The Summary: Ah, sex which is secret, let us discuss it! All right, so, Carrie is off to her first official date with Big. For said date, she wears a sporty little number which Charlotte quickly dubs "the naked dress." Charlotte takes this racy-dress-donning as a sign that Carrie will sleep with Big on their first date, and, of course, disapproves. (Gentlemen never marry skanky ladies, after all.) Miranda advises against sleeping with a bloke on the first date, as well, and Samantha is, naturally, in favor. Carrie denies that she plans on sleeping with Big on their first date right up until, of course, she actually does so. She subsequently feels that this was a very bad call, and agonizes about it over the course of the entire episode, convinced that because of said sleeping-with, Big has transformed her into his "secret sex girl" whom he's ashamed to introduce to his friends and will never be seriously interested in. Turns out, that's not true, Big actually wants to date Carrie, even though she is so sluttttty.
And what of the other ladies, you ask? When Carrie asks them if they've ever slept with someone they were embarrassed about, Samantha, of course, says no. (And this includes a lad who was in high school at the time. How do you spell "statutory" again?) Charlotte, however, it transpires, did once have a secret fling with a Haisidic folk artist she met through her gallery. (Because I'm sure that devout Haisdic men sleep with shiksas all the time!) Miranda is too busy to talk about illicit shenanigans, because she is involved in a licit shenanigan with Ted, a nice gent she met at a kick-boxing class. Snooping through his apartment, she discovers some spanking-themed pornography. She is appalled. She brings it up with him (by... spanking him in public, how tactful!), and he promptly dumps her. Possible lesson here? Don't snoop! Or surprise-attack spank someone in public!
There is also a B plot featuring Carrie's friend Mike, who is dating a delightful woman named Libby. Mike thinks Libby is fantastic--but is also uncomfortable with the fact that she is not conventionally gorgeous or sufficiently sophisticated (his last girlfriend was a ballerina, you see--fannnnncy), and as such, refuses to introduce her to any of his friends or be seen with her in public. Said behavior eventually leads her to dump his creepy behind. Well done, Libby!
Self-Slut-Shaming Watch: How very, very hard Carrie beats herself up in this episode for having slept with Big. Very hard beating-up-of-the-self takes place throughout. (As she notes at one point, "The truth is, I blamed myself. I wore the naked dress on our first date. I slept with him too fast." Does Big need to be blamed for the snazzy, lady-killing suit which he wore, or for sleeping with Carrie too fast? No, of course not! Don't be silly!) To the show's credit, I think it (for the most part) actually shows Carrie's self-flagellation as in and of itself a problem. Because it turns out, after all of Carrie's anguishing, that their first-date activities have not made Big think any less of her, or made him any less interested in dating her. (Plenty of problems with Big, for Pete's sake, but thankfully slut-shaming is not one of them.) In the end, the show seems to go with Miranda's "you were both excited, you went for it, stop blaming yourself" perspective, which... heck, could have been a lot worse! I think the episode shines a nice spotlight on the fact that even though our culture claims to be quite sexually free and unjudge-y, judgment of the womenfolk (but notably, not the gentlemen) for their sexual decisions is still very much with us. Carrie's self-blame is very much rooted in the "woman as sexual gatekeeper" model--the notion that the ladies need to keep the gents' ravening desires in check (not having desires of their own, one supposes), and if they don't, then they deserve to be berated and shamed for their whoredom. (I'll bring the rotten apples to pelt at them if you bring the scarlet letter!)
Not Being Rail Thin = Undesirability Watch: I am just full of praise for this episode, how can it be that I am so positive? What is happening to me??? But I can't help it, I think they did a lot of things right here, bless them. First, they decide not to shame and punish Carrie for her sex-having, and second, they argue that for a man to be ashamed of a woman he's dating just because she's not conventionally beautiful is deeply messed up. Perhaps that's setting the bar pretty low, but still... I approve! The writers make it clear that Mike is a screw-up for not valuing Libby simply because she is, as he keeps insisting, "not beautiful" or "that gorgeous." (And of course, "not beautiful" or "that gorgeous" in this context translates into a woman who is "fat" by Hollywood standards.) She finally dumps him, and he is sad about said dumping. Thank you, SATC writers, for doling out just punishments, like the vengeful god of the Old Testament. Much appreciated!
Vaguely Kinky Pornography Watch: I also think this episode does a decent job of handling Miranda's locating of her swain's spanking-themed-films stash. First, it suggests that snooping is a bad idea. (Bad, snoopers, bad!) Second, Carrie counters Miranda's creeped-out-ness with a pretty matter-of-fact "maybe that's just his fantasy life" acceptance, thus helping to diffuse any "how freakish of him, egad, he should be caged, if not jailed, for his bizarre predilections, the vile wretch!" sentiments. (Dan Savage would be so pleased!) Third, Miranda doesn't decide to instantly dump him because of her location of said videos--suggesting, perhaps, that Carrie has managed to cram a bit of open-mindedness in there. (Well done, Bradshaw.) The fact that he dumps her at the end of it all doesn't negate some of the lessons learned here, I think. (I hope?)
Notable Quotables: Carrie, in the immediate aftermath of what she fears was her one-night stand with Big: "I will not be the first to speak. And if he never calls, I'll always think of him fondly... as an asshole."
Next Up...?: An episode entitled "The Monogamists" about how darned hard it is to be monogamous, especially in a city with as many pretty people in it as New York. Alas, this episode does not include one of my favorite SATC lines about monogamy from Samantha ("I've got monogamy! I must have caught it from you people!")--that sucker will have to wait till Season Four...