s just the majesty of it all, but I just can’t get over their picture-perfect bay windows, the way the light filters dreamily into their living room, and the sprawling master bath with a huge walk-in closet. For me, the house is the real star of the show. Just wait until you see it decorated for Christmas.
Anyway, Kate and Johnny are not busy marveling at their dream house, and are instead trying to be as civil about the divorce as possible for Marah. So, when Marah comes down with a cold right when Kate was supposed to be enjoying a girls’ trip with Tully, Johnny offers to take care of Marah. It should be pretty standard for a father to take care of his kid and for Kate to go on a harmless girl’s trip, but because she’s a person who gave up her professional life to be a homemaker, Kate feels guilty and uncomfortable with the arrangement.
When she and Tully are out on the town later, they happen to run into one of Kate’s co-workers, Gideon Vega, that new photographer for Seattle Digest who met Kate while she was expressing Kimber’s dog’s glands over a toilet. Eventually, Tully plays the good wingman and leaves, so Gideon and Kate end up making out and he suggests they go to a second location for, you know, sex. Kate is immediately uncomfortable, and manages to get out of it by realizing that she’s got Marah’s medication in her purse. She hurries back home. And if you think that Gideon is going to stick around and become a major player through the rest of the episodes, let me adjust those expectations: This was fun, but you can basically forget about him now, just like Kate does.
On the other hand, Tully is at least trying to make it work with her younger love interest Max, and he’s slowly chipping away at her emotional walls. During one of their many makeouts (the episode opens with a full montage), Max insists that he wants to be able to look into Tully's eyes. She fights it and rolls her eyes. She calls their whole thing a “phony romance,” but Max insists that it’s not. He’s actually really into her, but Tully doesn’t have time for this and suggests that he leave. After he’s gone, Tully is alone in her apartment and heads out onto the balcony for a smoke and a sip of wine. Seconds later, she collapses.
Sweet, “Ballroom Blitz”: When Tully tries to run over her rapist this song is blasting, and honestly, it’s great.
Episode 4: “Love is a Battlefield”
Tully borrows some of her mom’s drugs, so she and Kate skip school and get high in one of the nearby fields. It’s all fun and games until Kate has a panic attack and they have to head back home. This probably wasn’t the best time to experiment with mind-altering substances, since they’re also both dealing with crushing personal realizations. Tully thinks she might be pregnant as a result of Pat raping her since she hasn’t had her period in six weeks, though this issue is resolved pretty quickly when Tully gets her period. Kate, however, sees her mom cheating on her father with another man in the family’s living room and can’t shake the awful feeling that comes with that knowledge.
Adding to her problems, Kate finds out the truth about Cloud before Tully can tell her the truth. When she approaches Cloud alone, Cloud makes it known that she doesn’t have cancer. While Tully was using the lie to protect herself from her mother’s mistakes, Kate feels betrayed.
The (Early) ‘80s
Of course Kate and Tully are roommates in college. What TV best friends wouldn’t be? We’ve jumped into the early 1980s, before the KPOC days, when the girls were going to Washington State University together. (If you’re wondering what happened between their early high school years and college, you’re going to have to wait for Firefly Lane season 2!)
While Kate is once again being her bookish self, Tully finds that she’s struggling in her journalism classes, and blames it on the fact that her professor, Chad Wiley, doesn’t like her. Yes, that Chad Wiley — the mysterious bar makeout partner emerges. This appears to be before their relationship began though, because Tully’s only just getting to know him as a hardass professor.
As a means of getting on Professor Wiley’s goodside, Tully wants to convince him that she’s “smart,” so maybe Kate’s glasses will help, if Tully could borrow them? The glasses don’t work, though, and when they talk in his office, Professor Wiley tells a distraught Tully that journalism is a “lifestyle” and that she’s going to need to make sacrifices in order to succeed where others have failed. He offers to “help” her over the weekend, and with dialog like that, it’s not long before they are kissing. He stops their makeout before it goes too far (though making out with one’s student is generally considered to be too far already), but we already know it won’t be the last time.
