“Kick The Can” was a highlight of Togetherness season one, when Michelle and Brett took a break from their devastating couples’ therapy to grab a bunch of friends in the park to drink beer and play kickball. They find the park overtaken by hipsters, who Michelle ultimately defeats in the titular game. It was fun because the activity took us out of the various levels of Togetherness emotionality to focus on a simple goal: winning the Kick The Can game. Of course, in that victory, we learned that Michelle and Brett were even farther apart than before, and David started worming his way into the plot. (A drunken Alex also kissed Tina.) At the end Michelle is victorious, but what has she lost? After weeks of angst, it was still an enjoyable effort for the show.
“The Sand Situation” uses a similar hijinks path, marred only by the fact that the reason for the sand situation is tenuous at best. Anna has gone all-out in her efforts to steal the charter project from Michelle, setting up a French curriculum for her Snooty McSnooterson school. Michelle is caught without a curriculum, and desperately latches onto Brett and Alex’s Dune puppets, while they’re stashing their stuff in the space. It’s a nice way to tie together the two projects, I guess, but it makes very little sense. Sure, Michelle has been busy working on the plans for the space of the charter school, but there should be more than just her and Anna working on it. Where are the committees? Where are her educational advisors?
Still, once we look past the ludicrousness of defeating Anna with a Dune performance (sure, why not?), the episode quickly finds its footing. Just like with “Kick The Can,” the fun part is figuring out how our little troupe is going to pull this off and if they’re going to get busted. First Alex delightfully deflects the cops with an impromptu nighttime beach workout. Then, caught without a ramp, Brett and Michelle have to work together to figure out how to get the sand barrels on the truck, with the threatening presence of Brett’s hookup Natalie in the crowd. The scene is great, as the estranged pair works together for once, pulling out various memories for examples of how they might be to pull this off.
So, just like in “Kick The Can,” the objective is reached, and successful. But here we see an aftermath, as the reveal of who Natalie really is appears to tear Brett and Michelle apart for good. It’s an inspired smackdown, way overdue, as Michelle has been forced to suffer for her indiscretion for months. With one episode left, who knows how this is going to play out, but again, I will really miss these performances, especially Melanie Lynskey as Michelle. Her character is usually so demure that when she eventually does explode, it means something. She rightly lays into Brett for doing the thing he has been torturing her for for weeks now. With all of Togetherness’ sentiment, Brett and Michelle never seem more like a real couple than when they’re fighting.
In fact, their final blow is so devastating, it brings two other battling people together. Tina apparently has been so turned around by Toby from The Office’s dire warnings about the dating world last week, that she is now throwing herself at every rando she comes across, like this fellow sand-stealer. Just like that scene in Texas (which she pointedly references here), Tina gets way too much gratification from male attention, especially from guys he barely knows. Alex tries to talk some sense into her, and another battle develops. But the apparent end of Brett and Michelle lead the two to realize that if everyone else is falling apart, they need to come together. So they bury the hatchet as Alex again apologizes for shutting Tina out. As much as Brett and Michelle’s fight works for being volatile, Alex and Tina’s quiet moment on the porch is fraught with affection and tension. Just the look on Alex’s face shows that he’s obviously still in love with Tina. The Duplasses shoot all of this in low light and extreme close-ups, so that the intimacy the viewer feels is real, punctuated by performances that feel like actual relationships.
I can’t help but pontificate about this show’s imminent demise: The Duplasses specialize in small moments like Alex and Tina’s on the porch. Was the show too small? Was the opening of a charter school a flimsy plot to hang a season on? (Honestly, probably.) But think about your own life. Think about the times that moved you. Likely, it’s those smallest moments that end up mattering the most, and Togetherness knows/knew how to capture them.
- This show is also spot-on with musical cues, and somehow Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” was a perfect song to psyche up to go steal some sand.
- Dudley is the superhero of “The Sand Situation,” as not only the instigator who brings Natalie and a bunch of others to help out, but also serves as lookout. At the end of the sand coup, the group is about to get busted again, and his crazy naked decoy is hilarious. Even Brett has to give the guy a nod of respect for being willing to get arrested just for this sand caper.
- Power rankings, couples version: 1. Alex and Tina, on the rise! 2. Brett and Michelle, not so much.
- Next week: final episode. Are you ready? I’m not ready.