Eddie Matos, Cynthia Watros

Early this year, a San Diego woman named Kathy Rowe was sentenced to five years of probation and location monitoring after being found guilty of a plot to torment a husband and wife she didn’t know. The couple snapped up the house Rowe had decided was her dream home, so she waged a campaign of retaliation. She started out relatively innocently with prank magazine subscriptions and fake online listings claiming the house was still for sale. She gradually escalated to Craigslist casual sex ads designed to dupe a strange man into coming to the house to rape the homeowner as part of a consensual non-consent fantasy. Friends and neighbors described Rowe the way most people describe most other people, as a kind soul who doesn’t seem capable of acts so heinous.

Rowe’s story dovetails with many of Finding Carter’s central themes. There’s the errant but hard-to-shake notion that people can be easily categorized as good or bad, rational or irrational, sane or crazy. Lori became the villain of Finding Carter within the first 15 minutes of the show, and since then, it’s been difficult to tell exactly where on the sanity spectrum Lori falls. That’s not a slight; it’s actually one of the most effective dynamics of Finding Carter. The shadowy depiction of Lori forces the audience into the same confused, bewildered state as Carter. In the opening scenes of the pilot, the audience sees Lori, the doting mother-as-BFF, and it has to keep trying to reconcile that with the increasingly insane, erratic behavior she’s displayed. The first two episodes of the season have been about helping the audience, via Carter, better understand how the drastically different sides of Lori are related. Good luck trying to fully grasp Lori’s thought process at this point, but in “Shut Up And Drive,” it becomes easier to grok. Like Rowe, Lori is obsessed.

Bird refers to it as idée fixe, though she uses the term to define Carter’s obsession with figuring out who was on the other end of the line during Lori’s cryptic phone call at the beginning of “Love The Way You Lie.” But there’s obsession to go around in this show, though Lori is hogging up the bulk of it. The reveal at the end of “Shut Up And Drive” reveals why: Lori and David had a fling while he and Elizabeth were going through an especially rough patch, and he said he would leave Elizabeth for her. At least, that’s Lori’s version of events, which still sounds like a 10-pound bag of cuckoo, but Lori’s line of reasoning isn’t as full of gaps as it once was. Lori was fixated on the children she decided still belonged to her biologically, and after an affair with their birth father, however casual it may have been, she saw that encounter as the first steps toward her rightful place in the family.

The last 10 minutes of “Shut Up And Drive” redeem an episode that mostly overshoots the emotional target and lands in the maudlin zone. It’s a disorienting episode because aftermaths are typically what Finding Carter does best, and the first few minutes of the episode suggest it will continue the tradition. Look at Anna Jacoby-Heron performing Taylor’s 50-yard-stare the morning after the events of the season premiere:

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Just the fact that “Shut Up And Drive” picks up the morning after the insanity of the premiere suggests this show is in good hands. After making a mess as big as the one in “Love The Way You Lie,” many shows would give into the temptation to leap ahead far enough to get the characters into more functional headspaces. Kudos to the writers for sticking with the fallout of Lori’s return, but too much of the episode revolved around emotional outbursts, including those that weren’t as satisfying as what the show typically delivers.

More than anything, Taylor and Max’s relationship doesn’t make a ton of sense anymore. It’s understandable why Max pushed Taylor away after he was shot, and it makes sense that he would later have a change of heart. Their latest break-up, this time at Taylor’s insistence, doesn’t track as well. I suspect this has to do with its relationship to the return of Crash, an element that made me groan thunderously. There’s his name, which…don’t even get me started, but it’s also his involvement in Max’s shooting, easily the worst plot twist of the first season. Carter and Crash’s relationship was initially interesting, but after the shooting I wanted him off my screen forever. Not because I was so angry about Max being shot, but because it’s such a manipulative moment, I never managed to invest in anything that grew out of it. That rule applies to Taylor’s upset over Max’s attempts to forgive Crash. The writers keep trying to sell Max’s shooting as a heavy moment, but because it never felt heavy to me, Taylor’s reactions to Max make sense intellectually, but lacks emotional punch.

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Taylor’s behavior is somewhat resonant in that it’s a larger reflection of how out of sorts she is following Lori’s revelation. It’s an avenue I knew the writers would follow, and I can’t wait to see where she winds up. That’s enough to pull me through, even though this show often feels like one with all the right ingredients, but no balance.

Stray observations:

  • Grant: Still a person!
  • Looks like Taylor and Ofe are soon to be the new Taylor and Max. I wonder how long David and Elizabeth will give Max to move out.

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