If nothing else, there's virtually no chance that another series this week will open with phone sex, much less phone sex that includes this dialogue: "I'm gonna come in your mouth." "Can you come in the cup a little bit as well?" That exchange belongs to Palek and Carolyn, Tell Me You Love Me's baby-crazy young marrieds. They dominate this episode, which improves, if not drastically, over last week's inching-along place-holder of an episode (though its worst moments threaten to drag it back down.) That Adam Scott and Sonya Walger have strong, albeit frequently toxic, chemistry doesn't hurt.
To justify its explicit sex artistically, Tell Me You Love Me needs to make it work dramatically. The way these people fuck needs to tell us something about who they are. A later Palek-and-Carolyn scene does just that. After a game night with friends goes terribly awry when Palek let's everyone know they've been trying to conceive, a fight gives way to sulking which gives way to spiteful, angry sex. The scene works, and suddenly the series seems like a good idea again.
Then a later scene has to go and undermine it. Carolyn complains she's sore (well, yeah) and then they talk about how angry sex will produce an angry baby. We get it. It was hate sex. Point made. Then underlined and circled with arrows pointing toward it. Writer/creator Cynthia Mort seems far more comfortable setting up telling sex scenes than dealing with most other aspects of the show. She's also good at the therapy scenes, which are consistently among the show's strongest moments. It's the rest that gives her trouble.
Take, for instance, Jaime's uncomfortable post-breakup get-together with a friend and her boyfriend. Nothing about this scene felt real, from the forced way the couple was all over each other to the response, "Why? What is wrong with you?" when Jaime insists she believes in marriage. Terrible dialogue. Terrible scene. And, unlike the other strands of Tell Me You Love Me, the Jaime-Hugo plot doesn't benefit from strong acting. Luke Kirby's Hugo is MIA and doesn't factor in here but Michelle Borth's performance, while not bad exactly, just keeps pointing out the thinness of the material. In moments like this the show starts to feel like a two hour movie running 10 times longer than it should.
And yet, when it works it, the show feels like it's really onto something. The Katie and David plot was sweeter and sadder than ever before. For all of David's apparent lunkheadedness–I think we'll eventually get some reason why they're not having sex anymore beyond David being a dolt–Ally Walker and Tim DeKay capture the feeling of two people who really want to get their marriage back on track and just don't know how. The business with the purple lingerie, and the way their daughter steered David to a gift he would never think to buy, was well played as was the suggestion that, in her final scene, Katie was wearing it beneath that rope. We'll never know and neither will David. But whichever the case I found myself, as I do too seldom watching this show, caring.
Grade: B- Stray observations: — What was the deal with that "worldwide sperm crisis" conversation where the lab technician blamed the lack of viable sperm on "feminization"? Is this a prequel to Children Of Men or have I not been paying enough attention to the news?? — I'm now less convinced than ever that Dr. May needed her own storyline. And when she described a day at the office to her husband as, "Things we deal with a long time ago"… gag. — Oh Chuck. Sad, sad Chuck. — Michelle Borth has a MySpace page. With original poetry. — Mort on the show's official page: "I am looking at one relationship – in its different stages." Discuss. — Did everyone spot Mallrats star Jeremy London in the game night scene? — Did anyone else think that David was going to have sex with the TiVo?