It’s odd that there isn’t a lot going on underneath the surface considering “Imperfect Harmony” is about the feelings of four people caught in various and ambiguous states of romantic tension. But they all come right out and say how they’re feeling. They can all somehow access exactly how they’re feeling, except maybe Freddy, who really is stuck on the surface. “The truth is, I can’t gel my swoop, horn my shoes, press my shirt, or even get through more than 40 percent of my Jason Statham workout. I’m starting to lose definition on those groin muscles that point to my junk.”
To recap, Freddy is the guy Eliza rudely dumped when meeting his parents for the first time. It’s been a few days (long enough for the Adonis belt to go? Working out is a sham), but he hasn’t even started to recover. “Only by the grace of Backdraft reruns on the USA network am I standing here before you now.” He’s completely lost without Eliza. But how was he satisfied when he was with her? Frequent sex and very little contact otherwise is enough for him? Pretty sure Freddy could use some soul-searching himself. Instead he spends “Imperfect Harmony” depressed about Eliza.
Eliza, on the other hand, is completely over Freddy. She’s set her sights on Henry, and she is energized. She tells Charmonique, “I’m for reals drunk on feels and I’m tingling all over.” Charmonique sympathizes. “It is cold sore season.” “No, it is not the herp. It’s the heart.” At first that sounds like a comforting lie. The heart part, not the herp part. Does Eliza really like-like Henry? He’s not wrong about her fleeing the first mature relationship of her life, and it sounds like she wants to win more than anything. But after fielding advice from Charmonique (set his house on fire) and Bryn (super-stalk him), who keep interrupting their counsel to physically fight each other in the funniest sequence of the episode, she surprisingly does the mature thing. She goes to see Henry, tells him she doesn’t want to play games, and asks him straight-up how he feels. Once he sidesteps by “mentoring” her with some psychoanalysis, she gives this amazing close-up that’s wounded, exhausted, and a little pissed off, a slightly high-angle shot as she’s looking up at the man condescending to her: “Are you kidding?” I’m not getting a lot of continuity with the Eliza who ended last episode with a threat, but that’s probably coming later. Right now, Eliza’s trying to be mature. “For the record, I’m not scared of being in a relationship, Henry. You are.”
Henry counters that he’s in a relationship. With Julia, who wasn’t here last week and isn’t here this week; she’s working. The point goes to Eliza. But Henry isn’t lying to himself, either. He sees his romantic options clearly. Preparing for his song at the mandatory KinderKare karaoke party, he can’t choose between the complicated, beautiful, dangerous “Hollaback Girl” and the warm, safe, non-threatening “Uptown Girl.” You can tell it’s a metaphor when he calls “Hollaback Girl” dangerous. He’s talking to himself in the guise of talking to Raj in Human Resources, “I like ‘Hollaback Girl’ more than I should. I may have even grown to love it. And even though it’s scary and uncertain and several people in this office have performed it on other occasions…” Raj butts in,”I’m told two different people did it at last year’s party.” “Still I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try.” Which is a little weird, because he doesn’t try, not with Eliza anyway. Maybe he gets sidetracked by a chat with drunk Freddy. “Expecting your lady?” asks Freddy. “Who?” asks Henry.
Turns out Julia is here this week after all, but it wouldn’t be Julia if one of her two scenes wasn’t an off-screen performance as voice mail on Henry’s phone. The first, though, is Julia attempting to surprise Henry. She’s filling the hole in their relationship; she’s abandoning work, making an effort to spend some time with Henry, and saving it for a surprise so they could have a little romance. She doesn’t catch Eliza and Henry kissing or even sharing a moment. She catches them being honest about their relationship and about Julia. Eliza tries to cover. “And that is the monologue for the play I’m auditioning for, so…wish me luck, guys.” She walks back to the party, then Julia walks off to leave. That’s gonna be a fun wait for the elevator. The ending is all very immediate and temporary-feeling, so it’s hard to say for sure, but Julia’s the only one who makes the tough but positive decision. Henry didn’t come after her, so, “I guess that means goodbye.”
What do you do when you’re rejected? Julia gives it a chance and then cuts her losses. Henry and Freddy mope, although Freddy’s moping is decidedly less together than Henry’s. And Eliza tries to forget, getting drunk and getting back in bed with Freddy. Remember, the karoke is mandatory, so we get to see Saperstein sing “Wishing Well” and Joan rock “Word Up,” but when Eliza gets called to the stage, she rebels with something more heartfelt. “Party girls don’t get hurt, can’t feel anything. When will I learn?” Her performance of “Chandelier” is magnetic, but then there’s a moment when she walks off the stage into the party, still singing, but Sia fades in and takes over, and the rest is a time-lapse montage of Eliza getting drunk, dancing, feeling sad, and eventually finding Freddy.
I’ve talked about the way Suburgatory and Selfie play with different kinds of mood, especially complicated emotions like bittersweetness and the ones with Japanese names. “Imperfect Harmony” is a perfect example. It’s funny throughout thanks to the supporting cast—David Harewood in a Terence Trent D’Arby wig!—but the overall feel of the episode is regretful. Everyone’s hurting, including Charmonique and Bryn.
Selfie begins with the question of whether people can change. Henry wants to help Eliza improve her social graces, and Eliza unwittingly helps Henry come out of his shell. In that light, “Imperfect Harmony” is a milestone. Eliza’s more honest with herself than ever, and Henry’s discovering how hard it is to change after all.
- Henry debriefs with Raj. “Mammaries. I saw them. Separately, and then together. It was basically a full-frontal co-worker-type situation, so.” “Did you want to file a sexual harassment complaint?” “No.” “So…high-five perhaps?”
- Another doozy from Eliza: “Stop trying to lecture me, and just tell me how you feel!”
- Charmonique: “Do you have a man, Juno?” Bryn: “I have a male cat. Do you have a man?” Am I the only one rooting for Charbrynique?