If you had to narrow down the themes of this week’s Raising Hope, you’d probably come out with parenting and rape. Thankfully, the story lines aren’t connected. On the parenting front, Jimmy realizes that he’s a “Mr. Mom” and tries to toughen up by joining Barney in the auxiliary police, while Sabrina worries that she doesn’t have what it takes to be a parent. And the rape? Well, there’s a squirrel “rapist” on the loose in Natesville and Burt and Virginia take it upon themselves to take him off the streets.

The Jimmy/Sabrina story, like so many of their plot lines, has more potential than it ultimately capitalizes on. Jimmy’s buddy cop day with Barney is wasted, since much of Hope‘s charm comes from Natesville’s quirky residents. The trip into the community to fight minor crimes could have been the opportunity to bring back more favorites (and put them to better use) than the series did. The experience is largely banal, as you’d expect. Barney’s mundane auxiliary exploits are a running gag on the show. When the duo encounters an apparent domestic abuse situation (a closed door, a female scream and a burly male voice threatening to cut off body parts), they don’t call for the real police; instead, they knock politely and ask to be let in to stop the crime-in-progress. While most sitcoms would have an obvious misunderstanding behind the door, Raising Hope is the kind of show that keeps you guessing. Sometimes, they set up the obvious misdirect and then it turns out to be real. But sometimes, Hope is a typical sitcom and the would-be crime is nothing more than a hapless uncle trying to remove a splinter from his sobbing niece’s finger. Of course, Jimmy’s Mr. Mom nurturing nature comes in handy and saves the day as he removes the splinter with care. Day saved.

Back at the house, Sabrina is spending the weekend with Hope to prove her own parenting prowess while Jimmy joins the auxiliary. She learns that, while she’s great at being the “fun” parent (Dentist? Sounds boring – how about a mud fight instead?), she’s not so great at the day-to-day stuff, like watching the same terrible children’s movie 90 times in a row or building block towers just to have them knocked down. Her natural instinct is to retreat to the bathroom and call an old nanny for help, which tells her she’s just like her own mother (subtext: a bad parent). But does anyone even care that Sabrina might be a bad parent? Jimmy certainly doesn’t. He tells her they balance each other out. Sabrina the maternal figure is not interesting, even as she fails. Sabrina the secret psycho plagued by obsessive compulsive disorder is much more interesting. This week, we learn that Sabrina (and, according to her, Einstein) eats dirt and that she mentally counts the number of words she speaks in every sentence. When she gets that crazy look in her eye, you just know Jimmy has a type and it’s great.

Now for the rape. Burt, in his career as a landscaper, witnesses the beauty of the suburban animal kingdom. But he also witnesses the dark side – like one squirrel bent on “violating” all of the other animals in town. He and Virginia decide that this kind of crime against animal-kind can’t go unpunished and capture the “sex offender.” But what do you do with a serial rapist squirrel once you catch it? They decide that the only humane thing, for the squirrel and the rest of the neighborhood animals, is to have it castrated before they release it back into the wild. Extreme? The vet they ask to perform the operation certainly thinks so, and tells them as much while he gives a speech about how sex works in the animal kingdom. Then promptly releases the poor, traumatized creature into the wild. As usual, B&V steal the show.

This week was a definite improvement over the mindless poop jokes of last week’s episode and with Christmas right around the corner, Raising Hope has every chance of getting back to form before the spring.