Monday, March 23, 2009

United States of Tara, "Betrayal": The burning shed

Quick spoilers for last night's "United States of Tara" coming up just as soon as I navigate my company's human resources voicemail...

I wish I could spend more time on "Betrayal," which was so tragic for poor Marshall and so rife with material about the alters and the way they interact with each other. But as I've already said a few times today, I'm slammed with other assignments, so I'm just going to hit a few bullet points and open it up for discussion:

• Poor, poor, poor Marshall. I loved that the show went the unexpected route of having Jason be totally cool with kissing Marshall, even in the sober light of day. (His desire to keep it on the down-low made it seem realistic enough.) So, of course, the writers had to punish Marshall in a more unpredictable way, by having T -- who, in her last appearance, had attempted to make amends with Tara's son -- decide to screw with him by seducing Jason. So painful to watch, and so beautifully played by Keir Gilchrist.

• Last week, we had some debate about whether Tara could switch from alter to alter without first reverting to her own persona. Here, we get confirmation, as she goes straight from Gimme (whose appearance is provoked by a deep tissue massage) to T (the alter least likely to feel ashamed of how people would respond to Gimme's public outburst). So that means there's still a possibility that we could see, say, Alice turn into Buck under the right circumstances.

• Toni Collette has the flashiest part, but I'm really developing a new appreciation of John Corbett while watching this show. He more or less always plays characters who live in the same strike zone, but he makes Max seem different from, and richer than, previous Corbett types like Aiden or even Chris from "Northern Exposure." What makes Max special -- and the ideal kind of man to be in this marriage -- is the gift he has for empathizing with his loved ones problems. Last week, we saw him really get on Marshall's wavelength when he realized the depth of his son's crush on Jason, and here we had the very sweet way he responded to Tara telling him about Dr. Ocean "breaking up with" her. He doesn't get mad, or shrug it off, but instead finds a way to put himself on her level and react the way she was. Very nicely-done, by actor and character.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Interesting episode, but it prompts a question. My understanding is that the alters resurfaced recently after a decision by Tara to halt her medication. Obviously, there is no show if there are no alters, but at what point do the alters create such havoc in Tara's life that she forces herself to return to her medication for the betterment of her family? Her sister has lost her job due to the primitive alter, her son could not be more distressed by T's contact with his crush. What would it take for a concerned mother to forsake the opportunity for self exploration so that she doesn't hurt her family any longer? Plus, if she believes that allowing the alters to resurface will help ultimately address her issues, why would she shut down Max and his efforts to find the precipitating event from her school years?

Anonymous said...

First, I'm glad you're sticking with this show, even if the Tara posts don't get much comment love compared to some of the others. For the first three episodes, I could take it or leave it, but when Gimme appeared, I was hooked. I'm finding myself drawn in deeper with every episode, and every episode just seems too short. I guess they really believe in the "always leave them wanting more" school of storytelling. Immediately after the show ends, they run it again, and this week, we watched it over again.

When Gimme appeared at the spa, I was impressed how she managed to make another hooded poncho out of the blanket. I don't know how many grunting alters there might be inside Tara, but the poncho let me know it was definitely Gimme.

T is just terrible. It's just difficult to imagine someone being so deliberately cruel that way. Can she really be ignorant of how much that would hurt someone? They should feel lucky that burning the shed was the only thing Marshall did. At least he didn't smash her face in with a shovel in the middle of the night. Or maybe he just went the Khan route and decided to do much worse than kill her, he hurt her.

The best part was that there is no doubt about what happened. It was no accident. Marshall started it and he is perfectly content to watch the shed burn to the ground. We like to call it his nerd-rage, which we first noted when he beat on that boy earlier in the season.

I do wish we had more of a chance to see all the images on the walls of the shed. Maybe they will give us more of that on the DVD extras. Did they come up with the images, or did they maybe use actual drawings made by real people with Tara's condition. The shed is weird, strange, and attractive to curiosity.

Thinking about the shed, what are the rules for going out there? It seems like the alter has to be willing to go, or willing to accept being "grounded" to the shed. But if the alter is willing and able to control its behavior by going to the shed, couldn't the alter control its behavior and be allowed to stay in the house? I need more on the whole shed deal.

Max seems to be a prince among men with the patience of a saint. I don't know how he does it. He's in one of those situations that most people won't be capable of dealing with.

