We’ve officially passed the halfway point in this inaugural season of Tell Me You Love Me, and as we enter the home stretch, we find each of our couples taking relatively drastic measures. Each of these measures came directly out of the events of last week, where locked doors, failed pregnancy tests, missing iPods, and lunch suggestions echoed into the actions of this week.
The echoes of these problems amplified beyond the couples themselves, transmitting to those around them as well. Not only do we see these couples in pain, but we see just how much that pain carries over into those with whom they come into contact.
As always, let’s break down the action couple by couple.
For those of us who thought David’s initial outburst in therapy was a watershed moment for their relationship, boy, we didn’t see nuttin’ yet. The betrayal of David’s locking the bedroom door clearly affected both parties, with equal anger on Katie’s side and guilt on David’s side. These equally strong emotions erupted through Dr. May’s careful prodding of their psyches.
Dr. May’s technique seems to be thus: she asks very probing questions in a sweet demeanor, looking for just the right question that will shatter the soft spot of her patients’ defenses. Her experience probably indicated that the locked door experiment had failed, and she in turn could finally enable a breakthrough for the couple. And boy, break through they did.
Accusation after accusation, long-held belief after belief, staunch defense after staunch defense…all came hurtling out of the mouths of a couple who excel at keeping their thoughts private from each other. If David could have physically moved further away from Katie while still staying on the couch as she revealed she knew the intent behind the locked door, he would have. And at the end of this bitter rant, Dr. May surprised them both with a simple suggestion: remove sex from the equation.
This suggestion puzzled me as much as the couple, who looked as if they’d just been told that the "Transformers" had just won the Best Picture Oscar. After all, Dr. May’s entire basis of analysis seems to revolve around the sexcapades (or lack thereof) of her patients. For her to suddenly dismiss the importance of sex seems incongruous at best, and downright contradictory at worst.
Ironically, once sex was ostensibly off the table, it was the only thing David and Katie could talk about, either with each other or with friends. I suppose it was the old "I don’t want it unless I can’t have it" scenario, sort of like how, as a kid, I didn’t want a toy unless I was told I couldn’t have it. Same basic principle here. Because they are parents first, lovers second (or maybe eighteenth at this point), the majority of their conversations happened in hushed whispers around their children. During their first debate, their daughter clearly overhears the tension, if not the words, in their conversation, and runs away from dinner. And if a kid runs away from "pizza in front of the television" night, you know you have an upset kid on your hands. For the first time, we (along with David and Katie) see the effects of their problems upon their kids. Until now, they’d done an excellent job masking their problems, but now seem unable to mask them any longer.
Problem is, David and Katie are so far from being able to have sex that the best they can do is crack jokes in the car and scan websites that I dare not even mention on this, a family-friendly site. (And Katie? Yes, yes, you most certainly are one of those. Just gonna leave it at that and move on.) While the change in attitude is welcome, there’s still a long way to go.
And so, at episode’s end, the sexual lambada remained undanced: still forbidden to this couple. Watch how they say goodnight: it’s like a game of chicken, with each wondering when the other will blink first, simultaneously hoping neither of them do and yet feeling privately relieved when one of them does. But here’s hoping sex’s forbidden status is the one thing that will enable them to finally connect with each other, physically as well as emotionally, once again.
Quick quiz: to whom did Carolyn say the following?
"No, I need an answer. What do you want to hear from me? ‘Cause I’m not coming back in a few months to hear you say, ‘Wait some more’, or, ‘It’s not happening, maybe next month.’"
It’s understandable if you answered "Palek," but no, she actually said the above statement to her boss at her law firm. And it’s that type of dialogue that helps Tell Me shine as a drama, with writing sharp enough to show how the intimate becomes the public without someone even realizing it.
After all, even in her mind’s eye, Carolyn was most likely not thinking about Palek as she said this. And yet, her subconscious could not help but put him in her crosshairs as she unsuccessfully lobbied for a partner position at her firm. The night before, Palek confirmed to her something viewers of the show have suspecting recently: he really didn’t want to have kids. Hearing him say this both validated Carolyn ("Well, no wonder I didn’t get pregnant," she tells him) and sent her streaking back into the psychosis of a childless existence.