Making matters worse, this weekend was supposed to be a celebration for Kate’s parents’ anniversary. Tully bails to stay behind with Professor Wiley, which means Kate is heading home alone. After the makeout, Tully ends up crashing the party anyway, and when Kate asks what’s up, Tully teases that there’s more info to come.
Upstairs, Tully and Sean talk about what he’s been up to lately, but somehow they manage not to discuss the atrocious wig production put on Sean to give him that young ‘80s dude vibe. Mr. Mularkey is really pushing for Sean to join the military, and because he doesn’t really see any other option, he’s considering it. Adding to his confusion, his highschool sweetheart, Robbie, is now married to a woman and expecting a baby. He’s feeling pressure from every direction to suppress his queerness and conform to the straight, nuclear family lifestyle.
Kate is also feeling pressure to suppress her secret: Though it’s been years, Kate still hasn’t really let go of the fact that she knows her mother had an affair. This time, she lets her anger show during dinner. Everyone just kinda brushes the moment off, but Kate storms out — it’s not just the affair. When she and Tully talk outside, Kate confesses that she feels like she’s in Tully’s shadow, even when it comes to her own parents. She’s just trying to figure out what to do with her life, and mentions that she’s thinking about a study abroad program in London.
Kate finds Tully passed out and puts her into bed. When Tully wakes up, she shrugs off the fainting episode as a symptom of being over tired. Seeing as she’s just expelled Max from her life and has no use for it herself, Tully then gives Kate some sexy black lingerie. Back home, Kate thinks the house is completely empty and tries it on, only to find Johnny working in the master bathroom under the sink. The tried and true formula does exactly what it’s supposed to and soon, Kate and Johnny are making out on the bed — until Marah interrupts them.
No time to discuss what the hell that whole thing meant, because now it’s time for Marah’s big piano recital, which Kate and Johnny are hosting at their massive mansion. This is also a good time to talk about Travis, the recently widowed father of one of Marah’s friends. You may remember him from the first episode — Tully danced with him and sent Kate into a tailspin. He and Kate have a flirtatious friendship, which rubs Johnny the wrong way and seems to be the reason he and Kate are divorcing. So, when Marah plays Kate and Johnny’s song and Johnny finds Kate taking comfort from Travis outside, Johnny sucker punches Travis in the face. Enter: the love triangle.
After everything has calmed down, Kate and Johnny admit they actually don’t want to break up at all. But there’s one issue: Johnny accepted a position as an Iraq war correspondent and he’s going overseas in a few months. No matter how much they want to try and keep their marriage alive, they’re forced to accept that it’s over.
Tully, however, may be starting something: a family. In the wake of her fainting spell, she feels woozy often and seems to be having hot flashes. Mrs. Malarkey is sure it’s menopause, which is devastating to Tully since she wasn’t ready to accept that she’ll never have kids. Kate suggests that perhaps she’s actually pregnant. And wouldn’t you know it, the test comes back positive.
Two Years Later
Marah and Kate are once again dressed in funeral wear. Marah is now old enough to drive, and she and Kate arrive at a yet-to-be-revealed location. Here, Kate takes a moment to reflect. “We don’t have to go in right away,” Marah tells her mom, and Kate listens to that advice. It’s still not clear who has died, but with Johnny’s dangerous new job, the list of possibilities has now expanded from one person to two.
Karriem, “I Love You” — While the disco songs only plays for a second, it provides the perfect ditching school beat as teenage Kate and Tully take off down the road, away from the school bus.
Episode 5: “Sweet Child of Mine”
Kate and Tully are having a spat that teenage friends tend to get into, but this one is about Tully lying about her mom having cancer. So, Kate is pretty rightfully pissed. Assuming the worst — that their friendship is over —Tully returns a copy of The Hobbit to Kate. Inside, she’s drawn pictures of Kate and her horse, Sweet Pea, together. The gesture offers a glimmer of hope for these feuding best friends.
