It’s hard to tell at the time how rich a show’s opening sequence is. Does it just set up the plot, or is there more to it? Looking back, our introduction to Blunt Talk is much bigger than I realized at the time. It isn’t just about balls. It’s about boobs! And “Meth Or Not Meth, You Gotta Floss!” is full of boobs. The first big laugh is Shelly saying, “My dad always said that champagne glass boobs were the sexiest, and I’ve never gotten that out of my head.” At first I didn’t know what to make of Walter’s desire to nestle in Gisele’s bosom, and that early on, it could well have just been a quirky sexual experience carelessly thought up by a writer. By now we’ve seen a lot of the male characters seeking maternal comfort that way. “Rosalie’s kind of like my nest,” Martin says. None of them have looked as childlike as Teddy, starting to lose it, smiling across the room at his mirror image in Walter and snuggling with the big spoon in his wife.
“Meth Or Not Meth, You Gotta Floss!” is one of the most beautiful episodes of Blunt Talk, despite some frustrations like an angle that muffles the impact of Jacki Weaver’s worry and some cuts that take us out of powerful moments too quickly. (Like I said about the premiere, Jonathan Ames and company are good at coming up with images, but I wish they’d hold them a little.) But as Walter and Rosalie get further and further from the city, the visuals build in power. The episode emphasizes distance (think of the shot around the motel out to the parking lot), space (Walter and Rosalie’s tiny bodies out in the desert), and regression (civilization yielding to nature).
It’s also the first emotional whammy of the season. Just like the idea that Teddy forgot to wear pants with his apron plays as a joke at the time, “Meth Or Not Meth, You Gotta Floss!” sneaks up on us. You wonder what’s going on with Teddy well before you realize how serious it is, or I did anyway. The comedy keeps us off-guard, too, as when Walter describes how terrible meth is for the teeth and a motel manager adds, “Well, meth or no meth, you still gotta floss.” Or the scene where Walter gets pulled over, so he pulls over to the shoulder, and then into a lot, and then he keeps going, around the corner, into an open parking space. That’s how removed Walter is from the rest of the world. He doesn’t know how to get pulled over. The next sequence is a physical bit where Walter and Rosalie try to trade places without getting out of the car, because Walter’s license has been suspended, which it turns out doesn’t matter anyway, because—surprise!—the Burbank cop covers for him, on account of rivalry with LAPD, whose officer Walter assaulted. All of that distracts us from the gravity of the situation until just about the moment Walter gets Rosalie to face her fears: Teddy has dementia.
There’s also some maturity in Walter choosing to help Rosalie over going back and anchoring the night’s show. “You’re more important to me than Blunt Talk,” he tells Rosalie. “I am?” “Uh, er, it’s very close…” But he catches himself and says the right thing and means it too: “Yes, you’re more important!” This is just after Walter takes the easy way out with the red light he ran and the cop who let him off, but it’s a step. He’s a shoulder for Rosalie for a change, and he’s genuinely concerned with helping Teddy. He also wants to interview the zero-impact family himself, so he has them bumped. Again. Even after witnessing their multi-hour bamboo bicycle trek to the studio. This is still Walter Blunt we’re talking about.
In Walter and Rosalie’s absence, everyone else jockeys to temporarily promote themselves. Jim gets to anchor, Celia becomes the new Rosalie, and Martin and Shelly fight over Celia’s seat. I hadn’t realized until this episode made it explicit, but apparently the chain of command at Blunt Talk is boy-girl-boy-girl all the way down. And it really does take Celia maternally comforting Jim for him to relax and put on a good, well, decent news show. But the best part of this half is Harry immediately becoming Jim’s manservant instead of Walter’s, complete with spooning guidance and whipping. When Jim takes a shower to get ready for the broadcast, the moment he realizes there’s no shampoo a hand shoots out and offers him a bottle.
Eventually Rosalie and Walter find Teddy wading into a pool. It’s a beautiful, smeared-looking sight with the low camera and the pool reflection and the marbled sky. It reminds me of the strange first shot of the episode, an incomprehensible white field that’s somehow uneven and fluffy. It’s a close-up on shaving cream on Walter’s face, and one swipe of the razor wipes it away. Going from the motel pool to the room has a clarifying effect too: Teddy lost and smiling, Rosalie scared but strong, and Walter on the other side, here to help his old friends.
Walter thinks people on the edges are the ones who stand a chance at sparking a shift in consciousness. Then we cut to the weirdos in his office: Jim in an ostrich pillow, and Rosalie squealing at Martin. These are the people on the edges Walter believes in. Our heroes are screwed up oddballs, but maybe they’ll be able to do some good.
- “Meth Or Not Meth, You Gotta Floss!” is written by Duncan Birmingham and Jonathan Ames and directed by Michael Lehmann.
- Martin says, “I like pointy boobs. You know, the ones that look like magical elf shoes.”
- “Teddy keeps it so neat. Like Harry.” Walter’s comparing Rosalie’s marriage to his relationship with his manservant.
- Other kinds of boobs on the chart include bee sting and big jugs.
- Best moment in Walter’s generally pretty funny teleconference: “Can I speak to Harry?” “Yes, Major?” “Just wanted to hear your voice, Harry.”