Friday, September 30

Season Five, Episode Five: Plus One is the Loneliest Number

The Summary:

Welcome to our fresh new episode, my friends! And what a fresh new episode it is! Miniature cupcakes, fetching men with great eyebrows, radical plastic surgery... this episode has it all! (And file that "has it all" language away for future reference, as we shall surely come back to it later. So glad to know that language about ladies "having it all" from the 1980s refuses to go away already!)

So let us begin, as is our wont, with Carrie. Carrie is about to have her book published, and is super, super excited about it. (As is her publisher, as ever played the charming Amy Sedaris. Even when she is not crafting, Ms. Sedaris is a delight.) Said charming publisher is having a huuuuuuge blow-out party for Carrie's book launch, which is all glamour, flowers, and fetching little cupcakes. Oooh, can I come to this fictional party? It looks like such fun!

Except, of course, said fun is tempered by Carrie's sadness that she will be going to her fancy-schmancy party--and is, by extension/in general--alone. Why, she wonders, when she has so much to be grateful for--a darned-good writing career, a lovely apartment, fantastic friends--is it that the one thing she is missing (a good fella) looms so large? Ummm, because human nature is the very dickens, and we cannot be content even with a room crammed with fun comestibles like cupcakes, and fun people like Isaac Mizrahi? Yes, I thought that might be it.

Carrie's discontent is further, um, discontentified after she meets one Jack Berger, fellow writer, at her publisher's, who (in no particular order) a) is adorable, b) has better eyebrows than I will ever have, and c) is extremely verbal, sardonic, and amusing. Helloooooo.

So Carrie and Jack chat, they go for a walk, it is all very flirtatious and delightful... until Carrie asks Jack to come with her to her book launch party, and Jack then discloses the intriguing piece of information that he has a girlfriend. I SEE. And this did not come up sooner because...? (Hey, I said he had great eyebrows and was fun to talk to, I didn't say he had great social skills, or much of a conscience!)

Carrie is bummed. I am bummed. Bummed-ness... it reigns supreme. Both of our moods are improved, however, when Carrie ends up having a super time at her super party, and has the good sense not to rise to the bait of Jack showing up to her party sans girlfriend. She is pleasant to him, but entirely unflirtatious. Well done, Bradshaw! I guess getting involved in an adulterous love triangle that one time actually did teach you something, after all! Men who are already taken--not wise to become entangled with!

Meanwhile, Miranda is back to work after her maternity leave (nice that unlike many an American woman, Ms. Hobbes actually gets some significant maternity leave--four whole episodes worth! How many other American moms can say as much?) And as Carrie's voiceover tells us, she is "politically incorrectly happy to be there." So--yay, work! (Blogger pauses to note that unlike many an American mom, Ms. Hobbes can actually afford full-time, high-quality child care while she is at work. Handy!)

Miranda's first day back in the office is complicated by a call from one Walker Lewis, whom she had a pleasant one-night stand with whilst she was pregnant. (As one will.) He would like to see her again. She would like to see him again, too, but is uneasy about disclosing her new mommyhood to him. So she takes him to Carrie's party (good!) but neglects to mention that she is now a parent (bad!) But then she does tell him she's had Brady (good!), takes him home for (what she hopes) will be a steamy tryst... while Brady is there... and sans nanny (ill-advised!)

Shockingly, that doesn't go too well, and Walker leaves Miranda mid-tryst. (Buh-bye, Walker!) Miranda then admits to herself (and to the baby, who does not seem in the least upset about disrupting said tryst... and why should he be, really? Someone that cute should not really be upset about anything.) that she can't live exactly the same kind of life that she had lived pre-baby, because "she wasn't the same person. She was plus one." Miranda's storyline in the episode thus ends with some hard-core baby-snuggling. (All together now--awwwwwww.)

Charlotte, meanwhile, is dating some super-preppy guy who looks like he stepped out of a Ralph Lauren catalog, and about whom... we know pretty much nothing else. (Sorry, Handsome Blond Man! I am sure you have many other interesting and delightful qualities, independently of handsome-ness, I simply do not know what they are!) The thing about her dating this gent is 1) she is, in fact, dating him, even though she is, in fact, still married, and 2) she is, in fact, dating him, even though he does not, in fact, know that she is still married. (Sweet cracker sandwich, Miss York!!! And I thought Jack Berger was acting shady!!!)

This precarious situation officially explodes when Charlotte's monstrous former mother-in-law, Bunny (who still has keys to her apartment...?), comes into said apartment unexpectedly one morning to assess the MacDougal homestead... and finds Charlotte and her preppy lad in the midst of said homestead. I see. Bunny quickly discloses to the Preppy Gent that Charlotte is still married--Preppy Gent is pissed and quickly dumps Charlotte (don't blame him!)--and Charlotte quickly kicks Bunny out of her house, and equally quickly decides to move forward with the divorce. (Good call, Miss York!)