But reconciliation doesn’t happen right away; first Mrs. Mularkey lies... about missing a John Denver concert? I think. I watched the scene a few times to figure out what happened, but it appears that Mrs. Mularkey either pretends they missed the concert so Kate and Tully and reconcile, or pretends they missed the concert so she can visit the man she’s having an affair with. Or both? Either way, I’m shaken at the thought of willfully missing a John Denver concert.
Anyway, with the concert now a no-go, Kate and Tully have the opportunity to actually reconcile. Even though it’s only been a few days, they’re both distraught about being away from one another.
Kate is pregnant and Tully feels left out, so what does Tully do? Get Kate and Johnny a puppy, who needs all kinds of attention just as they’re having a baby. The gift does not go over well, but Kate and Johnny are good people and they keep the dog and name him Axel. Johnny can’t help but complain about Tully, though, and how she seems to be circling Kate like a helicopter now that she’s pregnant — do they really need to talk on the phone for an hour every day? Johnny clearly can’t see it, but Tully is simply trying to keep her best friend as close as possible before the baby arrives.
Later, Kate’s baby shower is a fiasco and the mom-to-be is in a daze over it. Kate and Tully leave the party and head to a bar (don’t worry, only one of them is drinking) only for Kate’s water to break. But Tully’s so drunk she can’t even drive her best friend to the hospital.
Kate giving birth to Marah is long and drawn out, and ends with Tully realizing that she’s the odd woman out here. Johnny straight up tells her that he, Marah, and Kate are now a family, and that does not include Tully. While she’s there for the delivery and gets to meet the baby right away, she’s quickly shooed out of the room for the new family to be alone together, foreshadowing just how many times she’s going to be pushed away in the future.
Realizing that she might just be on her own now, Tully takes a job in New York City.
Tully is still reeling from her pregnancy news, and the arrival of her morning sickness symptoms confirms this is really happening. Immediately, every single possible thought is swirling through her head, but she doesn’t want to tell Max about the baby just yet.
At the studio, Kimber has finally blocked some time to interview Tully. Unfortunately, Tully’s mind is all over the place between the pregnancy and its disruptive symptoms. She zones out when Kimber asks about her mom, and then completely panics when Kimber appears to catch her in a lie about Cloud. Kate helps bail Tully out of it, offering up other stories for Kimber to focus on during the interview. But Tully’s mind is still elsewhere.
Later, it’s time to finally talk to Max about where they are in their relationship. He and Tully go on a long walk, get hot dogs, and Tully does not once mention that she’s pregnant. She saves that reveal for the second Max is on his way out, in the elevator with the door closing. Surprise, you’re going to be a dad! See ya!
Also, let it be known that this is the episode where Kate’s family has to put Axel to sleep. We literally just met this dog only for him to die immediately, and I’m still upset about it.
Still, the villain of the episode is not the canine grim reaper, but Kimber, who is hung up on Tully’s suspicious answers about her mother during their interview. Being a journalist desperate for a scoop that will raise her profile, Kimber ends the episode tracking down Cloud at her diner job. She’s not letting the shaky details of Tully’s childhood go.
Carly Simon, “Coming Around Again”: First off: this is a great Carly Simon song. Second: It’s paired with a great supercut showing the early days of motherhood for both Kate, Cloud, and Mrs. Mularkey.
Episode 6: “Dirty Laundry”
It might not seem monumental in the long run, but this episode brings about Kate’s first period and it’s a bad one — like, bleeding through white pants bad. Kate immediately freaks out, but in steps Tully to save her. Taking off her pants, Tullly turns her long shirt into a very short dress, sacrificing her own comfort for her friend during this time of need. Isn’t that what best friends are for? Soon, they’re are skipping school and riding bikes in the opposite direction with Kate screaming, “I’m a woman now!”
Back at school later, one of the popular girls starts trying to wind Tully up. She says Tully went into the woods with a high school boy like a “slut,” but Kate won’t stand for it. She punches the girl in the face, giving her a bloody nose and returning Tully’s clothing swap gesture tenfold.
