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

Trophy Wife: “The Social Network”

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Turns out Diane is kind of a psycho. We probably knew that deep down all along, but after just three episodes, there’s now a tension between Diane’s credibility as a parent and her outrageous comic antics. It’s totally believable that she would lie through her teeth to manipulate Kate into getting Hillary out of the house. After all, Hillary just did. But slicing through her daughter’s mattress when she can’t find any other evidence of misconduct? Buying into the rainbow turtleneck sex parties (based on the alleged wristband-related “rainbow parties” that nobody ever really confirmed, at least not as an actual trend)? Most of all creating a social-networking profile for a new popular girl in the next town, Courtney Winters, and using Courtney to mess with several teenagers? Diane is hilariously totalitarian, but at the end of the day we’re meant to take her seriously as a parent, and it’s getting to the point where her mind games interfere with her example.

The neither-rainbow-turtleneck-nor-sex-party is a perfect prism for the main cast, bringing out so many different perspectives. Meg is flabbergasted by how lame it is. Bree’s sister even pulls over to text. Warren is so grateful for the social interaction, or semblance thereof, that he loves the party, citing one girl sitting on the coffee table and everyone eating pizza without plates as evidence of its extravagance. (See what you’re doing to these kids, Diane?) Ace McBrady, so called because he aces every test, no big deal, is the cool kid in this environment, although one wonders what his reaction to the “Ace McBrady cute boy” scandal was. After Hillary’s social standing was allegedly ruined by Pete’s Facebook illiteracy, she sure gets along fine at the party. Best of all, as with the snooping, Kate shows she’s capable of threading a needle. She doesn’t buy Hillary’s bullshit hook, line, and sinker, instead opting to take her to the movies herself, although she fails to accompany her to the movie (Hillary is grounded, after all). And at the party, she agrees that it’s exactly the kind of rebellion they want Hillary to get up to, the sense of independence but in a basically safe environment—but she still enforces the grounding before either of the real disciplinarians. And did I mention Natalie Morales is flitting through the scene like a ball of pure energy, stored up for a week to make her every line explode? “Where’s the liquor, McBrady?”

Meanwhile Jackie has a new momentary business venture: handmade jewelry. “Oh, you mean my wearable art?” she recites at one of Bert’s classmate’s moms who owns a jewelry store. Nobody knows how to wear pink turquoise, so alas Jackie has to model her art herself. After a not-at-all rehearsed pitch involving Bert in a pile of necklaces, the owner agrees to try out Jackie’s line if she’ll bring 50 pieces the next day. Unfortunately Jackie only has 30 so far, and the 31st completely exhausts her creative and spiritual energy. Yes, Jackie’s that kind of worker, which we also probably knew deep down already. She’s already had a few other failed enterprises including a pickle business (no flashbacks, though, as per usual, and it’s nice to see Trophy Wife resist the temptation). So to make up for her, Bert brings Warren over and sets up a sweatshop, or the cute, not-very-sweaty version thereof. The point of all this is for Jackie to see that her kids are picking up on her stress and it’s not fair to them to shoulder those burdens. (No word on what becomes of the jewelry enterprise. Maybe the owner will accept fewer than 50 pieces?)

But how does that square with Diane? The B-plot in “The Social Network” is about a mother realizing the consequences of her parenting, but Diane’s light catfishing is fine? Naturally the audience will buy a certain amount of outrageous behavior in the name of comedy, but there’s something unfinished here. Look at all the narrative shrugs: Hillary’s social standing, the non-resolution of the wearable art venture, Diane’s subplot not only running out the clock but taking over the closing tag, too, for that extra oomph of validation. When Warren asks her out online, Courtney Winters lets him down very gently: He’s handsome, but she only dates boys with a 3.5 GPA or higher. It’s funny-cute, but it’s flatter than even early Suburgatory. At least the rainbow turtlenecks have more than one shade.

Luckily “The Social Network” is a pretty funny episode. Pete in particular gets some great dad jokes, which are welcome counterbalances to the Sorkin cockiness I can’t shake. “Call me Dr. Dre, because I’m about to Snoop Dogg.” It’s hard to buy lawyer Pete not knowing how to use Facebook, or at least how to tell the difference between “update status” and “search,” but The Hunger Games gambit tickles me and his concern about the rainbow parties is delightful. “They interviewed this woman. They said she found a turtleneck in her daughter’s car.” “You gotta be kidding me,” says Kate in mock-disbelief. “Orange,” he mic-drops. The portrait of Pete the dad is surprisingly coherent: a little older, calmer, amused, confused, not hip exactly but still funny in his own right. Again, it doesn’t quite square with his profession, but maybe he’s a bit out-of-touch as a lawyer, too?

Stray observations:

  • The moment Jackie snaps out of it and realizes she’s been driving blind cracks me up. “Wait, why am I on the freeway?!”
  • Diane calls to address Hillary’s misdemeanor with a patient in the room. At the end, she commands, “You’re her father. Deal with it,” and then gestures, “Right?” at her patient. He nods enthusiastically.
  • Great shot of Pete and Kate high-tailing it out of Hillary’s room in tandem. In general, I love getting to see these two as partners in crime. Fight the title, Trophy Wife!
  • Kate still isn’t the sharpest. “Some of us don’t want to live in an Orson Wellian future.”
  • Whatever I may have said above, I can’t resist a good overbearing Diane scene. “‘Hey, slut, what’s the address of the party? I definitely want to swing by after I proofread my Spanish homework. Muh-wah, Courtney.’ That’s how it’s done.”