Friday, October 28

Season Five, Episode Eight: I Love a Charade

The Summary:

Welcome, my dear friends, to this, the finale of the minute and miniscule Season Five! (Eight short episodes, and yet I still had to pay almost as much for Season Five as I did for the eighteen-episode-long Season Four. Not cool, HBO. Not. Cool. Though maybe I, too, deserve some of the blame here, since I most certainly allowed myself to be thus price-gouged...?)

Anyway. To happier matters! The happiest of said happy matters being that this episode has, as its very special guest star, one Mr. Nathan Lane. Yayyyyyy! I do heart me some Nathan Lane. Here he plays cabaret star Bobby Fine, a long-standing casual friend/acquaintance of Carrie's, who has a charming lounge act, a reliable stream of amusing one-liners, and a series of entertaining bow ties and cravats which he sports over the course of the episode. Good. Times.

Bobby is in ways the heart and center of this episode, in that at the beginning of it, the ladies learn that the very-much-gay Bobby is about to marry the very-much-straight socialite-of-a-certain-age Bitsy von Muffling. (I will give the writers a free pass on the ridiculous unreality of that name, just because it is so. Fun.)

Bobby's pending nuptials throw all of our four women into a confused tizzy. Why, they wonder, are Bobby and Bitsy getting hitched, when Bobby is so clearly not into The Ladies? Are Bobby and Bitsy, as they both insistently proclaim, deeply in love? Or is something else at work here? The ladies don't know. We don't know. No one, apart from Bitsy and Bobby themselves, seems to know! (But I do know that I can think of worse people to marry than Nathan Lane. I wouldn't mind if he had a steady stream of boyfriends, if he let me borrow his cravats sometimes, and told me juicy stories about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans involved in making The Lion King.)

Meanwhile, Carrie's own love life becomes significantly more complicated/confusing/AWESOME when everyone's (okay... my) favorite sarcastic writer, Jack Berger (with whom she had a brief, delightful flirtation, until she learned he had a girlfriend, a few episodes back) pops back into her life... this time, having broken up with the aforementioned girlfriend. YES.

Carrie: super-excited that Berger is now a Free Bird, and as such, can now freely, er, bird-ly pursue her. Berger: likewise (except, you know, in reverse.) But can things go smoothly for these two crazy kids, when it comes to their resumed, now-totally-legit flirtation? Oh, my dear readers. Of course it can't.

In one of their early "Berger-is-now-available, hooray" conversations, their shared commiseration over their past breakups quickly devolves into a crazy rant on the part of the (admittedly very nervous) Carrie, about how gut-wrenchingly, heart-breakingly terrible breakups are, and how she wonders if she could ever survive another one. (Spoiler alert--she can--and will! Several, actually!)

In the wake of this rant, Berger freaks out a bit, and gets the heck away from Carrie as soon as he possibly can, leaving her (and me) sad. But then... he comes back at the end of the episode, making her (and me) happy. He tells her that even though the heaviness of their last conversation shook him up a bit, "maybe we should go out on a date before we break up." YES. I am SO in favor of that. See you in Season Six, Berger! Be sure to bring your awesome eyebrows and self-deprecating, sarcastic sense of humor with you, s'il vous plait!

Okay, so, BERGER. Goody! Do the other ladies have anything quite as fun happening in their lives, you ask? Hmmmm. Not really. Though much of interest, to be sure. Miranda is, once again, in a confusing place when it comes to Steve, as she has, once again, slept with him while they are actually not a couple. Of course she has.

Scared witless by said sleeping-with and what it might mean, Miranda is delighted that Bitsy and Bobby's wedding in the Hamptons provides an excuse for skipping town and putting off dealing with the "her-and-Steve-what-the-hell" situation for a bit. (Miranda, to Carrie, as they make the trip out of New York: "I'm a fucking fugitive. Literally.")

