' Cinema Romantico: Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (The Date)

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (The Date)

The ecosystem on sitcoms is often extremely insular. A series starts and characters are established and the characters’ behaviors are prescribed and those behaviors lead to readymade routines. This is mostly, okay, I guess, if the characters’ behaviors are humorous and the routines effectively utilize those behaviors and so on and so forth. But it can also become frustrating. I’m not talking about stasis necessarily, but characters not being allowed to recognize their own behaviors and, in turn, their own foibles and shortcomings. And that is why a moment near the end of this week’s episode of “Trophy Wife” is the best thus far in its infant run.

Kate and Pete want to throw a Party For Grown-Ups. But this means unloading the kids. So they call Jackie, who is landscaping right there in Kate and Pete’s backyard unbeknownst to them, because personal space to Jackie is as meaningful as name brand toothpaste (she makes her own), to ask if she can babysit. Jackie quickly agrees and then quickly calls Dr. Diane Buckley to see if she can babysit instead so Jackie can go to the party to which she was most decidedly not invited. Dr. Diane Buckley quickly agrees. I’m still not sure Hillary and Warren have not outgrown babysitting age, but this is underscored when Dr. Diane Buckley makes Hillary official babysitter so she can go to Kate and Pete’s party to rescue Hillary’s math book for studying. (BTW: Marcia Gay Harden speaking French……for the WIN!!!)


The party, as it must, leads to all sorts of complications, and I’m not talking about Kate’s hipsters mingling with Pete’s lawyers. I’m talking about Dr. Diane Buckley getting Instagramed by Meg (Natalie Morales), Kate’s bestie, with Solo cups as if she’s a PTA mom on a bender, which leads to Dr. Diane Buckley traipsing into the dank dive bar Meg tends to demand the photo be removed which leads to Meg challenging Dr. Diane Buckley to beer pong for the right to leave the photo up or erase it. (“Is that how you and the hobos settle disputes around here?”) It also leads to Jackie shacking up with Sad Steve (Nat Faxon), the aptly named lawyering pal of Pete who is blissfully unaware of his nickname (until he isn’t), who has accrued 110 days of sick leave and just wants someone with which to spend them. So, sniffing opportunity, Kate and Pete play forceful matchmaker to Jackie and Sad Steve, which goes about how you’d expect, both hilariously awful and weirdly perfect.

Jackie is, as Jackie will be, amusing the whole episode, attaching herself to the Harrison household like a mango margarita sipping organism, the sort that criticizes everyone else for crossing boundaries while she barrels right across those same boundaries like the unbalanced entrepreneur/inventor she “is”. There is so much Jackie in this episode, though, that I actually started to suffer a slight case of Jackie Overload. It was……too much. I swear to God. That’s what I said to myself. “Too much.” And then I tried to square with that in the midst of the episode because I was confused how I, an avowed Michaela Watkins fan, could be wishing for less Jackie. It made no sense!

Except it did. See, most sitcoms don’t expound the effort to put you in their characters’ shoes (or into their short-shorts, as in the case of Kate, which seems disturbing, which is why this is in parentheses). Instead they wash over you like the breeze on the beach where you’ve lived all your life. Watch it, laugh, move on to the next thing saved to the DVR. But this episode, written by Gail Lerner, put me side by side with Kate and Pete, so that I was feeling what they were feeling. They wanted less Jackie (“maybe she could get lost in a bazaar”). I wanted less Jackie. And then, in the midst of a double date with Kate & Pete and Jackie & Sad Steve, when Jackie panics because she’s Jackie and escapes to the alley outside the restaurant and ruminates her fashion choices with the bus boys, when Kate finds her for the requisite “talk”, Jackie makes an admission. She says: “I’m too much.”

I gasped. Literally gasped. I’ve written so many times before how much I adore films that reveal themselves in full to me with their final shots, and that’s precisely what “Trophy Wife” did in this episode. You feel one with Kate in that instant, because you felt what she felt. We all misjudged Jackie, and she deftly undercuts us with a moment of recognition that most sitcom characters are simply not allowed to have because to recognize their own flaws is to threaten the lifeblood of the ecosystem. That’s not to suggest Jackie is about to become a whole new person. She’s in touch enough to diagnose her problem, but her likely prevalence for a journey to a Navajo Medicine Man to offer the proper cure means it may not happen anytime soon. And besides, I don’t think we want it to, and neither does she.

Jackie needn’t be “too much.” Just being, you know, much will do.

2 comments:

Andrew K. said...

It's weird, many have called this their favourite and I'm not so sure but I did love it and for many of the reasons you pointed out. The Jackie as the main arc was nice but there were so many smaller bits that I love. I'm growing to really like Malin and she's doing such a bang-up job just "reacting" to stuff I want the show to give her more to do than just react to the zannyness around her. This is the best use of Whitford, though, by a mile and it was nice to see Faxon pop up after his excellent BEN AND KATE was cancelled in January.

My favourite moment though was so small but make a good case for how things in TROPHY WIFE are small and not incidental. That moment when Diane finds out about the party there's the slightest indication that she's hurt and her joke about Kate being too young, already humorous, becomes even more so when Warren and Bert don't get it. And then she explains it and in the back-ground you notice on re-watch Bert says "That's mean!". Random, but so worth it.

(Also, bread puns for the win.)

Nick Prigge said...

This was Whitford's best episode. I agree. I confess I'm just writing this posts in singular bursts and just leaving them as are to truly live up to the name Recap Vomit, and so I didn't give Whitford as much love as I should have. I really, really liked seeing him in his element at the office. He seemed.....different, a little bit of a harder edge. Work Pete. I hope they explore that more.