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

United States Of Tara: "Trouble Junction"

Illustration for article titled United States Of Tara: "Trouble Junction"

Yes, I was the person who gave up on United States of Tara last season.  I wanted to like it so much: good premise, great cast, talented writers, but the show suffered, to my mind, from such an eagerness to show off how edgy it was that the basic concept of the show got buried.  Each episode I was left pondering exactly who Tara was, while at the same time thinking about how much I'd also like to cram liquid soap into Kate's mouth.  I couldn't find a toehold of likability in the characters or the execution.

Todd, as he wrote last week, has seen the first several episodes of the season. I'm not as far along as he is, but my hopes have been raised by his promise—and, so far, evidence—that the show seems to have relaxed into itself more this season.  For one, I'm already getting the sense that the writers of the show realize that Tara has to be more than just "the normal one" and give her a little more of a personality: she's a bit of an inappropriate showoff goofball at times, it seems.  I'm also happy to see Marshall and Kate's characters do more than just be incredibly quippy too-cool-for-school left-of-center teens.  Kate working at a debt collection agency is an unexpected direction for her and good tie-in to the story of the economy, plus it seems very natural that Marshall has questions about his sexuality.

Obviously so far the season is taking its time with the alters, so far revealing only Buck, which may be why I'm liking the new characters (or at least have no issues with them so far).  Joey Adams seems cast well as Buck's lady friend from the neighborhood bar, and I'm intrigued by Lynda P. Frazier (played by Viola Davis). Moreover I like Kate and Marshall's new friends: Kate's schlubby colleague at the agency made me laugh with his delivery of the phrase "ballsack!" and there's something electric and dangerous about Michael J. Willett, the actor who plays Lionel, the queen bee of the gay clique at the high school.  I'm especially glad to see Marshall's best female friend at the school was traded in for a less ironically-dressed model. 

I like how this season seems to be experimenting with format, too.  I don't recall seeing two of Tara's personalities in the same room talking to each other last season, much less demanding use of Tara's body.  I also think it's a smart idea to have Tara be mobile with her self-documenting—the scene of her falling apart in the closet with the camera phone felt more on-the-fly and emotionally raw than the previous bedroom setup. 

As for the story, tonight's episode was still taking it slow with exposition.  Tara wakes up in bartender Pammy's (Joey Lauren Adams) bed, having seduced her the night before as Buck.  I liked the detail of Buck running home in his tank-top, only to wake up as Tara to realize uncomfortably that she is jogging braless (before she transitioned I though to to myself, "Ow.") She comes home to find Charmaine, who got engaged the night before.  I'm curious to see where Charmaine goes this season: I had a hard time figuring her out as a character last season. I wanted to sympathize with her as Tara's allegedly "normal" sister, but she was just so obnoxious. The writing was a little heavy-handed with her pitiful desperation in regards to her engagement, sucking on her ring like a baby in her sleep and saying things like "I did it!" and "I got a good guy, right?", being such a moron about that yet catching Tara in her lie about when she woke up the night before.

In the meantime, Max is interested in purchasing, renovating and flipping the house next door, formerly owned by the neighbor who shot himself, although Tara, who seems to feel some sort of "crazy people" connection to the home, isn't so sure. 

As for the kids, Marshall feels put out by the in-your-face gayness of the queer clique at high school and stands up to Lionel, saying "You make being gay something no one would ever want to be." I find it interesting that Marshall can be so meek in certain situations yet never has a problem, ultimately, speaking his mind.  However he's still not sure what he wants, evidently, as he later makes out with his new lady friend, Courtney (Zosia Mamet, daughter of David) in his room over a Oujia Board. Kate's still plugging away at the collection agency, tracking down a debtor who turns out to be a black former D&D playing weed-smoking artist. Perhaps not-surprisingly, based on this Kate decides she's the most amazing woman she's ever met. 

Things probably aren't going to end so great for Buck and Pammy—the town's too small for Buck, Pammy, Tara and Max. After Tara/Buck runs home from Pammy's house, the bartender runs into her at the grocery store with Charmaine. Even after Tara pointedly tells Pammy that things aren't going to happen again between the two of them, Pammy lets Back back into her house, succumbs to a footrub and some cunnilingus and then lets Tara/Buck sleep over, although Pammy's two kids didn't seem to be too fazed by a strange lady sleeping over. The bobcat on the cartoon they were watching seemed to know what was going on, though.

—While I hope the phrase "frenema" doesn't catch on, I hope I can use the statement "Your fucking face is the fucking gay size" in the future.

—Tonight's writeup was done with the aid of SIRCHBOT.

—I am not going to let relatively unironic love of  "I'm All Outta Love" be affected by this episode.