While at Bitsy and Bobby's wedding, Miranda misses Steve, and decides to call him to tell him about said missing. Good, this seems like progress! Though of course, his voicemail picks up, and she is too chicken to leave him a message. Arrrrrrrgh! (Head and Desk gently, sorrowfully embrace, too exhausted by this point for violence.)

Samantha, meanwhile, has conned her very own ex, the slimy Richard, into loaning her his beach house in the Hamptons for the weekend, so that she and the ladies will have somewhere fun to stay while attending Bitsy and Bobby's wedding. Richard's house is opulently beautiful, if sadly marred by the presence of what Sam calls his "party-crashing pussy posse"--a group of twenty-something gals wearing microscopic bikinis at all times, whom Richard has apparently given carte blanche to, to stay at his abode any old time. [Blogger remembers, not that she had forgotten, that Richard is a creep, and that she never liked him.]

Samantha had thought that she was completely past the pain of her relationship with/breakup from Richard, but seeing these lithe young things (and being thus reminding of Richard's taste for lithe young things specifically, and for lots of women generally) vamping around the place... shall we say, reopens old wounds? Reopens them to the point where she ends up smashing one of his beautiful glass windows, when she hurls a melon at one of these young lasses. Yikes! Clean up in Aisle... Hamptons!

Charlotte, meanwhile, is simultaneously 1) endlessly nitpicking about/criticizing every aspect of her new quasi-boyfriend Harry's body, style, way of eating, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum, and 2) falling in love with him, because, despite said alleged "vulgarity," he is kind and funny and just generally awesome. (My heart belongs to Jack Berger at this point in SATC Time, Harry, but please consider yourself adding to the short, distinguished list of "Men in the SATC Verse Who Are Actually Nice, and Seem Like Someone You'd Actually Be Really Glad to Find Yourself/One of Your Friends Dating.")

The spanner in the works arises (because you knew there would be one, did you not, dear readers?) in that Harry (as we are reminded all the bloody time) is Jewish, and is firmly committed to marrying a Jewish gal. And Charlotte, as we know, is the most shiksa-ish of all the shiksas. Hmmmm. Tricky. What to do...?

There is also a brief, shadowy Stanford and Marcus subplot in this episode (yay! Stanford and Marcus!) Carrie is a leetle jealous of Stanford, because while she and all of her friends have spent pretty much their entire lives looking for the perfect relationship with the perfect guy, Stanford seems to have actually found such a guy/relationship. (With the added bonus that Marcus is, shall we say, not unpleasing to the eye?)

Of course, as ever when a character is proclaimed to have the "perfect" life in the world of SATC, it is quickly made evident that all is most certainly not perfect--e.g., Stanford: "Marcus and I haven't had sex since we bought the Cynthia Rowley china." Okay, so, bummer on the intimate contact front, but on the plus side... Cynthia Rowley china! Also on the plus side, the last we see of those two lovebirds in the episode, they are dancing at Bitsy and Bobby's wedding, cracking each other up, and generally looking like a happy couple (whatever rough patch they may be making their way through at the moment.) Sniffle. Stay happy, you two! Much like Carrie, I do not know how many more breakups I can stand!

The Analysis:

"Let Us Try, with Mixed Success, to Conceal Our Lead Actress' Pregnancy By Putting Her in a Crazzzzzzy, But Also Fabulous, Dress" Watch
: So by this point in Season Five, SJP was quite pregnant with her first youngster (which explains why Season Five was so darned short... oh, babies! You are so cute, except when you are messing with my tee-vee programs, or my long plane flights!) I know the dress that The Amazing Pat Field slapped her into for the climatic scene at Bitsy and Bobby's wedding was somewhat controversial in terms of whether or not it actually concealed Parker's pregnancy (one), and whether or not it was a pretty dress (two)--but personally, I love it. I would totally wear it, meself, except for the fact that it would doubtless make me look pregnant, which I, notably, am not. (Unless my uterus has been making some serious plans without me, which, happily, it usually does not.)

