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Weeds: "A Distinctive Horn"

Illustration for article titled Weeds: "A Distinctive Horn"
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It’s taken a couple of weeks, but Weeds is finally creeping forward again. Some of you have been calling me out for saying that nothing’s happening on the show when that’s not strictly true. And, obviously, things happen in the episodes themselves (otherwise, it would just be, like, shots of Mary-Louise Parker staring at the camera without blinking … not that I wouldn’t watch), but the overarching plot of the season has been mostly wandering around in search of a new direction in the last few weeks. Celia getting into cosmetic sales is definitely a thing that happened, but it’s hard to see how it contributes at all to the overall scope of the show.

Of course, one of the comments from the past few episodes, suggesting that what makes Weeds unique is the way it blends the undercooked plotting of most sitcoms (where a lot of humor often results from how much the characters blow small situations out of proportion) with the high-stakes games of cutting-edge dramas. I think that’s probably right, and it’s definitely one way to look at the show, but I’d argue that low-stakes stories combined with a high-stakes overplot creates a show where the two major elements are working at cross-purposes with each other. You can have all the wacky shenanigans you want, but this is still a show about people working in a business where any one of them could die at any moment in horrible, grisly fashion. That it treats this with the glibness of, say, Arrested Development (a show I deeply love) creates a weird disconnect between what’s going on onscreen and the things we assume to be going on offscreen. Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, “A Distinctive Horn” was actually pretty good, mostly because it got one of the characters up in the face of the Botwins in a way that was rather constructive and because it finally gave the overplot a little momentum, now that Nancy’s baby has been born. Since Esteban doesn’t want his name on the birth certificate (the better to further advance his political career, apparently), Nancy, in a moment of capriciousness, writes down Andy’s name, thus plunging him into this world even more fully. Andy’s having none of it, at first, but eventually (after a plot point I’ll get to), he decides to embrace the kid as his own, to raise him as his son and do that going forward. He’s even going to raise the kid Jewish, and to commit to that idea, he holds a bris. Whether or not you like Andy seems to divide the Weeds partisans from those who don’t like it so much, but to my mind, he’s been the one consistent thing this season, a guy trying to overcome both his love for someone he shouldn’t love and his own penchant for immaturity. If Weeds turns out to be about how Andy Botwin escaped the circle of Hell he’s currently trapped in and took the son that wasn’t actually him along with him, that might be kind of awesome. (Though you can seriously just write down whomever you want as the parents on a birth certificate? How has this not turned into a wacky plot on a multi-camera sitcom yet? Two and a Half Men? I’m looking at you.)

The reason for Andy’s decision to embrace his fatherhood at the two-thirds mark has less to do with the fact that Nancy generally gets what she wants (my wife has taken to comparing her to Vince from Entourage) and more to do with a couple of genuinely fascinating scenes featuring Alanis Morissette as Audra, a woman whose profession has some uneasy similarities to Nancy’s (and, hell, Morissette and Parker have some physical similarities as well). Audra’s been mostly introduced as the doctor overseeing Nancy’s pregnancy so far this season, but tonight, we saw that she performs abortions as well. Nancy, obviously, is indulging in something illegal while Audra is not, but both have people who would just as soon kill them as see them continue doing what they do (a point driven home by the way Audra wears a bulletproof vest while smoking behind her clinic and confronting a protestor there).

Audra, unlike Nancy, seems to have some concept of who she is and what she wants to be, so the way that she dismisses the death threats inherent in her line of work feels earned. Nancy often seems to scoff in the face of danger, but she can also be something of a cipher, who’s constantly toying with everyone around her, jerking their chains and just generally being a self-obsessed twit (and I rather like Nancy as the center of this show; she’s just not a very good person). That makes the way she reacts when people want to kill her (with soulful brown eyes and fear cranked up to 11) feel unearned. Audra, on the other hand, knows people want to kill her and knows there are people who would argue she deals in death herself (and please, please, please, please let’s keep, y’know, THAT debate out of comments). But she’s also someone who can give Andy the kiss-off before they’ve even ordered dinner on their date.

I love the scene where the two go out for Mexican food because it’s understated (notice how the show never comments on the fact that the waiter brings each character the wrong drink at the top of the scene) and because it cuts to something true at the core of Andy’s character – he’s kind of an immature asshole, and he’s not really going to be worthy of any woman while he remains so. But the paradox is that if he wasn’t, he might lose interest in hanging around Nancy all the time. And so the show keeps him hanging around. (I also liked Audra attending the bris and suggesting that she’s just hanging around because she’s addicted to the drama of watching the Botwins, which both strikes me as the way a reasonable person might react to living in the Weeds universe and a nice meta-comment on how Weeds was Morissette’s favorite show before she was on it.)

I doubt the show will ever embrace Audra’s point-of-view (if the characters started treating their lives with the seriousness those lives deserve, then there’d be no show, really, since all of the comedy relies on the characters remaining oblivious), but just by having her around, it’s suggested that it knows that some of this can be a little insufferable. Weeds needs to bring someone like Audra on every once in a while to keep the show tethered to Earth, and it looks like she arrived in season five just in time.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

  • Why the B? Well, everything that wasn’t involved in the Andy or Nancy storylines was pretty snoozeworthy. For one thing, I’m completely done with this medical marijuana dispensary plotline, even though the biggest laugh I got from the episode was Doug having his penis slammed in a drawer (and the great reaction shot it resulted in).
  • For another thing, Celia and Dean conspiring to make her cosmetics business take off by having her sell pot with her makeup was dumb. I’m back to wondering what the hell she has to do with anything anymore.
  • Finally, is Shane xenophobic toward Mexicans and/or racist toward Hispanics? The show has been hinting at this for a while, but it’s become pretty blatant in the last few episodes. I get why he is, but I don’t know if we’re supposed to find it funny or just another unintended consequence of Nancy’s choices. Probably both, but that doesn’t sit well.