The scene in her law firm confirmed another aspect of the show relatively untouched: pretty much everyone’s noticed that Carolyn’s gone a little off the deep end. Her problems at home carry over into the real world as well, as her very career seems to have derailed with her obsession with being pregnant. Her self-indulgent attitude has not only imploded her home (literally, as they are putting their house on the market), but her career as well.
Hi, and welcome to Pretty People Dysfunctional Theatre. In this episode, we’ll follow two people with 4% body fat between them literally screw each other over while screwing, in a scene so brightly lit that it drained all the sexy away, bathing me merely in "gonna getcha" sex that I could not believe was not on one of the websites that Katie was purveying later in the episode. I thought for a moment HBO had spliced a segment from "Real Sex" in here.
Turns out Jaime was merely using Nick, who came over to tell Jaime he was about to see his ex, thus triggering a "MINE MINE MINE" in Jaime’s head. Jaime feels wracked with guilt over this, until learning that Nick himself had essentially made up the story in order to get back at Jaime for blueballing him over Hugo. This bit of knowledge somehow made Jaime feel better about the entire endeavor, which I assume means both of them checked off the "I like to emotionally mess with people" box on their eHarmony profile.
Between the sex and the revelation, however, Jaime attended a family party with Nick, out of guilt but also out of her desire for some sort of utopian domestic fantasy that she’s unaware doesn’t exist. After all, she tells Dr. May that her ideal life is literally David and Katie’s, which we all know to be…well, whatever the antonym of "utopia" is. ("Hell"? "Cleveland"? I’m not sure.) And she further thinks that Carolyn and Palek’s home is its own form of utopia, unaware of the hellish nature of their relationship. I think it took playing bridge with Nick’s aunts to realize exactly how far her fantasy lives from reality.
In short, Tell Me has assigned Jaime the role of naïve bumpkin (albeit a bumpkin who likes to bump), one who can’t possibly see the roadblocks ahead, one who can’t possibly imagine living a life without 100% happiness…in short, she’s ostensibly Carolyn and Katie at an earlier point in their lives. Now, I’m not saying Jaime will go through a psychotic barren phase followed by an unsatisfying existence as a sexless mother of two, but I am saying that Jaime, along with all the characters on this show, are sharply, specifically drawn archetypes that allow the show to explore problems along a variety of generations.
And speaking of generations…
Dr. May and Arthur
In doing these recaps on a weekly basis, I take notes during the episode on my laptop, jotting down short-hand phrases I hope to remember later on as I compose the masterpieces of television analysis you read each week. I think it’ll be instructive for you to see the literal note I wrote while watching Dr. May and Arthur get it on by the fireplace:
"It’s Jaime and Nick again oh no it’s not aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii"
I mean, I don’t consider myself a prejudiced person. I don’t. I really, really don’t. I think we’re all basically the same, and it’s the fact that we all possess the same capabilities of being really nice people or really huge jerks that unites us across lines of race, gender, sexuality, and sporting team alliances. But man, oh man, do I wish I could erase this sex scene from my brain forever. Someone please send over the Haitian from Heroes, pronto.
The only reason they included this scene, I think, is for what came next: her first face-to-face with the elusive, mysterious John. My impression is that Dr. May, or Arthur, planned one boffo night of bootylicious fun in order to secure the other before she was to meet John. Either she wanted to convince Arthur, Arthur wanted to convince Dr. May, or both needed self-confirmation. In the end, it doesn’t truly matter, so long as we can take away the fact that the sex actually had a dramatic purpose, no matter how much it made me want to crawl up in a ball in the corner and rock back and forth until the weird noises finally stopped. (It’s gotten to the point on this show where we meet Nick’s grandmother, Rose, and I actually say to my wife, "If they show Rose getting it on, I’m stopping these recaps instantly.")
As to the nature of Dr. May’s relationship with John, the closest we got to a definitive answer was his statement, "I had a marriage, too." I think we can infer a torrid affair many years ago, with John’s marriage crumbling under the weight, and Dr. May’s barely staying afloat over the years. Why else would Arthur arrange this meeting, if not for the fact that his marriage has been tainted for decades with the spectre of John hanging over it?
What do you think Dr. May’s backstory with John is? How would you handicap the chances of success for this show’s couples after this episode? And can you really get high after only two puffs of a joint?