We all have moments in our day-to-day lives where we do something we know is going over the line. Rushing up to talk to someone we shouldn’t be talking to; ditching our responsibilities, even for a few hours; doing a massive favor for someone that inconveniences us. Last night I sang not one, not two, but three karaoke songs. The big question remains: Why do we do these things? This third episode of Togetherness is titled “Insanity,” but we can dig a little deeper to find further justification for these kinds of behaviors.
- Desperation: Alex pesters a big-shot producer (Peter Gallagher) at a party because he needs to get work so badly.
- Independence: Michelle goes off on her own for a few hours, pretending even for a short while that she’s solitary.
- Love: Alex has fallen for Tina, which is the only thing that could make him do something as unfun as help her move. No one likes to help anyone move, ever.
The Insanity workout that kicks off the episode hints at Alex’s eventually revealed crush with The Proclaimers’ “500 Milles” as a soundtrack (“I would walk 500 miles… ” or maybe an Insanity workout just seems like that kind of distance). Alex is played out for absolute comic relief throughout the episode: his inability to do the workout, the postman’s fear that Alex is being tortured for real, and his attempts to squeeze his body into fashionable pants with Michelle’s Spanx: This all requires a tremendous amount of openness and vulnerability on Steve Zissis’ part.
Alex and Tina turn out to be excellent partners in crime at Brett’s premiere (check out how the turquoise blue of her earring is subtly echoed in his striped tie). The ways they both try to pick up Larry the producer are disparate enough to be both perfect and hilarious: Alex awkwardly comments on the shape and size of the strawberries; Tina just slams right into Larry. Their “dancing” (in actuality, shifting weight from side to side) while they’re stalking the producer: fantastic.
And of course Alex totally blows it, not only at the hors d’oeuvres table but in the bathroom (although his smashing of the toilet-paper dispenser shows us show badly he wants to get work). But when faced with the producer himself, Alex must punt, and he punts well, playing up to Larry perfectly by reciting all of his earlier films, being funny, and self-deprecating, and charming in his own way. In the end, Tina is impressed with Alex, Larry calls him the life of the party, and Brett, in a key final scene, compares him to one of the great heroes of American literature (and Rush songs).
New people provide opportunity: Larry offers valuable opportunities for Alex, and a hot hookup for Tina. David Garcia personifies an all-new and thrilling terrain for Michelle. Her progression is paced well throughout these early Togetherness episodes, as we’ve seen her frustrated, then trying to find a solution within the walls of her marriage, and now walking right out of those walls, in a new outfit and pretty much a new persona. When some young kid at the convenience store calls her out for being a mom (even a hot one), she blows smoke right in his face. Speaking of convenience, that city-hall meeting sure popped up right out of nowhere, right after Michelle was ready to dismiss private school. When David talks about how the old school can’t be fixed, so he has to build a new one, he’s referring to a charter school, but is Michelle also reading this as a metaphor for her marriage?
It’s key that Michelle lies to her husband that she’s about to go to bed (“Have fun!”) right when he needs her most. That’s Joshua Leonard (from The Blair Witch Project, although he’s done a ton of stuff since then) as the hotshot director, and his play on Brett was so batshit-brilliant I still can’t tell if he was for real or not. Or if he was, at which part. Did he not remember Brett at first? Was the director trying to kick him out of the party, then quickly turning it all into a joke when Brett doesn’t comprehend what he is saying? If so, what was that menacing stare for at the end? The whole scene was so awful and painful, and pretty much how I imagine hotshot directors would be.
After an excruciating public roasting like that, Brett, who is way overdue for a victory at this point, finally finds one in the unlikely sighting of a bird on top of a street sign, that he quickly records, blotting out the rest of the turbulent city. Like Brett, the bird is stuck where he doesn’t belong, and offers something wonderful, if someone would take the time to listen. But the only who’s stopping is Brett, so even in his victory, the direction offers the disconnected perspective of how Brett looks to others on the street: extremely out of place and awkward.
What’s great about Brett, though, is that he’s still a loyal friend, and knows enough to shelve his bird breakthrough when he sees that Alex is in a bit of a crisis. I like when the Togetherness title encompasses its players, like in this amazing ending scene. Neither man comes right and says anything about Alex’s crush on Tina, just “I didn’t even realize that it was happening” and “I kinda saw it.”
Brett reminds us who Tom Sawyer is—a magical, amazing, and inspired person how lifts the spirits of everyone around him—and in doing so, reminds us who Alex really is. We remember that Alex is the one who’s been making us laugh all episode, with his red-carpet deer-in-the-headlight stares and his spanx and his shy, misguided attempts to talk to an important person. As Brett points out: Tom Sawyer can change the world by the very nature of who he is. Fortunately, he has a really great friend to help him out.
- The scene that ranks highest on the Togetherness cringe-o-meter this week: Alex’s toilet-paper small talk. Single-ply. Man.
- This week’s Togetherness power rankings: In a controversial move, I’m calling a four-way tie, as most everyone had some gains and losses this week. Alex makes a valuable connection in Larry, but loses his heart to Tina. Brett gets jerked around by the asshole director, but still has the creative capacity to capture a beautiful moment in nature and to help his friend. Tina has enough moxie to get her and Alex not only into the party, but into a workout. Michelle ventures out on her own, but in the end returns to her stifling home.
- Amanda Peet is beautiful, but everything about her outfit at the premiere cracks me up, from her one-sided hairstyle (that she can’t stop touching) to her one-shouldered dress.
- Is Brett working for a movie or a TV series? I swear I heard it referred to both ways. A canyon rape doesn’t sound like much of a basis for a TV show, with or without coyote howls.
- I love how Peter Gallagher and his eyebrows keep popping up in everything, usually as some sort of handsome rapscallion (see: American Beauty). Says Alex: “He has more hair on his eyebrows than I have on my head.”