The Cleaning Lady





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Thony De La Rosa is an illegal alien.

Oh, I’m aware that “undocumented worker” is the more accepted term these days. But Thony takes the illegal part of the term illegal alien to a different level. After all, it’s not every cleaning lady who has such extensive experience scrubbing blood off the floors.


Thony did not set out to be the underworld’s favorite maid. In fact, the Cambodian-born doctor used to work at one of the biggest, most prestigious hospital in the Philippines. And she might’ve been there still, saving lives, had her son, Luca, not suffered from a rare immunodeficiency disorder.

Thony and her 5-year-old boy flew to the United States for a life-saving bone-marrow transplant, but the marrow donor backed out just as Thony’s visa expired. And just like that, she and Luca were trapped in the States: no transplant, no papers, nothing. And no hospital is going to hire an undocumented worker, even if she is a doctor.

But even for cleaning ladies, America’s the land of opportunity, right? And after Thony volunteers to clean up a rather messy murder (in lieu of adding to it), she finds her cleaning services in surprisingly high demand. Mid-level crime boss Arman Morales takes a particular high-gloss shine to the woman. And when he learns that Thony can stitch pesky gunshot wounds and scrub up any telltale blood splatter afterward—well, that makes her particularly valuable. Someone who can clean wounds and floors? Can’t find that on Craigslist, can you?

But talent like that, it draws attention. The FBI has also sniffed out Thony’s fresh, pine-scented trail. And the Feds just might like to have a word with her. Invite her to (ahem) come clean, as it were.

Or it’s possible they might like Thony to work for them, too—and help them take out some trash.

Scrubbing Troubles

Television shows love few things more than a good bin of moral ambiguity. Is it OK to kill lots of people if you’re only killing killers? Is it OK to cook meth to provide a bit of financial stability for your fam? Of course not! But such shows as Dexter and Breaking Bad make you think about it. And if there’s one thing we know about television, we know it loves to make you think. (Just a little Christian television critic humor there.)

And Thony is certainly a more sympathetic—and more trapped—character than most. She’s just trying to save her sick kid, after all. And it’s not like she applied for the job: It was either clean or be killed.

“When it comes to keeping your son alive, it’s not about doing things the right way or the wrong way,” Arman tells her, “but any way you can.”

In fact, The Cleaning Lady—that is, Fox’s television show—had more opportunity than its protagonist to do things the right way or the wrong way. And it mostly chose the wrong way.

While the show is on a broadcast network (which ensures that we won’t see full-frontal nudity or hear a bevy of f-words tossed about), The Cleaning Lady certainly tries to convince its viewers that they’re watching something on, at the very least, basic cable. It unveils as much skin as it’s likely allowed and spills enough blood to keep Thony (and the cleaning supplies she relies on) quite busy. It doesn’t bother to scrub away mild swear words. The show dabbles in drugs and pours out more than rubbing alcohol. Thony may be undocumented, but the show’s litany of problems could fill plenty a form.

Thus, there’s a certain irony lurking in the title of The Cleaning Lady. Thony can scrub clean many stains. But the show’s own messes are something even she can’t wipe away.

Episode Reviews

Jan. 3, 2022: “TNT”

The episode title refers to “tago nang tago,” or what undocumented Filipinos call “hiding and hiding.” That is what Thony and her sister, Fiona, are currently doing. Both are working as undocumented cleaning women. And because of their illegal status, they’re often sent on uncomfortable jobs. When Thony’s hired to clean up after an underground fight club, she witnesses a murder. She’s about to be killed herself when Thony says she knows how to get bloodstains out of the concrete. Crime lieutenant Arman allows her to try, lest her own blood be added to the mess.

It turns out to be the beginning of a complicated relationship between Thony and Arman. And the messes that she’s asked to clean up are messy indeed.

One such assignment depicts a party where most of the female guests are apparently lesbians. We see same-sex couples kiss and dance together, and almost all are dressed in lingerie. Viewers see plenty of leg and cleavage, and one mostly bare backside is in full view of the camera. (A mostly drunk and/or high attendee—Arman’s wife—makes a suggestive pass or two at Thony.)

A man grabs Thony’s rear end during another cleaning job. He smells her hair, too, though Thony reminds him that she’s married (her husband’s back in the Philippines) and definitely not interested. (Later, her sister describes the job as “rape-y.”) Thony and Fiona go to a swank club in formfitting dresses. Thony showers before visiting her immune-compromised son, and we see both a bit of skin in the actual shower and in her underwear before and after. We hear some jokes about breast augmentation and a reference to masochism.

Female bare-knuckle fighters wear sports bras as they pummel each other. (They punch each other in the face as well as kneeing each other; one sinks into a state of bloody unconsciousness.)

Thony cleans up a pool of blood left behind by a murder victim. A messy wound is painfully cauterized. Someone punches another character in the throat, and Thony is forced to perform an emergency tracheotomy on the suffocating victim. An explosion destroys a building and nearly kills a couple of people.

Fiona considers selling Ecstasy to get a better job, and Thony finds a stash of the drugs in an intake vent. High-end alcohol is gulped and used as an antiseptic. We hear the price list for a club’s liquor. A number of partygoers seem impaired. A scene takes place in a casino. A couple is married in a Las Vegas establishment by a female pastor. Stem-cell therapy reportedly offers some hope for Thony’s sick son, Luca. A teen boy treats his mother disrespectfully.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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