This week’s episode of Tell Me You Love Me felt, at times, like another HBO show. And no, I don’t mean Arli$$, so you can stop freaking out already. No, I’m talking about Curb Your Enthusiasm, with its at-time riotous, awkward comic set pieces. Tell Me You Love Me didn’t turn into a full-on comedy, with Benny Hill-esque sexual romps tacked on for equal measure. But they served up some comedy, black as the blackest coffee, in well-welcome doses this week.
It’s a tactic the show would be well-served in employing in further episodes. I mean, I enjoy banal, mindless, endless passive-aggressive banter that psychologically wounds ones partner one brain cell at a time, but I’m much more apt to pay attention if Palek cracks a joke every once in a while. I mean, I’m all for accurate representations of the slow decay of modern relationships, but I just want a little inappropriate public gift giving to round things out. Just how I like my entertainment.
But enough with the high-level analysis. Let’s break down each couple’s weekly dysfunction, shall we?
Palek and Carolyn
The show opened this week straight into a little phone sex between these two love birds. Although, given the frigid nature of their relationship, maybe they are two little love penguins. Palek’s at home while Carolyn’s in the car, and she’s clearly the least interested of the two. She recites her lines as if she’s a customer service rep for a major insurance company. Turns out the only reason she agrees to such a laborious task is that Palek’s using her ammo to provide…um, ammo for a little plastic cup to be taken immediately to a fertility specialist.
Palek learns his sperm is both healthy and bountiful, much like Carolyn’s bosoms. This is great news for Palek, but ironically horrible news for Carolyn. She’d previously pinned all hopes on their inability to conceive upon Palek’s sperm, whom she figured never went to summer camp and therefore never learned how to swim. Turns out, he’s got salmon-like sperm, swimming upstream with the greatest of ease, which in her mind returns blame on herself. Like Homey the Clown, Carolyn don’t play dat.
Hot on the heels of finding out he’s the manliest man in ManTown, Palek asks Carolyn to attend his friend’s game night. She’s reluctant to go, since “Carolyn” and “fun” go along as well as “Superman” and “Kryptonite,” or “Paris Hilton” and “multi-syllabic words.” But go they do, and naturally, the host of the party announces they are pregnant for the third time. Rather than let his wife stew in Emeril’s favorite recipe, “Self-Loathing Gumbo,” Palek opts to tell everyone they are trying to get pregnant, in an effort to finally lift the veil off their concealed attempts to have a baby.
This goes badly, as you might imagine, and soon they are playing the game of “Sorry!,” only it’s in real life, not on a board game, and it’s not so much “Sorry!” as “I Don’t Understand Why You’re Acting Like a Spaz!,” only in stronger, HBO-sanctioned language I dare not repeat here. This arguing turns into possibly the most violent sex act yet show on the show. I mean, there’s hate sex, and there’s what Palek and Carolyn do to each other on their couch. He all but phallically attacks her, and she shoots laser beams with her loathe-filled eyes during their brief, epic sexcapade. (Of course, as a Mac owner, I spent half the scene fearing for their laptop’s safety.)
Contentment achieved? Only for the briefest of moments. Palek introduced the dreaded “What if?,” as in, “What if we don’t get pregnant?” Carolyn backs away, horrified, as if she were staring into the dark abyss of nothingness, or worse, a Carrot Top movie on their TiVo. That simple “What if?” ruins all their happiness, which says much more about the lack of happiness in their lives that it says about Palek’s inability to just shut his yapper once in a while. It’s not that they refuse to be happy so much as there’s so little happiness to be found in their relationship. And that, more than anything, contributes to their inability to get pregnant at this stage.
David and Katie
Their impending anniversary set the backdrop for their story this week, with both secretly dreading the day. As we learned in last week’s episode, their last anniversary was also the last time they had sex, and in this world, sex is the be all and end all and the all all. Nothing else could possibly matter in the world of Tell Me You Love Me, and while I’m not saying it’s unimportant, at times I feel the show places an insane level of overimportance to the act. I’m waiting for this scene to be unironically delivered in Week 6:
Some Sex-Obsessed Man: Oh, geez, look at this.
Some Sex-Obsessed Woman: What?
Some Sex-Obsessed Man: Lightbulb’s out.
Some Sex-Obsessed Woman: What do you mean, out?
Some Sex-Obsessed Man: It’s out, it’s dead. Kaput.
Some Sex-Obsessed Woman: Well…
Some Sex-Obsessed Man: Yes? You got something to say, say it.
