Pay cable round-up time, with spoilers for, in order, "Tell Me You Love Me," "Dexter" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" coming up just as soon as I sanitize my reading chair...
So, remember all those snarky comments suggesting that "Tell Me You Love Me" front-loaded all the really graphic sex scenes in the first couple of episodes as a bait-and-switch? Episode six put the lie to that theory, between Jamie having another franks 'n beans tryst (this time with Boone from "Lost" ) and, especially, Dr. Foster and her husband proving that, yes, old people can have very loud, very happy, very naked sex in a cozy armchair. While I'm sure that most of the audience (what's left of it by this episode) is focusing on all that exposed, not so youthful flesh, what struck me about the scene was that it was the first time all season (other than that half-glimpsed oral sex scene -- also featuring May -- in the premiere) that any characters on this show actually seemed to be enjoying themselves while doing the deed. Even Caroline and Palek's pot-fueled make-up sex wasn't significantly less mechanical than all those times they've been trying to impregnate her. And with the scene where May goes to meet her old lover, I feel like we have enough backstory now to legitimately consider the Fosters our fourth couple, which means I can say that I like half of the couples on this show, instead of only one out of three.
Meanwhile, the stories of my most and least favorite couples played out in some parallel. Dr. Foster tells Dave and Katie to stop trying to have sex, which of course opens the dam for them to finally start talking, even a little, about their problem. And Caroline and Palek, having quit both their fertility plans and therapy, finally enjoy each other's company, however briefly (and however aided by marijuana). I have to say, by the way, that while I absolutely despise Caroline, Sonya Walger's doing a hell of a job playing this spoiled, controlling ice queen, and watching her rip apart the sandwich lady (after having made an ass of herself with a temper tantrum in front of her boss) made me hope that the "Lost" producers are watching and realize that Penny might be far more useful as a villain than as Desmond's long-lost love.
"Dexter," meanwhile, has a lot of fun with this Narcotics Anonymous development, as what seemed at first to be a big hassle for Dexter turned out to be very helpful. It has Doakes "understanding" what his suspicions about Dexter really meant, has Rita taking him back, and it gives him a place where he can talk semi-openly about his addiction to murder, so long as he couches it in vague terminology. Plus, Jaime Murray from "Hustle"! What's not to like?
One thing I found particularly interesting was Dexter's dilemma about whether to break his pattern to stop the car dealer from killing his next victim. The overt admission that he doesn't target other killers to save people -- that they just make good targets and allows him to keep his word to Harry -- isn't exactly a surprise. But spelling it out like that, at a time when Dexter is being chased by a seemingly decent cop in Lundy -- in an episode where Lundy rips apart the audience's rationale for liking a vigilante serial killer with his "The worst killers in history are the ones who think the murders were somehow just" speech -- is a choice I'm not sure a lot of writing staffs would make. The trend in most series with morally complex protagonists is to slowly sand off their edges over time (even "The Shield" did that for a while with Mackey), and I admire team "Dexter" in their willingness to embrace everything that's wrong about their main character.
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" is coming perilously close to falling off my radar. That's three absolute stinkers in a row now. When "The Anonymous Donor" aired, I wrote, "The genius of "Curb" so often is that you know where a joke is going (but) laugh anyway." Here, I saw almost every joke in advance -- the toaster preventing Larry from getting Loretta to the interview, the phone swap and the havoc it wreaked -- but they were so predictable even within the "Curb" formula that I didn't find any of them funny. And the one pay-off I didn't predict -- the exterminator trying to stomp the rat-dog -- was one of those moments, like McEnroe inviting Larry to the party last week, where the show sacrifices any semblance of real human behavior at the expense of a gag. The guy's an exterminator; why is he just trying to stomp on this thing? And how can he not tell a rat from a dog? This is a far cry from season three's "Club Soda and Salt," where they managed to make professional expertise itself the joke.
As I recall, last season had a similar trend -- a few good episodes at the start, followed by a long stretch of catastrophe -- and I don't know how much longer I can stick around to see if things improve. It's emotionally draining to watch this show even when it's funny. The last few weeks ahve just been painful.
What did everybody else think?