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

Web Therapy: “Infanticipation”

Illustration for article titled Web Therapy: “Infanticipation”

Is it too late to bring Michael McDonald aboard full-time? The campaign can’t last forever, but as long as Fiona is making citizen’s arrests of obese children, I can’t get enough of his harried campaign manager Ben. He’s slightly more grounded than the average Web Therapy combatant, even in an episode where both he and Fiona get to fly off the handle. Apparently he hadn’t been sleeping with Kip prior to “Infanticipation,” and it’s beyond the pale that anyone would possibly assume that Kip or Ben is gay. As Ben tells Fiona, “I would know because we have been in steam baths together, we have, we have looked at muscle magazines together, we have wrestled to get out some of the aggression from the campaign, and there has never been a hint, not a hint, of electricity or warmth from either of us to the other person. It has always been business.” Fiona responds like a dispassionate therapist. “Do you hear yourself?”

Miscommunication accounts for a lot of the comedy on Web Therapy, and lately I’ve noticed how frequently people on this show accept compliments that aren’t compliments. Like the best parts of the show, the thematic implications are obvious without distracting from the great, concise jokes. For instance, when Fiona sarcastically thanks Jerome for including her in his and Haley’s decision to have babies. Or when Jerome’s new surrogate Tammy says she’s a mother, not a murderer, and Fiona corrects her, “Well, you’re a space that’s being occupied by not yet living things.” “Right, well, thank you.”

Yes, Fiona is just full of surprises. She can cry when she has a psychological breakthrough, she can get loud and angry when Ben takes her husband to get highlights, and apparently she’s pro-choice. It does make a strange sort of sense. Fiona’s been on a bit of an anti-religious-right crusade this year, and her radical politics are more informed by a personal selfishness that flatters itself as no-nonsense than any moral values. But really it comes down to one thing: Jerome having triplets would be a huge drag for Fiona, so she supports abortion. She isn’t conservative so much as myopic.

What’s funny is how clear Fiona’s argument is. “Why stop there? Why can’t life begin the moment you think about having a child. I thought about having a child, but then I didn’t. So I killed it?” Jerome thinks she’s going to have to square that with her conscience or a higher power or something. I suppose they’re all speaking in platitudes; it’s just that Fiona’s follow logic. She’s never even suggested homosexuality is wrong, and even now her main concern is keeping Kip and Ben in the closet as long as Robin is around documenting the campaign. At the same time, Fiona did kidnap an obese four-year-old, take her to the police station, and try to cite her for her crime as an example of how the Wallices’ anti-obesity plank would operate were Kip elected. She’s usually pretty good at anticipating reactions from people as long as they aren’t buttering her up, but her general inability to see anything wrong with herself has its consequences.

“Infanticipation” is so full of conservative satire that the straightforward political arguments don’t stop there. Jerome’s first scene (and his second—poor guy just has no spine) is about him approaching Fiona for some leniency with respect to his impending paternity. He wants to get on “the mommy track” at work, which I can’t imagine is a thing that has ever been said in the presence of Fiona Wallice, and he’s hoping for maybe a raise or benefits or something now that he’s starting a family. He even brings Tammy, I suspect because he’s secretly hoping she’ll fight for him since she needs Jerome’s money, too (she has the Dee Reynolds approach to surrogacy), but he walks away with nothing, because he’s Jerome. The scene goes all over the place, thanks primarily to Tammy, but it’s a wonderful little distillation about how Fiona, a small-business owner, is being ravaged by having to provide health insurance to Jerome, her only employee. His paternity benefits don’t kick in until he’s worked there for ten years, and as far as Fiona’s concerned, that’s a personal problem. I’ve said it before, but Web Therapy is really making hay out of the politics of selfishness this season.

Where did Selma Blair come from? Was she this good in Hellboy and I just missed it? Sure, the sullen, petulant ditz is such a common stereotype that we can all probably pull off a decent version—whereas it might be more challenging to play someone like Ben entertainingly—but Blair’s so perfectly fidgety and impulsive that it’s like she studied Tammy in the wild for years. Her spiel about “the bed the spaceships made” is such a bizarre but credible flight, heightened by increasing lunacy (and bouncing gestures), that I can’t wait to see what else comes out of Tammy’s mouth. The “Nunya” bit just confirms her greatness, and I’m pretty sure I passed out at the cutaway of her saying, “Ex-squeeze me?” I don’t know how to keep her in the thick of the narrative, but Jerome never did get that raise. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.


Stray observations:

  • I’ve called the format monotonous, but “Infanticipation” at least provides a few new locations: Fiona chats from the hair-and-makeup room at Good Morning, Allentown, and Ben chats from a convertible outside the salon where Kip is getting Botox and highlights. I also love seeing new sides of the characters. The moment when Fiona loses her cool with Ben is mesmerizing.
  • Ben cancels Fiona’s appearance on Good Morning, Allentown. “Yes, I’ve decided that you are inappropriate even for something that no one cares about.”
  • The outtakes are usually just funny for how the actors break at the absurdity, but Michael McDonald turning his laugh into an introspective cry after Fiona accuses him and Kip of braiding each other’s hair is the best.
  • Something else I love about Michael McDonald: His pseudo-coming-out, complete with voice-breaking and rambling into this weird statement about Kip smelling like cinnamon.
  • Fiona has no restraint around people she considers dumb. She tells Tammy, “Why don’t you go into the bathroom, maybe look in a mirror and amuse yourself for 40 hours?” “That’s a long time.”
  • I wonder how the Senate race is going. Fiona’s kidnapping dropped Kip’s poll numbers 30%, but it’s supposedly a slam-dunk Republican seat.
  • Michael McDonald’s performance in the final scene really feels like he’s at the end of a long, soul-searching, fulfilling day. The beat he takes after Fiona says he had a date with Kip is glorious.
  • “Thank you for bringing that up to the ‘90s, Salt-N-Pepa.”