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

Suburgatory: "Open Door Policy"

Image for article titled Suburgatory: "Open Door Policy"

How soapy for Suburgatory to introduce Ryan’s new girlfriend and just leave it at that for now. If you squint you can see a sort of plot here. Tessa does, after all, interrogate June enough to determine that Ryan has not just replaced her but actually moved on, at which point she gets depressed and then snaps out of it at the end. Those last two steps are purely comedic, a chance for Tessa to follow in her father’s footsteps, or his ass imprint as the case may be, from earlier in the episode. And she only showers because the couch had an accident (more accurately, the pee bag strapped to George’s leg for his convenience had an accident), not because she’s well and truly ready to deal with Ryan moving on. But like that decision to get off the couch, everything that happens here is so light that it’s like nothing happened at all. Tessa receives some new information, but the actual drama June brings is still on the table, waiting to be eaten next week I guess.

Maybe it’s just that things feel imbalanced. Or rather, too balanced. George’s subplot has plenty of room to breathe while Fred doesn’t even get to see his son come home from college for the first time. There’s also the awkwardness that George, while certainly unkempt, is suddenly in full-blown post-break-up depression. Maybe Dalia brings it out of him? Now that he has all this wallowing time (after completing Tom’s bathroom?), he’s watching the full news coverage of the Chilean miners rescue, embracing his pee bag and his pit stains in the name of education. That’s why Tessa calls his father to come have a light intervention. So Tessa and Grandpa tell George he’ll be staying with them for a bit, then Grandpa takes George out, then they go to a hot tub along with two women. There they hash out some back-story issues, and finally George cleans up in time to rescue Tessa from repeating his mistakes, say goodbye to Grandpa, and go for a walk with the cute dog walker (so that’s why they cast Natasha Leggero in a bit part in the premiere). Oh, and Grandpa even has time to bump into Dallas at the supermarket. That’s a lot of scenes. Whereas Tessa, who even gets a clear and present reason for post-break-up depression to flare up several months later, is crammed into a plot with most of the cast where nothing quite gets its due.

The drama in George’s past about his father moving on quickly after his mother died ties in thematically with the rest of Suburgatory, but these historical issues can’t compete for attention with George’s love life or the arrival of June. I’m more curious about Victor Ha’s brother back in Cambodia. But there are some good jokes—George claiming to be light-headed because of all that shrimp, for instance, or appending an awkward “Gorgeous” to his request for directions to the little boys room—and at the end he’s genuinely ready to start moving on from Dallas. That’s what’s exciting here. George and Dallas still aren’t sharing screen time. As the Dallas scene makes clear, she’s still upset about him, and she’s sworn off dating just like he did. But now he’s looking better than ever, as Tessa might say (about herself, people!) and out spending time with someone new. If it didn’t already feel like Dallas had been sidelined so far, “Open Door Policy” has me desperate to see her drive a plot of her own this season.

The Ryan stuff is all great as well, funny and offbeat and moving out of nowhere. One of the advantages of squeezing everyone into the same house is to see new character dynamics, like Tessa trying to nonchalantly swing her arm to show how cool she is with Ryan moving on or Ryan competing with Victor for Sheila’s love. The Dirty Dancing gag essentially encapsulates Suburgatory. And both confetti gags land perfectly, the first more about the lines and deliveries and the second pure slapstick.

However, there is something unsatisfying about Ryan not picking up on the tension with Tessa and firing off one last goodbye joke instead. This is Ryan Shay we’re talking about, but the whole subplot is unsatisfying. Which is more of a portion size issue than anything else, because what’s here is beautiful. It’s not every day Lisa is the sane one. Tessa’s so aggressive she scares June into thinking that sleeping in Sheila’s room would be a better alternative. (That’s another thing: No Sheila-June interrogation? This could have been a two-parter!) The moment when June reveals she lives nearby and that she’s been dating Ryan long-distance, I went flush. Tessa storms out, but what I’d give for a serious scene between her and Ryan. A ton of bricks just fell on Tessa—or supply your own Chilean miners reference—and the episode skipped past the unburying part.