After an absolute drag of an episode, Togetherness rebounds in a spectacular fashion this week. Brett’s trip is about my favorite thing the show has done so far (running neck and neck with the kick-the-can game). He has been overdue for a day like this, I agree with him. Brett’s so happy to be out he even sticks his head out the car window and gives himself a little fist cheer. And he is hilariously delightful while tripping: face-timing, making friends with a horse, barfing.
Just check out the way he starts staring at the horse in the stable as the drugs kick in. As Mary Steenburgen in a pale-blue jumpsuit explains about the horse: “He doesn’t have to be anything but who he is.” This kicks off Brett’s mission to be “me,” not Brett, opens him up, and lets him say the absolute truth. He is threatened by David, but somehow brings this across to him in a way that’s compassionate, not confrontational. But most of all, Brett faces the real truth about his marriage.
To everyone who has been complaining about Michelle as the nagging wife: I totally get it with her buzzkill attitude at the party. On the one hand, this charter-school effort is something that would positively affect their daughter, and having her husband showing up completely baked is probably not the greatest thing that ever happened. But isn’t it just a waste of breath to argue with someone who’s tripping?
It’s good that she does, though, because Brett gets to the heart of the matter, and in spite of the harshness of his words, he does it in the kindest way possible: “We’re not good for each other right now.” He knows that their continued discussion will end up in a fight, so why doesn’t she go back to her party and he go off with his beloved Dune book: why don’t they separate.
Words like “separate” and “divorce” appear to be about 50 times more potent than regular words. I read once that if a couple even mentions divorce, they are much more likely to break up. A lot of this is cause-and-effect related—blissfully happy couples probably don’t discuss divorce much—but Brett and Michelle have been avoiding the conversation they need to have. It’s painful, but dragging their zombified relationship along is even more so.
This show continues to bring up fun personal revelations for me: I am a divorced person, now married to another divorced person. I remember when I was telling people that I was getting divorced, I heard a lot of condolences (“Oh, I’m so sorry”). What these well-intentioned people didn’t get was that while the experience was excruciating, by that point all I felt was relief. People don’t get divorced because they’re happy. They get divorced because they’re tired of being unhappy.
I don’t know if Brett and Michelle are already on this path, but the very first shot of the series is Michelle rejecting Brett in bed. This whole season she’s been going off on her own, so it’s a surprise to hear that she’s so concerned about them not spending time together. Maybe it’s habit. Maybe there’s a still a comfort level there. And maybe the healthiest thing we can do with our togetherness sometimes is to try to break out of that comfort level.
Even before his ’shroomy state, Brett lets on that he totally knows what’s up, as he tells Michelle about Linda: “She’s my friend like you’re friends with David.” And look at these new confidants that Michelle and Brett have found. Brett has finally discovered someone he can talk about feelings with! For hours! Sample dialogue: “These people, they really seem like they’re getting there.” “Where is there?” “Where I’m not!” (I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to check out our 11 Questions feature with Mark Duplass, but he appears to like to talk about this stuff in real life too.) For Michelle, as she saw in the kick-the-can game, David is a man of action, who accomplishes things like building charter schools. Telling David about the problem in her marriage is opening the door again, and she knows it, and his “I’ve been there” comment possibly predicts her eventual split.
Alex is like a social superhero this episode. I really enjoyed his fight with Tina (“That’s a little childish.” “She started it!”), and it was nice to get a one-on-one with him and Michelle, which I don’t think we’ve seen before (“Does Brett seem okay to you?” “I think so… for an anal grumpy vegan he seems to be in the zone.”). When it comes right down to it, he’s a loyal friend, able to track you down from your mushroom escapade or find a place to ditch your broken bouncy house or let you ditch a conversation about your “fat soul” when your flirt partner shows up.
Tina’s façade worked so well, even I bought it: She brought so much to Alex’s makeover and her bouncy-house business (new sparkly cards!) that she appeared to be put together when she was crumbling inside. In reality, she’s drowning, and when you’re about to go under, do you take the first raft that’s offered you or do you wait around for the next one? I don’t think she’ll end up with Larry: I expect some big gesture from Alex in next week’s finale, but it’s sad to see how far she’s fallen.
And yet, Tina has only herself to blame. There was no reason she couldn’t have swallowed her pride and asked for help from Alex, who had been putting up her bouncy houses with no trouble. Or accepted help from Larry, although his offer was indicative of Larry: hiring someone to come do it for her. There’s palpable relief on Tina’s face at the end when Alex finally offers his help. Life is hard, and it’s even harder to do it alone. And Brett and Michelle may be about to find that out.
- This week’s Togetherness power rankings:
- Brett: finally! Does mushrooms and comes to a realization about his marriage.
- Alex: the best friend in the world, really (“Will you still be my friend if I get weird and just… go?” “Of course! Yes!”)
- Michelle: pulls off her party even with a floppy bounce house and a missing husband
- Tina: her career at an end, considers moving in with Larry.
- Yay, the kids are back! Baby Frank was really holding court at that party.
- The show’s musical cues have been spot-on: This episode ends with Lily & Madeleine’s “Come To Me,” which appears to offer some hope here.
- My favorite Togetherness line ever: “She’s my favorite person on the planet, along with Alex, and there’s this horse I just met.”
- Next week’s finale: I have not seen it, but have heard it’s the best episode of the season, so I’m really looking forward to it. And no matter what happens to all of our central relationships, the show has already been renewed for a second season.