Well, that was an ugly display. George has to cut through Dallas’ flighty bullshit for the third episode in a row, and Tessa has to save Dalia from social suicide! Which is totally a real thing and not a term popularized (coined?) by Mean Girls to mock the disproportionate focus on reputation that has always defined Tessa Altman. Don’t worry, though, Tessa gets there just in time to keep Evan’s dirty wand out of Dalia’s mouth (okay, points for the imagery). Otherwise, who knows? Dalia could have gotten to know Evan. The popular establishment at Chatswin could have been overturned. Dogs could have gotten married to cats. It would have been chaos!
Last year, around the time Suburgatory was finding the humanity in caricatures like tight-ass Jill and monotone Dalia, there was some dissent about the show’s treatment of Evan. I assumed he was part of the long-term plan. And maybe he is, but “Foam Finger” does nothing to undercut Tessa’s point of view that he is nerdy and gross and Dalia is too good for him or something. Maybe there’s a season arc sketched out and this is some expression of how little Tessa knows about him so far and how thoroughly she has embraced the judgments of her plastic community. Or maybe this season will go full Mean Girls, slowly transforming Tessa into a Dalia knockoff. Unfortunately “Foam Finger” plays it straight. No sideways glance from Lisa, no mean-girl costuming, certainly no dialogue. Just our hero restoring the natural order of Chatswin High.
Speaking of the natural order, there’s a certain amount of leeway in the Dallas and George’s crazy/sane balance. She’s been in Chatswin much longer. Ergo she’s a bigger cartoon. George is also a lot closer to the vest in general. He’s even uncomfortable talking about his relationship with his best friend. So I expect Suburgatory to make full use of Cheryl Hines’ wacky genius. It’s just that three episodes in a row of Dallas going to 11 in lieu of saying how she feels is overkill, even for Dallas Royce. If every time we look through her window she’s doing the running man on roller skates under a disco ball while he folds his arms and exaggeratedly rolls his eyes at the audience, then what’s the point? We’re not learning about their relationship. We’re reading the same paragraph over and over. Is this show serial or not?
I’m far less sympathetic to the complaints about Suburgatory’s cartoonishness. That’s what this show is. It’s like complaining about Revenge being soapy or Treme being slow, which happens all the time. There’s a reason these shows live up (or down) to their modes. Chatswin is meant to be a colorful, ridiculous world where it takes some impact to get through all the medication—not to mention the botulism. At least, that’s the general idea.
Now, the KKK being a herd of pets isn’t very funny to me. The way two of them sometimes say the exact same thing at the exact same time makes me laugh, and Kaitlyn’s eagerness to live up to Malik’s desired dougie earns some points, but the three of them curled up on one of Dalia’s rugs together? Preparing to enter a molester van straight out of The Sarah Silverman Program? More theoretically funny than viscerally funny. Maybe that’s why I did laugh when Lisa says one of them had an accident in her room. It isn’t the sight but the idea that’s funny.
For all its ties to season one—including that country club kid from “Fire With Fire” and the return of Javier—“Foam Finger” is still an episode of the new and improved Suburgatory, so the eye-rolling narrative is leavened by some good humor and better humanity: Dallas pulling out a well-placed foam finger; the sudden close-up of Mr. Wolfe being swallowed by his amethyst contacts; Carly Chaikin doing so much with so little while Cheryl Hines makes the most of her every line. But what a forgettable outing. Hopefully next week will restore the natural order.
- Dallas talks up George’s game in spin class. “He does this trick whereby he—have y’all ever been to Zumanity?” Also something about 8 inches, so I’ll just put that here.
- Continuity-lovers: Based on his birthstone, Mr. Wolfe is a February baby.
- Dis-continuity-lovers: This week Dalia thinks George is a greasy hobo.
- Oh, yeah. Dalia has a brief Singaporean look but Tessa helps her look like herself again. “I feel like like myself again, too. And myself wants you to get the H out of my R.” Much as I love seeing them together, I couldn’t agree more.