Darren Michaels/Warner Bros
Keertana Sastry
May 20, 2016 AT 03:08 AM EDT

It was a quick and semi-happy season finale for Mom tonight, as Christy’s worries about college tuition and her daughter’s future reach very different conclusions (or new beginnings for season 4). Because Christy can’t have everything going right in her life, her troubles will never be over, but at least for now she can focus on being happy that her own life is rife with positive possibilities (Oof! A Marjorie-esque line like that has me rubbing my temples like Christy and Bonnie).

Christy begins in dire straits (basically her natural habitat) as she incessantly cries at her AA meeting, having just found out that for two more years of college and three years of law school she has to raise $200,000 in tuition money. To be fair, that’s enough to make anyone cry. Marjorie feels for Christy, but Bonnie is Not. Having. It, having spent the last 22 hours listening to Christy’s sobs. At the diner later, Christy and Marjorie talk about what that $200,000 really means. After breaking down the number, Marjorie makes Christy realize that all she really needs to come up with right now is $8,423, plus the cost of books. She just has to apply for as many scholarships as possible, and just take things one step and one day at a time (Just like being sober, get it?).

But things don’t seem too easy when Christy and Bonnie come to Violet smoking a bong on the couch, not realizing that her breakdown is contributing nothing to the family, and is in fact hindering them. She doesn’t engage the way Bonnie and Christy hope when Bonnie yells at her to get a job if she wants to continue living in their house, and she’s clearly not taking the college/future thing seriously. And if that’s not bad enough, Violet’s $4,000 wedding dress hanging in Christy’s bedroom continues to haunt Christy, making her worry even more about her daughter’s life.

Christy’s constant fear that her daughter will turn out like she did is valid, but so is Bonnie’s outlook on the situation. When Violet runs off to Lake Tahoe with her friends and returns saying that she’s quitting school to be a Blackjack dealer at Harrah’s in Tahoe, Bonnie tells her to go and make her own decisions. Her idea is that Violet needs to find out for herself what is and is not a mistake in her own life. If she wants to run off to do a job that certainly won’t bank her as much money as she’s expecting, it’s her life. She needs to learn what’s best for her, despite the amount of struggle that might come with that enlightenment.

Christy’s perseverance to become a lawyer is obviously thanks in large part to her own mistakes in life, which helped her realize what is most important to her. It’s ultimately how she is able to win a scholarship from the Napa Valley Trial Lawyers Association. After starting her speech to earn the money with clichés involving Atticus Finch and trying to brown-nose the members, she only really gets their attention after sharing her real-life story and real desire to become a lawyer, in the most moving moment of the episode:

“I know firsthand what it’s like to fall through the cracks, and what it’s like to get a second chance… I’ve lived enough to realize how precious an opportunity like this is.”

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What’s even more helpful is Bonnie’s interference in Christy’s quest to earn her tuition money. The series’ matriarch takes that cursed wedding dress and is able to sell it for $1,000, which she then gives to Christy (though she hesitates to give Christy all of it at first, and she may have sold it for more than she stated). But the helpful nature continues when Bonnie tells the girls that if they have anything she can sell, she’ll do it. Jill offers Bonnie the chance to clear out her garage and sells enough to give Christy the rest of the money she needs. It’s Bonnie’s way of finally being there for her daughter, unlike the last time Christy tried to go to college, and it’s another turn of events that proves these two really love each other and really do understand each other better than anyone else. Moments like this prove why the show is so touted for its humor and truthfulness, and why Allison Janney in particular can do no wrong. Can’t wait to see how Christy settles into college in season 4.

We wrote a react for this episode, which means we checked in for the finale, but if this is a show you’d like to read about each week, please let us know! You can email chat@ew.com with your feedback and suggestions.

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