Friday, October 7

Season Five, Episode Six: Critical Condition

The Summary:

Are you ready to listen to Carrie whine, even though her book got a positive review in the New Bloody York Times? Are you prepared to behold some truly questionable representations of Jewish men? Are you poised to have Samantha provide vibrator reviews to the greater female population of New York? Why, isn't it just your lucky day, then, because we are about to grapple with all of those things! Hooray!

So, yes, to Carrie. Her book is now published, and has 1) been reviewed in the Times, by muckety-muck book reviewer Michiko Kakutani, no less, and 2) gets quite a nice review from said prestigious publication/said rigorous reviewer. Hooray!

Except, of course, this being Carrie, she has found something negative to narrowly and self-destructively focus on, even in this sea of positivity. (Le sigh.) Said element being one sentence in the review, in which Kakutani says that, in Carrie's book, "the men are disposable." Carrie... freaks out about this line (even though... it is the only even quasi-negative line in the whole darned thing. Of course she does.)

Her freak-out is exacerbated/deepened when she meets Nina, the lass who dated Aidan right after he and Carrie broke up. When Nina informs Carrie that she was Aidan's first post-Carrie girlfriend, she makes a weird face, which seems to indicate to Carrie that 1) said dating was kinda rough, and 2) it was the break-up with Carrie which had made said dating kinda rough. I see.

So Carrie spends the whole episode obsessing about what Nina/the world in general is thinking about her former relationship with Aidan--do people think that she cruelly dumped Aidan? Does Aidan think that she cruelly dumped Aidan? Obsess, obsess, obsess, etc., etc., etc.

After all of her friends try (unsuccessfully) to pull Carrie off of this particular obsessive ledge, Carrie finally manages to pull herself off of it, realizing (after she talks to Nina about it all, and realizes that Nina doesn't actually care about all of this nearly as much as Carrie does (you shock me). Perhaps the whole world isn't actually talking about Carrie's former romantic relationships! And perhaps, even if they are, she shouldn't care, because, in the end, it's her own assessment of her own conduct which really matters. And it took us thirty minutes to get here...?

Miranda, meanwhile, is having more/actual/real/substantive problems, in that she is finding it really hard and tiring to care for wee baby Brady, and run around being a high-powered lawyer, as well. [Blogger pauses for the obligatory "and she has a nanny to help her with said baby care/running around" moment, and then moves on.] Motherhood, it turns out, is a wee bit more stressful than the Hallmark cards would have us believe! (Miranda, on Brady: "This thirteen pound meatloaf is pushing me over the edge!")

Miranda is getting no sleep, feels gross since she barely has time to shower and suddenly seems to be covered in various kinds of Baby Effluvia all the time, and, perhaps, worst of all, is picking up distinctive "who cares about your silly baby troubles?" vibes from Samantha. Oh dear.

Tearily confessing to Carrie that Sam's "yawn, don't want to talk about babies or ask you anything about your life as a mother" attitude is really upsetting her prompts Carrie to tell Sam to get her Friendship Butt in gear, and ask Miranda a friendly question or two about motherhood every now and again. This... only seems appropriate!

Sam does even better than this, however (good lass!), letting Miranda have her hair-cutting appointment at a fancy-pants hair salon, while she herself babysits Young Master B. Miranda: really enjoys getting to get pampered and taken care of for awhile, and getting to swan home with a pretty new haircut. Sam: manages baby-sitting just fine, once she learns that putting her newly-purchased vibrator in Brady's crib keeps him from crying. Yup, you read that right. This stuff: it cannot be made up!

There is also a subplot in Miranda's storyline about her neighbor, Kendall, a fellow mother who eventually takes Miranda under her wing, and offers the flustered, amateur mummy Miranda some baby-grappling-with advice, and sympathizes with her "none of my friends have kids, so don't they get this at all" plight. (Kendall: "If they don't have kids, they don't have a clue.") No, but they do have vibrators, and doesn't that seem to come in handy?

