As the penultimate episode of the inaugural season of Tell Me You Love Me, this episode had to ratchet up the tension, increase the dissension, and overall put our characters in the worst place possible in order to ensure the maximum amount of catharsis in the season finale (assuming catharsis is even possible for everyone). And from this vantage point, the show succeeded in putting its characters into their most dire emotional situations yet. By one count, there was one breakup, an announcement stating the wish to break up, and the very real threat of a third break-up, which meant we very nearly hit the Break-Up Trifecta with just one week to go.
So much angst, so much pain, so much blue eyeshadow…where to start? Let’s delve into this week’s morass of muddled emotions, couple by couple.
Oh Katie. Katie Katie Katie. I’ve been rooting for you, I really have, and I have long before the tub scene, trust me. So what I say may hurt me as much as it hurts you: you’re seriously losing it, sister. And all it took for the Jenga of her life to come crashing down was her friend Rita’s announcement of her own divorce. This announcement essentially cut the legs out from under Katie, who spent the majority of the episode both reeling from and running from this piece of information.
In Katie’s mind, her and Rita co-exist as people who complain about marriage but never seriously think about ending it. Their lunch and brunch meetings allow them to let off steam in order to make the less savory aspects about marriage palatable, but in Katie’s mind Rita’s cries for help were simply gossip over hash browns. To have Rita’s reality exposed forces an uncomfortable light upon a truth Katie could not bear to see: namely, if Rita could get a divorce, she potentially could as well. Such a realization demolished all of Katie’s defenses and left her unable to deal with therapy, with being a mother, and with being a wife.
David, for his part, stood at the center of the chaos and watched his wife, the fiery constellation, move around him at a speed and orbit unfathomable to his brain. Their loaded speech about the ever-changing patio in their backyard serves as a metaphor for their marriage: David as the stoic, never-changing center, and Katie as the restless spirit constantly moving within the boundaries of their nuptials. David’s simply stopped trying to make his life anymore than it is, whereas Katie mistakes movement for change. They are diametrically opposed and equally poisonous within the confines of their marriage.
Until now, both have seemed the calmest of the couples on this show (relatively speaking, of course), in that they have always fallen back on a "well, we have issues, but divorce is off the table since beneath it all we love each other" perspective, but that comfort has been completely stripped. Family is not enough, love is not enough, therapy is not enough. All three can be enough, there’s no doubt of that, but there’s no longer the certainty of those bedrocks stopping a potentiality that may soon become an actuality, unless these two opposing forces can find some way to meet in the middle of the vast space between them.
So today’s study question: Whose heart was beating more: Palek’s, or his unborn child’s? Because really, you could make a compelling case for either.
If reality smacked any couple the hardest this week, it would be this one. Masters of denial on an equal level, these two faced the facts in a way that literally, as well as figuratively, shocked their system. Their problems in many ways are typified by the mold problem in their old house: invisible, pervasive, toxic, and permeating every moment of their last year.
Carolyn’s sudden, almost maternal attitude towards Palek masked a deeper fear: motherhood simply isn’t a word but an existence. The light seemed to click on when she received her positive pregnancy result, with her mix of shock and awe and a few words unprintable on this website. She tells Dr. May that she needs someone for the first time in her life, but what she really needs is someone to validate her existence as a victim. Having the nerve to talk about quitting her job as Palek lies in the emergency room post-panic attack shows how impending motherhood hasn’t yet changed The World According to Carolyn: a world of one into which she unwittingly let a stranger. The only reason she finally opens up to Palek’s mother (after years of ostensible estrangement) is to earn sympathy for the plight. Bonding with her mother-in-law never enters her mind.
The panic attack came about thanks to Carolyn quitting her job (despite his protest to the contrary in Dr. May’s office), seeing the ultrasound of his unborn child, and the aforementioned mold problem, which is going to set him back $50,000. The combination of mounting debt and mounting responsibilities is too much for a man who seems to have enjoyed living in a nice place with a beautiful woman and never wanted anything more than that. But once actual complication and responsibility entered the picture, he regressed back into the boy abandoned by his own father as an infant.
In short, neither were remotely prepared to be parents. And yes, I know you can never truly be ready, but these two were about as ready as I am to win the Daytona 500. Just as with David and Katie, Palek craves the status quo, with Carolyn seeking change for change’s sake. But instead of changing the patio, Carolyn’s changed the composition of her family, and in doing so, apparently has rendered it asunder.
Should we fault her or Palek for the apparent implosion? Both could make compelling arguments for "Aloof Spouse of the Year 2007", between his inability to adequately explain his reticence concerning fatherhood and her insanely overbearing desire to be with child. He thought too much about the consequences but said nothing; she thought too little and is now overwhelmed. And both have reached their breaking point, with Palek finding his voice when it’s perhaps too late to say the words that really matter.
In the Land of the Boring, Pretty, and Self-Aware, Jaime loses her man but may have in fact gained some actual ground towards breaking the vicious circle of her dating life. As she explains to Dr. May, she’s often told men she loves them simply to avoid awkwardness, only to cheat on them later and move on. Thus, her inability to tell Nick she loves him simply for the sake of convenience marks something of a breakthrough.
This does little to quell the rage of that softball playing, toilet fixing, hair product-using wildman Nick, who ends it with Jaime after she insists they take it slow. Nick must have once trained at Top Gun Academy, what with his need for speed and all. Barely twenty-four hours later, Jaime sees him talking up his ex in her restaurant, which means she’s on the path towards possible redemption while he’s stuck on the highway to the danger zone. And that’s the last Top Gun reference in this recap, I promise.
Whereas the other two major narrative threads of this show seek to show two couples staying together despite their difficulties, Jaime’s story may be one of a person trying to be independent despite her difficulties. For Jaime, being in a relationship is not only normal, it defines who she is. But being defined through the eyes of another simply doesn’t suit her at the end of the day. Her inability to understand her problems comes from a very real inability to understand herself as a single entity (in both senses of the word "single").
After seeing Nick with his ex, she retraces the steps that have led to meaningless sex: the kitchen in which she works, a bar that she frequents with Mason. But when Mason drunkenly asks the bartender on a date, something inside Jaime seems to finally have changed. Some light, however dim in her alcoholic-infused brain, seems to turn on, prompting her to leave, and to leave alone. Question is: did she leave to go home alone, or leave to ensure she wouldn’t go home alone? I’m leaning towards the latter, but we’ll only know next week.
What most surprised you about this week’s edition? What would qualify as a "happy ending" for these people? How would you define Dr. May’s "something better"?
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