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Togetherness: “Not So Together”

Illustration for article titled iTogetherness/i: “Not So Together”
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This eight-episode first season of Togetherness is framed by two very key beach scenes. The season started with a “Family Day” that involved not only Michelle, Brett, and their kids Sophie and Frank, but Michelle’s sister Tina and Brett’s best friend Alex, who both just started to crash with them. The day is successful to a point, with a major misstep by Brett as baby Frank is first taken into the water by Alex, not his parents, as Michelle requested. I’ve always wondered about that scene, but I think it points to how out of synch Michelle and Brett were from the beginning: sexually, certainly, but almost in every other way that mattered.

By this last episode, we get to see all our players together again in the scene that opens the episode, but the feeling is much different, and far from celebratory, even as Tina’s going-away dinner. It’s somber, and dark; even the background music has a kind of warning tinge to it. Tina doesn’t hug anybody goodbye—not even her own sister—and just takes off.


But before she does, she lets on that she knows exactly what’s going on with Michelle and David (and prophetically, what’s going to happen). Tina says, “I think it’s really cool, what you’re doing,” and “It’s about time.” She’s aware that her sister hasn’t had sex in forever, and can easily see how lit up Michelle is when she even mentions David. For Tina, whose loyalty is with her sister, it’s an easy choice.

It almost seems like an easy choice for Michelle as well. As she says goodbye to Brett in the morning before she leaves for Sacramento, she and Brett barely speak. No kiss or hug goodbye here either.

This brings us to my favorite side of Brett we’ve seen all season. Grappling with his daughter to get her into her pre-K, he is shocked back into reality by Sophie’s snapping of his light-blue rubber band. This is the same rubber band given to him by Mary Steenburgen’s Linda, signaling his spiritual departure from Michelle and the rest of his family. Realizing that one day of pre-K isn’t actually going to make a whole hell of a lot of difference in the development of his daughter, especially compared to a quality day with her dad and her brother, Brett wisely takes his kids to the beach, and has the best day he’s had in a while. (Sophie’s nod to her brother in the back of the car is about the cutest moment in the entire season.) For Brett, you can also feel a palpable relief, after all his rejection from Michelle, that at least somebody in his family wants to spend some time with him.

As far as the Togetherness of the title goes, that’s the togetherness that’s the most valuable. The kind that is unforced, the kind that we need. Brett and Alex fall into this category as well. The kind when we are actually better for being with these people. For Michelle, David definitely offers her a better version of herself than the one she was stuck with at the beginning of the series: Now she’s a superhero, leader of the charter-school project, and someone who literally saves the day.


For Tina, unfortunately, appearances still matter most: Her life with Larry may look good to others on the outside from a superficial level, but her look in the pool says it all, and is also a throwback to her earlier comment to Brett that she’s dead inside. Yes, a life with Larry may be empty, and vapid, but it’s also luxurious and carefree. And Tina doesn’t think that she’s strong enough to go after anything else. That’s why she cries when Alex asks her to go away with him—“It’s better this way, don’t you see that?”—because the reality is that she can’t. She can’t let someone in enough to really love her (she’s probably shown more of her inner self to Alex than to anyone), and she’s too tired to start all over. Larry offers peace, and quiet, and kind of a deadening existence.

The opposite of this is Alex, who is literally brought back to life (after being dead asleep on the couch) with the call that he got the part in Larry’s movie. I predicted last week that Alex would do some sort of big gesture to win Tina, but I couldn’t have predicted the bike ride from L.A. to Santa Monica. Alex was probably at our lowest point at the beginning of the season: evicted, unemployed, considering moving back home. Now he’s third-billing in a movie, getting flown to New Orleans, and able to admit his love to Tina. She still rejects him, but he was strong enough to say it (and to make the effort to bike all that way to find her). Like Brett, he is now in a place to realize what really matters.


After Brett’s revelation on the beach and his dropping off the kids with the sitter, the great thing about how the Duplass brothers crafted this episode is that it was not clear at all which way this was going to go. I fully expected Brett to show up at Michelle’s hotel room to give her the night of passion she’s been longing for. But Michelle kicks ass at the charter-school hearing, and then hears from David how he can’t stop thinking about her. She’s been so indifferent to Brett, you almost wonder why she doesn’t just jump on David right there in the hallway. But then we would be robbed of our flirt-cute under the conveniently connected doorway. Who doesn’t want to receive a message that “You were amazing today,” highlighted by adamant handwriting and so many exclamation marks? Or that also beyond-potent “Thank you for helping me come alive”? And so Michelle and David cross the forbidden line, as Brett races toward Sacramento to tell her how he feels. And… scene.

Not my favorite episode of the season (that honor will always be reserved for “Kick The Can,” man) but a finale that offers us lots of messy, not-tied-up loose ends, which is kind of nice, just like life. I don’t know at what point the Duplasses knew they had a second season to work toward, which would afford them the opportunity to keep things so open-ended. But the relationships they’ve explored here remain multifaceted and fragmented, and vibrant enough to reflect real life, even with the banalities and frustrations that go along with that.


I found all of it pretty fascinating, but my favorite relationship remains Brett and Alex. Out of all of our pairings, they are the two that I really think will go the distance, will be friends to the absolute end, that love and accept each other unconditionally. It’s what everyone promises to do in their actual marriage vows, but these two friends have actually pulled it off. My favorite moment of the season remains their “Tom Sawyer” air-drum duet:

but the lyrics that they’re singing to underline another vital theme of the show for me: “Always hopeful, yet discontent / He knows changes aren’t permanent / But change is.” Our relationships, especially our marriages, are going to fluctuate based on how we grow and change as people; but if we’re beyond lucky, we’ll still have someone in our life who loves us no matter what.


But I believe the Togetherness of the title also points to the fact that as much as we may love solitude, none of us can survive being completely alone. No matter what has happened to any of these people, they’re all with someone at the end, whether it’s Brett and Alex, or Tina and Larry, or Michelle and David. This is the right person they need to be with at that moment, with consequences that we’ll explore in season two.

Finale grade: B+

Season grade: B+

Stray observations:

  • Final season-one Togetherness power rankings: Three-way first-place tie for Michelle, Brett, and Alex. Then Tina. Poor Tina.
  • How much more attractive would Larry be without Sally? About 1,000 percent?
  • A musical choice of the show’s I wasn’t that crazy about: Didn’t James Blake’s “The Wilhelm Scream” seem to go on forever at the end? You’re falling, we get it.
  • And that wraps up Togetherness’ first season. There was always a lot in this show to write about, and it made me take another look at how my own family of four interacts. Thanks for reading!

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