Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Searching For Signal: #121 - “United States of Tara” - Season 2, Episode 4

We start out with Max at the Hubbard House, where he is clearly riled up and sledge-hammering away at an innocent wall that is just standing there and minding it’s own business. Tara wanders in, and they have a nice shouting match as they review the surprising events at the ice-skating rink, where the family learned that Tara has been transitioning again and managed to pick up a clingy girlfriend during all the festivities. Max is not pleased with Tara’s lame excuses. “You LIED to me!”

Amazingly, all this yelling and bitterness has somehow triggered their libidos, because they suddenly both get very horny. They race out to the backyard and go at it right there on the grass. Well, then. Can’t really say that discovering falsehoods and infidelity in my partner would cause me to desire beasty sex, but I don’t get out much these days, maybe it’s the new thing.

A bit later, Tara strolls into her kitchen, where we find Kate also in a foul mood, though she’s taking her anger out by killing ants rather than walls. She is not impressed with Tara at all, and makes this very clear as she yells at her mother. Kate finally stomps off, but not before letting fly with “You have grass all over your back.” Oops.

This line is apparently Charmaine’s cue to come wandering in, which she does, and then she proceeds to babble nothingness about her upcoming wedding that I already don’t care about. This goes on for a bit, until Charmaine informs Tara of an interesting thing she discovered about her bedroom window. It gives her a perfect view of the Hubbard backyard.

Poor Tara. One quick round of makeup sex and the entire neighborhood knows about it before she’s even caught her breath.

Next we have Tara visiting The Gays at their house, where she fesses up that “she and Max” are having a rough spot and she’d like to find a good therapist. (No real mention of things like alternate personalities, perpetually waking up in the beds of strangers, and desperate women proclaiming their love for you during skating matinees at the local rink.) Do you have any suggestions?

Of course they do, they’re gay and have this social networking thing down. Seems the two of them required counseling during a certain period of “erectile dysfunction” (how nice of you to share, that’s very sweet) and they met a fabulous doctor in New York. You need to call her immediately. Until you can get to a phone, here’s one of her famous books to help you pass the time. “And don’t crack the spine!”

Back over to the Hubbard House, with Max still tearing stuff up, but this time only because it needs to be done for the remodeling and not because of burning anger at Tara or spontaneous horniness. Marsh strolls in and wants to talk, but first Max tells him he needs to do the “Billy Jack” thing. This apparently means quoting the movie and then kicking down a divider wall.

I don’t know why that bit of mess was even necessary. I think it was supposed to be some kind of quirky male bonding, but it just looked destructive and pointless. I don’t really remember the scene from the movie, so maybe I’m just missing something. Then again, I was roughly six years old when I watched the movie. I’m pretty sure my interests at the time involved Big Wheels and G.I. Joe’s, not world cinema.

Anyway, Marshall is a little sad about Mom. “I guess Buck’s out.” Yep, Buck’s out. (And so, apparently, is Pammy, but we’ll save the pride stories for later.) But hey, Dad, ponders Marshall, what happened with that Sully guy? Max proudly explains that he beat the crap out of him. Marshall: “Does Mom know?” Max’s beaming smile fades. Of course not. If she knows I have anger management issues, then I can’t pretend to be saintly and noble like in my character description.

Now we’re at Stoner Lynda’s house, where she’s pretending to paint a portrait of Kate, who’s dressed up as a Supergirl character. They have another meaningless discussion where the only thing we learn is that “Barbie doesn’t have any holes.”

Hubbard House again, this time it’s just Tara, looking for Max. He’s not around. But that creepy office room that fascinates Tara is still there. So she goes in there, piddles around a bit, then touches the old-timey phone on the desk. The music swells a little, so we know that the phone is evil.

Zip over to Marshall’s room, where he and Courtney are standing at the foot of his bed. They’ve both wrangled a pass from school (his excuse is an orthodontist appointment, her excuse is explosive diarrhea, in case you’re keeping notes). They’ve decided to consummate their pathetic relationship. Courtney upends her purse and we see that it contained hundreds of condoms. Great. Not only is she boring and overly clinical, but she’s a hoarder as well. Nice catch, Marshall.

Back to Stoner Central, where Lynda is rattling on about the philosophy of the character that Kate is pretending to be for the painting. (“She’s a SUBject, not an OBject.” Whatever.) Then Lynda has an inspiration. Let’s make a MOVIE about the character!

Um, exactly WHAT is this subplot all about? Are we actually building to some type of reveal, or are the writers just including scenes with stoners so they can ensure the food services table is cleared by the end of the shooting day?

