I have no proof of this, of course, but I’m pretty sure at some point between delivering the pilot episode and cutting the second episode, the creative staff of Tell Me You Love Me received the following memo:
To: Tell Me You Love Me Creative Staff
From: HBO Executives
Thanks so much for delivering your pilot episode, and delivering it on time! We didn’t get the John from Cincinnati pilot until about three hours before we aired it. Trust us, had we seen it earlier, we may have edited the show differently. Or given David Chase $100 million to make "The Sopranos: Onion-Ring Extended Edition" and scrap John entirely.
Just one note, if you don’t mind a little creative feedback. We here at HBO take pride in allowing our auteurs full creative control, and we get that this show uses explicit sex in order to convey the decay of modern relationships. But, if you don’t mind, just tone it down a teeeeny bit. We air this show in HD, and we’re pretty sure more than a few people went blind during the premiere episode. And not in the fun way.
Thanks a bunch, and we look forward to seeing a scrotum-less second episode!
Loves and cuddles of the PG kind,
Such a memo would definitely explain this week’s episode, with the same amount of sex, roughly, but with 85% less frontal nudity. I get it, HBO gets it, heck, the other 12 people who actually watch this show get it: this show has nudity. Luckily, the second episode furthered along the various plot strands without subjecting any of us to Palek’s amazing fake phallus. And I think we can all agree this is a step in the right direction.
There may be a time in which all three couples start to intersect, in some form of Lost-esque "we’re all connected" type of universe (let’s all eagerly await a flashback where Palek and David shop at the same Office Depot!), but for now, it’s easier to recap each individual story thread. Thematically, all three couples were related by the schism between the banality of everyday life and the operatic drama of their interpersonal lives. This show is exceedingly good at showing that no matter how internally messed up most couples might be, these same couples can still present a united front when interacting with the outside world. If anything, this episode showed the first cracks in this united front. And once these cracks form, the integrity of the entire foundation is threatened.
David’s still wrestling with the fact that his wife, Katie, is going to couples therapy without him. He’s equally appalled and curious about these sessions, using passive-aggressive methods to glean information about what she talks about in therapy. His biggest worry? That she’s blaming the entire relationship on him without him able to defend himself (precisely as Dr. May predicted).
David’s further confusion stems from the fact that Katie can pretend to be happy in front of the kids, but not in front of him. As such, David needs the lie of a successful marriage much more than Katie does at this point, and her going to therapy shines a bright light on the problems he’d rather keep buried in the garage next to the hedge trimmers.
That being said, Dr. May’s analysis of this couple is correct: they sleep in the same bed, but both feel lonely. David’s actions pre-self-pleasure last week tell you everything you need to know about his character: when she goes to the bathroom, he leans over and smells her pillow. He’s a man who sleeps next to the love of his life and doesn’t know where she is: her absence in the bed signifies the absence of the woman he married. In his mind, the woman’s incorporeal, existing only as scent.
In some ways, this is correct, due to Katie’s inability to (literally) get in touch with herself. The (anti)climatic scene of this week’s episode shows her failing to engage in self-pleasure in her own bedroom, due to the fact that she perceives it to be not private enough a place in which to do it. By the team she retreats to the ultimate sanctuary, the bathroom, the battle has been lost: it’s been so long since she deemed herself sexual that she’s figuratively cut off from her body. Thus, both David and Katie are cut off sexually from her, and until they reconnect, that gap will only increase.
There’s a line in tonight’s episode that perfectly encapsulates everything you need to know about Carolyn. In trying to make up for deceiving Palek about taking a fertility test the previous week, she asks her sister to contact an Italian restaurant in order to deliver a make-up meal to the house. When asked what she wants the chef to create, Carolyn replies, "Anything. No piccata, no veal, no white sauce. But anything he wants."
What better way to sum up Carolyn’s contradictory character than that? She loves to give Palek the illusion of control, but in reality, she’s only comfortable calling all the shots. She wears the pants in that relationship, and furthermore, she determines when said pants come off (hint: it’s when ovulation 8-Ball says, "All signs point to yes!") In her conscious mind, she feels she’s in an equal relationship, unaware of the unequal power balance Palek keenly feels on a daily basis.
