Monday, March 09, 2009

United States of Tara, "Abundance": Gimme Gimme!

Spoilers for "United States of Tara" coming up just as soon as I fix my general lack of glee...
"It's driving me freaking nuts. It's like I know too much but I don't know enough. I just want to fix it." -Max
"You're funny." -Charmaine
"What?" -Max
"That you think you can fix it." -Charmaine
Why would any man, even as laid-back and decent a man as Max Gregson, sign himself up for a lifetime with Tara and all the complications she brings? Yes, obviously he loves her, and there's a part of him that gets a kick out of the alters, but the more we watch the show, the more clear it becomes that Max is a fixer. He thinks that if he loves Tara enough, digs deeply into the cause of her condition, he might be able to make it go away so he can have his wife and only his wife 24/7.

With Tara absent from all but the first few minutes of "Abundance," we get to watch Max play fixer for one of the alters. Alice can be a manipulator, but Max has already shown that she can't manipulate him, and so here he actually humors her delusions of pregnancy, and comforts her at the end when Tara's period arrives to spoil Alice's fantasy. Even though Max would like the alters out of his life, he does have affection for all of them -- Buck is the drinking buddy he doesn't usually have, T is more outgoing than Tara lets herself be, and even Alice is mostly harmless (and more attractive to him than he likes to let on) -- and so he takes care of them during their times of crisis just as much as he does for Tara herself.

Alice's long stint also lets Max find out the poncho goblin alter's name -- the appropriately creepy-sounding Gimme -- and to park her in front of Dr. Ocean, who is wildly out of her depth with this patient. (Valerie Mahaffey's exhalation after Max and Alice left was hilarious.) To me, though, the most interesting part was when Alice more or less tells Charmaine (while painting the crib) that she considers herself the dominant personality and puts Tara on the same level as Buck and T. Maybe Buck and T think the same way of themselves, but Alice is the only one of the three whom we've heard express a desire to be in charge all the time. I could see, maybe sometime next season, a story arc where Tara and Alice are locked in a battle for control of the body, Banner vs. Hulk style.

The non-Max/Alice portions of "Abundance" didn't do a whole lot for me. Amusing as it was to see that Marshall and Jason got assigned to play a leather-clad S&M couple at the Hell House, I'm still waiting for that storyline to go somewhere. And while Kate's situation with Gene might be realistic (I doubt a girl her age would want or have the ability to threaten a sexual harassment suit), it feels both predictable and uncomfortable. The one part of that story that worked was when it tied back into the main plot and Alice gave Kate tips on how to stroke Gene's ego and get her job back.

I believe we have four episodes to go, and while this isn't a plot-driven show, I'd like to see some significant movement on all these stories between now and the finale.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

What the hell was that video Gene sent Katie? Talk about a creep show. Nate Corddry plays a damn good creepy guy. (like him much better here than on Studio 60)I agree though, i don't really get where that portion of the story is going.

As for the rest, I like Alice the most of the all the alters, as Collette seems to have the most fun with that role.

Another Whiner said...

As a friend recently said to me, if this show were one hour rather than half hour, I wouldn't watch. It feels even shorter than half hour, and it's entertaining enough to get through. But there's too much of the alters most of the time. I guess I got spoiled from the two episodes before this which were very Tara heavy.

The problem with this show is that there's this mystery of what caused Tara to go crazy, and once that's solved, she'll supposedly become sane again. So they're going to have to drag it out somehow. They aren't doing a very good job of that so far.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The problem with this show is that there's this mystery of what caused Tara to go crazy, and once that's solved, she'll supposedly become sane again.

I don't think it's that simple, which Charmaine tries to explain to Max here. Finding out what caused her psyche to splinter isn't going to make Tara whole again, much as Max wants it to. This disorder's more complicated than that.

Hatfield said...

Speaking as someone with a history of panic attacks and anxiety/depression, knowing what's vexing your subconscious is only the first step on a long road to recovery. And I'm sure my problems are nothing compared to people with Tara's condition.