Samantha Jones, meanwhile, is getting her usual round of Botox done [blogger pauses for a minute to at once be sad that this is something which someone who looks like Kim Cattrall would actually do to her face, and to kind of appreciate the realism of noting that this sadly is something which someone who looks like Kim Cattrall would actually do to her face.] Her doctor suggests she take things a step further and get a "freshening chemical peel," which she does. And afterwards looks... like she's gotten a layer of skin burned off her face! Surprise, surprise!

Sam is desperate to lie low and not go out in public until her face looks more... face-like, but in the end sucks it up and soldiers on to go to Carrie's book party, hoping that her awesome, black-widow style hat, with its cracked-out veil, will cover all that needs to be covered. Hmmm. Somehow I am skeptical about that.

And rightly so, as eventually Sam doffs her hat, and spends the party defiantly showing off her ravaged face, saying that since women are severely pressured by society to get plastic surgery, people shouldn't be squeamish about facing the actual realities of plastic surgery. I... guess that's taking some kind of interesting stand? But personally--I still prefer THE HAT. (Basically, because I always prefer hats!)

Oh, and did I forget to mention that there is a subplot in this episode about Enid, Carrie's scary boss from Vogue? Well--there is a subplot in this episode about Enid, Carrie's scary boss from Vogue! Carrie learns that Enid, being a high-powered career gal and all, doesn't have time to properly devote herself to a real romantic relationship. (Enid: "I don't have time for a full-time man. I have a full time job.") [Blogger pauses to note that even that beacon of progressivism Helen Gurley Brown, circa 1962, was arguing that women might just be able to combine being employed and having a fella, but whatever.] So instead, she shares her man with another woman, in some complicated geographical set-up that I'm not sure I (or Enid) fully understand.

Okay, so I am totally fine with people managing their personal lives however works best for them... so good for you and your fellow romantic-triangle members, Enid! Except, wait, nope, sorry, scratch that--we learn, as the episode unfolds, that Enid is actually not happy with this arrangement, is madly jealous of this other woman, and is generally making a pig's breakfast of her personal life. Of course, I am told this is very common among women who fritter away most of their time on silly things like careers. Sheesh. Career girls! When will they ever learn!

The Analysis:

Random Fun Fashion Designers Watch:
For no apparent reason, Isaac Mizrahi shows up to Carrie's book party. He is charming. I own some of the stuff he did for Target, and have his book. I also think his hair is fun. That is all.

Fictional People Whom I Have Crushes On, Part 1,453 Watch:
And let us officially add Jack Berger to the list! This is a smidge inconsistent of me, I admit, given that Jack is pretty clearly Bad News from Day One... and goodness knows, I've given Carrie a hard enough time on this here blog for relentlessly pursuing Big, even though he was very clearly Bad News from Day One. (Do we need an abbreviation for that? BNFDO? Make that one happen in our culture, people! It can be the new LOL or WTF!)

It's not that Jack's a bad guy, exactly, but more that he has some decided Shadyness Issues which he needs to work on. Maybe... don't flirt with other ladies when you have a girlfriend already, sir! There's one to think about! However, I will excuse Jack (and myself, for liking him) by contending that he genuinely seems knocked sideways by Carrie--he doesn't expect to end up liking her as much as he does, and is careful to (eventually, awkwardly) put the brakes on their flirtation by revealing his whole girlfriend-having status... shady, but it could be sooooo much worse! (I am, after all, comparing him to Big, who is a world-class emotional sadist/shady guy extraordinaire.)

Perhaps I am defending the indefensible here, but I am so pleased to see Carrie with/around a guy who is bookish, sarcastic, hyper-verbal, and amusing for a change. (We are very pro-bookish/sarcastic/hyper-verbal/amusing here at BOCS. And by "we," of course, I mean... me.) For the time being, at least (before he really blots his copybook--which, rest assured, he most certainly will), all of us here at BOCS (by which I mean, of course... me) are SO Team Berger.

People of Color Watch: And in this episode, we have... two! The lady with whom Enid is sharing her gent is Asian-American. She is, of course, both beautiful, and mute. (As I am told all Asian-American women are.) I guess it's nice, at least, that she is age-appropriate for the man she (and Enid) are both seeing, however...? That is something...?

We also have an African-American female limo driver, who takes Carrie home after her book party. Carrie is feeling a little sad and lonely leaving her party solo, so of course it is the task of this Magical Lady to help Carrie feel good about herself! She takes Carrie out for hot dogs! She proudly tells complete strangers about Carrie's literary accomplishments! Awwww. Thank you, random magical sidekick-of-color, who seems to have no life, or interests, or personality of her own, independent of making white ladies happy! Whatever would we white gals do without you? Good luck with all of your own personal endeavors and interests. Oh, that's right, I'm sorry--you don't have any!

