“The Ranch” is a deceptive series. At its onset, the Netflix multi-cam comedy feels like a natural follow-up for Ashton Kutcher post-“Two-and-a-Half Men.” There’s a laugh track, a dozen of crude sex jokes per episode (minimum), and a simple, repetitious structure where most of the comedy stems from grown men acting like children — and then being called out for it by the series’ female characters.
Those who stuck with it for more than a few episodes (because they were bored, dead, or masochistic) discovered the comedy’s hidden secret: It’s a tragedy, and not for Kutcher’s disgraced former quarterback, forced to move home after squandering his talent by drinking and womanizing. It’s about his father, Beau, played by Sam Elliott. We’ve chronicled his struggles in the past, and they do continue (to a lesser degree) in Part 3, the latest block of episodes released on Netflix.
But the seemingly redundant, overtly conservative comedy has at least one more intriguing trick up its surprisingly long sleeve. While the story shifts more heavily to Kutcher’s Colt Bennett, it’s in order to teach him a lesson about women’s rights. In doing so, “The Ranch” — a show that openly mocks people for buying Toyota trucks and voting for Hillary — makes a startlingly effective pro-choice argument. Even though it doesn’t finish the job, Part 3 goes further than its target audience would be comfortable with.
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[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “The Ranch” Season 3 (Part 3).]
Picking up with Part 2’s biggest cliffhanger, Colt’s ex-girlfriend, Heather (Kelli Goss), tells him she’s pregnant. The news arrives just as Colt reunites with the love of his life, Abby (Elisha Cuthbert), and was preparing to propose to her. But now he’s got a baby to think about: How’s he supposed to be a father for a baby born to a woman who’s not his future wife? What’s a good ol’ boy to do?
Honestly, it’s a bit of a surprise that “The Ranch” even considers abortion as an option. It isn’t brought up until 18 minutes into the premiere, but it does come up. Rooster (Danny Masterson), Colt’s brother, is the first to introduce it — while at church with Colt, kneeling next to a statue of Jesus Christ — and he doesn’t even treat abortion like that a big deal.
Rooster: “Is she going to keep it?”
Colt: “Of course she is.”
R: “I’m just saying there’s always the option.”
C: “No, there’s not. That ain’t happening. And don’t talk about you-know-what in front of You-Know-Who.”
R: “Oh, right: the world’s most famous unplanned pregnancy. I’m sure He’ll be fine with it.”
That Rooster’s first question is whether or not Heather is considering an abortion and last remark is a joke about Jesus being cool with the conversation is telling on its own. Ears perk up. Backs straighten. Attention is given. And while Colt pigheadedly dismisses the idea outright, their discourse sets up what’s to come.
At the end of the premiere, Heather tells Colt she doesn’t want to keep the baby. The episode ends on her announcement (an expectedly somber note), but the next half-hour picks up where we left off — and Colt does not react well.
“You haven’t thought this through,” are the first words out of his mouth. She talks about how hard it’s been to see her mother and sister raise kids on their own and asks him if he loves her. While he tries to fake it, she says she doesn’t love him — go Heather! — and that right there is enough reason not to go through with this. He gives her the whole “we have to make sacrifices” speech, gets angry, stops making any lick of sense, and then lowers the boom.
“This is wrong,” Colt says. “You can’t just take the easy way out.”
Continue reading for why Part 3 is Maggie’s season more than the other ranchers.