Tuesday, April 5, 2011

USOT Recap: Back to School

Favorite line: "Ah, Ms. Gregson. Quite a tour de force yesterday. I was dragged kicking and screaming to rehab for behavior less strange." Dr. Hattaras

"Crackerjack" kicks off with some "raw" footage of the Gregsons through Marshall's new camera. He really seems to be hitting this documentary filmmaking thing hard, capturing some casual-yet-telling reactions from his family members in the first scene of the episode. In one fell swoop we are treated to Tara's back-to-school jitters as well as Max's increasing frustration with his landscaping business (or lack thereof).

From there, it doesn't take Tara long to realize university campuses are not kind to students of a certain age, and her anxiety reaches new heights upon stepping into the classrooma sprawling, auditorium-style affaircausing her to transition into Shoshanna and pretend to be the substitute psychology professor. Naturally, Dr. Hattaras (Eddie Izzard, who is staying sardonically English in this role, thank the Queen) is none too happy and proceeds to use Tara's condition as a humiliating topic of discourse in the class. This wouldn't be quite so bad if he weren't so utterly disdainful of the validity of her disorder. His skepticism does, however, catalyze an appearance by T, which is always a joyous occasion, speaking strictly as a viewer.

The rest of the men this week saw varying degrees of personal success, the highest being Max's somewhat-forced decision to sell his business to the big dog Orgalawn. Unfortunately, this sale is leaving Neil in quite the lurch, job-wise, but I am excited to see what his next move will be. Hopefully something that will make him significantly more attractive to Charmaine. Or as she put it, "you weren't planning on being a gardener your whole life, were you?" Ouch.

Marshall and Lionel are excited about their film class but disappointed to be thrust into an almost entirely gay group, under their teacher's misguided hope that they will create "something deeper, more emotional... a little more razzmatazz." Still, I appreciated seeing Lionel's more vulnerable side as he asked Marshall if they were together out of love or sheer proximity. Blondie cares, y'all!

As for Kate, after an unfortunate run-in with a particularly coital Neil and Charmaine, her goal du jour has become the quick and thorough escape from her family. The solution? Move to Japan to teach English. I love it when shows incorporate real trends into their stories. And it will be interesting to see Kate completely out of her element, and I really hope the writers are able to pull off sequestering one of the main characters from their main Kansas setting. That is, if Kate ends up going at all, which is still unclear at this point. My guess is that it will happen, because not only is Kate behaving much more responsibly, but it also seems like the show is actively trying to make her seem that way with older-looking makeup and hair. Though Brie Larson was 20 when the show debuted, she's always been very convincing as a 15/16-year-old in demeanor and facial expression, but this season I am getting a marked sense of maturity from her, and that has to be deliberate, because Larson is a terrific actress.

It appears I totally called it last week insofar as the Charmaine/Neil dynamic, as Sweet Moment #1 made itself known almost immediately during the course of this episode, with Charmy declaring that the father of her child is a better man than her dream guy. And the "Awww" moments didn't stop there. I'm referring, of course, to the Marshall/Kate interaction in the empty lot... thing. Brother/sister scenes on comedies, especially those involving teenagers, tend to have an undertone of cattiness and competition, so I find it nice to be able to count on the Gregson siblings to always have each other's backs, no matter what. But even that moment was nothing compared to the touching scene at the end of the episode, involving Tara and Kate and a poignant mother-daughter role reversal that gave Tara a new understanding of her eldest child.

And speaking of mothers, it looks like next week will usher in Max's own (Frances Conroy of Six Feet Under!), and she appears to be a pretty severe hoarder, in light of which it really seems like Max was somewhat predisposed to falling for a psychologically disturbed woman. Thoughts?

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