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This is the transcript for "Checking Boxes" the first episode of Season 4 of One Day at a Time.<< Previous Transcript Next >>

Scene 1: Alvarez Living Room

Elena, Syd, Dr. Berkowitz, and Alex are in the living room gathered around the TV. Penelope enters with a bowl of popcorn. A knock is heard at the door.

PENELOPE: Did you decide what we're watching for movie night?

She sets the popcorn on the coffee table.

ALEX: No. It's like there's nothing good on Netflix anymore.

Penelope opens the door.

BRIAN: Hi, I'm from the census.

Penelope slams the door in his face,

ELENA: Mom? Why did you do that?

PENELOPE: A guy wanting a list of Latinos in my house? No thanks.

ELENA: The census is important for communities of color. We have to participate. It determines congressional seats and federal funding and Latinos are always underrepresented—

PENELOPE: At this point I'd rather be murdered! Open the door.

Elena opens the door.

ELENA: Hi! Sorry about the whole door-in-your-face thing.

BRIAN: It's okay, I've had worse. I've been bit by toddler, tased by a grandma. In 2010, I was insulted by a racist parrot. Anyway, uh, my name's Brian. And uh, this is only gonna take a few minutes. So you're—you're Penelope Alvarez?

PENELOPE: Yes, I am. And I am the mother of Elena and Alex.

BRIAN: Oh, okay. That's good. (Points to Dr. B.) And this is your husband?

PENELOPE: Oh God, no! (Laughs)

BRIAN: No? So, you're single. No husband. No same-sex partner. No unmarried partner. No same-sex unmarried partner.

PENELOPE: And now we know all the different ways I am single. Thank you, I'm very happy. Check that off.

BRIAN: Well, there's no box for happy.

PENELOPE: Okay, I'm 42, Cuban-American, and I'm a nurse practitioner.

BRIAN: Alrighty, and you're the head of the household.

LYDIA: (Opens curtains) No! (Walks to Brian) I am.

PENELOPE: (Laughs) No, I am. This is my mother Lydia, she lives here too.

LYDIA: Hello. (shakes his hand)

BRIAN: Lydia, yes, okay. And uh, what is your age?

LYDIA: I am ageless. I was born in Cuba, but now I am an American citizen.

BRIAN: Okay, I don't need to know if you're a citizen. That's a common misconception. I just—I need to know if you're of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.

LYDIA: I'm all three. Do I win something?

BRIAN: No. No, you don't. Okay so then (Points to Dr. Berkowitz) this must be your husband.

LYDIA: (Laughs) Oh, God, no! Berto is my husband.

BRIAN: Okay, and where is he?

PENELOPE: He passed away 10 years ago.

LYDIA: And he is here.

BRIAN: Well, where do you... keep him?

LYDIA: Berto is in here (points to her head) and in here (points to her heart) and in here (gestures towards crotch).

PENELOPE: Okay we get it! We get it! We get it!

DR. B.: Let me just clear up some things. I am Dr. Leslie Berkowitz, Penelope's boss. And also Lydia's exclusive non-sexual platonic companion.

BRIAN: What does that mean?

DR. B.: I don't know.

Elena stands up and approaches Brian.

ELENA: Hi, I'm gay.

BRIAN: Oh, well, that's not a box.

ELENA: Well it should be. I'm here, I'm queer, and I'm proud of my box! No wait, that didn't sound right.

BRIAN: That's okay. Look I just really need to know the relationships within the household.

ELENA: Oh, oh, oh! Great, great, great! Because this is Syd, my Syd-nificant other. And they are non-binary.

SYD: My pronouns are "they" and "them."

BRIAN: Oh. Yes. They—they taught us this. It's nice to meet—you?

ELENA: Anyway, we're together now, but next year, I'll be at Yale, if I get in. (Whispering) I'll get in.

SYD: And I'll get in at one of her safety schools.

ELENA: But we decided to break up before we go to college so we're not one of those couples that thinks their first relationship is gonna be their last.

SYD: We don't wanna be those people.

BRIAN: I get it, I get it. Right now, I don't want to be me. Okay, um, just who else lives here?

ALEX: Sadly me. I'm Alex. I'm 15.

LYDIA: And Papito is single.

BRIAN: Right, right, because he's a child.

LYDIA: No, because it is impossible to find a woman who is good enough for him who is not me.

ALEX: Put down that my grandmother and I are just friends.

BRIAN: Okay, so that's everyone? I hope, please?

Schneider enters the apartment.

SCHNEIDER: Hey fam! Hey Dr. B. Hey new guy. Wait, new guy? It's movie night. Am I being replaced? By an older model?

BRIAN: No, I'm from the census.

SCHNEIDER: Oh great! So important for our Latinx community to be counted.