LGBT Folks Watch: The usual suspects, I'm afraid--Anthony, Stanford, and Stanford's new boyfriend, Marcus. All faces we have seen before, and all gentlemen, of course (what is this "lesbian" thing of which you speak?) but on the plus side: 1) Marcus is PRETTY, 2) I like seeing Stanford happy, with a nice man who clearly adores him, for once in our lives, 3) Anthony is always amusing. And goodness knows, we need to take our amusement where we can find it!

Melancholy but Ultimately Uplifting Musings about Singlehood Watch:
So this episode spends a lot of time reflecting on what it means to be single well into one's adult life, celebrating exciting life milestones sans partner. Goody! You know how I feel about episodes which tackle Singlehood As a State of Being/Issue... in that... I am in favor of them!

I think the episode does a very nice job unpacking Carrie's complicated feelings about being sans fella, as she gears up to celebrate a huge step forward in her professional life. I appreciate, for one thing, that the episode does spend as much time as it does showing Carrie's sheer joy at the pending publication of her book... her work clearly means a lot to her, and seeing her just genuinely being happy that she's reached this new professional milestone is pretty darned cool.

The ladies' working lives are always kind of lurking on the edges of the show (which is fine, the show isn't about their jobs, but rather about their luvvvv lives)--but I still do appreciate when the series takes the time to highlight the fact that these are women who love what they do, and take pride in it. Because (for those of us lucky/privileged enough to get to do work that we love), said work is a really important part of our lives and our identities--and it is a pleasant thing, to see the show reflect that.

The episode also does a nice job, I think, in balancing out Carrie's glee about her professional accomplishments with her genuine sadness about not having someone to share this awesome new time in her life with (in a romantic-partner sense, that is--as always, her friends are there, front and center, even those who are grappling with Horror-Show-Type Skin Problems.)

Meeting Jack, whom she (within the space of about fifteen minutes) has the chance to become really fluttery and excited about, and then find out is already taken, is a major bummer for her. (It is a major bummer for me, too. Stupid universe/writers! Don't go raising our/my hopes like that!) It unleashes a whole chain of "maybe I won't ever meet a guy like this, who isn't already someone else's guy" reflection in Carrie. Said reflections are messy, and I think the episode does a nice job of leaving them pleasingly untidy and complicated and unresolved. The episode leaves us with Carrie candidly admitting that she is lonely, a little wistful that Jack is off the market--but nonetheless fundamentally happy with herself and her life, reckoning that she's still got things pretty darned good, even without her desired plus one. Not bad!

"I Had a Baby... But I'm Still Allowed to Have Sex!": Motherhood Madness Continues Watch: I do continue to like what the show is doing with motherhood here. (Leaving aside, of course, its easy glossing over of the fact that as hard as Miranda's adjustment to new mommyhood is, it is made that much less hard by her having an awesome job that provides good solid maternity leave--and a full-time nanny on the home front, to make said awesome job possible.)

Miranda is still having a tricky time figuring out how to balance being a mother, and a worker, and a single lady on the prowl. At the beginning of the episode (much as she had done at the beginning of this season), she keeps insisting that she doesn't want anything to change, now that she's a mother--she doesn't want her friendships to change, she doesn't want her work life to change, she doesn't want her sex life/romantic relationships to change.

But of course--they all have changed, and this episode forces her to recognize that. Bringing gentleman callers home with an infant in the house? Logistically difficult! Nice to see the show at once acknowledging that becoming a mother does not mean that Miranda is no longer interested in having a sex life (as her defensive "mothers are still sexual beings, people!" quote above makes clear), and that pursuing said sex life is going to be different (and in some ways, trickier) than it had been before. Realism! I am a fan of it.

"It Was an Impulse Purchase!": Ladies Mucking About With Their Faces Through Surgery Which is Plastic Watch: So I have ambivalent feelings about the "Samantha/plastic surgery" plotline in this episode. May I talk you through my ambivalent feelings about said plotline? Thank you, it is much appreciated.

I Am Pro: Samantha wearing a crazy-pants hat to Carrie's book party. That is always a delightful thing to do, horrific plastic surgery mishap, or no.

I Am Also Pro: The episode acknowledging the pressures which women face (if you will forgive the "face" language here) to look perpetually young and unlined, and the lengths to which they will go to try to achieve said look. Our culture does have a really messed-up attitude towards aging, does exert tremendous pressure on women to remain magically unwrinkled despite their years, and is tremendously ageist. So nice to see the show acknowledging that--that even a drop-dead gorgeous woman like Sam is distinctly anxious about looking "old."

