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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Suburgatory: “The Casino Trip”

Illustration for article titled Suburgatory: “The Casino Trip”
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The George we’ve come to know has never seemed like the kind of guy who would up and move his entire life just because he found an unopened box of condoms in his daughter’s drawer, but “The Casino Trip” goes some way toward bridging that gap by sending George to Atlantic City for a guys’ weekend that leaves Tessa home alone with a budding romance. Some things just bring out our most irrational behaviors. For Fred it’s gambling. For Tessa it’s Scott Strauss, who turns her into a Dalia-type for a few minutes there: “Your eyes are really brown.” For George it’s Tessa’s sex life.

Since “The Casino Trip” wasn’t really about that, we still haven’t gotten very deep into his insecurity there. Is he worried that she’s growing up or that she’s growing up too fast? Or that she’s leaving him little by little? Or that she’s one bad choice away from running a brothel and dancing on parade floats? It’s hard to understand because he’s so un-George about this particular subject, but like Tessa, he’s growing, or trying anyway. Yes, he sends Dallas over to spy on Tessa, whom she considers one of her best friends, but when Dallas reports that Tessa has a boy over, he’s still pliable enough that she can talk him down, ostensibly to enjoy the rest of his weekend (but we know how that turns out). And when he finally comes home, he’s not shy about wondering if he made the right call, but after Dallas and Noah and now Tessa herself try to allay his fears, he seems reasonable. Best of all, Tessa calls him “Dad,” not “George,” suggesting her distancing punishment may be near its end.

And then George investigates Lisa’s Love Box—not like that, y’all. I can’t imagine what everyone complaining about the coincidence/assumption/misunderstanding-ordained narrative last week made of that, but as someone who saw the value in “Out in the Burbs” dealing with perception, I find this an unnecessary frustration. At first I thought they were playing it as a joke, which doesn’t seem right considering the show’s premise. But then it became obvious through the music dropping out and the seriousness of Jeremy Sisto’s expression and that final wide shot of him standing with his back to us that it’s meant to be an actual cliffhanger, albeit a Suburgatory-sized one. Now that’s a misunderstanding I find pointless—why isn’t it enough that he spent the whole episode struggling with this and still isn’t ready to fully trust his daughter?—but I see the faintest outlines of a method. For one, snooping illustrates just how little George can bring himself to indulge Tessa’s independence. For another, it’s an exact repetition of the show’s inciting incident—“unopened box of condoms that she said belonged to a friend of hers”—so if nothing else we have another big test for George. It just seems like overkill after the rest, and where last week was some quick fun that would be resolved by the end credits, “The Casino Trip” gives us a misunderstanding with a much graver impact on our heroes.

In this week’s wacky hijinks department, Fred reveals a gambling addiction that brings out sides of Chris Parnell that I think we can all agree would make Michael Fassbender jealous. His mania in the early stages is impressive, and in some inspired wordplay, he ends up literally losing his pants and betting on Lose All Your Money. Best of all, after he gets suicidal, he’s talked off the ledge by Steven, who’s been humanized but until now never given much sympathy. Of course, Dallas thinks he’s in Singapore, where he says he’ll be moving for eleven months in a macho, passive-aggressive standoff with George that gives Carnage a run for its money. Needless to say, the issue of the Royce’s marriage is being tabled indefinitely, neither party happy but neither willing to face it.

Noah was there, too. In fact, Guys’ Weekend was Noah’s idea, but he doesn’t get much to do beyond revel in everyone else’s crazy and lend an ear for George. But at least he gets to dock something in a stripper’s docking station. And Tom and Alex tagged along, mostly to tickle us with grammatical agreement: “Alex and I would love, love, love the chance to escape our balls and chains” and “We are gonna party like it’s our birthdays.”

As for Tessa, well, she wants to make out and just make out with Scott, but he’s seen things—“Vaginal birth”—and wants to take it slow, totally (and naturally) debunking Lisa’s predictions that he’s too experienced to take it slow. “Scott’s an older guy with older guy needs. He’s been to Africa. Africa.” Enter Chekov’s Love Box. It may not have gone off, exactly, but it certainly made its final act appearance, and I, for one, can’t wait for it to exit stage right.


Stray observations:

  • Last week I originally misattributed the script. I corrected my mistake the next day, but in case you missed it, it was Bob Kushell’s script that impressed me so much. Tonight’s outing was written by Andrew Guest and directed by Ken Whittingham.
  • Setting the stage for this week’s exploration of parent-child relationships was a charity ball with zero boundaries. “My mom says that she’s my only true friend and that I should tell her everything.”
  • Possibly my favorite joke of the night was Tessa telling Mr. Wolfe—now dating the gay meat-carver—that everyone in the suburbs watches each other and the cut to the dance floor with all eyes on them.
  • “This is more like an episode of Little House on the Prairie where Pa goes off the mercantile and I stay home to loom me some pants.”