The problem with tying the zero-impact family to Walter’s long-term ambition to save the planet is when he inevitably lets them down, he’s letting down the whole world. And after making such a fuss about personally doing the bumping of whichever guest ultimately gets bumped, when push comes to shove Walter delegates. There are other problems, too, like the periodic mental klaxons that go off throughout their scene. They smell because they rode their bamboo bicycles [to the newsroom]. They had to leave their house at 3 AM.” How is that an inspiring model of living? And who is the decadent Walter Blunt to flog their lifestyle? Jason Schwartzman’s patriarch Duncan bonds with Walter over a memorized line from The Red Shoes. “It’s one of my all-time favorite movies. Back when I was still able to watch movies.” It’s almost appropriate that when Duncan very quickly falls from a basic yoga position, his ensuing pride and pain isn’t funny in the least. The zero-impact family sucks, but Walter’s too insecure about his own failures to notice.
Yes, Walter and Celia succumb to temptation in “The Queen Of Hearts.” The others do, too, in their little ways. For instance, in one of those already characteristic Blunt Talk scenes where there’s one little duet going on over here and another, slower-moving one just behind them and the whole thing is punctuated by frequent interruptions from another character altogether, Jim gets into a fight over the mandatory cleaning of his office. (The interruptions are courtesy of Walter, who every so often walks out of his office, furiously recites a line from a death penalty nut’s book, and then retreats again.) Meanwhile Martin finds himself nuzzling in Rosalie’s bosom during the workday, and the analyst tells Jim personal details of Walter’s treatment. But that’s the usual comedy backdrop for Blunt Talk. That’s every episode. In “The Queen Of Hearts,” the main plots aren’t about self-improvement but the need for it: Celia gets hooked on gambling, and Walter gives in to lust.
Celia’s story begins in a smaller version of those multi-part scenes, poker night at Rosalie’s with intrusions by an apron-clad, pantsless Teddy. It’s funny, but Celia’s plot makes less sense than his. How can she be a news producer but be completely baffled by poker? And what makes her think she might actually be good at poker in more high-stakes environments? I guess there are two answers. She isn’t thinking; that’s the whole point. And the Blunt Talk offices aren’t exactly teeming with the finest intellects in cable news. Fair enough. But this gambling plot takes Celia to such idiot territory it’s hard to recover. The high-stakes game isn’t even funny. At least it moves quickly, like Celia’s so excited by her new game, and the cash covering her desk, which isn’t insignificant, that she can’t wait to play again with the people she knows. And at least she has a moment of doubt, recognizing that she shouldn’t have played hookie from work to go play games.
As usual, Walter’s much worse off, although his first scene after realizing he’s in a seven-month dry spell is an extravagant pan up to his second-floor table at a restaurant with Gisele. How romantic! Unfortunately Gisele’s newly committed to a relationship. Walter’s fling from seven months ago has notation in the logs—yes, Harry keeps detailed logs: “Vacation Nightmares, Books Read, Famous Friends, Strange And Beautiful Coincidences…”—not to call. Walter calls her anyway, but to no avail. Enter Elisabeth Shue’s Suzanne Mayview (spelled Susan on the broadcast, but “with a Z” in dialogue, so who knows what’s going on orthographically with that name. Anyway, it’s pronounced Suzanne), described as the Ann Coulter of the death penalty, which is uncharacteristically imprecise for this show (isn’t Ann Coulter the Ann Coulter of the death penalty?) but you get the idea. She thinks victims’ families should have the option of participating in firing squads. Naturally her views enrage Walter, who ought to be able to demolish them live on the air, a feat not even Anderson Cooper could accomplish, but for one thing. She’s very pretty.
So for the first half of the interview, she walks all over Walter while Rosalie fumes in the booth. But when Rosalie shouts some sense into him, he gets it together to deliver what’s meant to be taken as a killshot. “It was war that made me a pacifist. It was war that made me want to protect the innocent and the guilty…Answering murder with murder is not an answer.” Now I’m not sure Blunt Talk really needs to address these issues. Realistically logic tends not to convince anyone of any political points, although I suppose in a newsroom, you’d hope reason and knowledge and persuasion might prevail. More compellingly, if Walter Blunt really is interested in saving the world, or taking a stab at it anyway, to ignore actual political issues on the show about him would seem cowardly. Enlightened didn’t wimp out on wage slavery and corporate culture after all. So if addressing capital punishment is important, you’d hope for a stronger argument. The first half of Walter’s mic-drop makes me more interested in Walter, and the second sounds like a bumper sticker. It certainly doesn’t play as a victory.
Maybe that’s because the underlying story is Walter’s overwhelming attraction to Suzanne. Even after the interview, which ends with Walter shouting her down and taking the last word for himself, she winds up in bed with him, so I guess she’s genuinely into him, too. I’m a little concerned about the terms of this scene, which feels like sleeping with the enemy rather than reaching across the aisle, as if their political differences should keep them apart. But time will tell how human Suzanne is outside of the press game. For now all we know is Walter is adrift. Hence the last line of the episode, an invasive but revealing sample of his bedroom talk: “You know they still have the death penalty in California.”
- “The Queen Of Hearts” is written by Kirsten Kearse and Jonathan Ames and directed by Bill D’Elia.
- The episode opens with Walter’s fitness regimen: Harry slaps him across the stomach with a cricket bat 10 times.
- At one point Walter finds himself back where he was when he started, sitting at the bar in that same spot, with Brent Spiner’s Phil on piano and Gisele nearby.
- The analyst: “Walter is a breast man. Because he never met his father, he’s fixated on the nipple as his primary source of love.” Jim: “Should you have told me that?” “No, but you liked hearing it, didn’t you?”
- Duncan takes Walter’s ChapStick. “These get lodged in the blowholes of dolphins. Use it, and then hold onto it forever.”
- Suzanne’s in the bathroom when Walter enters the green room. “Do you Brits classify it that way, number one, number two?” Walter: “We provide no classification, except denial of the act.”
- Harry: “I went to a gamblers anonymous meeting. It bollocksed up my thinking.” Definitely a falling off the wagon episode. “What good has it ever done for people to judge themselves?” Celia: “So that they can assert some self-control?” “Yeah, no, you’re right.”