I Am Con: I do, however, have a leetle bit of a problem with Sam defending her right to show off her plastic surgery scars as somehow an empowering and defiant act. I guess it kind of is, in that it at least forces people to grapple with the ugliness and pain associated with women trying to meet our society's bizarre standards of beauty? But on the other hand... could we have perhaps moved one step beyond "I am going to force you to look at what your pressure to look 'beautiful' has made me do!" to "Your pressures to look beautiful are rubbish, and I am not going to get a chemical peel, I am going to have crow's feet, and you can JUST DEAL WITH IT." Perhaps this is a bit too much to hope for? It seems that it is. Ah well. I think the episode is a good PSA for not getting chemical peels, however--yeouch! I'll take my pending/emerging furrows and lines, thankyouverymuch. Youthful skin be damned, I will have wrinkles and wear bizarre hats with veils, instead! Hooray!

Notable Quotables:

Carrie, as she swans into the gorgeous room where her book party is about to be held, which looks like Wedding exploded all over it: "There is one day that even the most cynical New York woman dreams of all her life. She imagines the dress she'll wear, the photographers, the toasts... everybody is celebrating the fact that she's finally found... [dramatic pause] a publisher." Thank you, SATC, for our daily dose of subverting-female-wedding-fantasy culture. It is much appreciated!

Carrie, musing over one of the many vexing facets of human experience/our irritatingly irrational desires and drives: "Why do we let the one thing we don't have affect how we feel about all the things that we do have? Why does one minus a 'plus one' feel like it adds up to zero?"

Carrie to Enid, about her balancing of her professional and personal lives: "I was worried that we--women--only get one or the other [i.e., a romantic relationship or a career] but... you have it all!" (Are you bloody kidding me? Carrie was thinking that women have to pick between love and work? Am I living in a New Woman novel of the 1890s, in which a lass must choose between shrinking her ovaries by pursuing higher education, or marrying a strapping, domineering gent who does not approve of book-learnin'? And Carrie is using "having it all" language? Am I living in a 1980s commercial, which insists that women can do everything (have a fulfilling career, a loving marriage, well-behaved kids, and a squeaky-clean house), but must do so without any institutional support or any changes in men's roles? I do hope not, on both fronts!

Enid, sharing her life lessons and tips with Carrie: "That's the key to having it all--stop expecting it to look like what you thought it was going to look like." If we take that in the spirit of "being a grown-up is sometimes trickier than one might expect, and not every childhood fantasy we ever have comes true... but life is still awesome, nonetheless!" then I endorse it. If we take that in the spirit of "I am putting up with my man's philandering because I feel that I, as a woman who dares to have a high-powered career rather than dedicating every waking moment to him, have no alternative to said philandering"... then I do not endorse it!

Bunny to Charlotte, as Charlotte tries to forcibly, physically eject her from her apartment: "Don't you hustle me out, young lady. This is Chanel." Bunny may be a nasty piece of goods, but she has a point there. Respect the Chanel, York!

Next Up...?: "Critical Condition," in which Carrie is obsessing about something Aidan-related (ARE YOU BLOODY KIDDING ME? Two seasons spent obsessing about him when he was actually physically present is not enough? Now we must obsess about him in his absence, as well? Does John Corbett at least get some royalty checks out of that?), Miranda is obsessing about something baby-related (that one I will let stand as... new mother), Charlotte is obsessing about something divorce-related (which I will also let stand as... divorcing), and Sam is obsessing about her pending haircut (yet another one I will let stand as... haircuts. Important.) My knives are drawn for Bradshaw and Bradshaw alone this time. SNAP OUT OF IT, WOMAN. Obsess about something besides Aidan and Big for a change! Something like... Jack Berger, perhaps? Which would still be inappropriate and unhealthy, but sooo much more fun.


  1. That's one of the things that I LOVE about this show (the other being that your friends can be your family): it doesn't qualify single-hood in a negative way. Of course, it's nice to have a guy, but a great job is/can be just as great!

    I still chortle at Samantha traipsing into the party with that crazy veil! It was like she was a mistress paying her last respects.LOL

    I've had a crush on Ron Livingston since Office Space (1999). I was like thirteen then, and I thought he was adorkable. Actually, I still think that!


  2. Adorkable is the perfect word, Alex--he was in 1999, and is still. Though come to think of it, I haven't seen him in awhile... bummer! I wonder what adorkable things he's up to, at the moment...?

    The "mistress hat" is pretty great... almost worth having gross, radical facial procedures if it provides an excuse to wear a hat like that!

    And I think the episode does a nice job of doing exactly what you outline here...showcasing the fact that Carrie does have things pretty great, even without an awesome boyfriend like Berger... friends who will go out in public wearing beekeeper hats on her behalf, and a job which leads to a giant, splashy book party featuring many miniature cupcakes... not too shabby!