BRIAN: Oh, okay, so you're Latino.

SCHNEIDER: No. Schneider. Cis white male ally. Privileged but super-woke.

Elena and Alex groan and fall on the couch.

BRIAN: Does he live here?


SCHNEIDER: Pretty much.

BRIAN: I got to go, I got to go. So I'll see you all in ten years? Who am I kidding in ten years President Kardashian is gonna do away with all of this.

PENELOPE: Oh, been a rough day, Brian?

BRIAN: Sorry I just—I have a lot of apartments to hit. And uh, nobody likes the census guy.

LYDIA: Do not worry. You are doing a great job! And I promise you they will all be saying "Everybody loves Brian!"

BRIAN: Yeah, doesn't sound right.


Scene 2: Alvarez Kitchen

Elena and Syd are standing in front of the fridge washing dishes, Alex approaches them.

ALEX: I gotta say I'm surprised you two are gonna break up the day you leave for college.

ELENA: Well, we're mature.

SYD: Supe-dy dupe-dy mature!

ELENA: Actually, can we talk about how this is going to work?

SYD: Same page, I have no idea!

ALEX: You didn't talk about this? Isn't talking all you do?

ELENA: That is a lesbian stereotype! Which would have been really useful in this case.

ALEX: Why don't you do a trial run? Like, you go to the bathroom, and Syd, you try not to file a missing-persons report.

ELENA: Ha ha. We can be apart, Alex.

SYD: And they make you wait 24 hours. But maybe he's right.

ALEX: Do you think you can even spend a day apart?

ELENA: We can spend a day apart.

SYD: How about two days?

ELENA: Make it a week!

SYD: Two days it is!

Scene 3: Penelope's Bedroom

Penelope is watching TV, Lydia enters.

LYDIA: What are you watching?

PENELOPE: A Lifetime movie. I just love watching rich people in trouble.

LYDIA: A-scootch.

Penelope moves over and lets Lydia in her bed.

LYDIA: I came in to tell you something.

PENELOPE: That I need an eyebrow wax? Cause I already know.

LYDIA: That is not what I came in to tell you. But qué barbaridad. I just wanted to tell you that doing the census made me realize I was wrong about something.

PENELOPE: Really? That's new.

LYDIA: When Victor left I said you needed a man. (Laughs) You don't. You have done so much without one!

PENELOPE: Thank you Mami, I really appreciate that. Thank you!

LYDIA: Honey, I want to tell you a story.

PENELOPE: Oh, there's more. Okay.

LYDIA: You remind me of my tía Chuchi. A beautiful woman. She was engaged but then the man left her, and she was broken-hearted. and after that, she found joy in books and in painting and long walks around the Malecón. By herself, of course, because she had no one. But she took joy in family-- not her family, there was no one. But she was everyone's favorite tía. She didn't give -- ¿cómo se dice? -- a F. She stopped wearing makeup, she stopped dyeing her hairs, because what was the point? Oh, she made us laugh with her stories. And her crazy white hair blowing in the wind. She used to have a joke. "You want to see an invisible woman? Watch me go into this bar!" (Laughs) And after she drank herself to death, her funeral was so beautiful! And not all all crowded! That was Tía Chuchi. Sweet dreams!

Penelope looks sad in her room, then the scene changes to the next to the next day, when she is in her therapy group.

PENELOPE: I'm gonna die alone.

Commercial break

Scene 4: Therapy Group

Penelope and her woman's veteran therapy group are meeting and sitting in a circle.

PAM: Penelope, you are not going to die alone.

PENELOPE: Tía Chuchi did.

JILL: So you're just making up names now?

PENELOPE: Look, the census guy came to my house, and I realized, in ten years, when he comes back, that it will just... be me.

PAM: I see, so this is about the fact that you're single.

PENELOPE: No Pam! I am very happy without a man in my life, thank you!

BETH: Is that why you texted all of us "911?"

PENELOPE: It's true, though. I don't need a man. The problem is -- I still like men.

RAMONA: We all have flaws.

PENELOPE: (Sighs) What I want is to not want a man. Discuss.

RAMONA: Step 1: Start liking women. Step 2: Turn to your right.

CYNTHIA: You should start dating again! And not just because when you have a boyfriend the rest of us get to talk.

PENELOPE: Dating is exactly what I don't want to do. You know, all that stupid small talk. "Where did you go to high school? How many siblings do you have?"

RAMONA: I went to Roosevelt, and I have two brothers.

PENELOPE: I wish there was an app called Six Dates In, where you fast-forward to knowing everything about each other and then just watch "The Great British Bake Off" together, and then—

JILL: Have the great American pants-off!

PENELOPE: Exactly. (Laughs) I can't believe I'm 42 years old and I'm still worried about this stuff. In the olden days, I'd be dead by now.

