Wednesday, January 12

Season Three, Episode Seventeen: What Goes Around, Comes Around

The Summary:

Ah, karma. Sometimes you are such a friend to us, sometimes... such a foe. (I, for one, must have really abused socks in a past life, because seldom do I leave the laundromat without having lost at least one to the vagaries of the washing machine. Oh, socks! Can you not forgive those old, unremembered wrongs??? Can we not live in peace together???)

ANYWAY. Enough about me and my socks. The miserable lives which our four leading ladies are currently leading, I am aware, are surely more interesting. And so... to those miserable lives let us now turn!

So Carrie, it transpires, is having rather a rough time of it. (All together now: "Again, still.") She bumps into Natasha at a restaurant, and Natasha looks at her... well, the way one might look at the lady who had amused herself by sleeping with one's spouse. Carrie is devastated. Carrie learns that Natasha and Big's marriage is, indeed, officially over (and that Natasha has gone back to working at Ralph Lauren... a job, I guess, which she had given up when she married Big? Because I guess being married to a wealthy businessman and being a full-time socialite is job enough for a 26-year-old newlywed? Seriously, all we ever saw Natasha do was shop at expensive boutiques, and go to the Hamptons. And... blogger stifles yawn, contemplating such a life--while at the same time wishing that she had access to that kind of cash.) Learning this not-so-fun fact, Carrie is even more devastated.

And on top of her devastation/ongoing, painful sense of guilt and remorse about l'affaire, Bad Things start to happen to Carrie. She gets mugged, and loses her favorite pair of Manolo Blahniks. She falls down the stairs, and scrapes up her arm. Clearly, karma... is gunning for her. She decides the only way to clear said bad karma is to go to Natasha, and plead for her forgiveness. [At which point blogger slaps her palm smartly against her forehead. Really, I did.]

Now, when Carrie was contemplating whether or not she should tell Aidan about the affair, she wondered if spilling her guts to him about her adulterous shenanigans was the "ultimate selfish act," which would help her to assuage her guilt, but at the cost of inflicting tremendous pain on the innocent Aidan. In that particular case, I thought this line of reasoning was malarkey--Aidan had the right to know that she'd taken a stroll down Affair Boulevard, and I think that she was quite right to tell him about The Most Ill-Advised Affair of All Frickin' Time (hyperbole, I know, but I shall let it stand), and let him decide whether or not he still wanted to be with her. That was only just.

However, I think that Carrie's "maybe discussing the affair with the injured parties isn't about me wanting to do right by them, but about me needing their absolution, and not caring if I have to twist the knife in their wounds to get it" line of reasoning could have profitably been applied to her angst over Natasha. Natasha, unsurprisingly, hates Carrie. Natasha, not entirely shockingly, never wants to see or speak to Carrie again. This seems fair to me! Perhaps Carrie leaving Natasha alone, then... not a bad idea?

But leaving Natasha alone does not seem to be something which our Ms. Bradshaw is capable of, alas. What she IS capable of is bombarding Natasha with phone calls (which go unanswered, surprise, surprise), and eventually stalking her to a restaurant (again with the restaurant encounters!), where Carrie vomits up a flood of self-recriminations and apologies onto the unwilling Natasha. After listening to Carrie's floods of self-reproach, Natasha makes a rather nice little speech, in which she basically says that she wishes Carrie hadn't bothered to come to apologize to her, because the damage which she's done is so dire that even a veritable landslide of "I'm sorrys" isn't going to cut it. Carrie subsequently slinks away, reflecting that the affair, and its aftermath, surely are messes of the first order. No disagreement here!

What other horrors await, you ask? Well, Miranda (rushing to Carrie's aid after she gets mugged) meets a gorgeous, charming cop, who asks her out. He seems like a delightful fellow--smart, funny, and very focused on and interested in Miranda. What could possibly go wrong? [She asked, as she reached to queue up the ominous music.]

What goes wrong, alas, is all in Miranda's noggin. She is convinced that this beautiful man is waaaaaay out of her league, and that her unremarkable self looks ridiculous with him. (Because Miranda Nixon is so. Darned. Plain. PLEASE.) Consequently, she gets massively drunk on a date with him, and he concludes that she is an alcoholic. Buh-bye, Lovely Cop! And try to snap out of it, Ms. Hobbes!

