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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

United States Of Tara: "Explosive Diorama"

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I've never put too much thought into Tara and Max's marriage because I didn't think we were supposed to ponder it much: Max struggled with Tara's DID, frequently (and perhaps understandably) resented her for it, but they for some reason made it work, probably partially because they seem to really like having sex with each other. But tonight's episode had me wondering why are they in fact married to each other. I think they touched on how they got together last season but between how crappily they treated each other in tonight's episode and how little they seem to have to go on in general, the time has come for us all to wonder what the hell exactly is going on with those two. 

Before we even get to her husband, Tara is already persona non grata in the episode with Kate, who accuses Tara of appropriating Lynda, as Tara graciously invites Kate to go on an art walk with the two of them. I find it interesting that Tara doesn't even seem to address the fact that she  stole her daughter's friend (nor does Lynda).  Pretty much in a direct correlation, once Tara heads off with Lynda, Kate dons her Princess Valhalla Hawkwind costume and turns on her chat in order to get freaks off to get stuff.   Kate's been a much more humorous character this season than last and I appreciate that: Brie Larson has an understated comic quality to her. We see her in her bedroom in her Princess Valhalla costume chatting with a guy online and he asks her if they can talk about something other about The Real Housewives of New Jersey: "But I thought you said I could talk about whatever I wanted."  Talk is cheap: sitting on desserts and popping balloons online, however, earns you gifts.  I loved the pose she struck after she sat on the cake (good job on the comic directing from Penny Marshall).

Over at the Hubbard house (which looks good thanks to Max's repairs) we get the first sense of the new strain between Max and Tara as he tells Charmaine he figures Tara and Lynda are "prancing around, finger painting" together.  Meanwhile, genius Charmaine tries to work out her theory that she can get Nick to just think of Neil's baby as a "Malawi orphan." Max advises her that engaged guys have a hard time when their fiancees are pregnant with another guy's baby. "Why?" Charmaine asks. "Hmm," Max says in response. "Hmm" indeed applies to just about everything that comes out of Charmy's mouth.

The tension between Max and Tara manifests itself when she comes by and they start messing around a little bit and for once she tells Max she can't have sex with him: she would rather hang out with Lynda, in the garage, making art.  After heading to her studio, Tara does something I thought was pretty shitty: complaining about Kate to Lynda.  Lynda reveals that she herself is a parent but is estranged from her kids. "That must be hard," Tara says, "Not really," Lyndra replies and just like that Tara changes her mind, musing that maybe it's kind of fun to think about life without your kids. Then Lynda also muses on her husbandless life, something that makes Tara smile.

I guess it's kind of sad that the most stable female character on this show is a woman who is cut off from her family and who who owes thousands of dollars to a debt collection agency for identity theft, but basically, Lynda looks pretty pristine next to Kate, Tara and Charmaine. Trying to unfuck up her life, Charmaine tries to feed Nick a line of bullshit by telling him the baby is only "biologically" Neil's, and that "everything happens for a reason." We haven't seen much of Nick this season but I found it touching the way his eyes were wet when he accused her of lying to him.  Charmaine begs him to help her and help her believe in love again, although from the look on her face she doesn't seem to believe in much.

Trying to do something nice for his wife, Max brings Tara some food to the garage where she and Lynda are working on their projects for an art show.  Tara is under Lynda's validating spell as she tells Tara how she knows she makes art with all her "selves" and reveals that she too has had issues with mental health.  In the midst of all this creativity and deep talk Tara sees Max as crashing the party and doesn't really want his food or him around. After he picks up the check for their Chinese food, Lynda makes a crack to him and I was glad that he stood up to her by saying "Don't fuck with me: you're only in our loves because my daughter caught you committing identity theft."

At the art show (I liked the transition of Kate's popping balloons in her room to the balloons decorating the show which she is pointedly not attending) Marshall loses a bit of his innocence as he snorts Adderall in the bathroom with Lionel and Hany. After Nick and Neil and Charmaine exchange polite "Huhs" over Tara's project (Marshall's LIAR box decorated to look like a house with the insides furnished with cheese crackers and a mechanical bug running around), Max comes by and pronounces it "shit," which Tara overhears although he claims he didn't know it was hers.  Tara gets mad at him, and then he gets mad at her for signing the work with her maiden name, Craine, which makes Max wonder if there is another alter about.  Tara doesn't help matters by saying that "Lynda thought it was interesting," and then yells at Max for messing up the one place where she feels like herself (the art world) and he yells at her for claiming art is the only thing that works for her after he and the family do so much for her.  I figured Tara would transition after this argument but she stays herself after the fight, even after Lynda takes her to look at the fireworks when Tara claimed she had a phobia of them. 

So Tara's doing better than expected after this blowup but what about Max? Well, he heads off to the bar to see Pammy, after hours, and she lets him in. To hurt Tara? To hurt Buck? And who is doing the hurting here? All I know is that once again, a woman on this show makes another less-than-stellar decision.

—1976 obviously means something, right?

—Patton Oswalt and John Corbett should stand next to each other at least once per episode.

—Where do we think the show is going with Marshall questioning where he falls on the gay scale and how he comes across as a gay guy? PS Michael Willett as Lionel is amazing.

—Was Kate using an award ribbon to decorate her cake?

—I liked how Kate bought Marshall a magic bullet which I thought at first was a vibrator but then I got it when he was complaining about how hard a time he was having chopping in the kitchen.  Personally I like my Chop Wizard.

—Once again I am amazed by how much Tara was able to fit into a mere half-hour episode.