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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Suburgatory: “T-Ball And Sympathy”

Illustration for article titled Suburgatory: “T-Ball And Sympathy”
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(For the next several days, some of our writers will be swapping duties on some of our most popular shows. Some of them will like what they see, but for different reasons. Some of them will have vastly different opinions from the regular reviewers. And some of them won’t be all that different. It’s Second Opinions Week at TV Club.)

Occasionally, Tessa Altman feels like a miniature version of 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon: a (very attractive) “real girl” navigating a sea of plastics who is smart-mouthed, self-righteously liberal and totally willing to sacrifice her scruples if a cute guy comes along. Tonight, Tessa tried on Liz Lemon’s “Dealbreakers” hat: the woman who has snappy solutions for other people’s relationship woes but inadvertently makes things worse. In this case, instead of a book deal, Tessa doles out advice from her bathroom office until a girl in a wheelchair actually needs to use the handicapped stall for its intended purpose.

Once “Ask Tessa” is taken out of the bathroom, she decides to assist Mr. Wolfe by helping him rekindle the flame of his relationship with Chef Alan, who has been joined by the school’s new ravioli chef (“We have a ravioli bar?!”), Norman Newman, AKA Chef Alan’s first homosexual lover.

I’m not the biggest fan of confident, meddlesome Tessa. The extremities of Chatwsin aren’t nearly as funny when she’s part of the community as when she stands outside it, plus, the promising “Ask Tessa” premise felt a bit wasted as Tessa, instead of actually doling out advice, sneaked around, spied on Chef Alan, and reported back to Mr. Wolfe (who did a lot this episode! Skating, boxing, announcing the new ravioli station).

Fortunately, the more familiar weirdness of Suburgatory began to shake loose in the second half of the episode or so. While Tessa has gone about “helping” Mr. Wolfe, Dallas and Noah’s Carmen-related feud has rekindled. Noah steals Dallas’ hairstylist, so instead of hearing Yorkie-related gossip, Dallas has to listen to the stand-in’s decidedly unfun tales of her mom’s lupus. In retaliation, Dallas decides to coach softball, so her team can beat Noah’s.

A team of tiny Dallases is basically what you’d expect: wrist scarves, hot pink uniforms and “fancy running,” until George takes over and whips the team into a bloodthirsty but effective frenzy. The writers gave the kids some great lines: It turns out that Kamantha’s brother’s name is Keviole (I think that’s how you spell it), and the line “I’m tired; do you have any frozen treats?” was unexpectedly funny. Noah is, of course, dismayed by George’s betrayal of their friendship (“I thought that you were Dunston and I had checked in!”) but, ultimately, Dallas learns her lesson, kind of, and only one kid is seriously injured. Dallas and Noah’s feud is unbroken, whatever that means.


Things are a lot clearer, though, on Mr. Wolfe’s end, but not in a good way: It turns out that Chef Alan was cheating, by kissing a gold-painted Chef Newman during an Oscar party that Mr. Wolfe boycotted due to the “homosexual O.J. verdict” (also known as Marisa Tomei winning for My Cousin Vinny). There were a lot of gay jokes tonight—not very offensive, but that whole angle was leaned on a lot harder than is typical for the show, and it didn’t always work. The image of Mr. Wolfe roller skating in purple spandex and a rainbow raccoon tail (and fat suit? Maybe?) wasn’t the subtlest or most unexpected bit of humor this show has deployed.

In a last-second reveal, though, it looks like Mr. Wolfe’s relationship isn’t the only one in the tank. Throughout the “Ask Tessa” storyline, Tessa explains her newfound free time by saying that Ryan’s at an away game, which seemed completely reasonable until Lisa points out that it’s not. “There’s no such thing as a three-day away game,” Lisa says, and Tessa bites into a stale ginger snap of sadness, the crack apparently symbolizing the end of her and Ryan’s tender love.


I assume that in the next episode, we’ll see the two break up, but this seems to have come out of nowhere. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Tessa and Ryan as a couple until last week, when their differences were flipped after the art film and we saw them learn to function in a real relationship yet still maintain their odd-coupledom. And now they’re being taken away from us? This is a sudden turn of events, but then again, I do prefer a grouchy Tessa to a happy one, so maybe it’s for the best.

Stray observations:

  • An episode that has neither Ryan Shay nor Dalia Royce cannot be an A episode.
  • Mr. Wolfe on what a “Norseman” means: “It’s gay slang, although I’m not going to define it for you.”
  • Dallas’ turnoffs include: failure, decorated denim and pinheads.
  • I want to include one of Noah’s sarcastic lines to George about how funny he is, but it would involve me describing, phonetically, the pronunciation of Louis CK’s first name.