Not a complaint, just curiosity: Any days coming up where you'll have the free time to do another open thread, Alan? I always enjoy those

Anonymous said...

I have to say I've been liking each episode more than the one before it.

I still think that once Max finds out more about the supposed cause, he'll also find out that it wasn't the cause at all, but rather something caused by an alter or alters. It wouldn't be a story if it went from "maybe it's because she was raped" to "yep, it was the rape alright. Case closed."

I remember a few episodes back Tara said something about how she hardly remembers anything from when she and Max were first dating, and even when the kids were little. Does that mean Max was hanging out mostly with the alters? Or that Tara has dissociated from things even she herself experienced during more traumatic times? (Possibly both). It makes me wonder how/when Max found out, whether he was ever under the impression that T, for instance, was just Tara in a crazy mood. And how he came to the decision to marry and have kids with someone with this issue. And why it took him all this time to decide to find out on his own the details of this traumatic experience at boarding school.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And why it took him all this time to decide to find out on his own the details of this traumatic experience at boarding school.

My guess on this last one is that it's because Tara only recently went off her meds. I get the sense that she was taking her medication for a very long time, which kept the alters away but also kept Tara too fogged-out. Max hoped the medication would solve the problem, so he didn't bother to look. Now that Alice and the others have returned to his life full-time, Max needs to find a different solution.

Anonymous said...

This looks like one of the more interesting shows to hit the air this year, but for some reason I just cannot get myself to tune in. It could be that I have a ton of tv to watch and the tivo is full and on top of that I just got both seasons of Rome and I keep watching it over and over again. I think maybe the second time around--you know how Showtime and HBO often show the season again--I may catch it.

Still, I'm wondering about the Diablo Cody dialog? Is it as over the top and flowery as Juno?

Or it is worth it to start now? If so, what show do I cut out of my diet? Just rhetorical questions!!! No need for an answer.

Anonymous said...


Diablo doesn't write every episode...but the ones which she has, it is very apparent and Juno-y.

It's a hell of a show...i gave up Heroes and am about to give up Family Guy after last night's terrible episode to make room for show's such as Tara.

There have been 8 episodes so far, so i would say wait for a marathon, (which they do all the time), or wait until they re-show the season again.

Hope that helped!

qrter said...

I don't understand why Kate wanted her job back, why she doesn't just walk away.

It's a shitty job and as far as I know she doesn't really have feelings for Gene, so why not give it up?

KrisMrsBBradley said...

I think Kate likes her job because it's a place that is "Tara free". Not that she doesn't love her mother, but it's a big stress to be at home. Work gives her a place to be free of the weirdness, and feel a little in control of her life.

I just love the Max character so much more after every episode. Could there be a more loving, understanding husband? I'm waiting for him to just loose his shit completely one of these episodes, though.

Anonymous said...

The Gene situation is really dark. I'm wondering what direction they'll take it in. Hopefully, they won't make her daughter develop DID - I would lose faith in the show. Though, they could certainly use it to bring out another alter of Tara's.

I'd rather have the show be one season and tell an effective story then dragged out over ten years and come to be a joke. The show has a pretty effective pacing and takes the character places. I don't feel like they're dicking around...yet.

Good episode. Hope to see more of Gimme.

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm not the only one who is loving what Nate Corddry is doing with his character. He makes him off-putting, relatable, aggressive-creepy, cute-pitiful and really funny all the same time. The scene where Kate was breaking up with him (in a her own super-jerky but relatable way) where he was uh-huh-ing along to his internal responses to her was hysterical. That was probably my favorite scene of the series so far, with her sounding theoretically honest but really full of crap, and him doing the controlled freak-out.

I don't have the criticisms about this show that many have, I'm just enjoying the ride for the brilliant acting, writing and characterizations. But every once in a while, a certain scene will blow me out of the water.