The intensity of my love for Rectify has dampened in the course of the last few years. I was a fiery evangelist for the show’s first season, leading a crusade to make sure this strange and beautiful program on an out-of-the-way network wasn’t overlooked. Since then, many others (usually other critics) have picked up the torch. In the meantime: Rectify became a TV show. A great TV show, but a TV show nonetheless, susceptible to tangents (the rims!), disappearing characters (remember how Jared had a girlfriend?), and other vulnerabilities inherent to ongoing serials. I grew accustomed to its peculiarities and eccentricities; its unorthodox rhythms and tones lost a bit of their sheen. The chills Rectify regularly gave me during the first season were more infrequent. In a pattern that’s typical for both long-running shows and long-term relationships (including those depicted in tonight’s episode) I started taking the show for granted.

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But all it takes is an episode like “Pineapples In Paris” to get me all fired up again. It doesn’t hurt that this is the most momentous hour of season five to date—I applaud Rectify’s slow-playing habits, but “Pineapples In Paris” is an impressive mingling of the show’s high- and low-stakes stories. The breaks in the case that are presented to Jon and Amantha are energizing, and the cracks in the Talbot marriages are tear jerkers. And Daniel makes some major breakthroughs with himself, with his New Canaan roommates, and with Chloe. With a script that makes at least two references to forward steps (one in a positive light, the other in a negative), “Pineapples In Paris” also feels like a step up.

Clayne Crawford (Screenshot: Sundance TV)

But a sense of movement alone does not make great television—particularly on a show that, again, does such fascinating work when it’s standing still. It’s the surplus of feeling in “Pineapples In Paris” that gets me, the emotion in Scott Teems and Coleman Herbert’s writing, the evocations in Teems’ direction, the palpable joy and loss and discovery and relief in the performances, all of which are being channeled in Clayne Crawford’s face in the screenshot above. “Pineapples In Paris” really packs it in.

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The spirit of “Pineapples In Paris” is one of unburdening. Daniel isn’t ready to see the PTSD expert yet, but in the story of which he’s the center, people are busy getting things off their chests. There’s a lot of it, so let’s collect it in a bulleted list:

  • Daniel tells Chloe about being sexually assaulted in prison.
  • Teddy asks Tawney for a divorce.
  • Ted Sr. tells Janet that he silently resents her, and then adds a bananas-rude “I blame you for never thanking me” for keeping quiet about it for so long.
  • Bobby Dean owns up to Daniel’s graveside beating, then drops huge clues about George and Trey.
  • Daggett lets Jon read Chris Nelms’ affidavit.

These are all major events, and we haven’t even gotten to the offer to purchase the tire store, Zeke slipping into unconsciousness, or the New Canaan guys rallying around Daniel. Also: Drunk Teddy’s back, sending out zingers (“Well, we are out of beer this time. Sucks.”) and breaking into his own house.

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Aden Young and Caitlin FitzGerald (Screenshot: Sundance TV)

It’s not resolution, per se, but it is payoff. And you don’t get that without the the “being a TV show” kind of stuff that Rectify has done for the past two-and-a-half seasons. It’s the tradeoff for getting the chills week in and week out—the individual episodes recede to form a larger whole, but the larger whole then makes highlights like “Pineapple In Paris” possible. It’s the long-term relationship analogy all over again: The sparks of the honeymoon period might dim, and the new sparks might seem fewer and farer between. But if it’s really something special, the sparks will still be there, manifesting in inventive compositions (lay the screenshots above on top of one another, and you get Daniel staring down Teddy, with Tawney and Chloe on Daniel’s side and Teddy all alone) or simpler pleasures like Janet referring to one of her son’s roommates as “Mr. Pickle.”

“Pineapples In Paris” and the show it’s a part of really are something special. There’s no greater evidence of that than Ted Talbot Jr., a lout whose journey this week inspires feelings of sympathy and affinity. Clayne Crawford has a roguish charisma that would’ve brought a dash of likeability to Teddy no matter what the writers gave him. (For proof, look no further than what he’s doing every week as nu-Riggs on Lethal Weapon.) But Rectify’s willingness to scratch at his good ol’ boy surface, to show him finding common ground with Bobby Dean or breaking down when Tawney grants him a divorce, has made Teddy one of the most compelling figures in Paulie. His breaking-and-entering-and-grilling escapade is an attempt to prove that he still has dominion over the house he and Tawney no longer share, but he doesn’t even know the alarm code anymore. As he gathers up the last evidence of his existence there—fishing rods, tackle box, rifles, a box of booze—I became genuinely worried that “Pineapples In Paris” would end with Teddy dead of a self-inflicted gun wound. I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d feel this way about him way back in season one.

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Like Daniel, Teddy and Tawney are trying to put themselves back together, at a time when the constants in their lives—the store, their family—are most at risk. (Says a tearful Tawney at Zeke’s bedside, “Just tell me what to do,” and it’s unclear if she’s pleading with Zeke, praying to God, or asking for guidance from anyone within earshot.) It’s appropriate that “Pineapples In Paris” doesn’t play suspenseful with last week’s visit from Bob. The offer for the store is on the table, placing the decision in the Talbots’ hands. It’s more narratively satisfying this way, with the outcome rooted in a choice made by the characters we know, not by some mysterious outside forces. It’s the family business, and it’s the family’s business, a matter of discussion as important as “Trey went back.” But the family is scattered at the moment, left to ponder the matter over takeout dinners and in the front seats of cars.

In one of those cars, Janet raises an intriguing question: Who’s saying the family has to stay in Paulie if they make the sale? Don’t her husband, or her daughter, or her stepchildren see a life where they could follow Daniel’s lead (albeit voluntarily), and leave their hometown? The thought of leaving doesn’t appear to have crossed Ted’s mind. He didn’t plan on running a tire store for his entire life, but he also never considered farming in Hawaii or writing in France—or, as he mishears it, growing pineapples in Paris. Amantha’s story in season four is about the parts of herself that she can’t separate from her hometown; in “Pineapples In Paris,” Janet wonders about the things that can separate from Paulie.

And that’s just one of the many elements that make “Pineapples In Paris” a great hour of Rectify—and a great hour of TV, period. We know the show like the back of our hands, but it can still surprise us, still find significance in basic questions of nature versus nurture. The story of Daniel Holden and his family is captivating by nature. But it’s the ways that story is told, the way it’s been cultivated and nurtured (even if that process wasn’t always the most exciting thing in the world) that keep Rectify captivating all these years later.

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Stray observations

  • She’s been scooped up by Timeless, but I’d love to see Abigail Spencer in a TV comedy. Her reading of the phrase “butt ass early in the morning” shows a lot of potential in that area.
  • This week, in Rectify’s continuing efforts to paint the fullest picture of Paulie possible, the show gives us scenes from the Dean house in the immediate wake of Hanna’s death. Bobby’s memories depict a house that became a makeshift wailing wall (“Lots of people showed up to cry on our porch back then”), though the people who lived there would’ve been completely ignored were it not for tragedy (“It was the first time she didn’t have to scream and yell to be seen” he says of his mother). It’s the most moving scene in a beautifully written episode.
  • The wild mix of emotions that Clayne Crawford displays when Teddy asks Tawney for a divorce is one for the highlight reel. But it’s arguable that Adelaide Clemens winds up outperforming her TV husband with the little quiver of her chin at the scene’s end.
  • This is also moving: “I can’t save you, Daniel. But I could hold you, if you’d let me.”

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  • A prime selection from the New Canaan library: Season one of The OC on DVD.