CYNTHIA: You could start smoking!

BETH: Or stop using sunscreen!

JILL: Or be like my dumb-ass cousin and try to take a selfie with a tiger!

PENELOPE: Okay, I'm not actually looking for advice on how to die young. It's been so long since I dated and the last great relationship I had was Max. What? You all think I should get back together with Max?

JILL: No. We're just all scared to ask you for his phone number.

PAM: You do talk about him a lot, Pen.

PENELOPE: Max was great, but he wants kids, and I don't.

JILL: Well so start dating again. What else are you gonna do? Shack up with a sex robot who likes English cooking shows?

CYNTHIA: I hear their close on that technology.

RAMONA: (Robotically) I like Yorkshire pudding and your vagina.

Scene 5: Alvarez Living Room

Alex and Elena are at the dining table, studying when an alarm on Elena's phone goes off.

ELENA: It's been 24 hours since I talked to Syd. Are you proud of me?

ALEX: Actually--

ELENA: Okay you caught me! I'm a disaster! I miss them so much and this has been the worst experience of my life!

ALEX: This is the most predictable thing I've ever been a part of.

Penelope enters.



ELENA: How do you do it?

PENELOPE: Do what, honey?

ELENA: Be alone? Go through life without a partner who cares about you?

PENELOPE: Okay, well, that's one way of putting it. Actually, I've been talking about this in therapy and I love being alone. It's the best. And we're strong women who don't need a partner to define us. Anyway I have a date.

ELENA: What? You said you love being alone!

PENELOPE: I know. But Ramona set me up with this guy she works with and I don't really want to go, but it's good for me to get out there. Plus, I'm having the greatest hair day. I can't keep this to myself. I mean, my babies. Come on. Look, look! Look at the bounce! Look, look! Look at this bounce! Look, look! Look at it!

ALEX: Your hair's great.

PENELOPE: Thank you.

ALEX: But your brows... Qué barbaridad.

Scene 6: Restaurant

Penelope is at a table for two with her date.

SEBASTIAN: And after Carrie, it's me, so I'm the youngest. But, I had sisters, so lucky you.

PENELOPE: Oh, I just love hearing about sibilngs.

SEBASTIAN: Really? Usually, I hate this part. I wish we could just download our histories and then the date could begin.

PENELOPE: Totally. I agree. This is the worst. No, that's—I didn't mean that.

SEBASTIAN: Yes, you did, and it's okay.

Penelope sees Max instead of her actual date.

MAX: At our age, we just want to cut through all the B.S.

PENELOPE: Oh my God. Yes, Max, thank you!

SEBASTIAN: Max? Who's Max?

PENELOPE: Max...imum fun! Is what we're about to have! Now that all the family stuff is out of the way!


PENELOPE: To the max! Where'd you go to high school?

SEBASTIAN: Oh, um, I went to--

Penelope sees Max again, shirtless this time.

MAX: You don't care where I went to high school.

PENELOPE: That is true.

MAX: Are you okay?


SEBASTIAN: Are you okay?

PENELOPE: Oh, yeah I'm fine.

A waitress sets down their salads. Penelope looks down at her salad. She sees Max sitting on it naked, with a lettuce leaf on him.

MAX: Sup, girl.

SEBASTIAN: Do you want me to dress that? (Almost puts salad dressing on her salad)


Penelope takes her salad and holds it, staring at it.

Scene 7: Alvarez Living Room

Elena is sitting at the table, Alex is sitting with his head on the table.

ELENA: Syd's gonna dump me, aren't they? I always assumed I would be the dumper, not the dumpee! Should I break up with them before they break up with me? Should I go straight into a rebound relationship? There is a really hot barista at the coffee shop downstairs. Do you think Syd is dating the barista? If they leave me it'll just be you and me!

ALEX: Dear God, you've got to get them back!

Syd enters the apartment.

ELENA: Syd, what are you doing here?

SYD: You called me!

ELENA: No, I didn't...

LYDIA: I did! You were being stupid, so I called them and pretended to be you.

ELENA: And that worked?

LYDIA: Of course! (high-pitched voice) "Hello, This is Elena. I'm just sitting here not brushing my hair. You wanna come over?"

SYD: I wanted to be convinced.

Scene 8: Schneider's Apartment

Penelope knocks, Schneider answers.

PENELOPE: Well, this is a disaster!

SCHNEIDER: Nah, it's like four hairs. I got tweezers. We can take care of it right now.

PENELOPE: What? What are you talking about?

SCHNEIDER: Your jazz-brows situation. Obviously that's why you're so upset.

PENELOPE: No! I just went out on a date!

SCHNEIDER: Looking like that?

