Monday, March 16, 2009

United States of Tara, "Possibility": Tattoo you

Spoilers for last night's "United States of Tara" coming up just as soon as I go out and wrangle...
"I just wish I could get away like you do." -Kate
There are episodes of "Tara" where I feel completely engaged by the characters and their interactions with one another. Then there are episodes like "Possibility" that feel a little listless -- possibly because so much time was spent on Kate, the character I find least interesting -- and as I watch them, my inner comic book geek takes over my body and starts trying to quantify exactly what makes Tara Hulk out, and what turns her back into Bruce Banner.

The common thread for the appearance of the alters is stress, but it tends to be a specific kind of stress relating to loss of control. Last week, for instance, she became Alice after she found out Max and Dr. Ocean were having meetings without her. Here, she transforms (briefly) into T when Kate makes it clear that they're not going to have the fun mother-daughter bonding trip Tara had in mind, and that Kate's not going to listen to Tara about stepping away from the pharmaceutical salesman(*). Kate's rebelliousness in particular seems to be the trigger for T's emergence, as T tries to act out all the things (flirting with the salesman, getting a tattoo) that Kate has been talking about with Tara.

(*) I don't know what the production schedule on this episode was, but I have to assume it was done after the new "90210" came on the air, given Diablo Cody's unabashed "90210" fangirl status and the casting of Ryan Eggold as Kate's pharma object of desire. I only wish Ken Marino had gotten more to do as the other salesman, but at least his Starz! show "Party Down" premieres on Friday.

Meanwhile, this is the second time we've witnessed the transformation from alter back to Tara. The first time, it came during a moment of complete calm, as Charmaine told a story from Tara's childhood, which definitely fit the Hulk/Banner mold. This time, though, the extreme pain of the tattoo needle wakes her up, when you would think that pain would instead trigger the reverse change -- or, possibly, trigger a transformation from one of the female alters into Buck. But instead, Tara comes back, and even gets through a more innocuous tattoo session -- which fulfills Tara's hope of a mother-daughter bonding moment, after all -- without the alters surfacing again.

Outside of the Gregson women's road trip, we finally get some movement on the Marshall/Jason story, as Marshall takes the honorable path of getting Jason drunk so he can seduce him -- and apparently finding success. We don't know yet whether this was just drunken experimentation -- Jason sure looked uncomfortable saying goodbye to Max later -- or a sign that Marshall wasn't just wishcasting the idea of Jason playing for his team, but we did see Jason wake up and actively kiss Marshall back. So there's that.

Meanwhile, after getting chewed out by Tara, then encouraged by Neil(**), Max tries to go forward on his quest to find the mysterious Trip, only to be foiled when he finds himself face to face with one of Trip's brothers. This is a story that could use some forward movement soon, if only so Max can realize that finding this guy and getting to the bottom of what happened isn't going to come close to "fixing" Tara.

(**) That scene, with the wrangle line and the appearance of The B.S. Lady, is the first of two really good Patton Oswalt scenes on TV this week; Friday's "Dollhouse" will have the other.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Gene's creepiness is reaching some legendary heights...i assume his stealing of Kate's picture as a girl will have some ramifications later. Nice to see the Marshall storyline progress...i would have to believe that Jason's uncomfortableness comes from his own feelings about his mother and father that he and Marshall were discussing, as opposed to any feelings of uncomfortableness.

Either way, i agree on the overall tone of the episode Alan, and that Kate is definitely the least interesting character on the show...does she have any friends?

spiderpig said...

This time, though, the extreme pain of the tattoo needle wakes her up, when you would think that pain would instead trigger the reverse change

I don't think it was the tattoo needle that triggered the reverse change but Kate repeating over and over how it was Tara's body and skin and DNA. I thought Kate finally got through to her and that's what triggered the change back to Tara.

I also don't think it was Max "wimping out" when confronted by Trip's brother. I think he finally realized he can't fix things no matter how much he wants to and more importantly, I think he also realized he needs to stop digging and let Tara find the truth on her own.

Kate is definitely not my favorite character on the show, but I did like her interaction with Tara in this one. Plus, I love where they are going with Gene. He's soo freaky! Wonder what he's going to do with that picture of young Kate. Heh.

Finally, I just wanna say what a wonderful dad Max showed himself to be when he realized Marshall was in love with Jason. I wish more gay teens had that kind of support from their parents. Kudos USoT writers.

Unknown said...

I really loved this episode. The only episode so far that I half-way liked Kate.

After the other episode, where Alice said she takes care of all the alters, I figured that maybe she "woke up" Tara to make sure that T didn't get the tattoo.

I love how the show is handling Marshall and his crush. I was literally freaking out when I realized that he was going in for the afraid that he'd be rejected (or worse, beat up).