Okay, so, to recap: Carrie--self-obsessed and narcissistic, as per usual. Miranda: still tired, but now in possession of a nice haircut. Sam: improving on the "being a good friend to Miranda" front--if also now short one vibrator. What of Charlotte, then, you ask? She is digging into her divorce proceedings in earnest, and (surprise, surprise) her milquetoast-y soon-to-be-ex is leaving everything to his overbearing/insufferable mother, Bunny. And Bunny is, true to form, being rather unpleasant about it all. Oh, Bunny. How I do admire your nasty spirit, and all of the fun, preppy bows which you insist on cramming into your hair!

Since Bunny is so harsh, Charlotte decides that she needs a really great, ruthless lawyer to handle her case. She tries to go to this WASP-y, pretty boy type (sorry, sir, but that is probably the exact description which they gave to the casting director), but is so distracted by his beauty, and so determined to impress him with how nice and sweet she is, that the (pretty) gent is, she feels, a bad choice to handle her (ugly) divorce.

Happily, the WASP-y, pretty boy type has a partner at his law firm, who is a bald, vulgar, pushy Jew (so, not stereotypical at all) named Harry Goldenblatt. Charlotte does not find Harry at all pretty, and as such is totally comfortable being unpleasant, and shit-talking Bunny in front of him. And so... we have a lawyer! (And some unpleasant Jewish stereotypes, to boot! It's a twofer!)

Harry (combative follower of the Torah that he is) is a very good lawyer, it turns out (please pull out your omnipresent pen and paper, and scrawl down the following: "Jewish folks--not at all genteel or pleasing to the eye, but super, super smart and book-learned, nonetheless"), and that fact, combined with the fact that Charlotte's soon-to-be-ex-hubby actually steps up to the bloody plate for once, and tells his lawyers to give Charlotte whatever she wants, means that... Charlotte gets what she wants, which is ownership of her apartment. Hooray! She tries to end things on a forgiving, not entirely ugly note with Bunny, but Bunny is having none of it. Ah well. Buh-bye, Bunny! I will miss your wacky hairbows, and your venomous tongue!

Oh, and there is also a Stanford suboplot in this episode. (Yay! Stanford!) Now that he actually has a nice boyfriend (yay! Nice boyfriend!), he wants to talk to Carrie about said boyfriend, and find out more about what Carrie thinks of him. Carrie is, predictably, too self-obsessed to be bothered, which Stanford actually calls her out on for once, noting that he's done nothing but listen to her obsess about boys since... ever, and now, it's his turn. He gets a few sentences out of Carrie about Marcus before it is right back to her and her stuff. Le sigh. Ah well. For what it's worth, Stanford, I think Marcus is great, and that y'all are adorable together. As the pushy, vulgar Jews say--mazel tov to you both!

The Analysis:

People of Color Watch:
And in this episode we have... two! Well, one and a half, really. Michiko Kakutani is never physically present (wouldn't that have been an awesome cameo, though?), but is relentlessly and unendingly referred to. Her name is usually mocked during said references. I see.

Kendall, Miranda's wise-mother neighbor, is African-American. (And is played by Lisa Gay Hamilton, who is awesome, and who I hope got paid reeeeally well for doing this.) I have this eerie feeling, as I am about to write about Kendall, that I have just said all the stuff that I am about to say before--about how here we have an African-American female character, whose primary (if not sole) purpose is to help to solve our white heroine's problems, and to make her feel better about herself and her life... and then to disappear back into the ether, like the magical fairy of White Lady Happiness Delivery that she is. Hmmm. I wonder why I feel like I just said all that stuff. Oh right! Because I did just say all that stuff! I comprehend it now!

LGBT Folks Watch: Stanford and Marcus. We see Marcus strutting his stuff as a dancer at one point, and he is wearing a black tank top as he does so. This, I endorse.

