It’s official. I laugh more at Suburgatory than at any other network comedy right now. “I’m Just Not That Into Me” is one hell of a script by Andrew Guest. From Dallas Smeagol-ing at a fancy restaurant to Fred and Sheila’s tag-team celebration of Lisa locking it down with Malik, if in fact she does lock it down (“And that’s a big if!”), this episode is one great bit after another. Tessa meets the male version of herself at a college house party, and they say the exactly same things at the same time for, like, nine weirdly specific sentences in a row (“Problem Child 2 wasn’t any better than Problem Child 1. I can’t believe they made three of those movies”). Lisa tries to make small talk with George in order to get some advice about her relationship with Malik. “And why do you think your marriage failed?” Dalia gets weirdly specific with a matchmaker. “He should be cut. In both senses of the word. Slight curve to my left if possible. Devout Buddhist.”
As you can probably see, it’s an episode about dating. Tessa dates herself and finds herself a disappointing complement. So do I. Dallas actually dates herself, as in goes on a date alone to get in touch with who she is. Things go better for her in the end, although the date itself is a loud, public disaster. I suspect she will not be calling herself back. And Malik is a hit with the ladies at the house party thanks to his Kid ‘N Play skills, so Lisa decides she needs to lock it down while he’s still at a low introductory rate. Speaking of great bits. Yes, while everything else is moderately fluffy, if still in service of some valuable character growth, Lisa’s serious about wanting to propose. And that’s the big deal that leads us into the next episode.
There’s a lot of meat on this bone. The matchmaker plot begins with an Internet analogy. Dalia liked something online that she doesn’t actually like—a picture of Tessa with her new boyfriend—because she didn’t want to be a hater. Since Dalia is very much a hater, specifically an out and proud Tessa-hater, her reticence isn’t because she doesn’t want to hate what she hates but that she doesn’t want to be seen as someone who hates. Which is awfully Chatswin in general and awfully Royce in particular.
Dallas takes it from there. After Dalia describes her perfect man to the matchmaker, Dallas reveals herself to be a people-pleaser. Hence the prescribed self-date, which counts as one of the five dates in her contract with the matchmaker. Dallas needs to figure out who she is in order to be an equal partner in any relationship. At first it sounds like Noah-style character rehab, and it is, especially given that both Noah and Dallas basically revert to their original characters by the end. In particular, Dallas gives herself a make-under under the assumption that all her beauty techniques are simply in service of pleasing men. She’s not unrecognizable, exactly, but she does completely transform. Frizzy brownish hair, big glasses, down several inches without the heels. Dalia tells her, “You look like a New Yorker cartoon.” And speaking of heels, we get another Suburgatory gross-out gag about the disgusting things people do to look pretty with a shot of Dallas’ feet desiccated and deformed from decades of stilettos. “You have the most severe case of Barbie foot I’ve ever seen,” says her doctor (Brian Huskey).
But there is more to her than looks, and there always has been. You could be tricked into thinking Dallas really has been paper-thin for the past two and a half years, but when you think about it, that’s not true at all. Dalia reminds her that she opened her own store the year she became a single mom in a touching scene. But what I think of is how Dallas has taken to playing surrogate mother to Tessa ever since the pilot, and how she’s tried to inspire both Tessa and Dallas to develop a work ethic over the years. In the end Dallas opts back in to her old style. I’m not sure if she has any better idea of what she wants in a man now, but she spent some much needed me-time nonetheless.
The Lisa story is more complicated. On the one hand, who knows? It could all work out for Lisa and Malik. Also I just love the reversal of traditional gender roles here. On the other, why is George the only one even considering that this might not be the best decision? Lisa is, well, Lisa, which comes with a certain addled quality even when love isn’t involved. But the sad underpinning here is that she doesn’t think of herself as worthy of Malik, much less anyone else of his caliber, and her parents agree. It’s hilarious while you’re watching because Suburgatory is so heightened. It doesn’t feel real, exactly. But think about it afterward and everything starts to curdle. Jane Levy’s face says it all during that hug. She supports her friend but can’t help but worry about her. Suburgatory hasn’t just scaled back its cast. It’s really drilling into the characters this season—the Shays’ empty nest, Noah’s obnoxiousness, now Dallas and Lisa. “I’m Just Not That Into Me” has some good advice. This make-under has done wonders for Suburgatory.
- The KKK get name-dropped! Kenzie, Kaitlin, and Kimantha want to go somewhere with no Wi-Fi, but Dalia doesn’t like being places where she can’t see how many likes she’s getting.
- There isn’t much to Tessa’s story on the surface. But underneath it is that Tessa misses Ryan. In the same episode Dallas keeps mentioning Steven and clearly thinking about George while Lisa schemes to lock her own man down. Interesting.
- A college girl asks Lisa if she and Malik are exclusive. “Malik and I are really secure as a couple. I’ve always told Malik, I told him, ‘You can do whatever you wanna do as long as you can look at yaself in the mirror and be okay!’”
- Dalia: “I just want a really cute boy to rub in Tessa Altman’s face.” Matchmaker: “I don’t know who that bitch is, but I hate her already.”
- Dalia’s dream guy “should be anywhere from 6 feet 2 to 6 feet 2 1/2. Brunette but blonde as a child… His relaxed face should look like he’s tasting a gross lemon.”