It's Kitty's birthday again, which you'll remember was the day when Dead Daddy croaked last year, so it's something of a bittersweet occasion. Or it would be if everyone wasn't so wrapped up in their own personal drama. Nora can't think about anything except why Justin hasn't contacted home for twenty-one days, and she's resentful that Kitty hasn't used her connections with Robert to find out where Justin is. Unbeknownst to Nora, Kitty has asked Robert, but he won't do it, because he's above the appearance of impropriety, or maybe he was too busy applying the sunless tanner because sweet Jesus does he ever look orange. Sarah and Joe are still separated, but after they share a mid-afternoon quickie, Sarah gets some hope, which makes it all the more crushing for her when Joe says he still wants to go through with the divorce. Kevin's still with the hot reverend Jason McCallister, and while he still hasn't managed to croak out "I love you," things seem exceptionally happy between them. Which means, of course, that Jason gets assigned to a mission in Malaysia, which drives Kevin straight to the "love sucks" place. Julia's extremely depressed following little William's death, and Tommy's far too busy with the vineyard to be there for her (read: absorb her uncharacteristic bitterness) like she needs. And Rebecca's still living with Nora, and is in fact the only Walker offspring who actually ever spends time with Nora anymore. She's staying in Kitty's room, which earns her a whole lot of Kitty's passive-aggression, but it's mostly just nice to see them both in the same scene for once.
So anyway, everything comes to a head at Kitty's birthday dinner, hilariously thrown by Rebecca at an El Pollo Loco knock-off. They have to wait for a table, which means the Walkers all get famously drunk at the bar and wallow in their respective drama and talk past each other and argue and eventually leave, but not before Robert unexpectedly shows up with news that Justin's okay and on his way back to his base camp. The party then moves back to the Walker manse, where Kitty and Rebecca begin détente, Julia shows up and re-joins the land of the living, everybody toasts Kitty and William, and Kevin tells Jason that he loves him. The good times can't last, though, as Robert gets further word of an IED attack on Justin's convoy; soldiers are dead, but nobody knows if Justin's one of them. Ooh! Ooh! I think I know!
Previously: the Walker clan boozed the first season away; Kevin went from chip-on-his-shoulder Scotty to closety soap hunk Chad to scorching hot Rev. Jason in just eight short months; Sarah's marriage to Joe got boring, got cheaty, then got over; Kitty got it on with the Senator, got engaged to the Senator, and got to the business of trying to get the Senator elected President; Tommy and Julia had twin babies, but the boy, William, was unable to survive the premature birth; secret illegitimate daughter Rebecca moved in with Nora, to Holly's consternation; and Justin got called back to the Army and shipped off to Iraq, Nora promising him that she'd be brave in his absence.
We open with Nora recording a video email to send to Justin, and ye gods does the webcam do Sally Field absolutely no favors. The soft, forgiving light of network television works so much better. Nora hint-hints a bit at the fact that Justin hasn't written back in quite a while, but adds that he was always like that, back to his days at "Camp Lackawanna." Nora then shifts gears and updates Justin/us on what his siblings have been up to all summer. Sarah and Joe are still separated, which means Sarah gets to/has to spend more time mommying during the day. We see Sarah at the park watching Cooper with a collection of the kind of intimidating, hyper-competitive super-moms you usually find in movies about how suburbia is secretly a venal cesspool. The one impossibly skinny mom, in her little pink velour tracksuit number, wonders aloud whether she should get a "mommy job." Sarah distractedly asks if that's "like a part-time job." The other mommies make amused little smirk faces at Sarah. Cooper and another girl come running up looking for food. Sarah tells him to try again without whining, and hands the both of them juice boxes. The girl's mom, like, leaps into action and snatches the juice from her daughter, saying, "Oooh, sorry! We don't do processed foods. No offense, I know you work." And then Sarah punches her in the face. Wait, no she doesn't, but she really should have. Instead, she does the next best thing: she calls Kevin.
As NoVO tells Justin how being with Jason has cleaned up Kevin's act, we see our favorite commitment-phobe looking less than thrilled to be in church, so it's no surprise that he answers his buzzing Bluetooth, though he holds his hand to the side of his head to hide it. "If you don't talk to me, I might murder someone," Sarah begins, and Kevin whispers that it's not a good time. She explains that she's at the park with the varsity Competitive Mom team. Kevin says he's in church, actually, and "Reverend Boyfriend" is giving him the evil eye, so he has to hang up.