More Acknowledgment That Motherhood is Actually Kinda Hard! Excellent! Watch:
As I have, indeed, done throughout Season 5 to date, I do continue to appreciate what the show is doing with Miranda's journey into motherhood here... in that they are showing that it is, indeed, a journey, and something of a bumpy one. Miranda is exhausted, struggling to find a balance between home and work, staggered by the physical demands (and some of the physical ickinesses) of motherhood... this is a "warts and all" portrait, to be sure, and I do appreciate seeing that on the small screen.

Because for the most part (though this is starting to change, a little), visions of parenthood on tee-vee tend to be pretty glossy--if there are infants around, they always seem to calm, clean, and in good humor. (Which, happily, they sometimes are... but unhappily, sometimes, like us all, they are not.) And even if sitcom parents proclaim themselves to be frazzled, they almost never look frazzled--they usually have not a sitcom hair out of place, nor a sitcom outfit sullied by anything so unphotogenic as Baby Messes.

By contrast, when Miranda proclaims that she hasn't showered in days, and that all her "clothes smell like barf," you believe her. (And bless Cynthia Nixon's lack of actorly vanity for making it look like those statements are both actually true.) Miranda is deeply tired, haunted by the sense that she is somehow falling short at work or at home (or worst of all, both), and worried that motherhood is going to somehow mess up/permanently change and undermine her friendships. I would imagine that all of these are things which many women who are new moms might well experience/worry about/find relatable... and bless the writers for injecting this vein of realism into the mix. I love that they didn't make Miranda's new mom life all shiny and seamless and problem-free (though glad that they also let her have a nice haircut, and got her friendship with Sam back on track... this is only humane!)

And Suddenly, We Have Weird Representations of The Chosen People To Talk About Watch: Kind of weird that we now have to talk about unpleasant stereotyping of Jewish folks, on a show which has several Jewish writers... but then, we've long been talking about weird stereotyping of women and The Gays, on a writing staff comprised entirely of women and The Gays, so... perhaps this is not so unexpected, after all!

So, on the plus side, Harry is, from the beginning, very clearly depicted as a mensch. (I may be a total shiksa, but my grandpa learned Yiddish from his neighbors as a wee lad growing up in Yonkers... so the words--I will splash them about, my undisputed WASP-y-ness be damned!) He's clearly a man of integrity and intelligence, who is very good at his job, and is a kind, thoughtful person, to boot. All to the good.

HOWEVER. In the first scene we see him in, he is intrusive, loud, pushy, and vulgar (one of the first things we see him do is spit part of a half-eaten bagel out, in the middle of his partner's office. Charming!) And, I dunno, something in the whole "loud, mannerless, crass Jew" thing... does not sit quite right with me! Ah well. We shall have opportunity to judge this strain more anon, as Harry... he shall surely be back! (And it is nice to have another nice man about the place, even if he does trail a whole train of Jewish stereotypes along with him!)

Notable Quotables:
Miranda on Baby Boy Brady: "I'm doing everything I can, but I can't please him! If he was 35, this is when we would break up!"

Sensible Samantha to Coocoo Carrie, as CC is obsessing about what people may or may not think of her: "Honey, you have to let it go! If I worried about what every bitch in New York was saying about me, I'd never leave the house."

Samantha, trying to return her defective vibrator at Sharper Image, to a salesman who is insisting that it is, in fact, a neck massager: "Fine, I'd like to return this 'neck massager.' "

Salesman: "What's wrong with it?"

Samantha: "It failed to get me off."

Next Up...?: "The Big Journey," which, as, whenever we use the word "big" in this series/on this blog does, indeed, refer to... Big. Le sigh. Ah well. I suppose I ought not to begrudge Chris Noth his new boathouse, or whatever it is that he does with all of his SATC cash. Maybe he donates it all to charity? Ooooh, let's pretend that that's true! In addition to all the Big stuff, there are mercifully some other subplots about Sam's midlife crisis, and Charlotte's new fling to distract us. Good, I'll take whatever non-Big stuff I can get!!!

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