Tully and Professor Chad are doing it, loudly. It wakes Kate up, and it sure seems like she’s used to this happening at all hours of the day.
When they’re not doing it, Chad’s also got some news for Tully: he’s been offered a new job across the country at the University of North Carolina (UNC). He suggests that maybe Tully should go with him and they could start a new life there — besides, does she really see a future for herself at a Seattle TV station? Tully is seriously considering the move, but Kate isn’t so sure Tully is someone who really gives up her dreams for a man.
Six weeks have passed, and it’s enough time for Johnny to leave on assignment to El Salvador and come back to the station with open arms. In Johnny’s absence, Kate has started dating Mutt due to all his pining. But Johnny’s coming back, and Kate harbours a little crush on him, so she wears a new dress to celebrate. Mutt believes that this dress is for him, poor thing. But it’s hard not to see how much more Kate cares about Johnny than her current dude.
While Kate goes out with Mutt that night, she ends up back at the station with a very drunk Johnny. After he recounts his travels abroad, including the part where he was almost killed while being held at gunpoint, he kisses Kate. When he thought his life was ending, all he could think about was her. He leans in for more, but Kate stops him because she assumes he’s just drunk and won’t even remember any of this the next morning.
Kate’s on the money: he doesn’t. But there’s no time to dwell on that, because the station’s main correspondent, Carol, has broken her leg which means that Tully is now finally going on-air.
While we don’t get to see Max’s initial reaction to Tully’s pregnancy news, we do see how he responds after he processes the information. He takes Tully home to meet his whole family, so it’s clear he’s excited. He truly loves Tully, and is happy to have a reason for her to meet his family. They spend a great day together, during which Tully is slowly warming up to the idea of having a family with him. She has no interest, however, in talking about her family, though. While Max presses for information about Tully’s mother, Tully lies and says that she passed away.
Over at the mega mansion, Kate is still having fun flirting with Travis and leaves him a bunch of awkward phone messages. Though it might not be the most advisable approach, it works for Kate and soon he’s stopping by the house to talk to her (she’s so frazzled she doesn’t immediately realize she has a pair of underwear static clinging to her back). The reason she’s home in the first place is that Kimber has sent her on assignment to write about women dealing with issues in their 40s. However, she forgot some notes at the office, so she takes Travis with her to find them.
If Kate’s assignment made you forget all about Kimber’s piece about Tully, then Kimber’s plan worked. At the office, Kate and Travis are making out when, out of the corner of her eye, Kate spots the latest magazine issue with Tully on the cover. It turns out that Kimber only gave Kate an assignment to keep her out of the office so she could publish a hit piece on Tully without interference — and it’s bad. It reveals that Tully’s mother is still alive, living penniless in a trailer park while Tully lives a life of luxury in her penthouse apartment. It’s missing some key details about Cloud’s parenting, but it’s a devastating blow to Tully.
OutKast, “Hey Ya!”: At first I wasn’t sure what the heck OutKast was doing in Firefly Lane. But then I remembered the year is 2003, so it makes sense for Tully and Max to play croquet while shaking it like a polaroid picture.
OutKast, “Hey Ya!”: At first I wasn’t sure what the heck OutKast was doing in Firefly Lane. But then I remembered the year is 2003, so it makes sense for Tully and Max to play croquet while shaking it like a polaroid picture.
Episode 7: “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Sometimes these flashbacks border on filler, and this 1970s one is mostly that, as all the real character development happens in the later years. But in the ‘70s, Tully’s got a role in a school play and Cloud encouraged her to be bigger, better, and take up more space on the stage. The action of the scene is nothing major, but we do get something from it: The idea that she should take up space clearly sticks with Tully throughout her life.
As does the fact that Cloud ends up missing the school play after all that.
We’re getting deeper into Tully’s issues with her mother, as it turns out that once upon a time in the 1980s she actually tried to track her down. It’s clear that they have been estranged for a while at this point, however Cloud is less than thrilled to find her newscaster daughter at her trailer door, and they have a pretty hostile conversation. Tully ends up giving her mother money, and cautioning her not to give it all to her drug dealer.
