Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Suburgatory: “Hear No Evil”

Illustration for article titled Suburgatory: “Hear No Evil”

There’s no “To Be Continued” at the end of “Hear No Evil,” but there may as well have been. Only Tessa makes it past the finish line. Lisa still has another lap or two, but at least she ends on a traditional, recognizable cliffhanger. The adults get stuck in traffic, leapfrog way ahead, and decide to finish the race in the morning. It’s funny enough that “Hear No Evil” is a mostly smooth ride, but, like Tessa, I can’t help but feel George and Eden are moving a little fast.

I’m not judging from the inside. Crazier romances have worked. Besides, neither of them realizes yet that shacking up temporarily might test their relationship. But all the farcical squabbling the adults get into rests on two totally inexplicable motivations. The first is Sheila Shay’s meddling, which I accept that we aren’t supposed to know yet and therefore give the benefit of a doubt. Sheila loves insinuating herself into other people’s business, anyway, so it’s not hard to believe she has some crazy reason that would logically propel her to interfere with the pregnant vagabond's happy surrogacy. But the second is the depth of George’s feelings for Eden. As Ryan noted last week, “Entering Eden” is a bit of a rocky start for that storyline, and “Hear No Evil” doesn’t exactly sell the audience on their relationship, either. Instead, it has George tell Dallas that Eden might be his kindred spirit, and it has Tessa voice-over that their relationship is entering its second trimester. “Show, don’t tell” is a blunt rule, but in this case, it would have helped this giant, new pill go down easier. We’ve only known Eden for two weeks, and she’s never had any of the sparks with George that Dallas has. How hard would it have been to give them one serious romantic scene?

Get over that hurdle, though, and “Hear No Evil” is a delight. Everyone’s position is established early, so the episode just locks them all in a room and simmers. Sheila’s playing Iago for Jill, Jill is trying to keep Noah away from Eden, Noah’s trying to keep George away from Eden, and George is trying to get close to Eden, which gives Dallas quite the touching act break. Why aren’t those two together, again? As usual, the adults of Chatswin behave like babies, selfish and unable to focus on more than one thing at a time. And like many other episodes, “Hear No Evil” resolves with one character realizing the inanity of their bubble and popping it. In this case, Eden sees that she needs to go home for the good of the baby, which prompts George to take her in instead.

The superficial life is also the target of the Tessa story, as our protagonist winds up with a lot of disposable income thanks to her promotion to Ultimate Sales Manager Grand Supreme at Dallas’ crystal emporium. It lets Tessa get as weirdly intense as Lisa, which naturally works out brilliantly. The way Jane Levy can go from relatively grounded straight man to the embodiment of Misty or Kimantha’s queen bee or now high-powered consumer and back again is always impressive. Walking in dressed like Dallas down to her wristlet and making the hard sell over her phone earpiece is the first of several great Tessa scenes. It’s broad, but Levy’s such an intelligent performer that it never breaks the reality of Tessa Altman. It feels like all of these personalities could plausibly come out of the same person, at least in this universe.

Tessa’s descent into wasteful extravagance is encapsulated in an early scene where she pushes Mr. Wolfe to buy a 35-pound crystal chef’s hat to win over Chef Alan. But the script makes sure to undercut Tessa’s pretense, too. “If I showed up to work looking like you, George, people would think I was there to clean the floors.  Which I’m not. Except for when we’re closed.” In another great sequence, Dallas unknowingly challenges George’s concerns for his daughter by asking the obvious questions. Is Tessa’s schoolwork suffering? Is she stressed out a lot? No. George is just worried that she’s growing more invested in stuff and less in people, which is arguably the case. So he curtails her hours instead of moving them to a new town. Progress!

Do I even need to mention what a superhero Allie Grant is? Every scene in “Hear No Evil” involving Lisa is comic gold, right from the pre-credits shot of her obediently accepting Jill’s used paper towel from the bathroom. It’s the usual quiet intensity, but it still works wonders. “If I’m not biologically related to my family, then there is still hope.” There’s style, too, most notably in the shed sequence and the old-fashioned look of Fred and Sheila’s adoption video. It barely qualifies as a story, but as half-subplots go, Lisa’s is a winner.


Stray observations:

  • Thanks to Ryan for stepping in last week with a spot-on take on “Entering Eden.”
  • Script credit for “Hear No Evil” goes to Andrew Guest and directing to Peter Lauer. Whom do I thank for the hilarious pregnancy portraits of Jill?
  • Mr. Wolfe treats Yakult like an ex. That dog has brought out so much sadness.
  • Poor Malik. He spends the whole week trying to anchor Lisa. “Are we gonna make out?” “Malik, I’m obviously going through some stuff right now. Just handle your own business, okay?”
  • If Lisa isn’t adopted, Ryan might be. As Lisa dreams of being the biological daughter of Edie Brickell, Ryan bursts in. “Have you seen the fart joke book? I’ve got a big phone call coming up, and I need to make a joke about a fart.” Funny on its own, but funnier still that he checks Lisa's dresser for the fart joke book.
  • Another great scene: George trying to get a spot on Tessa’s schedule as Ibiza does Tessa’s nails in her bedroom. Turns out Ibiza isn’t a big Fellini fan. “Too quirky for the sake of being quirky.”
  • Dallas is such a delightful authority figure: “No one pushes crystal rock like you.”