Friday, June 15

Season Six, Episode Two: Great Sexpectations

The Summary:

Welcome to this, our second episode of Season Six! If, like me, you are at all fond of the character of Jack Berger, and are at all charmed by his and Carrie's romance--sorreeeee, but this is the episode where we start to see Serious Signs of Trouble on that front.  (You couldn't give me at least one solid episode where Carrie and Berger are just charmingly happy together, writers? No?  I thought not.) 

So before we delve into Carrie and Berger trouble, let's break with BOCS tradition and get the other ladies' plot lines out of the way first.  Very doable, since... none of their stories are terribly interesting in this episode.  (Alas.  But they cannot always be, I suppose?) Miranda: addicted to Tivo (a reminder that yes, these episodes did come out in 2003--those misty, far-off days of yore and yesteryear!) Tivo: gets broken.  Steve: fixes it for her.  Miranda: happy about said fixing, sad that she is not with Steve.  Sooo... yeah.  This is like trench warfare, we have advanced nary an inch on the Miranda-Steve Front.  Just mired in the mud. 

Charlotte: has decided to convert to Judaism for her true love, Harry.  Mazel tov, Ms. York! She discovers that said conversion will not be super-easy, however, as apparently synagogues turn you down three times before allowing you to begin the conversion process? (Something which my shiksa self did not know, and is too lazy to look up, to see if is actually true/widely practiced?) Charlotte persists, however, and her path to being a chosen person has officially begun.  (Which is fun not only because this means we get some nice interior shots of pretty old synagogues, but also because the actor who plays Charlotte's rabbi-to-be is totally charming.  And the actor's name is Pierre Epstein, which I would totally want to be my name, if I was the hero of a bleak existentialist novel set in World War II Paris or some such--rather than the WASP academic which I actually am.)

ANYWAY.  Samantha: takes a shine to a handsome waiter at an unappetizing raw food restaurant.  She wishes to sleep with him.  So, it seems, does every other woman in the restaurant.  (Aw-kward.  Doesn't anyone besides me go to a restaurant to just eat anymore?) So Samantha waits all these other ladies out, in a "last one in the restaurant gets the guy" type standoff.  (Do people ever really do such things in real life, by the way? If I am lingering around waiting for a restaurant to close, it is because I hope they will send me home with any and all remaining baked goods.)

Said standoff is successful, and Sam goes home with the lad (who is, indeed, a lad--dewy youth, he is still bespackled with it), has a verrrry pleasant time with him, and then we, The Viewing Public, think we have seen the last of him (as he is but the latest of many Pretty Young Things to pass through Samantha's, um, orbit.) However... we have not.  See you soon, Blond Boy I Find Essentially Uninteresting! I am essentially uninterested to note that I will see you again soon!

Okay, so, onto Carrie and Berger.  The good: they are officially dating, and it is officially (for the most part) delightful! Hooray! The bad: they sleep together for the first time, and it... is not good at all.  (Drat.) Then they sleep together AGAIN, and it is still not good at all.  (Double drat.) Carrie: is disappointed.  She talks to Miranda about it, who sensibly suggests that the notion of sex being ideally and rosily perfect right away is a somewhat unrealistic one, and that Carrie and Berger might have to work on it a bit.  (Carrie: "I've never had to work at it with someone I really like." Miranda: "You might want to keep that to yourself." Thank you, Mistress Hobbes!)

 She then talks to Sam, who says that Carrie's natural impulse to talk to Berger about their issues is unwise, and that instead Carrie should just get them both really, really drunk and buy herself some really, really overpriced lingerie, instead.  (Sensible!) Carrie follows Samantha's advice, though it (shockingly) turns out that getting totally trashed and maxing out your credit card on fancy undergarments is NOT necessarily the best way to address this particular issue.

In the end, Carrie and Berger DO eventually talk about it, and DO eventually have good sex.  So the episode ends on a happy note, thank you Divine Powers of the Universe.  (Happy notes--I will cling to them for the last, precious few episodes I have them for!)

The Analysis:

Uninteresting and Unimportant Detail About The Episode and My Connection to It Which Has Nooooo Relationship to Feminism Whatsoever Watch: That being that I have totally eaten at the pizza place where Carrie and Miranda have their Berger debrief in this episode.  And it is, indeed, a tiny little place in which you have to eat standing up (as Carrie and Miranda do in their, what, five-inch heels?) and it is SPLENDID.  Uninteresting and unimportant, I know, but it brings back happy food-related memories... my favorite kind of memories of all.

"We Should Be Able To Talk About These Things": Actually Introducing The Notion of Imperfect Sex with a Likable Romantic Lead, Miracle! Watch: So there is plenty of bad sex in SATC--in fact, there are waaaaaay more embarrassing, cringe-worthy sex scenes than there are ones designed to appeal to the imagination/flesh.  Usually, sex on the show is played for comic effect, so (usually Miranda and Charlotte's--poor Miranda and Charlotte!) numerous sexual misadventures get a substantial amount of screen time. 

 But when it came to Men We Are Supposed to Take Seriously and Like--usually we hear nothing about, and see nothing of, the sex our protagonists have with them apart from brief mentions or glimpses in the "everything is splendid" vein.  Even in this episode itself, we are immersed in said vein--Harry is the love of Charlotte's life, future husband, and also "the most exciting sex I've ever had," as she tells the ladies.  Miranda: sex is great with (love-of-life-and-future-husband) Steve from Day One.  Carrie: sex is similarly great with (love-of-life-and-future-husband) Big from Day One.  (In one episode, Carrie even proclaims that she can know with absolute certainty that sex with Big could never be bad.  Reeeeaalllly? Nevvvver? Are you suuuuure?)

So in general, the show very tidily plays into conventional narratives about love and sex.  Wretched men you are clearly not supposed to be with? Sex will be comedically terrible. Your soulmate whom you are meant to wed and be with forever? Sex will be effortlessly wonderful.  I seeeeee.

 That being the case, it's a pleasure to see the writers muddying the waters at least a little bit here--Carrie and Berger have a great verbal connection, they really like each other, he's definitely someone we are meant to take seriously as a legitimate, long-term romantic prospect for her--and yet their first couple of times having sex... are awkward and flawed! You don't say! Nice to see the show at least tip its hat (if shows can have hats...?) to the idea that sex might not be romantic-comedy ideal right out of the gate, even with someone who is otherwise fantastic.

Of course, it then undoes a lot of its good work when we learn that Berger very definitely isn't really a good long-term prospect for Carrie, and that the uncomfortable early sex is actually something akin to a flashing warning sign of Troubles to Come...which, come to think of it, is exactly what happened in Charlotte's disastrous marriage--the fact that she and her ex Trey had sexual problems from the beginning (even if these problems were later resolved) was a sign that things were doooomed between the two of them.  Dooooomed, I say, dooooomed!

So maybe I shouldn't be giving the writers any credit at all here, because they don't really disrupt the "effortless good sex = soulmate"/ "imperfect early sex = indicator of pending disaster" binary.  Hmmmm.  But I want to give them credit, anyway! I am not sure what it is provoking this uncharacteristic benevolence on my part... but let's go with it! Credit let there be!

Notable Quotables: Carrie, on the thirtysomething dating life: "Maybe by the time you're in your mid-30s, it shouldn't be called dating.  It should be called 'waiting for the other shoe to drop.' " (Encouraging!)

Next Up...?: "The Perfect Present," Carrie deals with Big (palm connecting with forehead in three... two... one...), Miranda deals with Steve's new girlfriend, Samantha deals with the pretty young waiter she is, it seems, still sleeping with, and Charlotte deals with Judaism.  Much dealing to be done!