Samantha, meanwhile... sigh. So, Sam's been getting floods of calls for one "Sam Jones" (not herself) which is sooooo annoying to her that she tracks down this alternate Sam, to get his friends to stop calling her all the bloody time. Turns out, Sam is a fetching young college student, and a virgin. (Perhaps you can already see where this is headed...?) Samantha accordingly decides to sleep with him, "to give him the great first time I never had." Ummm... great idea?

You will be shocked to learn that this backfires in quite spectacular fashion, with young Sam subsequently believing himself to be in love with Samantha, bombarding her with hysterical phone calls, and showing up at her door every hour of the day and night, to plead for her love. Fantastic. Turns out, seducing innocent youngsters decades younger than yourself... can have some downsides! I AM SHOCKED.

Charlotte, happily, is not sleeping with 18-year-olds... but that's about the only happy thing happening in her next of the woods. Her sex life with Trey is still a disaster, and he's pretty much given up on even trying to make it work. A sad, frustrated Charlotte takes to wandering disconsolately around Trey's family's gorgeous country estate, happening across a lovely young gardener whilst doing so (as one does), and eventually sticking her toe into Lady Chatterley waters by making out with him. Of course she does.

When Trey's family finds out about this extramarital smooching, they are totally blase about it--apparently, it is the done thing to liplock with one's staff in the MacDougal household? Only Trey is ticked, but he tells Charlotte that he's okay with "looking the other way" while she seeks out other gents. Charlotte decides that this doesn't really sound like a great deal to her, and tells Trey that she thinks that they should separate for awhile. This... seems sensible! And so, buh-bye, Lovely Gardener! Buh-bye, Trey! (For now, anyway...) Buh-bye, Annoying Pseudo-Celtic-Flute-Music-Which-Played-Every-Time-The-Gardener-Appeared! (WE GET IT. He is a vaguely Irish man of the earth. GIVE IT A REST.)

The Analysis:

Seducing the Barely Legal=Creepy Watch
: Let's get the easy one out of the way first, shall we? Sam's casual seducing of the young, virginal, stripling Sam creeps me out. I will give the show credit to the extent that they do, indeed, show that Sam (The Lady) deciding to deflower Sam (The Lad) was an Extremely Bad Idea (TM), but revoke much of said credit as they do, nonetheless, play this plotline for laughs. Ha ha, it is HILARIOUS that this poor kid has been emotionally scarred by his first sexual experience, and that (Female) Sam has clearly introduced him to sex before he was ready to be thus introduced. Yeeeeesh.

Maybe I just feel protective because Sam is my own students' age [pauses to find that strange--I am old enough to feel protective towards 19-year-olds???], and he's clearly a sweet kid who, if left to his own devices, would have found his own way, in his own time, into the Land of Sex, and most likely with someone a smidge more age appropriate. It seems like a bummer, rather than a source of amusement and hilarity to me, that his first sexual experience was ultimately so traumatic and upsetting for him. Bad (Ms.) Sam, bad!

I don't want to go down the Cougar-Shaming Path here, but I will note that I do find something distasteful in a sophisticated woman in her 40s casually bedding a lad in his (at most) early 20s, who is clearly not mature enough or emotionally ready to handle said bedding. I would find it similarly distasteful, of course, to see the genders reversed in such a scenario--more distasteful, actually, given our culture's fetishization of female youth, and its relentless pairing off of young women with older men in films, TV, etc. (And yet... one of my favorite novels is Jane Eyre, which eroticizes the age gap between Jane and Rochester like it's goin' out of style. Hypocrisy? Perhaps. But it was the nineteenth century, and Jane is clearly more than a match for Rochester, maturity-wise, and I just love Jane Eyre, okay???)

Self-Esteem for the Ladies... Shall We Take Up a Collection? Watch: And from near-stautory rape, let us now turn to Miranda Hobbes and her raging insecurity. In sum, it makes me sad. The cop in her plotline is clearly attracted to her, clearly likes her, clearly enjoys her company. But Miranda just can't believe in any of that, because, as she puts it, he's "too good-looking" for her. His interest in her unleashes a whole flood of insecurities about how she looks, and how she could never "measure up" to someone so gorgeous. She's obsessed with how other people see them (imagining them sniggering about a guy like him being with a woman like her), and is anxious because of all the female attention and admiration which he attracts (surely, her humble self will never be able to hold his attention, with so many lovely ladies lusting for him? Even though... she does--he totally ignores the other women who try to flirt with him when he's with Miranda.)

