Spoilers for episode two of "United States of Tara" coming up just as soon as I buy tickets to the Genesis reunion tour...
"It's like they don't even want me around when I'm me." -Tara
"Aftermath" spends a lot of time introducing Alice, the last of Tara's main alters, but it also spends more time than the pilot did on Tara herself -- how she feels about waking up from one of her blackouts, how the success and popularity of the alters is giving her an inferiority complex towards herself, and how she tries to live a functional life within the confines of her disorder.
The family meeting (or "summit," as Marshall tries to call it) was a nice illustration of the mechanics of the Gregson household, as Tara runs through T's credit card charges, gets more info on the shiner she got as Buck, and tries to fill in all the blanks from her time away. The alters have an advantage on her, as they seem to know everything that goes on while they're dormant, while Tara never does.
Just as she's starting to get a handle on her latest episodes, and attempting to heal the rift with Kate over the morning-after pill, she has that mortifying encounter with the other soccer moms who make it clear how sorry they feel for her, and -- poof! -- Tara's gone, and '50s sitcom housewife Alice is at the controls.
And the thing that has to eat at Tara the most is how necessary the other personalities can be. Alice stands up to the moms when she can't, gets Marshall to admit to his bed-wetting problem, and plays a hilarious mind-game on Marshall's awkwardly-named teacher, Orel Gershinson (played by Tony Hale, without his Buster Bluth hook-hand, alas).
There's a downside, obviously, beyond filling Tara with self-loathing. Alice winds up making things worse with Kate by literally washing her mouth out with soap, but on balance, and unlike the other alters, she has designs on taking over Tara's body full-time. She's not quite the master manipulator she thinks of herself as -- Max, thankfully, sees right through her -- but the idea of one part of Tara conspiring against another part shows another way in which this isn't just a wacky game of dress-up.
Some other thoughts:
• The costume changes make it easy for us to identify the alters, which I suppose is important this early in the process, but it does seem like Tara always has a nice window to go home and get dressed whenever they occur. What happens if her psyche decides Buck needs to come out in a hurry and there's no time to ditch the skirt and heels? Or if there's a direct transition from Buck to Alice?
• Joining Tony Hale in the guest star roster: Patton Oswalt as Max's best friend and landscaping employee Neil, and Nate Corddry as the manager of the restaurant where Kate applies for a job as an escape from the Gregson household. It's a good bunch.
• Midwestern America and suburbia are both easy targets in movies and TV shows (see "American Beauty," for instance), so I'm always wary when a character utters a line like Mr. Gershinson's "We're not in Vermont." But the rest of his scenes, and Alice's psychoanalytical "It's time to start loving Orel" monologue, suggest his objections to Marshall are less about Kansas provincialism than about him trying to work out some unresolved high school issues, and I can live with that.
• Does Marshall having a female sidekick who dresses like Ayn Rand and is similarly pretentious (mocking Gershinson for having gone to a state school) make his own '40s affectations seem more natural (like the two of them decided on it together), or less?
What did everybody else think?