Back in Seattle, the whole KPOC group — Kate, Tully, Johnny, and Mutt — go out and Kate and Mutt decide to finally have sex and end up going back to his place… where his dog immediately poops on the bed, so instead they go to Kate and Tully’s place. Meanwhile, Johnny is jealous over Kate being with Mutt… so he goes home with her best friend Tully. They also end up back at Tully and Kate’s place, assuming Kate is at Mutt’s. She’s not, and Mutt had a malfunction when they attempted to have sex for the first time, so Kate, who is lying awake while Mutt snoozes next to her, has to listen to her best friend and the man she’s actually in love with have sex all night.
The next morning, Kate is visibly hurt and angry at Tully for sleeping with Johnny. Tully tries to brush it off, without really resolving the root of the issue. Later, they’re out shooting a remote segment for KPOC and Tully heads into a convenience store. It should be an easy in and out, except that the second Tully walks inside an armed robber rushes in. Tully decides to take this moment and go live, reporting on the robbery in real time from inside the store.
The robber notices her though, and shoots her in the arm, which will ultimately catapult her to stardom. In the moment though, Kate is beside herself. Just hours ago she was furious with Tully, but she almost witnessed her best friend literally dying in front of her. Kate goes with Tully to the hospital, clutching her best friend as if she’s never going to let go.
Tully’s mom is causing issues in the 2000s too, thanks to Kimber’s reporting. Kate is so furious with Kimber’s choices that she quits on the spot, causing a huge scene in the Seattle Digest newsroom as she storms out.
Tully sees an ultrasound of her baby, and starts having second thoughts again. She abandons her prep work on the upcoming episode of The Girlfriend Hour and leaves the station for parts unknown, leaving Johnny to wonder where she’s gone. Thinking she might be at home with Kate, he heads there — and instead finds a post-coital Kate... and Travis.
Focused on the issue at hand, Kate and Johnny head out to find Tully and get into a heated argument in the car. For the first time, we hear Kate talk about how she’s uneasy about Johnny’s prior relationship with Tully, including the fact that they slept together. This doesn’t sit well with Johnny, who reminds his estranged wife that he married her, and had a child with her, so Kate, not Tully, is the one who has his heart. But she’s already over hearing it for tonight.
Tully, meanwhile, has tracked her mother down. She confronts Cloud about her involvement in Kimber’s reporting. Cloud tries to explain her reasoning for saying what she said, adding that Kimber got it all wrong. Cloud goes on and on about how she’s so proud of her daughter and how she always knew she was destined for greater things, but she had her so young. She didn’t know how to be a mother. But now she does. She begs Tully to let them start over.
Two Years Later
Kate and Marah are still sitting outside in the car, because as soon as they go inside, the apparent funeral is real. “Tully would know how to do this,” Kate says to Marah, but really more herself. Is this trying to imply that Tully is… dead?
By the end of episode 7, we know Tully is not dead. As Kate and Marah go to head into the church, Tully appears behind them. It’s hard to read Kate’s emotions upon seeing her. Is she shocked, scared, confused? All of the above? Whatever she’s feeling, she walks right by Tully and heads into the church with Marah.
Episode 8: “Mawaige”
This is a Sean-heavy episode, so let’s talk about Sean in the 1970s. He and Kate have been tasked with cleaning out the garage, and while they are having fun and goofing off a little, it doesn’t stay that way for long. Kate says she saw their mother with another man, and that it must mean their mom is having an affair. This irks Sean, who has been seen with his boyfriend Richard, and doesn’t want people making assumptions about him. Sean lashes out at Kate for being “perfect,” which upsets her. Soon, she’s crying, asking Sean why he hates her so much. It’s a hard scene to watch, if only because though Kate is the one crying, the subtext here is Sean’s upset that he doesn’t feel comfortable being open about his sexual orientation with his sister.
