Something about the final scene of Tara tonight reminded me of the Thanksgiving scene in the most recent season of Dexter. What should ideally be a perfectly staid, blandly pleasant situation (Thanksgiving dinner, a visit from Family Services) proceeds to take a turn so completely apeshit that it's more funny than freaky--and I mean that as a compliment.
Picking up from from the previous episode (the season has been very tight, timeline-wise), Tara wakes up in the cemetery, finding herself sleeping on the burial plot of Hubbard, the neighbor who killed himself. Over the phone, Max informs her that she needs to get home pronto because Family Services is going to come and investigate after the Sully beatdown incident, but of course the house is a mess, post-tornado. Cue broken family photo. Tara reassures Max that, together, they'll get the house together before Family Services comes.
Trying to get his own life in order Marshall heads out with Lionel and Hany to talk over the Courtney situation. I loved how Hany gently schooled Lionel that "you don't have to hate women to love men." I didn't expect Marshall to be the kind of wuss who has his friends around when he breaks up with his girlfriend but when Courtney shows up, Hany does the talking, telling her it's over, and like a dickhead, Lionel smirks at the news being delivered. I sort of loved that Courtney decided to stay seated in the booth and order pie and make the situation even more uncomfortable.
Kate is finally reunited with her new friend/girlcrush Lynda, as they try to sell autographs and photos from Princess Valhalla Hawkwind at the comic book shop but nobody's buying, especially with Knatasha Knightblade stealing all the attention. I loved the look on the other kid's face when his friend said "Let's go to Popeye's and get some chicken," after Kate informed him her superpower was a lack of vagina. Tara is sent to get Kate from the comic book shop in order to recruit her into housecleaning. Tara, like her daughter, seems to have taken a shine to Lynda, which causes Kate consternation. She tries to learn more about how to raise interest in Princess VH and Knightblade gives her her main advice: get an email list and start getting guys off electronically in order to get them to buy you things.
Courtney, meanwhile, is not done yet with Marshall. Almost as if on purpose she shows up at the Gregsons' right when Marshall's rubbing one out to a picture of a stud on his camera phone, in order to tell him that he doesn't really want to break up with her; that Hany has brainwashed him. I like Ms. Mamet in this role--she's good at pulling off wide-eyed/batshit crazy.
Max walks in on Charmaine flirting with Neil in the kitchen, but they're talking baseball. Max tries to force her into telling Neil about the baby, but instead she makes up a stupid b.s. lie, that she's throwing a party for Nick and would Neil mind bringing his homemade beer? So Max takes matters into his own hands and just tells Neil, "Here's a baseball fun fact: Charmaine's pregnant with your baby." Neil takes off and then Charmaine has the gall to tell him he can't run away from his problems, and that maybe he can't understand her because he doesn't know how hard it is to plan a wedding. Patton Oswalt gets to do some great reacting in this season, as he did when he took in that line. He advises Charmaine the best thing for her would be to get an abortion.
Instead of helping Max clean the house up, Tara bonds with Lynda, talking art. Maybe it makes sense that Tara and Kate are both drawn to Lynda: they both seem to see a version of themselves they wish they could be in her, Tara, an artist, Kate, an empowered independent woman. Is Tara's appropriation of Lynda from Kate going to send Kate back on a bad path? It's obviously pissing her off. Earlier this season she had a job and was being responsible but now Tara's lending Lynda her projector and Kate's setting up a wish list per the advice of Knatasha Knightblade, who gives out a lot more than her email address to her fans online.
But anyway Tara is obviously at least indirectly affected by Lynda because it was while she was showing Lynda a portrait she inexplicably painted of Hubbard, she transitions into Alice briefly, which Lynda handles with aplomb.
What could have been a super sitcommy situation (Quick! The guy from Family Services is coming over and the tornado just hit and Mom is totally transitionining like crazy and PS Marshall's nutty girlfriend is here!) was handled well with a fast and funny and freaky scene. Just when Max yells at Tara for not helping, she transitions into Alice, who tells Max that she is back for good and she didn't appreciate him trying to "kill" her and the alters with Tara's meds. Just in time, Courtney comes back with a LIAR box and starts screaming at Marshall, and he finally loses it, telling Courtney that she's as messed up as everybody else in his life. Alice drops a tray laden with drink glasses on the floor and turns into...Gimme! We need more Gimme in this show. Gimme basically fucks shit up and runs around and screams, and Toni Collette does a great job of that.
The doorbell rings, Max throws Gimme in another part of the house and answers the door with Marshall and Kate smiling on either side of them. I sort of wanted the episode to end right there, because it would have been so cute, but instead we see Max pretending to be a happy family with them and Charmaine as his "wife."
They're doing a good job of building up tension this season: Tara's been building up to an epic meltdown very slowly and I'm very psyched for it.
--Is anybody else surprised that Charmaine is a baseball fan?
--Did anybody pick out any email addresses from Kate's list that sounded intriguing? I thought I heard one that sounded like it might be the neighbor Hany but I wasn't sure.
--"I might as well be handing out my own farts."