A Random Note About Nathan Lane Which I Am Going to Mention for No Particular Reason Except That I Want To Watch: As I have mentioned once or twice on this here blog, I am a proud native of the great state of New Jersey--which meant that, during my and my sister's youth, we sometimes got to do things like go into New York City for school field trips. (Thank you, largesse of the pre-Chris-Christie NJ school system/the unfailing generosity of my parents!)

Anyway, after one of said field trips to see a Broadway show, lo these many years ago, my sister came back raving about this singer/actor dude she'd seen, and about how amazing and funny and great he was, and how she was sure that one day he'd be a Big Bloody Deal. Said dude was, of course, one Nathan Lane by name--already a theater muckety-muck, but unknown to TV or film at that point in time. Good eye, my sister's got! It always gave us a rather proprietary feeling about him and his career--we knew and loved him before the masses jumped on board the Lane Express. Glad you made good, Nathan L.!

People of Color Watch: The singer at Bobby and Bitsy's wedding is African-American. She has a gorgeous voice which I very much admire. She is wearing a lovely, glamorous gown which I also very much admire. She... is the only person of color at Bitsy and Bobby's HUGE soiree. Good to know that the Hamptons are as lily-white as NYC is in the SATC universe, anyway! Consistency!

LGBT Folks Watch: NATHAN BLOODY LANE. Oh, and Stanford and Marcus, whom I also love. They all look very dashing/charming in their wedding attire, and I am glad to see Stanford and Marcus given some more screen time as a lovely, functional, actually quite realistic couple. We have come along way since Stanford was only allowed to have weird, one-episode-long romances with strange doll collectors. Hooray for progress!

"I Think You Might Have Sold This One a Little Short": Friends' Opinions of One's Significant Other Being Both Delightfully Clear-Sighted, and Decidedly Important, Watch: So when Charlotte admits to her friends that she is kind of dating Harry, she says many a dismissive thing about him--about how short and unattractive he is, about how vulgar and messy he is (lovely!)--but when her friends actually meet him, and find out charming he really is, they give Charlotte a (much-deserved, in your humble blogger's opinion) kick in the pants, about having focused more on the fact that Harry is, say, bald than on the fact that he is, in fact, delightful. Thank you, Miss York's friends, for being more clear-sighted about What Really Matters and Who is Really Good for You than young Miss York herself is!

I appreciate the little shout-out here to the fact that one's friends are usually a pretty good barometer of whether or not one is making Good Dating Decisions (GDD? Or is that too much like G-D?)--if they hate the person in question (cough, Big, cough), then that is an excellent, bright, shining red flag of danger and trouble ahead--and if they like them, perhaps it is a sign that you should stop being a shallow jerk, who cares more about the shirt this person is wearing than she does about the actual mind, heart, and spirit contained within said shirt (cough, Charlotte, cough.) Well done, friends!

"I Think I'm Falling In Love with You": Charlotte FINALLY Gets Over Her Pretty Boy Issues Watch: You may recall that this series began (lo these many, many years/months ago, depending on whether we are talking real time, or BOCS time), with Charlotte's ideal man being characterized by the possession of the holy trinity of "looks, manners, and money." So--not shallow at all, then!

Ever since we learned that these (unpleasantly narrow, shallow criteria) guided Miss York's dating life, we started to see her verrrrrry slllllowwwwwly shedding said criteria. Before marrying Trey, she dated a lot of gents who were handsome, polished, and wealthy--and yet total creeps, nonetheless. In marrying Trey, she successfully nabbed someone who was polite, rich, and pleasing to the eye--and with whom, despite Trey's fundamental decency, she was pretty unrelentingly miserable.

And with Harry, she is finally with someone who (although obviously very well-off) is not conventionally handsome, and certainly not conventionally posh and polished. And she is actually falling in love with him, even though he doesn't look the way she thinks he should look, or act the way she thinks he should act. Turns out, the quality of the person is more important than the quality of the clothing or of the table manners or of the bone structure! It took us/Charlotte Y. five seasons to get here... but here we finally are. SUCCESS.