First and most obviously, such anguishing is absurd because Cynthia Nixon is, herself, quite conventionally beautiful. Second and most sadly, Miranda's anxieties and neuroses seem all too real here--her sense that she simply isn't pretty enough, that she would need to be much prettier to snag the "right" kind of guy, that she simply doesn't understand what this guy sees in her, because she's not as "beautiful" as he is. Sigh. Woman feeling the need to reach an unattainable standard of beauty? Check. Woman feeling that her looks are one of the primary determinants of her romantic prospects? Check. Woman not believing a man's interest in her is genuine, because she's not "pretty" enough to deserve it? Check. Thank you, patriarchy, and toxically unhealthy media and pop culture, for making the torment in Miranda, and her loss of a nice guy, possible!

Ladies Being Quite Tough, Excellent, Watch: So one of the most entertaining parts about Michael Patrick King's commentary on this episode (though all of his commentary is consistently entertaining, I note... I am very angry with him because of the truly appalling messes which he created (and refused to clean up) in the SATC films, but I cannot deny that he makes a charming commentary-provider for the DVDs of the series... so thanks for that, anyway, MPK!) is when he talks about the character of Natasha. He notes (as I'm sure Bridget Moynihan was delighted to hear) that they picked Moynihan to play Natasha pretty much entirely because of how she looked--I'm guessing, because she looked like the anti-Carrie--tall, dark-haired, and conventionally beautiful. But surprise, surprise, as the series unfolded, they found out that this lovely young woman could actually act! (Next you will tell me that a lady can also be at once beautiful and smart, at once plain and alluring, at once intellectual and feminine, and other such unthinkable combinations. Who'da thunk it?)

And I like the fact that Natasha does, indeed, become (however briefly) a woman of substance in this episode. Before, she'd just been Carrie's beautiful, often silent, foil, about whom we knew virtually nothing. (Apart from the aforementioned, "My only goal in life seems to be fashionably drifting from one fashionable spot to another" stuff.) In this episode, however, she shows herself to be both dignified and feisty. (And I like dignified feistitude! Feisty dignitude?) She gives Carrie a good dressing down about the silliness of thinking that a mere apology could undo the pain of her affair with Big, and the selfishness of Carrie for inflicting her company on her, when she knows very well that it is unwelcome. She doesn't yell or get nasty, she just tells Carrie off in a measured (but deadly) way. Good for Natasha, I say--refusing to put up with Adulterous Spouse, or to soothe the conscience of the Repentant Partner of said Adulterous Spouse. Her, I like. Pity that we never see or hear from her again. Buh-bye, Natasha! Hope that your next gent proves to be less slimy than Big!

Undoing the Raging Shallowness of Charlotte York MacDougal: A Progress Report: In this episode, I am pleased to note that young Charlotte Y M has taken yet another step away from her previous dwelling in the Land of the Unendingly Shallow. Hooray! You will recall that earlier in the series, Charlotte declared that her ideal spouse would be well-bred, good-looking, and rich (I guess the state of his heart and his intellect... insignificant?), and that she rushes into marriage with Trey in large part because he seems like the "right" kind of guy for her--i.e., handsome, rich, and from a fancy-pants family.

Happily, Little Lady Fauntleroy is starting to realize that just because you have a nice-looking husband and gobs of money, doesn't mean that you have what you need to be happy! (Well, color me flabbergasted!) At the end of the episode, Charlotte looks around the MacDougals' perfect, posh country house, and her posh, seemingly perfect husband and realizes that "the only thing that was missing was that connection with an imperfect person."

Ohmigosh, you guys, you guys, Charlotte actually wants something imperfect and genuine, rather than seemingly perfect and fake! She'd rather hold out for something real, with someone who actually loves and cares for her, than the seemingly ideal life of being Mrs. Trey MacDougal. I think that those in the dictionary business would file that one under "p" for "progress." Hooray!!!

Notable Quotables:
Carrie, musing about herself, Big, Natasha, and the whole hideous "Big is now single again, because of my adulterous affair with him... but because of said adulterous affair, I don't actually want to be with him anymore" headache-making mess: "The universe may not always play fair, but at least it's got a hell of a sense of humor."

Next Up...?: "Cock-A-Doodle-Do!" Yes, really. That is actually the name of the episode, complete with offending exclamation point. I would not, and could not, invent such a thing, I assure you. The episode, you will be glad (?) to know includes both Carrie grappling with chickens, and Sam grappling with the transgendered sex workers who work on her street. Angels and ministers of grace defend us, that can only end in tears.

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