Unless Tara is on her meds. Hadn't she been on meds for a long time that suppressed the alters? Before this episode, the alters had mostly been either wacky or embarrassing for the family. If I was Marshall, condition one for any sort of reconciliation would be getting her back on the pills. Which in a way, would be sort of like killing T (and the other alters) after all.

I thought we had heard before that Dr. Ocean was a novice about Tara's condition, and was pretty much trying to study it herself as the therapy progressed? If so, I felt like Dr. Ocean was doing the responsible thing. Tara situation is getting worse/more complex, and she is really starting to need a therapist who actually knows how to meet Tara's needs. I can buy Max supporting Tara's feelings of being dumped, but I think he could have done more to help her see that it might also be a good thing.

Cree said...

Great comments and insight from the folks posting before me! I won't repeat what you guys/gals have already said.
I'd just like to add that as the show moves along and becomes more complex the more hooked I become. I think Max grounds the show so well, but I find myself tuning in more and more to watch Keir Gilchrist play Marshall.
He's such a unique character to television and the writers seem to be going out of their way to make his story as unconventional as possible.
I was annoyed last week when Marshall and Jason kissed after drinking. I thought they had written in an excuse for Jason to pull away. Instead they did the exact opposite and it was so refreshing.
As long as the writing continues to be innovative and willing to break regular television conventions then I'm staying with it!

Ted Kerwin said...

I thought the Shed was only for T to go to to chill out, it was not my impression any of the other alters went to the shed. Which is why burning the shed punished T, not his mother.

Anonymous said...

Is it a bad omen that Alexa Junge is out as showrunner?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is it a bad omen that Alexa Junge is out as showrunner?

Dunno. Diablo Cody told me that Junge was a massive help to her, and basically ran the writers room while Cody hung back. The show might not feel as cohesive or smooth if Cody (who's never worked in TV before were in charge), and as mentioned in that interview, Junge was good at echoing Cody's speech patterns for the characters.

With Junge gone, maybe Cody has learned enough that she can step in and take over. Or, if Cody doesn't want that, maybe another staffer who has a lot of experience gets a promotion.

That Cody is still there feels more important to me, but we'll see. Junge obviously was very important to the process.

Tyro.k.y said...

With BSG gladly gone, Eureka off snoozing, LOST a losing temptation; Skins my guilty pleasure-this has become my favorite tv show. I feel some form of joy every time I watch it.

I dig how the show actually goes somewhere. I hope that doesn't disappear anytime soon. TELL THE STORY as effective as possible. If it takes 2 years to do that, do it. End the show. Move on. Create another sweet show. I'm sick of trying to stay awake as long as possible series.

lap said...

It was a great episode, and I also liked that pretty much as soon as Charmaine was forced to sort of accept the alters were really not a willing (or faking) Tara, that she also had to deal with the basest of them making a public scene.

I was crushed for Marshall, but then felt slightly jubilant at him just watching the shed burn.

Corbett as Max is my favorite thing about the show. I finally realized it's that I identify so strongly with him, fixer that I am.

Anonymous said...

re: the shed, it appeared to me that it was only T's place. Thinking back, I am pretty sure that none of the other alters were ever sent back there (but correct me if I'm mistaken.) But it also looked like only a place T would be comfortable in: the wall-art seemed to messy for Alice, and the girly bed set up would not be tolerated by Buck.

Besides, T, as a 16 year old, is still the only alter who would put up with given a "time out" right?

Unknown said...

I was so happy last episode that Marshall got his kiss and was not rejected. This week, I was just crushed for him. Just goes to show how good the writing is, and the acting by Keir Gilchrist (on the other hand, I feel almost nothing for Kate).

I loved the fact that when everyone rushed out, Marshall was calmly sitting there watching the shed burn. I hope this family has it's own therapist, away from Tara's. If not, they are going to need one before this is all over

Anonymous said...

i dont think the actress playing kate is getting enough credit...i think she is brilliant and her comic timing is great and she makes me laugh constantly

Tyro.k.y said...

I agree, I think she does a fine job as Kate. Most comments seem to indicate they don't like Kate and can't believe her character but end up blaming the actress. I dig the character and the actress.

Anonymous said...

Poor Marshall. I was SO hurt for him. And I'm actually quite angry with Tara/T. She seems to get away with a lot by way of the alters, and I'm a little annoyed by it. It felt great to see Marshall do what he did. I started off watching the show for Toni, but now I watch it for the other characters. She is beginning to grate on me.