It’s time for Sean’s wedding; he and his girlfriend have decided to take the next step. One of Kate’s older relatives brings up Sean’s old “roommate” during the “girlfriend hour,” a long standing tradition in Kate’s family wherein all the women in the wedding sit around and gossip (the one that Tully named her wildly successful TV show after). Turns out, Sean told his family that this old "friend" recently passed away from cancer, but there are no further details. We’re just as in the dark as his soon-to-be wife, Julia, who says she wishes she could have met Sean’s friend. She has no idea Sean was in a relationship with this man. And neither does Kate, who still feels left out of her brother’s life.
And even though it’s Kate’s brother’s wedding, Sean asks Tully to write a toast. Tully’s struggling with it though, so as always, Kate steps in to assist her. Sean knows immediately that Kate actually wrote it, but Tully’s speech impresses Johnny, who’s pining over Tully after their one-night-stand. He brings the speech up to Kate, and asks if she thinks Tully feels the kind of love she spoke about for Chad. Kate flips out at him since not only is she the one who actually wrote it, but he’s passed her over for Tully before. Just days before he and Tully had sex, he told Kate she was who he thought about when he almost died in El Salvador. Johnny says he didn’t know what that meant and that Kate is too good of a person for him, but Kate calls him out. She says she wrote the speech, not Tully, and that she’s going to be with the man who actually wants her. Unfortunately, that man, Mutt, sees this whole spat since he’s the wedding videographer, and they mutually break up when he calmly points out that she's in love with Johnny.
Tully, meanwhile, is having her own issues, since she and Chad are together, but it’s rocky. Some time has passed since we last saw them together — we know this, because Chad says, “I’m glad you called.” They seem to be right back in step together, and Chad is mouthing “I love you” during Sean and Julie’s vows. Only Tully can’t bring herself to say it back.
Tully is freaking out because Max proposed to her. Tully, being Tully, can’t give him an answer right away and she’s leaning towards “no.” However, after she runs into Chad out of the blue, it dawns on her that she doesn’t want to be alone forever. So, she rushes off to the fire station to propose to Max, and he says “yes.” How about a spur-of-the-moment wedding?
Sounds like a plan, and soon Tully has rounded up both Kate and Sean to be their witnesses. Johnny — armed with an internet ordination — performs the ceremony in a gazebo by the water. Earlier in the episode, Kate told Sean she knew it was time to say goodbye to Johnny, but as he officiates, his words seem to echo his relationship with Kate and a desire to make it work. After the wedding, they reluctantly sign their divorce papers ahead of Johnny’s trip.
On the way home from Tully’s last-minute wedding, Sean and Kate start talking about their own families. Kate — as fresh off her divorce as can be — says she wishes she had a perfect family like her brother’s. Sean acknowledges that his family is great, but that he’s been living with a secret: He finally tells Kate that he’s gay. He also reveals that Tully has known since high school because she caught him and Robbie. Kate is hurt by that fact, but finds comfort in one thing: It finally makes sense why Sean always seemed closer to Tully.
Speaking of Tully, it should be a happy time her and Max, who head home to Tully’s apartment to celebrate the wedding. Sadly, as soon as they start undressing, Tully starts to feel immense pain and suddenly there’s blood running down her leg. It appears that she’s had a miscarriage.
Thelma Jones, “Only Yesterday”: Tully and Max begin to make out and slowly undress, as man and wife, as they move across Tully’s apartment — before it all changes. The melancholy song scores one of the heaviest moments of the series.
Episode 9: “You Say It’s Your Birthday?!”
It’s Tully’s birthday, and Cloud has gotten reservations at a fancy restaurant and as you can already guess, things go horribly wrong almost immediately. Not only is the place fancier than Tully and Kate could have ever imagined, but soon Cloud gets up to sing multiple songs — poorly — for the entire dining room. Tully is pretty much mortified, and Kate promises that for the rest of her life she’ll only have good birthdays — that’s a best friends promise.
