' Cinema Romantico: Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (Happy Bert Day)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (Happy Bert Day)

“What are friends for?” No. Seriously. What are they for? That’s the question posed by “Happy Bert Day”, the newest “Trophy Wife” episode. The episode may theoretically revolved around precocious Bert’s birthday and his right to have whatever kind of party he wants on the basis of reading 100 books but it’s really about friends – making them, not having them, retaining them, craving them, insulting them, not understanding their importance and coming to understand that importance quite well. The episode is also about Malin Akerman’s pants – in this case, a so fetch pair of black leather lightning strikes bracketed to each leg. If those pants challenged Usain Bolt to a 100 meter dash…..well, I’m not saying they’d win, but they’d make him earn it. They’d probably clock a 9.86.

She is wearing those pants at Bert’s soccer game when she chooses to try and make friends with a few fellow soccer moms who “purse check her” and leave her out in the cold. This sticks in her craw and so she decides that volunteering to coordinate Bert’s birthday will give her an excuse to invite the soccer moms to prove her self-worth and earn their friendship. Ask not what you can do for your stepson, ask what you can do for yourself. Well, she sort of asks what she can do for her stepson. Bert just wants ice cream (and napkins) and so Kate suggests an “Aladdin” theme which leads to a magic carpet and a horse and firewalker on stilts, though strangely not as many hijinks as such a set-up might imply.


Well, the firewalker on stilts gets run into and falls over. Sure. Of course, he does. Twice! If any network exec attending a pitch meeting was told a firewalker on stilts was NOT going to be run into and fall down, he/she would have a luxury suite-styled meltdown. But I like that each time the firewalker on stilts gets run to – by, respectively Warren and Kate – it is the not the actual firewalker on stilts the camera is paying attention to. Rather, the joke hinges on Warren and Kate professing they are okay while the firewalker on stilts writhes in pain, a nice nod to the show being all about how each character makes it all about them.

Hillary has eyes for a comely young dude. Warren volunteers to talk to the comely young dude and see if he’s dating-worthy. But when Warren finds out the comely young dude is a dancer AND a surfer, Warren wants to “purse check” Hillary right out of the picture and have the dude be his friend. Meanwhile Dr. Diane Buckley, tasked with returning the wrong birthday cake for the right birthday cake, accompanied reluctantly by Pete, cuts in line at the bakery, runs red lights, cuts off cars and finagles her way out of a traffic ticket with bald-faced lies. In other words, the rest of these measly humans surrounding her are not to be treated with friendliness but as if they are pawns that Dr. Diane Buckley can rearrange on a whim. (She gets her comeuppance when the cake inevitably splatters all over her, but that’s less a comeuppance than a sugary irritant.)

And that brings us back to Kate’s woebegone quest to befriend the soccer moms whom Kate overhears referring to her as a stripper. Egads. “Legs for days. You always have singles for the vending machine. I could see it,” says Jackie. Kate quickly ascertains, however, that it was Jackie who told the soccer moms that Kate was a stripper all in her own woebegone effort to befriend them.

This is a Michaela Watkins episode through and through. She’s not only funny (her massively ill-fated attempt to hypnotize Kate at a delicate moment – “Two, one, and you’re under” – is the episode’s singular moment), she conveys the utter out-of-her-element desperation Jackie must feel every second of every hour of every day. (With each episode, the more I'm convinced Jackie belongs in northern California as opposed to southern California.) She wants a few new friends so bad that she's willing to sell out one of the few friends she really has (even though Kate's status a friend is open for debate). It's not that she wants to be mean to Kate, far from it, but rather that she fails to think ahead. She's a left coast Jimmy the Gent, her mind going in eight different directions at once.

But Kate and Jackie both realize the soccer moms are judgmental bee-yotches, square up and re-unite to watch Bert cap off his special day with his very own song and dance number. Usually that's a pretty trite conclusion but here it feels just right - everyone ignores themselves for a precious moment to let the birthday boy have his.

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