The kids get the subplots this week, and the adults slot in naturally behind them. Bert loses a tooth eating mostly ketchup with a bit of corn on the cob underneath, but later Pete loses the tooth. Since Pete took a first that was important to Jackie, she starts a whole feud over it, with Bert stuck in the middle. Meanwhile Warren parlays a text convo into a study date with some help from Kate. And Hillary hosts her first high-school sleepover, which Diane embarrassingly overprepares for. In short, the streak continues. The kids generate the stories, some pathos sneaks up, and most importantly, “The Tooth Fairy” is funny.
There’s always something, though, isn’t there? This week it’s an excruciating scene where Kate thinks she can salvage Warren’s non-date with a girl named Allie. She has him come up with an excuse to be gone for a while (bathroom, “You know, rumble in the jungle”) so she can talk to Allie on her own. Her approach: To pretend like she thinks Warren is hot. To which Allie immediately replies, “Aren’t you his stepmom?” I’m a sucker for a sitcom incest joke, one of the many reasons Arrested Development is so funny. But Trophy Wife is supposed to have at least one foot on the ground. Kate trying to talk up her stepson’s cuteness is unbelievable. Throughout “The Tooth Fairy,” Kate’s pretty much the voice of reason. She brings Pete back down to earth (“You rockin’ that tone again?”), she genuinely knows how to flirt-text (“You hang out with a lot of cool people, you’re a busy guy.” “No, I’m not”), and she cringes all through Warren’s embarrassing foyer interaction with Allie. To lose all that social awareness for a gag is what separates the good shows from the great.
Warren has the right idea: Take a bathroom break during that one scene, and “The Tooth Fairy” becomes an almost non-stop joke machine with Kate as straight woman. Pete starts the episode yelling at the kids on his lawn (“Remember sentences?”) but quickly gets swept up in the gross rituals of losing teeth. It’s hilarious watching Pete try to pick a fight with Kate over the hole in the bag. Later Pete teaches Bert yoga to get back at Jackie for showing him Raiders Of The Lost Ark. “Mom didn’t want me to do yoga until her swami came back from his spirit journey.” Speaking of which, Jackie had been at a silence retreat in a phone-free yurt and hadn’t spoken in a few days before the plot begins. When Pete calls her, she spends multiple rings snorting and glaring around the yurt at the cheater who brought a phone. Turns out it was her.
At the Buckley household, Hillary’s preparing for the sleepover. “These are the student-government girls. They literally rule the school. Democratically, of course.” Diane prepares a yellow amuse-bouche and a charcuterie dish, among other things, but the girls just want pizza. “Cool… you want ’za, we’ll get ’za. Cowabunga.” She offers them the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth movies or, if they’re really up for it, The Aviator. But they just want to watch Spawn Of Satan 2. Eventually Hillary has to text Diane that she’s embarrassing her, and finally Diane excuses herself to her room.
And behind door number three, Warren has a new crush. “She ticks all my boxes: She’s awesome, we’re both right-handed, she has my backpack. And she’s got a butt that just don’t quit.” Some texting games later and Allie winds up leaving her hoodie behind in Warren’s bedroom. Date not ruined after all? Kate and Pete drive Warren to return the hoodie that night, after which he kisses her! When he gets back in the car, they want to know everything. “She thanked me for bringing the hoodie, I kissed her, and then she came out to me pretty hard.”
So what happens when Trophy Wife stops being goofy and starts getting real? Warren’s surprise porch kiss actually got me choked up a little, so great, we’re officially at the point where this sitcom family is preying on my investment. Warren’s just so good and rites of passage are so universal that it’s hard for that moment not to resonate. As for Hillary and Diane, I’m most moved to see Diane exhibit self-awareness. When Hillary comes to check on her, she says, “Tonight’s not about me.” And she’s not playing games. She’s disappointed, but she accepts it. And it speaks well of Hillary that she’d go check on her mother to make sure she didn’t hurt her feelings. Yet, after half a season of Diane’s mind games, I can’t help but resent the show putting Hillary in that position. Hard to feel too strongly about it, though, because the episode (show?) is so soft that Hillary just makes one off-color comment (“My mom is, like, socially challenged”) and then she and Diane are both models of compassion afterward. What really sticks is Bert being stuck in the middle of this war between his father and his mother. At least to frame it like that would be one thing. Instead “The Tooth Fairy” presents Bert as basically unaware that his parents are fighting, not only ignoring the obvious problem but putting Bert’s shining, happy face on it.
Trophy Wife is making the most of its first season, working out the kinks, trying new cast combinations, papering the plots with comedy. The only serious question now is how grounded the Harrisons are supposed to be.
- Bert’s tooth fell out. “If I suck hard enough, I can drink my own blood!”
- Diane asked her mother for a Bee Gees poster one Christmas, and what did she get? A poster of just Maurice!
- Okay, maybe that incest setup was worth it for Pete to overheard some strange bathroom talk between Kate and Warren: “Just chill out. It’s gonna happen.” “It’s not gonna happen. I told you not to touch it.” “Warren, trust me. I have way more experience than you.”