PENELOPE: Focus! I went on a date with a perfectly nice guy, and he kept turning into Max.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, happens to me too.


SCHNEIDER: Look, Max is awesome. And the fact that he appears to you as a date or to me as an imaginary shirtless buddy who gives great advice is totally normal.

PENELOPE: Okay, let me say words and you just shhhhhh! I have to move on from him, and clearly I can't because I miss him and that freakin' sucks.

SCHNEIDER: Pen, you're a strong, independent woman. You don't need a man to define--

PENELOPE: I know all that. I do. But Max is still in here. (Points to her head) And in here. (Points to her heart) And in here. (points towards her crotch)

SCHNEIDER: I get it!

PENELOPE: I blame that stupid census guy, coming in and reminding me that I'm single? I have to check a box so the government knows I'm alone? That's aggressive.

SCHNEIDER: Actually, the census kind of messed with my head a bit too.


SCHNEIDER: Yep, and that's why I got news. I asked Avery to move in with me and she said yes!

PENELOPE: Really?!


PENELOPE: That's huge!


Penelope hugs Schneider.

PENELOPE: Oh, my God! Seriously! I am so happy for you!

SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, I found the perfect person and I didn't want to blow it.

PENELOPE: Do you think I blew it with Max?

SCHNEIDER: Oh yeah, totally.

PENELOPE: Schneider!

SCHNEIDER: Sorry, I'm sorry. But hey, maybe it's not too late. At Victor's wedding, Max wouldn't stop talking about you. Why don't you, you know, check in with him?

PENELOPE: How? I'm not just gonna text him "You up?"

SCHNEIDER: Nah, he doesn't respond to that.

PENELOPE: I got to admit, when I drive past the hospital he works at, I'm always tempted to pull in and say hi.

SCHNEIDER: So pull in, say hi. See what happens.

PENELOPE: Thank you, Schneider.

SCHNEIDER: Hey, my job as your best friend is to hold up a mirror, and take care of those eyebrows.

Schneider plucks her eyebrows.

SCHNEIDER: There's your forehead.

PENELOPE: Shut up!

Schneider holds up a mirror.

PENELOPE: Ooh, damn!

Scene 9: Alvarez Living Room

Elena and Syd are sitting on the couch.

ELENA: I missed you as soon as you left.

SYD: Me too! The moment I walked out the door, I felt an ache in the bowels of my bowels.

ALEX: Okay, let's wrap up the sexy talk.

ELENA: What were we thinking?

SYD: I don't know. I guess we were trying to do the mature thing.

ALEX: Why? You're not mature. You're two teenagers who spent last week discussing whether some Star Trek lady is gay or not.

ELENA: Seven of Nine is gay.

SYD: No, no, no. All of the Borg are non-binary.

ELENA: Except their programming, which is binary code.

SYD: (Robotically) You will be assimilated.

Elena and Syd kiss.

ALEX: Can you boldly go somewhere else?

SYD: But no high-school couples make it through college! Are we just fooling ourselves? We don't want to be those people.

ELENA: You know what? Screw it. Let's be those people.

They kiss again.

ALEX: And I'm gonna be this person.

Alex leaves as they continue to make out.

Scene 10: Max's Hospital

Penelope enters the hospital Max works at.

NURSE SASHA: Ambulance pulling in!

PENELOPE: Ooh, great!

Penelope applies lipstick.

PENELOPE: Oh my God, okay.

EMTs pull in a gurney, but Max isn't there.

PENELOPE: Excuse me. Are you expecting any more horrible medical emergencies? I was hoping to see my ex.

NURSE SASHA: I hear that, sister.

PENELOPE: No, I'm sorry, I'm-- I'm looking for an EMT.



NURSE SASHA: Yeah, he doesn't work here anymore.


NURSE SASHA: He took a job working for some Doctors Without Borders group in Indonesia. Lucky cholera victims. Anyway, he left a couple months ago. Sorry.

PENELOPE: Thank you.

NURSE SASHA: One of the nurses made a Max of the Month calendar if you want a copy. It was me.

Penelope leaves.

Scene 11: Alvarez Living Room

Alex, Elena, and Penelope are sitting on the couch.

ALEX: Listen, mom, you're a strong independent woman who doesn't need a man to define you.

PENELOPE: Yep, got it, I agree. But it's okay for me to admit that I can still be a feminist badass and want a boyfriend.

ELENA: Yeah, that is okay. And I hope you do find someone, cause I'm so happy and I want that for you. Aww.

ALEX: Mom, today made me appreciate how hard relationships can be. And more importantly, how annoying. But don't worry. Nora and I are not gonna be like that.

PENELOPE: Who's Nora?

ALEX: Oh, I have a girlfriend.

Lydia opens her curtain.

LYDIA: What?

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