Except... There is Still Lots of Creepy Stuff Happening Around the Fact that Harry is Jewish and How That is Talked About Watch: Okay, so, I guess I can't call the Harry plot line a total win, even though he is delightful, and it is nice to actually see Charlotte happy/finally burst out of her insanely shallow "what I am looking for in a fella is WEALTHY PRETTINESS" bubble. Because one of the big themes in this episode is that Charlotte is totally repulsed by how hairy Harry's body is (writers, your pun license? You will lose it for good the next time you pull a stunt like that. Consider yourself warned.) She actually persuades him to get his back waxed, so hairy is it. (About which... yeouch!)

And, forgive me, but something in the "let us continually harp on Harry's Jewishness, while also highlighting the fact that he has this 'animalistic' body" thing makes me uneasy. Perhaps it's because, in anti-Semitic cartoons and images, Jewish men are often represented as extremely hairy beast-like creatures? Something for us to think about/be made quasi-nauseous by?

"No, I Look Good Standing Next To It": My Imaginary Boyfriend Jack Berger Mocking Tropes of Conventional Masculinity, Just to Make Me Love Him More Watch: The first thing we see Berger do in this episode is to roar up on a motorcycle, clad in black leather. I am not objecting to this, on the one hand--but on the other hand--please. Why not just have him have a phallic-like gun strapped to his thigh, and have done with it? Helloooooo, images of conventional hypermasculinity! Nice to see you again/to never to be able to quite escape you!

Happily, the first thing we hear Berger say in this episode is something self-deprecating about how ludicrous it is for him to be running around the Hamptons on a motorcycle, clad in black leather, like the hero of a B-grade action movie. When Carrie tries to compliment him on how good he looks on his silly motorcycle, he responds with the line from my title above. He admits that he likes the appearance of being all tough and manly--but that in actuality, he is scared out of his senses trying to ride the darned thing, and bought it as a hypermacho over-reaction to his depressing breakup. And somewhere out there... a feminist heart beat a bit faster. (That is to say... in my house/in me.)

Unlike Big, who, throughout the series, unironically swaggers with outward, obvious symbols of masculine power (the suits, the cigars, the big, expensive limousine, the conspicuous displays of wealth, the endless parade of interchangeable model girlfriends, etc., etc.), Berger--though not entirely immune to the lures of hypermasculinity--is at least aware that it is pretty silly for a slight, neurotic writer to be riding around on a Harley. And we love us a guy who can acknowledge and mock the sometimes absurd visions of "Manliness-With-A-Capital-M" upheld by our reliably weird culture! Keep up the good work there, Jack B.! And don't hurt yourself!

"No Babies": Samantha Actually Learning to Be a Supportive Friend to Her New-Mother Friend Watch: So much to like in this episode! Maybe seeing Nathan Lane swan around in formal wear has simply washed my brain with so many endorphins that I have been rendered incapable of saying negative things? It seems not unlikely.

One of the arcs of this season which I quite like (which is pleasantly resolved in this episode) centers on Sam's evolving attitude towards Miranda's motherhood. As you may recall, at the beginning of the season, Sam was all "get that boring baby, and your boring talk about motherhood out of my face. I do not care about your mother-ly problems, and having to walk next to a strolller is annoying." She starts to mellow a bit as the season progresses, however, finally agreeing to try to do nice things for Miranda, and to actually spend some time with her and her youngster.

And by this episode, the mellowing process is finally completed. At the beginning of this episode, Sam is still on her "I do not want your baby crashing my fancy-pants beach house/party"--but by the end of it, we see her dancing at Bitsy and Bobby's wedding with Miranda and wee baby Brady. Awwww. Not wanting youngsters yourself, or being terribly fond of them, as a rule? Fine. Being mean to your friends who are mothers, and curling your lip every time one of their babies comes into your line of sight? Not fine. And happily, Ms. Jones seems to be well and truly over all of that, as we bring Season Five to a close. Excellent!

