' Cinema Romantico: Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (The Tooth Fairy)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (The Tooth Fairy)

There are stages every child must go through, though, rest assured, I’m not discussing the traditional developmental stages discussed within child-rearing textbooks. No, I’m talking more about the stages of Parental Whimsy – as in, The Santa Claus Stage, when the child still has utter belief in the magical, and The Man/Not Yet A Man Stage, when the child is both ready and not ready at all for his/her ascent of Maturity Mountain, and the Leave Me Alone Stage, when the child finally reaches that dreaded point wherein he/she just wishes mom and dad would bugger off. Setting each one of its three children in separate storylines, “Trophy Wife”, in its second great episode in as many weeks, explores these stages with a bounty of rich one-liners and eventual oddball empathy.

Let’s examine these storylines in ascending order of awesomeness. (Reader’s Note: I recently saw someone on Twitter question the validity of the word “awesome”, wondering whether its content had become diluted because of overuse. Thus, I pledge to use the word awesome EVEN MORE going forward. Like, hey man, aren’t Malin Akerman’s pants awesome?)


While dining out, precocious Bert loses a tooth, and it seems that in Jackie’s world, tooth loss is an appreciable event on par with confirmation or graduation. Unfortunately, Pete loses the tooth before celebrating can be done which leads to bitterness on the part of Jackie for ruining the celebration which leads to Jackie and Pete squaring off in ex-wife and husband warfare – that is, taking activities the other one wanted specifically to introduce Bert to, and introducing them. I admit there is a little something too straight-outta-the-Sitcom-Hijinks-Manual for this story to work entirely, though as always the performances fight back, particularly in how Whitford genuinely seems so frazzled by the in-advance knowledge of Jackie’s anger. Bert, though, is still young enough to believe in the Tooth Fairy, and so a moment of reckoning inevitably arrives amidst all the nonsense that finds Jackie and Pete having to decide whether or not it’s time to reveal the Tooth Fairy’s true identity. They don’t. They let Bert hang onto the magical for at least another year. God bless their souls.

Meanwhile, Warren is taken with a female classmate, Allie, who texts Warren to say she wants to study. Warren being Warren, he assumes she actually wants to study, until Kate explains that girl code dictates that “studying” equates to “date”, which renders Warren as freaked out as excited. Guy On Girl Communication is not his forte. It’s the point every kinda/sorta-maturing boy faces, when he first falls for a girl and has literally no idea what he’s doing. (At least, this was a point boys reached in my day. Anymore I assume kids start drinking coffee at six and going to Daft Punk shows by themselves at ten.) Typically this means a boy is left to fend for himself, figure it out based on 80’s rom coms and Mr. Big lyrics, but Warren has a secret weapon – Kate.

His stepmom understands the female mind – what’s more, she understands the young female mind. So, she tells Warren what to text and, as it turns out, Kate-authored internet slang pierces fair Allie’s heart. In a way, she’s the Bizarro Cyrano de Bergerac. Of course, once Warren is made to interact face-to-face with Allie, he panics and crumbles and so Kate comes to the rescue……NOT!!! Instead she waltzes into Warren’s room to confide in Allie how hot Warren is, which understandably leaves Allie a little terrified and wanting to flee.

My rival re-capper at The AV Club disputes this turn, declaring that “Trophy Wife is supposed to have at least one foot on the ground. Kate trying to talk up her stepson’s cuteness is unbelievable.” Respectfully, I disagree. Consider “The Big 5-0”, merely two episodes ago, and Kate, amongst other ill-considered ideas, barging into Pete’s office, clothesless beneath her coat. That entire twenty-two minutes consisted of Kate continually suffering well-intentioned mental lapses and throwing poo-poo against the wall to see what might stick (nothing stuck). And this is precisely what happens when she rolls up on poor Allie to spout the virtues of Warren. It might be unbelievable for most characters, but not for Kate, because she's just throwing more poo-poo against the wall. This also wonderfully works to put Kate and Warren on the same level. He thinks a good excuse to momentarily get away from Allie is to explain he needs to use the bathroom – “Probably gonna be in there for awhile” – and Kate thinks it’s a good idea to momentarily act as if she and Allie are competitors. Away from the text, she is as useless as he.

The episode really soars, however, when Dr. Diane Buckley hosts a sleepover for Hillary and her school government friends – “They rule the school. Democratically, of course.” So, Diane crafts appetizers I can’t pronounce and rents both Cate Blanchett “Elizabeth” movies, “and, if you feel like getting crazy, ‘The Aviator.’” The government girls, however, have chosen “Spawn of Satan 2.” Before long, Diane Being Diane, she has managed to embarrass Hillary by treating "Spawn of Satan 2" as if it were a Cate Blanchett movie and pointing all the plot inaccuracies, leading to all the girls texting behind Diane’s back, and then Hillary texting Diane to, more or less, tell her to go away. Marcia Gay Harden in that moment underscores why she won an Oscar, staring daggers at her daughter and offering: “I have to go. One of my patients DIED.” As in, Diane just died a little inside.

Yet, she also understands. That’s a painful reality, a difficult one to pull off in a network sitcom, and yet Gay Harden exquisitely captures that dividing line between joy that her little girl is growing up and sadness that her little girl is leaving her behind. And the show is smart enough to know that even though Hillary blows her mom off, she still loves her mom, and goes to check on her. That moment they share – hyperbole be damned – is artistry, and all alone makes it worthwhile to have kept in touch with this show.

Did the episode really to finish up with a "Scrubs-ian" montage? No. It did not, and it did not because it generated genuine feeling all on its lonesome, and no bit of musical monkey business was required to elicit or embellish it. You got the good stuff, "Trophy Wife." Keep believing in yourself.

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