Monday, January 10

Season Three, Episode Sixteen: Frenemies

The Summary:

Ah, enemies who sometimes pose as friends, and friends who sometimes feel more like enemies, let us discuss them!

So, Carrie has been commissioned to teach a class on dating and relationships at the Learning Annex called (prepare to groan with me now) "Bright Lights, Date City." Oof. She sails into her first class ready to take the world by storm, but ends up having rather a rough time of it, as she faces a room which is 30 percent dead-eyed and 70 percent hostile. (Been there!) The hostility comes in large part from her students' anger that they have paid to take a class all about snaring a fella... from a lady who has, notably, failed to snare a fella herself. I see.

Having been interrogated by her students about her marital status and romantic history during her first class, and learning that the majority of these students dropped out and demanded refunds after said interrogation, Carrie is dispirited, and plunged into self-doubt. Maybe her students are right! Maybe she doesn't know anything about men, relationships, or anything! But then she rallies--just because she's not currently married or partnered doesn't mean that she doesn't have valuable insights to share, after all!

And so she marches back into her second class, and uses her teaching salary to take the small handful of students who remain out to a local bar, and matchmakes away. She tells her students that though she may not have all the answers when it comes to matters of the heart, she does know that half the battle is just being willing to go out into the world, take some risks, and hope for the best (no matter how much of the worst may have happened to one in the past.) Seems sensible to me! (All but the part about using one's teacherly salary to ply one's students with drinks, that is. Just try to pry me away from one PENNY of my adjunct's salary for such a purpose, I DEFY you.)

Meanwhile, a guy Miranda had been all prepped to have a first date with... dies. Sad! Miranda subsequently gets stuck attending said guy's funeral, where she meets Jim, who seems all things charming and delightful. You will note, of course, sharp-eyed readers, that I use the word "seems"... for Carrie, it transpires, knows Jim, having dated him herself some years ago, and she warns Miranda that he is an asshole of the first water/highest order, and that she ought to stay the heck away from him. Miranda shrugs this off. Jim seems so wonderful! Perhaps Carrie is wrong?

Alas, no, Carrie is not wrong--turns out, Carrie is, in fact, quite right, and Jim is, in fact, an asshole of the most dedicated variety... who, because of said assholery, consequently finds himself dumped by Miranda. Buh-bye, Jim! Our lesson from the day from the School of the Obvious? If your best friend tells you that she knows for a fact that a gent is bad news, then... said gent is, in fact, bad news! Got it.

Samantha and Charlotte, meanwhile, are fighting. The subject of said fight being, surprise, surprise, sex. Charlotte (grappling with the ongoing sexlessness of her marriage) is infuriated by Sam's continous, explicit recounting of her encounters, and of her whole-hearted embrace of a casual, non-strings-attached, no-emotions-involved model of sexuality. She insists that sex ought to be about love. She hints that Sam is a slut for not having sex in which love/affection is at least a factor. Sam, in turn, tells Charlotte that at least she's having sex, at all. Yeouch. Nasty stuff.

They patch things up, however, after having bad experiences with other would-be friends. Sam becomes friendly with the sassy, Southern Claire-Anne, who is sexually venturesome as Sam herself is. Though perhaps Claire-Anne is rather too sexually venturesome... Sam breaks off their friendship after Claire-Anne goes down on a bloke in the middle of a restaurant. (As in... in the middle. She is under a table at the time, I grant you, but would this not still lead to arrest...?)

Charlotte, correspondingly, reconnects with her old sorority friends, but subsequently breaks off her friendship with them, after they tell her that she's being vulgar and inappropriate for trying to talk about her sex life (or rather, lack of one) with them. Charlotte learns that she actually values having someone who is so candid about sex in her life. And Sam, correspondingly, learns that she values having someone who does not commit acts of public lewdness in her life. And so... buh-bye, Claire-Anne! Buh-bye, Sorority Friends!

In this episode, we also venture further down the path of Charlotte Trying to Fix Her Marriage... the whole "incorporate yourself into your husband's porn" thing, shockingly, does not seem to be working, and Trey and Charlotte still have not had sex. Sam (pre-fight) suggests to Charlotte that this is because Trey has a Madonna/whore complex, and sees her, not as a sexual being, but rather as "his virginal wife." (And... welcome back to the nineteenth century! Can I interest anyone in a lack of birth control information and a cultural ideal of female passionlessness, while we're at it? No?)

Charlotte decides that one solution to this potential problem would be to do a radical makeover on herself, sexing herself up to the point where Trey would feel more comfortable putting her on the "whore" end of the "Madonna/whore" spectrum. (Charlotte, as she flips through racks of very out-of-character, racy undergarments in a sex shop: "I don't want to be me, I want to be someone else!") Greeeeeat.

In the end, however, she rejects that approach, retaining the sexy undergarments (ones more in line with her taste in the end, mercifully), but rejecting the whole "Madonna/whore," "seeking to become someone else to please one's spouse" concept, and decides to actually directly tackle the problem head-on, making one last-ditch effort to communicate with Trey. (Charlotte, to Trey, wearing a transparent nightgown which I am sure Kristin Davis was delighted to see on her costume list: "I'm not a Madonna, and I'm not a whore... I'm your wife, and I'm sexual, and I love you.") He initially shrugs her off, says she looks ridiculous... but changes his tune a bit after Charlotte sheds the nightgown, and starts masturbating in front of him. Unlike the porn-redecoration plan, this more direct approach... actually seems to work! (Carrie's voiceover: "That night, Trey successfully screwed his wife... for a full minute and a half.") Not worthy of champagne, to be sure, but perhaps... sparkling cider? Seltzer?

The Analysis:

People of Color Watch
: Three of Carrie's disaffected students are women of color--two are African-American and one is Asian-American. They each have about one line of dialogue, and are super-minor characters. Of course they are.

Rejecting the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy, and Asserting One's One Sexual Needs, Hooray, Watch
: I must say that I like Charlotte's little speech about how she is, in fact, neither a Madonna nor a whore, but simply a sexual woman, who wishes to be regarded as such by her own husband. (This... does not seem unreasonable!) Nice to see her, in the end, rejecting the idea that she needs to become someone else to get her husband's sexual attention, but rather embracing the idea that she will simply be herself to do so... the sheer nightgown might have been rather uncomfortable for Kristin Davis to wear (certainly... drafty), but it does seem to work in a nice symbolic way here--in the end, Charlotte decides not to dress up like a naughty schoolgirl or similar, but simply to show Trey herself--standing before him naked (both literally and figuratively) and articulate her own sexual needs.

And the fact that she chooses to masturbate in front of Trey also seems important here, given that Charlotte had said earlier in the series that she felt ashamed of even thinking about masturbating while in her husband's presence... our Mrs. MacDougal seems to have come a long way, in terms of her willingness to quite fearlessly articulate and express her desires. Hooray! I mean, modified hooray, because things... clearly still not perfect on the MacDougal marriage front. But... partial hooray nonetheless!

Next Up...?: "What Goes Around, Comes Around," in which karma does, as advertised, indeed prove to be a bitch. Sam is punished for sleeping with a college boy. Carrie is punished for her affair with Big (again/still). Miranda is punished for daring to date a man "more attractive" than she is. (I use the ironic air quotes because this is Cynthia Frickin' Nixon, people.) Charlotte is punished for kissing the MacDougal family gardener. Punishment all around!

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