A guide to all those wild cameos

If you have thought The bear just wanted to fill you up with succulent Italian beef subs, just wait until your mind is overflowing with the absurd number of cameos. In its hour-long sixth episode, the second season of the FX on Hulu series harks back to Christmas, a few years before the show actually takes place — and we learn that the Berzattos happen to have a staggering number of A-list stars in their family tree.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead for Episode 6 of The bear“Fish.”)

Before I get into who they are in the family or how great their accomplishments are, I just want to list the big names The bear brings us: Sarah Paulson, John Mulaney, Bob Odenkirk, Gillian Jacobs, and to top it off, Oscar winner Jamie Lee Curtis. How’s that for a series of cameo appearances? We’ve already heard that Odenkirk would be guest starring on the series, but the rest is a big surprise.

Now the hard part is figuring out who is who. It would be difficult enough to meet all of these people at once on a normal show, but we’re dealing with it The bear, which is a whole different breed of speedy beast. Traveling at a million miles per minute, the whole family slams through the door on Christmas Eve and is greeted by yelps, cheers, greetings and grumbles, all in a competing cacophony of Chicago accents. Chicagoans have been known to say things like “DAAA Bears,” which makes even more sense here, where the Berzatto family call each other “bears.” There’s the DAAA Bears football team, then there’s also the DAAA Bears Italian-American family.

Let’s start with what we already know. Uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt) is back and everyone tries to do business with him at the family reunion. He’s the rich family uncle who later steps in to help Carmy fund The Bear (the restaurant that replaces The Original Beef) in Season 2.

Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, Abby Elliot as Natalie “Sugar” Berzatto, Jon Bernthal as Michael Berzatto in Episode 6, “Fishes”, Season 2 of The Bear.

Chuck Hodes/FX

We also know the three siblings: Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), Natalie aka Sugar (Abby Elliott) and the eldest, Mike (Jon Bernthal). In the current timeline of the series, Mike is not there. He died by suicide, which led to Carmy taking over the restaurant. But in this flashback, Mike is there running the Original Beef while Carmy works at an upscale restaurant in New York. Sugar is dating Pete (Chris Witaske), the boyfriend everyone hates for making faux pas like bringing tuna casserole to Christmas dinner where Mama Berzatto makes it everything.

Mama Berzatto, whose names are both “Donna” and “The Bear”, is played by Curtis in the Catherine O’Hara manner – meaning her blonde hair is perfectly curled and her energy is extraordinary. We only see Donna outside of the kitchen in two moments throughout the episode. When it comes to Carmy and his hectic organization (or rather, disorganization) of the restaurant.

Chris Witaske as Pete, Jon Bernthal as Michael in Episode 6, “Fishes”, Season 2 of The Bear.

Chuck Hodes/FX

Then there’s family friend (the fake “cousin”) Richie, who is married to Tiff (Jacobs). This is the first time we see Tiff The bear, since Richie is divorced from her in Season 1. In this episode, Richie and Tiff are just starting to fight. Tiff is currently pregnant with their daughter, Eva, and the two reconcile while discussing what she will be like one day.

We already knew that Richie was a fake “cousin” of Carmy, but Tiff’s presence confused me a little here: Is she a biological cousin of the Berzatto family? It seems no, as Richie tries to work things out with another family friend, Neil Fak (Matty Matheson).

“What is your relationship with them again?” Neil asks.

“Through friendship,” Richie replies.

“As we!” says Neil, referring to him and his brother Theodore (Ricky Staffieri).

“No, not like you,” Richie replies.

The faks are at dinner too. While we’ve met Neil, a staff member of The Bear, we haven’t met his brother yet. Although we’ll never know if they’re actually twins, Neil and Theodore wear matching outfits—green flannel shirts with red hoodies—so I’d like to assume they are.

However, the strangest couple is cousin Michelle (Paulson) and her partner Stevie (Mulaney). Her relationship to family – is Michelle the daughter of Jimmy or Lee (Odenkirk)? – is unclear. Michelle and the strange Stevie live together in New York, where she runs a few restaurants. She invites Carmy to stay with her while he pursues his dream of working in New York. Apparently, the two do not visit each other, although they appear to live in the same city.

The real question I have is: Who knew Mulaney and Paulson would make a good couple? That makes absolutely no sense. And yet somehow there is perfect chemistry between them. Consider me impressed but still a little confused.

That leaves Odenkirk, who seems to be the man of the house, but is just an uncle. Uncle Lee. The one everyone hates. The one who was only invited out of family obligation. Lee complains about everything, ridicules Mikey, and is rude to his sister, Donna (assuming he’s related to her and not Carmy, Mike, and Sugar’s father) – even after she made him Run of the Seven Fish. Don’t ask what that is. It’s literally just a big meal with seven different types of fish, a tradition of the Berzatto family.

There you have it! These are the Berzattos, and now you don’t have to keep stopping and rewinding to find out how they all relate to each other. Though there’s a million new faces at once The bear does an excellent job making sure these people are not a distraction – they just add to the great family energy.

People in the Midwest have a reputation for being nice and friendly, but that’s not always the case. By including these larger than life personalities The bear does an excellent job of illustrating the noisy, frenetic, over-talking nature of the holidays at home, particularly in the Midwest, but also particularly in the Chicagoland area. If dinner isn’t right, it’s thrown on the gray sleet outside. And when family members don’t behave, all hell breaks loose. This may stink for the Berzattos, but it’s a win for us viewers who’ll be flying in this exciting Christmas rush.

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