When it comes time to pay the bill, Cloud tries to explain to the waiter that she's “talent,” and doesn’t need to pay. Before that, she told the girls that her boyfriend — the restaurant’s piano player — was getting them a discount. He says nothing. She tells the waiter that her wallet is in the car and she’s got to go out there and grab it, and asks Kate and Tully to go with her. The waiter knows she’s trying to dine and ditch, and explains that if they can’t pay the restaurant will call the cops. This sets Cloud off on a screaming fit, telling the other patrons that there are rats in the kitchen as she’s dragged outside.
Tully’s live TV debut — aka reporting from a robbery and getting shot — has skyrocketed her to fame. But Carol’s now back at KPOC and is bumping Tully from her spot. It’s okay though, because she’s got other job prospects anyway.
She takes a dinner with media bigwig Wilson King (Martin Donovan), who’s just offered her a much bigger on screen gig. They have dinner at the same place Tully had her disastrous birthday years before — where so little has changed that they still have the same dessert items on the menu as they did in the ‘70s.
While Tully is certainly wooed by Wilson’s job offer, it comes with untenable conditions. He makes multiple passes at her, talks about her breasts, and critiques her clothing choices. Tully won’t stand for it and walks out on him, job prospects be damned. Wilson’s actions are not just a formative moment for Tully, but a professional relationship that will affect her later on down the road — so remember this dinner.
Meanwhile, Kate and Johnny are growing closer after she told him off at Sean’s wedding. Kate’s been doing great work as a producer and Johnny has clearly noticed. And on top of that, they’re finally ready to talk about their feelings for one another — and how it just won’t work out between them. They say they’re better off as friends, and it’s a total line. But the reality of their feelings is neither here nor there, as they decide to put their past behind them and move forward.
Tully is in a complete haze after her miscarriage. She is having nightmares and fever dreams about losing the baby, and when she wakes up she realizes that it all really happened. Also, to Tully’s surprise, Cloud is in her apartment and taking care of her. According to Kate, Tully was crying out for her mom in her sleep. And when she wakes up for the first time in days, Tully finds that her support system — Kate, Max, and Cloud — are trying to take care of her as best they can. She also finds that she slept right through Thanksgiving.
Tully decides not to try and process her emotions, and instead heads to the studio to try and get through a show taping. She reasons that it’s her biggest episode of the year — her birthday giveaway special. To the surprise of no one (at least on this side of the screen), she breaks down halfway through the gifting segment and tells the studio audience that she recently had a miscarriage. She uses this oppertunity to talk to her audience members about their own miscarriage experiences and while she thinks it’s a huge success — in reality, it absolutely would be — the network does not. And things are about to get rough in Tully’s professional world.
Someone who won’t be here to see the fallout is Johnny, as it’s his last day on the show. Following the taping, he and Tully sit together in the audience bleachers and talk about their history as friends and colleagues. Tully is worried about what comes next, and Johnny reminds her that she’s seen way worse. It should be noted that there’s an uncomfortable amount of subtext to their conversation; Johnny seems to imply that he has some regrets about not pursuing Tully and about marrying her best friend.
After the miscarriage episode, The Girlfriend Hour starts losing sponsors and before Tully knows it, a ghost from her past steps in: Wilson King — as in, the man who made sexual advances at Tully as part of a quid pro quo job offer back in the ‘80s — steps in to take over her show. He’s the new distributor, which means he’s now her boss.
Things continue to go from bad to worse for Tully, and back at home she and Max get into a huge fight. It ends with Tully saying she doesn’t even want to be with Max now that there’s no longer going to be a baby, which deeply hurts him. If you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering… is Tully actually an awful person? The jury’s still out as far as the show goes, but I’m leaning heavily towards a “yes” at this point.
Episode 10: “Auld Lang Syne,”
It’s Christmas time, and Cloud and Tully are going over to the Mularkeys to trim the tree. It all seems harmless enough, but once the two families are together, Cloud makes a reference to seeing Mrs. Mularkey out in town the other day with a man. This is all Mr. Mularkey needs to hear to confront his wife about the affair he knows she’s having. He tells her she’s got to choose: him or this mystery person, because she can’t have both.