It’s not surprising, then, that Palek is the first to let loose the floodgates of truth in therapy. In a neat touch, only Carolyn turns off her cell phone at the start of therapy. Last week, when both were guarded, both did. The act of turning off the cell phone could be seen as a metaphor for shutting down emotionally (just as their contemporary apartment could be seen as a metaphor for their barren relationship). With Palek’s focus on the therapy, not the cell phone, he soon said things both were thinking, but unwilling to face.
Having said such things, however, gave Carolyn the opportunity to pounce on Palek. In her mind, Palek broke that aforementioned united front. However, in Palek’s mind, there is no front. If anything, Carolyn is IN front, with Palek trailing ever further behind. When Dr. May suggests that Palek missed Carolyn, we once again see how what people in this show miss more than anything are the person they first met: as if some sort of other person invaded the bodies of loved ones, all body-snatcher like, and hollowed them out, leaving only faint, barely recognizable traces of the people they once were.
Carolyn ends up pulling a Hugo (using sex as a potential distraction/to avoid answering a question) as a follow-up to the Hugo-esque Italian meal, but Palek’s still suspicious that Carolyn not only already knows he’s the problem in their conception ordeal, but already has a back-up plan in mind. And as unwilling to answer truthfully as Carolyn is in therapy, she’s even more unwilling to answer truthfully in her own, barren bedroom.
Speaking of Hugo…he’s a champ, isn’t he? Going around, with that, "I’m Mark Ruffalo with less chest hair" attitude, potentially reworking Bananrama songs in his head each time Jaime starts yelling at him, mentally humming, "I’m your penis/I’m your fire/I’m your desire!" thinking he can get by and good looks and free bags of dope. (In case you can’t tell, I hate Hugo. Which means Luke Kirby’s doing his job in the role.)
One wordless scene foretold the end (for now) of this relationship: Jaime watches Hugo enter a convenience store late at night after a day spent day tripping, both literally and figuratively. (Literally thanks to their car; figuratively thanks to the previously mentioned dope, given as an engagement present. I wonder where in the heck they registered. I didn’t see "bag of dope" when the wife and I registered at Crate and Barrel.) Jaime watches Hugo amble about the store, and we wait at home for Hugo to screw up, and then we realize that JAIME is waiting for him to screw up too, the metaphor hits her drug-addled brain, and she calls off the wedding within the next five minutes.
Having called off the wedding, Jaime can no longer shield her failed relationship with Hugo from her mother, herself a drama mama intent on controlling every aspect of their impending nuptials. Until this point, neither Jaime’s mother nor anyone else in her family could possibly suspect anything was wrong in the relationship. Concurrently, no one in Carolyn or Palek’s family could no their were trying to conceive. They are all as ignorant as the car salesman trying to sell David and Katie a new car, unaware his newest customers are minutes from implosion.
It’s the threat of dissolution of the private into the public that linked tonight’s three main stories, along with a fourth one I’ve yet to mention: the inclusion of Dr. May’s "friend" John into the show. An ex-husband? Long-lost son? Other member in the late, great, "John and May’s Jugband Extravanganza?" Hard to say at this point. Clearly it’s someone of import, and clearly this show’s going down the "therapist is just as messed up as his/her patients," which saddens me, since my recap last week extolled her seeming normalcy. Oh well. This is HBO. You’re not allowed to be happy on HBO, unless you’re Vincent Chase. And even his movie got panned at Cannes in the season finale of Entourage. Yikes.
As the season goes on, I think we’ll see Dr. May as the last chance for these couples from fully unleashing their pain into the public. Dr. May’s office is a hermetically sealed haven for them to air their grief lest to take themselves and those they love down. The question is thus twofold: can they do so in time, and will Dr. May be in any emotional shape to help them do so?
Did you enjoy this week’s episode more than last week? Which of these three couples actually has the bleakest future? And Dr. May wasn’t calling John from Cincinnati, right?