Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Searching For Signal: #115 - “United States of Tara” - Season 2, Episode 2

So Buck wakes up in bed with Pammy, the waitress he met at the beer joint. From the looks of things, they had a really swell time last night. Buck ogles the still-slumbering Pammy for a bit, then dresses and slips out of the apartment with a look of accomplishment and satisfaction. His good mood inspires him to break into a jog of celebration (hey, we all love to go running after a round of marathon sex, right?). Sadly, the exertion winds him a bit, he cough/chokes, and then transitions.

Now we have a very surprised Tara standing there all sweaty. And just a wee bit disoriented. Tara then makes a slow march of shame toward home. Something has clearly happened, she’s just not sure what. And where the hell is her bra?

Arriving at the house, Tara discovers a very-excited Charmaine is waiting for her in the front yard, bursting with the news that she is now engaged to the guy with the plentiful teeth. Charmaine dances all over the place and spouts annoying phrases like “He actually loves me!” and “I’m gonna be somebody’s wife!” Within two seconds you are ready for Charmaine to go some place far away and stay there.

Unfortunately, she wants to stay HERE, with Tara and the family. Something about allowing herself time to “re-virginate”. (I’m not sure what this process involves, but I’m certain that I don’t want any further details.) Then things get really busy, as Marshall needs a ride to school, Kate leaves for work sporting a startling outfit where “professional” is not the first word that comes to mind, and Max suddenly yells out at Tara, “let’s go to the Hubbard house!” (I’m thinking that’s the LAST place Tara needs to go right now, but I haven’t been consulted.)

Cut to a meeting of the “gay club” at Marshall’s school. HRH Peroxide, the bitter blonde from the last episode, is running the show in the sparsely populated room, and he’s being very bitchy. At one point he’s even rude to the one straight girl in the room who’s there for support. Marshall comes to her defense, and the two share an intimate look that concerns me. Are the producers going to pull a “Dynasty” with Marshall’s character?

Over to the Hubbard House, where Max really, really, really wants to buy the house. Tara is not fully convinced about this plan of action, so Max uncovers a piano that just happened to be RIGHT THERE, and proceeds to sway Tara’s thoughts on real estate transactions by pounding on the keys and warbling “I’m All Outta Love”.

Rather than run from the room in terror, Tara actually joins in and we have a duet where Tara is inspired to wave her hands over her head during the more spiritual parts of the song. As Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland wail away, some strange woman walks in the door and rudely interrupts the show.

Now we’re at Kate’s workplace, the one where she calls poor people and makes them feel even worse. She’s having a conversation with the guy who sits behind her. (Why she’s even doing this is unclear, because he’s a sexist jerk, and normally Kate would mop the floor with such a guy.) Anyway, they’re discussing the concept of the “big fish”, the people who owe a lot of money. If you convince them to send in a check, you can get a really nice bonus and some self-esteem. Kate’s eyes light up at this possibility, and she turns back to her keyboard, clicking away with almost religious devotion.

Turns out the lady who walked into the Hubbard House and stopped the matinee performance is actually a realtor. She’s thrilled that Max is so overly excited about buying the home that he doesn’t care about “disclosure laws” and whatnot. As she rambles, the realtor throws out a remark about “crazy people” that offends Tara, but Max doesn’t even notice. Instead, he’s busy figuring out where to put the pool table and the wet bar.

Back to Marshall’s school, where he and Peroxide get into it while they are changing in the gym locker room. Peroxide won’t stop with the constant, overboard flaming, and Marshall has had enough. “You ruin it for gay people!” Roxy doesn’t back down, freshly stoking his Eternal Flame and declaring how proud he is of himself and the way he is. Which is nice and all, but I’m thinking Roxy also has a loose bobby pin or two. No idea where they’re going with this.

Short scene with Max and a house inspector (that was quick, was the guy waiting in the realtor’s car?), discovering that there are some serious plumbing issues with the Hubbard House. The guy slyly mentions that he can rig it enough so that Max can flip the house and let the next owners worry about it. The expression on Max’s face is odd. Just what IS his obsession with this house?

Next we have Tara and Charmaine at the grocery store. Lo and behold, Pammy the waitress comes wandering up and tries to get a little chummy with “Buck”. Tara, of course, initially doesn’t have a clue who this woman might be. Then a faint bell rings. “Wait. You’re the bartender from the other night!“

Pammy is a bit disappointed with this reaction, to say the least. Um, no, I’m the one you made sweet love to and we rocked all night long. What gives? Tara isn’t giving anything. She grabs Charmaine and they head down another aisle, leaving poor Pammy to stand in confusion among the fresh produce displays.

Quick scene at Kate’s questionable workplace, where she has just discovered her very own Big Fish. By trolling the Internet, where no personal detail is fully secure, she’s found a website for a bosomy cartoon character that goes by the name of “Valhalla Hawkwind”. (What the hell?) Clicking around, Kate finds that the actual site owner is one of those people who owe her company tons of moolah. And there’s a physical address. Woo hoo!

Cut back to grocery store, this time in the parking lot, where Tara once again runs into Pammy as they try to wrangle empty shopping carts into the little corrals where nothing ever fits. Pammy tells Buck/Tara that she understands why Buck is pulling the down-low thing, fessing up that she had never been with a girl until Buck licked margarita salt off her hand, so to speak. Tara is appalled. “I’ve never been with a girl!” (Honey, maybe you need to swig a shot of tequila and then hit the little rewind button. That’s YOU, or at least one of you, playing squat tag at Pammy‘s Shack O‘ Love.)