In an effort to make a quick buck to support herself and Tully, Cloud decides to sell some of her ex-boyfriend’s drug stash. It would work, except that the cops immediately raid the house. Since Tully is a minor, she’s sent to stay with her grandmother, which Kate can’t deal with. We leave the 1970s for the last time as Kate is frantically chasing a cop car with Tully in the backseat. Kate is screaming through sobs for her best friend.
It’s time to say goodbye to the 1970s for now. From beginning to end the events of Kate & Tully’s early friendship span maybe six months, if that. But friendships like theirs can certainly span years, and withstand just about everything — and that includes Tully being sent away to live with her grandmother.
Firefly Lane is clearly glossing over years here in the 1980s, and so some more time passes — enough time for Kate to end up on a blind date. She’s totally okay with this development, because she and Johnny talked about it and they’re better as just friends right now. But just as Kate’s about to leave for her date, she gets a call. Her dad had a heart attack, so Johnny offers to drive her home.
Mr. Mularkey is going to be okay, but Kate’s still pretty distressed about the health scare. She and Johnny show up at her parent’s empty house, where they talk through what just happened. This eventually leads to them talking about what’s happening between the two of them. Turns out, it’s not just friendship. Before you know it, they make out, clothes come off, and Kate and Johnny have sex for the first time.
Before we dive further into the recent Tully drama, we should address a new development in Kate’s orbit. Though she makes a very grand gesture towards Travis (she casually answers the door completely naked, without realizing he’s brought his mom over to meet her), she realizes she actually wants Johnny back. The night before he leaves for Iraq, Kate and Johnny confess their feelings and sleep together; the scene is intercut with moments from the first time they slept together, too. He’s still taking that job in Iraq, though.
In Tully world, the talk show host smashes a mirror with her fist over Wilson being an absolute dick to her, so she calls Max — he’s a trained paramedic, remember? — to help her bandage it up. Tully says she’s had some time to think, and wants a fresh start with Max. In a page out of the Sex and The City movie, she asks him to meet her the next day at the gazebo where they got married. Tully will be there, and hopefully Max will, too, so they can start over together.
Sadly, Max doesn’t show up. But Kate does. So Kate brings Tully home with her, where they’re soon joined by Sean, who’s just been kicked out of the house after coming out to his wife. The trio celebrate the holidays together with the rest of the Mularkey family, save for Johnny, who’s still in Iraq. In the midst of their merriment, it’s not looking good for Johnny: The last shot of the character finds him walking through a minefield, tripping a bomb, and laying on the ground unconscious. We do not learn his fate.
But, unaware of this twist and looking forward to the end of 2003, Kate and Tully hope that 2004 is better. Tully wants to get a new show off the ground, free of Wilson. And seeing as Kate is currently unemployed and Johnny is away, Tully wants Kate to come on as her producer. What could go wrong?
Two Years Later
Something clearly does go wrong between Tully and Kate, but first, Firefly Lane finally tells us whose funeral we’ve been awaiting: It’s Mr. Mularkey’s. Sean shows up and finds Kate smoking outside. They gently joke about how their mother is drunk, but neither one of them can believe that this is really happening.
We still have no idea why, but Kate is furious upon seeing Tully and tells her to leave. Kate assumes that she does as Kate asked, but Tully stays anyway. This leads to a pretty hostile confrontation, with Kate alluding to something that happened between them causing the rift. “I never want to see you again,” Kate tells Tully before heading inside the church and shutting the door behind them.
What happened? That will remain a mystery this season, but some time between the end of 2003 and the funeral in 2005, something destroyed this 30-year friendship. Fans of the book may have some ideas about what brings it all about in a potential second season, but since the show is doing its own thing, it could be anything at this point.
Kate Bush, “This Woman’s Work”: This song starts in the 1970s, but carries us over to the 2000s as Tully realizes that Max isn’t going to meet her at the gazebo.
Kate Bush, “This Woman’s Work”: This song starts in the 1970s, but carries us over to the 2000s as Tully realizes that Max isn’t going to meet her at the gazebo.