Watching Tell Me You Love Me is, I trust, an interesting yet harrowing experience, but trust me, that show takes on a whole new level of “harrow” if you watch it having just gotten married. That’s the position I find myself in, week after week, watching this show with my new bride. We tend to have three reactions to the show:
- “Ha, ha, that could never happen to us!”
- “Um, wow, uh, er, I hope that doesn’t happen to us.”
- “For the love of Dr. Phil, if anything approximate to that ever happens to us, stab me in the eye with something off our registry.”
This week’s episode marked the halfway point for Tell Me’s inaugural season, and the first since the announcement that HBO has actually greenlit a second season. More pain, more angst, more frontal nudity: can’t wait! We must deal in the present, however, and this week found each character taking one step forward and approximately sixteen steps back. It’s a discouraging trend, though I am sure that if these people didn’t stumble along the way towards potential happiness then their ultimate success would feel less earned.
Let’s see how they did, shall we?
Remember the movie “Run Lola Run,” from the mid-90’s? Tonight I envisioned an updated version, entitled “Run Palek Run,” because I kept waiting for the dormant volcano that is Mt. Carolyn to up and explode at any moment, leaving Palek covered in her not-so-passive aggressive wake.
In the “irony” file, we opened this week’s episode with Carolyn and Palek engaged in the most genuine, connected sex they could have had in the short history of the show. It was spontaneous, warm, sexy, and naturally, cut off almost immediately by Carolyn since said act took place the morning of her impending artificial insemination. She needed Palek’s little soldiers to storm the beach into a cup, not into her.
Contrast their time in bed with the time on the doctor’s examining table: clinical, cold, and yet, not terribly unlike their sex up until this point. She’s essentially treated sex as a sperm extraction, and therefore this doctor’s visit was nothing if not the logical extension of her master plan. While this technique offered theoretically good chances of pregnancy, you just knew their chances were zero once Carolyn insisted the doctor rate their chances, as if she were a Vegas odds maker.
Not to be deterred, Carolyn took a page from the self-help book, “The Power of Psychotic Thinking,” looking up pregnancy symptoms online and then trying to convince herself and others that she was experiencing them herself. To see the combination of terror and self-delusion in her eyes with the forced smile on her face is to see possible the most terrifyingly sad human being to ever grace the face of television. If one hasn’t already been formed, I move to start the “Sonya Walger for Emmy Consideration” movement myself.
While Carolyn starts off each day with a big bowl of crazy, Palek slowly reveals a potential reason for their inability to have children: his almost pathological desire to not turn into his own father. In essence, his daddy issues revolve around, well, daddy issues. At one point he tells his mother that Carolyn once mistook Palek’s father for him on a message on their answering machine, and that moment clearly has dominated his psyche ever since. Couple that with Carolyn’s steadfast refusal to talk to her own father, and you have a couple that nominally wish to procreate but seem unwilling to consciously acknowledge the pain that their own parents have inflicted upon them.
And by the end, when all the walls of self-delusion crash down amidst a battery of negative pregnancy tests, Carolyn tells Palek, “We’re done. I can’t do this anymore.” Does she mean having a baby, or maintaining their marriage? Since the latter seems currently defined by the former, I think we can all draw a fairly accurate conclusion.
Poor David and Katie. I mean, honestly. The wife and I all but send fruit baskets through our television to help these two and hopefully help bridge the gap between them. They seem like they actually WANT to bridge that gap, but they’ve lost the direction on how to lower the bridge so long ago that all they can do is stare at each other across the chasm.
Things seemed to be going in the right direction at the outset of the episode, with David’s determination to keep going to therapy and Katie’s positively beaming face at seeing him show up. But Dr. May, Moment Killer, suggested they padlock their bedroom door for thirty minutes of alone time per day, and all of David and Katie’s positive momentum crashed and burned like Lindsey Lohan’s career.
David and Katie’s identities as parents have long superseded their identity as spouses, as evidenced by the fact that they keep one or more children between them at all times. They love their children, no doubt, and care about them deeply, but these children also provide a convenient shield between themselves and the problems they are having as adult, sexual entities. The two seem to play “Race You To Sleep” each night so they don’t have to exist as simply two people. This is why Dr. May’s suggestion scares the holy hell out of them.
Some people make mountains out of molehills. David manages to make a nuclear bomb out of a door lock, thanks to his use of his newly found privacy to please himself without fear of Katie walking in on him. This makes him, I suppose, a completely dysfunctional version of MacGyver, but this also largely negates the work he and Katie have done towards improving their marriage. I use the word “improving” versus “saving,” since I can easily see these two staying in a loveless marriage for the sake of their kids, but I also think both want more than merely survival. After Katie discovers the locked door, after David fumbles his way through flimsy excuse after flimsy excuse, after Katie’s direct “Kiss me,” after their failed attempt to spark any form of intimacy, they return to their sides of the bed, their sides of the chasm, wishing nothing more than to sink into their pillows and disappear forever.
And yet, in a harkening to the pilot episode, there they were at their son’s tee ball game again, tied to the rhythms of a life that won’t let them enjoy even thirty minutes behind a locked door. I still hold out hope for these two, but not as much as last week.
I’d like to welcome Nick to these recap titles. Congratulations, man, you’ve officially replaced Hugo. Have fun with all the pain that’s coming your way.
After all, you’re in for a world of “uh oh” when you make a move on a girl who says, without a trace of irony, that she’s one day “sober” from sex while pounding beer after beer. I mean, that’s a girl who will potentially set your stubble on fire, bro. Jaime proclaims her newly found abstinence the way Carolyn proclaimed her newly found pregnancy, and the bluster both use only shows just how hollow their claims are.
Both Jaime and Nick fall into each other, or rather, trip over a crack in the pavement into each other, as products of recently failed relationships. Both play the, “Yeah, I’m not really ready for anything new,” card, while secretly thinking, “I could definitely lick this person in the near future.” Nick seems slightly more together than Jaime, emotionally speaking, but that’s really like trying to decide with dictator is less evil: I mean, we’re talking about relative terms here, people.
Jaime actually tries to set mood music for their impossibly pretty sexcapades, only realizes in an insanely awkward moment that the song she wanted to play for Nick was on Hugo’s iPod. Such a blunder would ruin 99% of booty calls, but Nick and Jaime take up the slack for the rest of us and somehow manage horizontal on the couch anyways. Impressive dedication, you two. And yet, just when we think these two have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, Jaime comes to halfway through their sex, realizing she, like David, is EXACTLY in the same psychological space she was from the outset of this show. Nick senses this, scatters, and shows a hint of actual sense when he calls them out on their self-destructive behavior. I almost dropped my laptop when this happened, since it might be the first time a damaged person clearly identified himself as damaged. What a concept.
Dr. May and Arthur
I think it’s only fitting that Tell Me has added Ian Somerhalder to the cast, since the Dr. May storyline is making Lost look like a show with breakneck plot pacing. Good Lord. I’ve officially given up caring about who this mysterious John person is. I’m holding out hope John is somehow connected to one of the other couples on the show in some fashion, but I think we’re mostly supposed to take away the fact that even if you’re using Metamucil and Viagra on a regular basis, you’re still going to have stilted arguments with your significant other.
My wife and I are thrilled, let me tell you.
Did you think these characters all regressed this week? Who’s in the front running to make it through this season as a reasonably happy couple? And what song do you think Jaime was trying to find as a mood-setter? (My money’s on Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” I just see Jaime drunk and shouting, “This is my JAM, people!”)