Tara, starting to realize that maybe she hasn’t seen all the pages of the script, begins to panic and goes into spin-control mode. She warns Pammy that “I am TROUBLE!” and then turns to race toward her car, where bored Charmaine is honking the horn and waiting impatiently to tell her pathetic engagement story once again.

We catch up with Kate, who has tracked down this Valhalla chick and is standing outside her residence/den of evil/whatever it is. She bangs on the garage door (why, I don’t know, surely there’s an actual front door somewhere) until a woman finally raises the door. Kate is now face-to-face with one Lynda P. Frazier, the conduit to a very nice bonus check.

Kate, because she really doesn’t know what she’s doing, then makes a feeble show of trying to be a bounty-hunter professional fully intent on financial realignments. It doesn’t work. It’s clear that the only thing Kate knows about being tough and investigatory she must have learned from watching the “Charlie’s Angels” movies. And she apparently fell asleep during the few important parts. Nevertheless, Lynda invites her in.

Cut back to Tara, in full freak-out mode, racing to the Hubbard House instead of her own home. Once inside, she turns on her iPhone or some type of recording device, and then captures herself running from room to room and babbling about how she can’t let her family know that she’s transitioning again. It’s sort of like “The Blair Witch Project” meets “The Three Faces of Eve”, minus the dead bodies in the woods, Joanne Woodward or any lucrative product placement.

Finally, Tara crawls into a clothes closet and slams the door, because that usually solves everything, right? She then shivers and cries while holding herself, doing a very fine example of method-acting in tight spaces. (Wait, why is there a dress hanging in this closet, in a house where a single man lived? Have The Gays already been here? Dang. They always find the happening places before everybody else. And then they leave couture behind as they race to the next hot spot.)

We’re back at Lynda/Valhalla’s retro-groovy pad. Apparently Kate’s channeling of Drew Barrymore has worked, because Lynda comes waltzing out of some side chamber bearing a check for $5,000. Lynda then plops on a couch, lights a joint, and invites Kate to sit a spell. Kate, because she’s wearing just the right outfit for drug usage, decides she’s got some time on her hands.

Later, we have dinner at the Gregson household. Charmaine is running her mouth with a boring story concerning the difference between a “princess cut” diamond and the “cushion cut” variety, waving her bejeweled hand the entire time. Marshall has brought along Courtney, the straight girl, and I instantly hate her because I have no investment in the gay reversion theory that one of the show producers must be pushing. Then Kate comes flouncing in, brimming with excitement over the afternoon adventures with Lynda and her delinquent bills. “I got my mind literally blown.” Really? Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Then they all make a toast to something. I forget what, because right then Tara sees Buck coming down the stairs and giving her the evil eye. What’s this? The alters can see each other now? That’s new. See, every time a show is successful, they try to overwhelm it with special effects. Stick to the story, people.

Tara, understandably, is a bit out of sorts with this development. She excuses herself and then thunders up the stairs to her bedroom, where she has an argument with Buck, an alter that should be IN her, but is now OUT of her. Buck is demanding the use of Tara’s body for the night.

Okay, I’m officially no longer complaining about anything wrong in my life. Done.

Max wanders in to check on Tara. “You good?” Tara waves him off. I’m just great, my disjointed and apparently sexually-active life couldn’t be any better. Max, not recognizing the signs of an impending psychotic split even though he should after all these years, announces that he’s headed over to the Hubbard House for some remodeling inspiration. (Why are these people so centered on a house where a man killed himself? Don’t you have other hobbies?)

Quick scene with Marshall and Courtney in his bedroom, where he stupidly pulls out a Ouija board for their entertainment. This can only result in madness. Has the cast not seen the movie “Witchboard”? People die. In painful ways.

I guess Buck worked out some sort of timeshare arrangement with Tara, because now we have him showing up at Pammy’s door, bearing a rose for his lady and fessing that “I couldn’t stay away.” Pammy lets him in, despite the rudeness and confusion at the grocery store.

Back to Marshall and Tokyo Rose in his bedroom. They’re still fiddling with the Ouija board, and of course their fingers touch while they are pretending to not manipulate the planchette. As we all know, random finger-touching can only lead to sordidness. They kiss, and a small part of me dies.

Zip over to Pammy’s, where Buck is massaging her feet while she coos.

Now it’s time for a montage, because this sort of thing is required in the final moments of a quirky series involving dysfunction. We see Max laying out black and white tiles in one of the bathrooms of the Hubbard House. (Just say no, Max. Seriously. The 50’s diner look no longer applies to bathrooms. Just ask The Gays.) Shot of Charmaine in some bed kissing her ring with a love that dare not speak it’s name. Another glimpse of Marshall still lip-locked with Tokyo Courtney as they roll around on the Ouija board. We end with an alarming close-up of Buck at Pammy’s crotch. Truly did not need to see that.

Final scenes. It’s the next morning, and Tara wakes up next to Pammy. (By the way, how has Max not noticed that his wife hasn’t slept in the same bed with him for the past two nights?) Tara does not handle the situation well, gathering up her clothes and fleeing the scene. On her way out, she passes two children in the living room who are watching cartoons. (Where the hell did THEY come from? Did I miss something?)

Tara thunders down the outside stairs of the apartment building and lurches toward her car. She may not know where she’s at, but she damn sure knows where she parked her vehicle. It’s the little things, right?

Roll credits.

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