Tara is still in the creepy Hubbard office, poised on a dusty couch and reading aloud from the self-help book and trying to not crack the spine. I’m sure the words were very deep, but I was too busy scribbling notes to catch the detail. Then Tara gets up and starts playing with the evil phone. Suddenly, she has a flashback. We’re in a foyer of some kind, it’s raining outside, and little Tara and little Charmaine are being scolded by some woman that we can’t really see, but sure looks like “Alice” from the waist down.

Suddenly a phone rings in the foyer, and it looks just like the one on the Hubbard desk. OMG! (See, I TOLD you that phone had Satan written all over it.) This is just like “The Ring” except it’s totally different. Then the flashback is over and we’re back in the present. Tara reaches down and starts dialing the old phone, but doesn’t bother to pick up the receiver. Uh oh.

We’re back in Marshall’s room, post-coital. Apparently things were a disaster, because this couple looks like the saddest two people on the planet. Maybe this straight thing isn’t working out for Marshall? (Then again, if he was really serious about the experiment, perhaps he should have chosen to sleep with someone other than Jane Hathaway.)

Max rolls up in his truck at home, and Tara comes racing out of the house. She’s really excited because she finally got help, she found somebody. Then she goes on about the self-help book she is waving around. Max is not impressed. “A BOOK is not help.” But there’s more. Tara called the author in New York, they hit it off, and they are going to start phone therapy right away. Hurray!

Right then, Max gets a call from Kate. Car won’t start. Okay, be right there.

So Max and Tara make the trek to Lynda’s House of Wafting Smoke. They pull up outside and clamor out of the truck, with Tara making a comment about how bad it stinks around here so that we can remember it’s a bad part of town. The garage door rolls up a bit, and Kate rolls out, still in her Supergirl outfit and feeling mighty fine.

While Kate and Max pretend to fiddle with the malfunctioning car, Tara ducks under the garage door and enters Cannabis Central. While she’s staring at the interesting surroundings, especially a giant, old neon sign spelling out “Electroless Copper” (the camera lingers for a LONG time, so we’re really supposed to notice this), Lynda floats out and starts chatting with Tara.

It’s an odd chat, with Lynda asking things like “What do you REALLY wanna know?”, as if she’s got the secrets of the universe in her hash pipe. Then they just stare at each other for a while. Are they making a cosmic connection? Or is it just that one of them is stoned and the other one is distracted by people who wear dresses with no discernable seams?

Max sticks his head under the door. “Ready to go?”

Back at the Hubbard House (do these people ever bother going to their own home anymore?), where Max is TRYING to ground Kate or something for making friends and taking drugs. Kate is not interested and doesn’t care, although it’s kind of hard to take her seriously, standing there in her Supergirl Underoos and all.

Then Charmaine clatters in, dragging her boyfriend with the big teeth (Nick? Rick? Crest?). She has an announcement. She’s in the midst of taking a deep breath when Nick blurts out “We’re pregnant!” (Okay, never cared for that line, there is no WE in pregnancy after the first ten minutes. The remaining 9 months only have one name on the call sheet, ya dig?) Anyway, Big Teeth has ruined everything for Charmaine. “The moment’s gone.”

Nick: “So sorry. Hey, Max, can we buy this place from you?” All Charmaine talks about is raising a child right next door to her sister’s family. Is that Hallmark cool or what?

A bit later, while Charmaine and Tara are wandering around the Hubbard house as Char picks out the baby’s room, Tara tries to get the scoop on the pregnancy angle. “I thought you were re-virginating?” Charmaine blows that off and tries to figure out where the changing table can go. Suddenly, Tara has another flash, back to that same distant foyer, but this time she and Charmaine are prancing around and laughing. Then Tara snaps back and turns to Charmaine. “You’re gonna be a great mother.”

Because she knows how to skip?

Elsewhere, Max and Marshall are doing something or other in the Hubbard House, and bantering back and forth. Max: I’m gonna run get us something to eat. Oh hey, how’s that Courtney thing going? Marshall: I’m gay. Max: Good. So you want anything? Marshall: Sure. I’ll come with. And I think you should tell Mom about the guy you beat up.

Later that night, Max crawls into bed with Tara.

Max: “Marshall came out to me tonight.”

Tara: “How’d that make you feel.”

Max: “It gave me hope.”

What a remarkable answer.

Max flips off the light. Oh, there’s something else. “I did a bad, bad thing.”

Next day, Max is entering the Hubbard House, lugging even more construction supplies, when he realizes he can hear a strange voice coming from the office. He throws open the door.

Tara is sitting on the desk, possibly talking on the phone, not sure. And she’s decked out in some kind of hippie, New York, Jewish, something combo. She turns toward Max. Only it’s not Tara. And she doesn’t know who Max is.

“Can I help you?”

We have a new alter.

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