"There's My Girl... Whom I Love": Love Comes in Many Forms, and Is Sometimes More Complicated than Specific Sexual Categories Allow For, Who Bloody Knew Watch: As you may have gathered from my summary, this episode begins by making fun of the very notion of Bobby's pending marriage/bride. ("Bitsy von Muffling," seriously? Why not just call her "Loopy von Crazypants" and have done with it? Though still... Bitsy is a pretty great name for a charmingly off-kilter socialite, I will concede.)

But as the episode progresses, we start wading into deeper, and rather more interesting, waters. It is pretty darned clear that Bobby is still sexually interested in men (as his leering over Marcus in a bathing suit attests)--yet if Bitsy and Bobby are to be believed, they are sleeping together, and quite happy to be doing so. Is this all theater, designed to look their marriage look more conventional? Maybe. Or maybe it's true. We leave the episode not knowing... and ultimately, with the episode stressing that that is not the most important thing. Bitsy and Bobby are in love, are soulmates, want to be together... and how, exactly, they're arranging their sexual lives--their business.

Huh. That... actually seems quite positive! Well done, episode! And congratulations, Bitsy and Bobby--please feel free to invite me over for brunch at your posh house in the Hamptons any old time, I bet that would be fun! I'll bring the cravats!

Notable Quotables: Carrie's voiceover, as she dances with Berger (YOU LUCKY LADY, YOU) at the end of the episode: "Some people are settling down. Some people are settling. And some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies." If by "butterflies," you mean getting to eat lots of wedding cake, and to dance with adorable writers, while wearing cool sixties-style dresses... then I am suddenly SO pro-butterfly!

Next Up...?:
We take stock of Season Five! Excellent. What made your humble blogger happy? (Hint: HATS, and Jack Berger.) What made your humble blogger unhappy? (Hint: Quasi anti-Semitism, and Big.) And of course... much, much more!

5 comments:

  1. "Why not just have him have a phallic-like gun strapped to his thigh..."

    Absolutely hysterical! (though the idea of that does sound a little intriguing...)

    Anyway, yeah, the "Harry is Jewish" thing is ready for its Swan song, now. It's funny- isn't SJP at least part Jewish? You'd think that she would have SOME consciousness about how it appears on the show.

    I always liked that there was a kind of ambiguity about Bitsy's and Bobby's relationship. I like that it was never explained. It wasn't important. What was important that they, ostensibly, loved each other.

    And yes, the adorable Ron Livingston is back!

    -Alex

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  2. Thanks ever so much for your comment, as ever, Alex!

    It is certainly a delight and a pleasure to get to keep Ron Livingston around (phallic gun or no) for a little longer... and to see him here before it all turns sour. Le sigh. But ah well! We must enjoy his delightfulness while we can!

    And that is so true, SJP is totally part Jewish--it would have been nice if she (in her role as an executive producer, by this point) had a little more to say about the weird representations of the Chosen People on display here... ah well. The Jewish Weirdness certainly continues into Season Six, but I DO like the guy who shows up as Charlotte's rabbi. He seems like a mensch :)

    And of course, we get to see Bitsy and Bobby again in Season Six, as well--still, seemingly, happy and in love. Yay for celebrating complicated and non-cookie-cutterish relationships! Excellent!

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  3. Yeah, Berger's charm dissipates as the series progresses, but it is nice to still see him!

    Another thing I liked about this episode is the kind of '40s Cary Grant movie feel of it. Something about this episode harks back to a bygone movie era. Love. It.

    -Alex

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  4. You've put your finger on one of the things which I really like about the episode exactly there, Alex, I hadn't thought of it that way, but it's so true--it totally feels like a charming 1940s romantic comedy. All the glamor and the dapper men and the witty banter. Sigh. We need more of that in contemporary cinema/TV, that's for darned sure!

    I'm starting to rewatch Season Six now, and I am still taking so much pleasure in Berger, even as he clearly degenerates into Bad News territory...

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  5. Hello!

    Do you know anything about people on the pics in this post? Where did you get them? I'm asking because one of these women looks like me (weird!)

    thanks!

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