Anonymous said...

I felt the exact same thing as Granola Mom: I was screaming at the TV "Nooo, Marshall, don't do it!" because I couldn't take fragile Marshall being harshly rejected. I thank the writers for sparing me this. I really love how they are handling this particular story. Currently it's the #1 reason why I tune in to watch this show.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I love Toni Colette, and she's an expert at realizing five different personalities in the same body, but Marshall's storyline is what makes the wait each week difficult.

And I'll go ahead and throw out a minority opinion: I like Kate fine. She's my least favorite member of the credited cast, but that speaks more to how great the cast is than any ill-will toward Kate.

Anonymous said...

Kate is my favorite character, though at least part of it is identifying with her so strongly, because my mother also had a mental illness and I was in a similar position, at least in so far as having to mother her and take responsibility for her and for myself at a young age. She's so realistically drawn -- as are most of the characters, except for maybe Max, who the show is right in calling him a cowboy, and the alters themselves. But Kate is really real.

Anonymous said...

I missed the episode! Would anyone mind telling me what the tattoos that Kate and Tara got look like?

Anonymous said...

LOVED when Jason kissed Marshall back. I know he'll probably eventually break Marshall's heart (and therefore also mine) but that was awesome.

Anonymous said...

I think it's really interesting how we see how the family members react to Tara's disease subconsciously as well as outright. I mean, they all have actual opinions about the alters and the situation that they voice, but I feel like a lot of their other actions are at least party driven by Tara's disease and their knowledge of it.

Kate, for instance, gets the creepy video from Gene etc. and yet remains at her job. I think in a way, she's become kind of numb to other kinds of weirdness. She sees her mom as the craziest of the crazy and maybe doesn't realize just how weird Gene's behavior is. Or, she does realize it and chooses to not make that big a deal about it because, come on, how could he possibly be worse than her mom? (in Kate's opinion) Then, at the same time, I wonder if she's searching for someone weirder than her mom to make her mom seem more normal; someone more messed up as a kind of proof that Kate could be in a worse situation - like that powerpuff boy from the beginning of the series. Who would be attracted to that if they weren't looking for dysfunction to surpass or at least match their own?

Then there's the scene between Max and Marshall where we see exactly how accepting of Marshall Max is. I feel like this is partly in Max's personality but also has to do with the fact that Max is also in love in a very non-traditional way and understands that Marshall falling in love with Jason is probably the most normal thing his son could ever do.

One last thing I wonder about; someone mentioned that they thought Buck should have taken T's place in the tattoo parlor because he's better at managing pain, but can an alter take the place of another alter? As far as I remember I've only ever seen it go from Tara to alter back to Tara to alter.

Plus, when this show first came out I was really curious about DID and did some research on the glorious youtube. I found the movie "Three Faces of Eve" that showed Joanne Woodward playing a woman named Eve White being interviewed about her DID and her personalities (Eve Black and Jane). In the movie, Eve was able to let the alters come in and out at will. For instance, the doctor interviewing her asked to talk to Eve Black and Eve White transitioned on command. However, when the psychiatrist wanted to talk to Jane he had to go from Eve Black to Eve White to get to Jane and vice versa. Is this characteristic of the disease or just part of the film?

I think it would be kind of weird if an alter took the place of another alter. I mean, an alter comes out when Tara is stressed and can't manage a situation. Whatever alter that comes out is the one that can manage the situation best. So, if an alter replaced an alter it would be like the alter admitting he/she couldn't handle the stressful situation.

It just seems to me that the alters are such dominant caricatures of certain personalities that they each believe they can handle whatever comes at them and aren't as "weak" as Tara and they don't need to escape. If that's how they think, passing off the responsibility of dealing to another alter isn't in their nature.

I feel like they all kind of look down on Tara - Alice especially - because she transitions and kind of hides from her problems.
Another movie I found - a documentary this time - showed a college student who was dealing with the stuff Tara was like losing control and one of the woman's alters talked about how much she hated the woman and wanted to physically harm her (herself?) because she hated how weak she was and how she hid from her problems. This woman also had a Gimme named Enigma so when Gimme was introduced it felt kind of cool knowing what it was already and yet not knowing at all.

Lisa said...

I don't think that the two boys were particularly drunk. They certainly don't seem to have been sloppy drunks all over the place. It looked like they only had one drink to me, and let the ice melt (Marshall takes away a glass full of melty ice from Jason before leaning in for the kill).

I think the booze was in there because 1) that's realistic - teenagers think booze is cool and experiment with it when their parents aren't home and 2) Marshall was really nervous...and he likes movies...and in movies, people drink in nervous-making romantic situations.