Some Sex-Obsessed Woman: Maybe…I mean, well, when’s the last time this lightbulb had sex?
Some Sex-Obsessed Man: Had sex?
Some Sex-Obsessed Woman: Had sex.
Some Sex-Obsessed Man: The lightbulb. Had sex. You’re seriously asking…
Some Sex-Obsessed Woman: I’m just wondering aloud, that’s all.
Some Sex-Obsessed Man: That’s it. End of discussion. I’m going to the hardware store.
Some Sex-Obsessed Woman: You ALWAYS go to the hardware store!
Some Sex-Obsessed Man: I LOVE that hardware store!
Some Sex-Obsessed Woman: I know you do! But that’s not the problem! That’s never BEEN the problem!
I mean, I like me some sex and all, but come on! Enough’s enough.
David and Katie go shopping for each other for their anniversary presents. David brings his daughter along for the ride, which proves to be an insanely stupid move as his daughter aims right for the “Ridiculously Skanktacular Lingerie Sale” section of whatever nameless department store they were in. When David asks his daughter while on earth this piece of negligee reminds her of her mother, she answers, “It’s purple.” A sensible man at this point would take her to a toy store and simply buy Mommy a Barney doll at this point, but David’s not sensible, probably worried that his daughter’s given the clap to half of her grade, and so not only buys this outfit, but allows Katie to open it IN PUBLIC at a restaurant later that night. For those of you keeping score, David’s batting .000 for the day at this point.
Later than evening, Katie asks a pointed question: “I’m not supposed to wear this, am I?” It’s a defense posing as a question: she might in fact want to wear the outfit, but needs David’s consent to do so. Her phrasing is done in such a way that she avoids being in a vulnerable position: she’s letting them both off the hook by allowing him an easy out. By saying, “No,” David’s ostensibly agreeing with her, but the subtext of all this is that both have long forgotten how to be intimate, and neither wants to be the first to admit it.
That’s not to say this couple has no hope: their most intimate moment of the episode might have been the way they instinctively held each other upon hearing of a mutual friend’s divorce. This is not a couple that wants to be separated. But it’s hard to overstate the distance between them on the bed at the end of the episode, with a newly purchased TiVo (there it is again!) on David’s lap, weighing him down just as the psychological weight of their relationship weighs them both down.
Hugo and Jaime
Well, just Jaime, really, as Hugo was completely AWOL in this episode. I have this theory about his absence: he’s off somewhere programming his newly-purchased TiVo, and he’s fighting with his Season Pass of The Hills, saying things like, “Why do you care if I tape Survivorman as well, once in a while? That show doesn’t mean anything to me! I love YOU, not Survivorman! You know, I think I need to Season Pass a show that trusts me.” Course, I could be wrong about that.
Jaime turns out this week to not merely be a Kate Beckinsale stunt double, but be a Kate Beckinsale stunt double that believes in True Love. She misses Hugo and she misses his stubble and she misses the cute way he denies the possibility of ever being faithful to her. I mean, who wouldn’t? Nothing will cheer her up: not alcohol, not friends, not anorexic strippers who are 87% ribs, nothing. I mean, not even a booty call with her old friend, played by Rhys Coiro, could cheer her up. Rhys Coiro, people: Billy Walsh from Entourage! Who wouldn’t wanna hit that? (OK, maybe no one, but at least Rhys was clean-shaven in this episode, so he looked much less like someone who might mug you for Slurpee money.) I can’t comment accurately on the accuracy of their awkward almost-sex, since I spent most of the scene waiting for him to refer to Hugo as “Suit.” Much to my non-delight, he refused to do so. Troubling.
In any case, I think it’ll be sooner than later that Jaime starts engaging in Boinkapalooza. She’ll lash out against absent Hugo by sleeping with anyone in order to dull the pain. Her friend Mason insists this is the only way she’ll get over Hugo. Then again, any woman named “Mason” is not to be trusted. Just a rule I have.
The spectre of John still haunts this couple, but not as much as Arthur’s pasty white heiny haunts me as I type this review. Good Gravy. I won’t say any more, out of a complete lack of narrative to support any real theories on the identity of John (old flame? Arthur’s brother? former ping-pong opponent?), and out of complete lack of wanting to think about these two going at it at the end of two-thirds of the aired episodes so far.
Which of the couples on this show do you think has the greatest chance of happiness? Will Jaime end of up therapy due to Hugo’s return or Hugo’s continued absence? And if Palek and Mason had a baby together, do you think they produce a baby with the worst first name in the history of Man?