Ah, truths which are awful, let us contemplate them!
So it's Carrie's birthday (she's turning 33--which, when I started watching the show as a lass of 21, seemed quite remote and distant to me... not so much now!), and Big has sent her red roses in honor of the occasion. This, of course, sends Carrie into a tizzy. Why did he doooo it? What does it meeeean? Samantha and Miranda think it means that Big is a poo-head, whose wacky mixed signals need to be resolutely ignored, while Charlotte (predictably) thinks that it's a sweet romantic gesture, which might well signal his desire to get back together. Confusion, it reigns. In the midst of said confusion, Carrie somehow ends up asking Big to come to her birthday party. (Hand slaps forehead.) He shows up. It's weird. Carrie still has feelings for him, but she can't tell him so. (Headaches.)
Meanwhile, Charlotte has gotten herself a dog. Said dog, Henry, is totally annoying. Consequently, Charlotte sheds said Henry by the end of the episode. Sooo... buh-bye, Henry!
Samantha is still dating James... but, as you may have already suspected, said dating's days are numbered. He coaxes her into couples' counseling, where she spends a long time dodging the question of what's really bothering her about their relationship, but eventually explodes out with the truth (Sam: "Your penis is too small. And it can't... and I can't... and it's just too damned small") in front of the bemused-looking therapist. James promptly dumps her. Buh-bye, James! (Hope the actor enjoyed hearing "Aren't you the guy with the small penis from Sex and the City?" for the rest of his professional life. "I've done SHAKESPEARE, people, can't we talk about my Hamlet for once?!?")
Miranda has commenced dating "Spring Roll Guy" (a guy she met when... eating spring rolls, shockingly.) Turns out, SPG likes to talk dirty in bed. Miranda... not so much. (Miranda, to her friends: "Sex is not a time to chat!") He gets her into it, however, she discovers that she actually likes it, and everything is going just swimmingly until her pillow talk includes the dreaded phrase "you like a finger in your ass." After she utters this sweet little nothing, SRG promptly dumps her. (Perhaps he has read Sense and Sexuality, the charming booklet issued by our pro-abstinence-only friends which warns its readers that "The rectum is an exit, not an entrance"?) A straight man enjoying anal stimulation? Go wash your brain out with soap for having even entertained the thought that such perversions were possible, you filthy-minded minder of filth!
There is also a subplot featuring Susan Sharon, a friend of Carrie's who is unhappy in her marriage. Susan asks Carrie for guidance about said unhappy marriage, which is unhappy in large part because her husband is, as Susan puts it, "emotionally abusive." Carrie counsels Susan to leave if she's not happy... which Susan promptly does, only to equally promptly find herself miserable. Turns out, she misses the mean husband who yells at her to "shut the fuck up" all the time! So by the end of the episode, they are reconciled. Awww, it's a tender, touching love story which might have come out of Austen, don't you think?
Homophobia Hinted At, But Not Directly Addressed Watch: So why is it, we ask ourselves, given all of the quite explicit, detailed, anatomical things which Spring Roll Guy and Miranda said to each other during their Intimate Moments, is it her comment that he "likes a finger in his ass" which shuts him down and prompts him to ditch her? The characters never say so directly, but by noting that some straight men enjoy such stimulation but "don't want it brought to their attention," we are left to conclude that this particular enjoyment is seen as "shameful" by heterosexual men, presumably, because of its association with gay men. (Because goodness knows, engaging in any behaviors perceived as "gay" is a sure sign that you in fact are gay, which is clearly THE MOST TERRIBLE THING EVER.)
I dunno, following my usual plus/minus model, I'd say (plus) the episode definitely indicates that such panic/shame on the part of straight men is ridiculous, but (minus) the episode never directly says "isn't it lame that some straight men are so terrified of having their heterosexuality in any way questioned that they're willing to deny themselves sexual practices which they actually like/dump women whom they actually like just to keep a full 100 percent on their 'Don't Do Anything 'Gay' Scorecard'?"
Shrug. I don't think they did terrible work here, but I would have appreciated a "Well, I wouldn't have wanted to date a man whose cologne of choice was 'Fear of The Gays' anyway!" type remark from Miranda.
Trivializing Domestic Violence Watch: The truly upsetting thing about this episode, I think, is the way that it handles Susan Sharon's relationship with her husband. We see him yelling at her, and her flinching as he yells. We see him denigrating her in front of her friends. She herself defines him as emotionally abusive. Nasty, serious stuff, this.
Would that the episode treated it as such. Instead, it suggests that since Susan is an irritating motormouth (wasting no opportunity to depict her as such), that her husband's treatment of her is not abuse so much as it is justifiable annoyance at her tendency to talk a lot, to be loud, etc. Yeeeeesh. Since 1) domestic violence is often trivialized and romanticized in our culture, 2) women who are victims of violence are often blamed for somehow being culpable for the abuse which they suffer, 3) violence which takes the form of verbal rather than physical abuse is yet further denigrated as not being "real" abuse, showing the abusive behavior of Susan's husband and then writing it off as just a rough patch in what, underneath all the yelling and denigrating, is ostensibly a happy marriage... very upsetting. Leaves a very definite bad taste in my mouth, this one. By the end of the episode, we are supposed to embrace Susan's husband as a nice guy, who just happens to like to tell his wife to shut the fuck up all the time. The lovable scamp! Except... no. Boo, I say, and hiss.
Next Up...?: "The Freak Show," in which the ladies ponder the age old question, "Are all men freaks?" Well... are they???