Yesterday I was reading New York magazine and saw this short interview with Diablo Cody, where she admitted to not being completely satisfied with Season 1 of United States of Tara. It's refreshing, as a TV watcher and critic, to hear someone behind a show say "It wasn't all it could be and we wanted to make it better," and, moreover, to see the subsequent work onscreen. Tonight's episode was fast-moving but more importantly, left me dying to see what happens next, which I don't think was a feeling I got so much during Season 1.
We opened with Tara on a swingset telling her camera phone that she's screwed--she woke up again naked next to bartender Pam since Buck, in a change from his love-'em-and-leave-'em personality, has struck up a nice little relationship with her. He cuts her toenails and changes the water jug; she feeds him fish sticks (I decided not to go with an obvious and base joke here). "Why is this happening now?" Tara asks, talking about how healthy everything has been seeming at home. "The kids are thriving," she notes, referring to Kate and Marshall except we see a scene of Pam's daughters laughing and having fun. Uh-oh. Does this mean if Tara takes Buck away from Pam, she's inflicting cruelty upon innocents?
Faking the funk back at home, Tara learns that she and Max now own the house next door, and that Marshall and Courtney are "game on." I can't tell exactly how Marshall feels about this, but Courtney definitely is full-steam-ahead when it comes to exploring their sexuality. "I think about it all the time. Aren't you sort of dying of curiosity? I am." "I guess," Marshall says with all sorts of enthusiasm. Then Courtney asks him if he "knows how to do dogs in a bathtub," a phrase I Googled and really feel like I could have enjoyed the rest of my life not knowing. Later on, the two play a very clinical game of hand-doctor on the catwalk of the school auditorium.
We caught another new twist on Tara's personalities tonight as Tara actually tried to pretend to be one of her alters, which we've never seen before. Attempting to put the brakes on the situation with Pam, we saw Tara sitting in front of the wilted flower in her VW bug working on her Buck impression. I guess I would feel pity for Pam if she weren't so damn desperate. "You know I like it when you're happy," she coos to Tara, who looks incredibly uncomfortable when being kissed and caressed as Buck, by Pam. Not surprisingly, Pam loses her shit when Tara tries to explain to her what's going on. While it's an interesting new point of view when she accuses Tara of being the fake personality, again, it's hard to fall in love with Pam when she threatens Tara that Buck will fuck her up for hurting his lady. While I felt sorry for her whimpering, "I never get the guy," you wonder whether maybe she is looking in the wrong places, like, inside women.
Tonight's episode marked Patton Oswalt's return to the series, as Charmaine's onetime lover and Max's business partner. I agree with Max that Charmaine isn't good enough for Neil--in fact, I don't get what he likes about her anyway. "I don't want a terrific woman," Neil says. "I want Charmaine." I loved Oswalt on this episode: I wish we all had the opportunity to go "UGGGH" when we don't want to listen to someone talk about her engagement ring. The scene between him and Charmaine was so wonderfully excruciating. "Is that an engagement ring? May I see it?" he asks icily, and then Charmaine, wormily, tries to talk shit about the ring until he up and walks out on her.
I know that the Lynda P. Frazier storyline is something of a feminist allegory for the show's writers, but I'm not sure yet where it's going plotwise. However, at least for Kate's character it's nice seeing her having a role model who both encourages her artistic and responsible sides. We all need a friend with whom we can smoke weed who will also tell us there's nothing wrong with working for a living.
Thinking she had successfully put the Pam situation behind her, Tara gets the family over to the ice rink for some fun (Kate and Marshall join in, despite being stoned. Was Kate eating the ice?) Pam, who possibly has more mental problems than Tara, follows the family to the rink and declares her love for Buck on the PA system (where I come from there are rules about using the PA, but I guess not in Kansas). I loved the expression on Kate's face when Pam made her announcement and the smatter of applause that broke out amongst the skaters. Max, however, is not so amused. "All I've ever done is be good to you," he tells Tara, and skates off. Do we think he's more angry about her/Buck cheating on him or not telling him that she was transitioning? I think the latter. Tara's lying throws Max's newly-positive state of mind out of whack and he works out his issues by going and beating the shit out of a contractor who ripped him off, in front of a bouncey castle at a kids' party.
Tara is left, bereft, at the rink, a nice shot of her by the rotating ice skate machine. She heads to the restrooms, willing herself to figure out which door is hers, and then transitions into Buck and heads into the guys', where we see Buck (or mostly Buck, anyway), pitch a fit in the stall.
I'm excited to see what comes next. While I've never liked any of Tara's alters, I actually feel mad at Buck (and Pam) for screwing things up for Tara. Of course, in an alternate world I could be mad at Tara for screwing things up for Buck, too.
--I think "crouton" would be a nice new nickname for a vagina. I've also heard and appreciate "china" for these purposes.
--Tara's gay neighbor didn't really have much to do with this episode but I liked him saying "You gotta get up in it" to learn what you like, sexually.