Wednesday, May 18, 2011

USOT Recap: Twist?

 "And who are you?" Dr. Hattaras

Answer: Bryce Craine, presumably modeled after the real-life Bryce Craine, mysterious and abusive half-brother of Tara and Charmaine and possible sociopath. Oy. Where do I begin talking about this week's episode? I was not crazy about it.

Let me rephrase that: a part of me was not crazy about it. The part of me that enjoys cheap thrills and shock factor and instant gratification? She was happy. It's the snobby critical bitch with elitist TV tastes that is being a huge stick-in-the-mud right now. And given that she is the one in possession of all the words and brains and stuff, well... guard your loins, folks.

It's no surprise that Tara's alters are modeled after real people she's known (we saw this with Alice last season), but Bryce is possibly the first of her personalities to be directly lifted from real life, at least in name. Since Tara didn't even remember that she had a brother in the first place, we now have to wonder: what is she basing the Bryce personality on, and how close to the original is her rendition? Also, why did Bryce kidnap baby Wheels, and where was he trying to take her? And this is the extent of the real intrigue this episode provides. Otherwise, "Chicken 'n' Corn" was sorely disappointing.

First off, Bryce is an utter caricature! Granted, all the alters are caricatures, but he strikes me as exceptionally over-the-top in his Eeeeevil Prospector impression. If he had a mustache, he'd be twirling it (and actually, Tara did seem to be smoothing an imaginary goatee while "occupied" by Bryce). And even if I could get on board with the personalitywhich I probably will do given the chance to sleep on it, because I still like this showwhat's with the whole "take me to Tara so that I may kill her" schtick? Does Bryce really not realize that he is Tara? More importantly, is the viewer supposed to believe that he doesn't realize this even after he has already attacked her on several different occasions? He certainly knew where to find her those times!

One of the things that's always kept me tuning in to this show was its plausibility, as strange as that sounds. Sure it romanticizeseven glamorizesDID, but at least there was always enough of a method to Tara's madness that the viewer could still go along with all of her "crazy" antics under the justification, "hey, it could happen." Now, even with my rudimentary understanding of [this show's] psychology, I get the sense that this really couldn't happen. The addition of Bryce to the mix just smacks of the kind of sensationalist crap that writers often utilize when they're desperate. I like a good, shocking twist as much as the next person, but I still want it to make sense and feel somewhat realistic within the parameters of the show. Perhaps this creative decision will prove to have hidden depths and a more logical rationale in future episodesI hope it doesbut right now I just feel let down and vaguely insulted as a fan.

I can't say what it is exactly about the Bryce thing that bothers me so. We've been treated to enough hints this season to anticipate a murderous and violent new alter to spring forth eventually, so I shouldn't have been surprised when he finally introduced himself. It was also obvious that this alter was out to destroy Tara and possibly the other alters, so hearing him confirm his intentions shouldn't have been a shock, either. In the end, I suppose that's just it: everything about Bryce's big introductory speech pretended to be a big, shocking twist but was ultimately full of stuff we already knew. This episode played like a mini whodunit, except without the mystery factor, which made it a bad whodunit and somewhat ridiculous when we consider that none of the purported crimes are actually happening. The only big reveal is that Chicken was "murdered" by the mystery alter, whohint, hint!is named and modeled after a real person from Tara's childhood. Well, big freaking whoop.

If this "big reveal" were a food pyramid item, it would be sugar: delicious but empty of substance. Combined with the archetypical evil affectation (poor Toni Collette must be up to here with all the new voices they're making her do) and the painfully obvious significance of there being two Bryce Craines, it ultimately made for a pretty insulting TV gimmick. Besides, all the so-called secrets Bryce readily revealed to Dr. Hattaras (and reallywhy now?), including his name, were the kind of secrets that should have been merely hinted at and left up to the viewers to uncover using a little thing called deductive reasoning. And the fact that the episode's climax occurred in a corn maze? Gee, I wonder what that could symbolize. Come on, writers! We're bright enough to have managed to follow along for three seasons; have a little faith in your audience and stop spelling everything out. But anyway.

The other storylines were no more inspired than Bryce's this week. I seem to remember some boring minor conflict between Max and Marshall, and some boring minor inner conflicts within Kate and Charmaine, both of whom are having some trouble navigating the waters of new step-/mommyhood. (And speaking of caricatures: Monty, anyone?) Here's hoping next week's episode delivers a little more protein.


  1. It's really been bothering me that she has this 'new' or 'resurfaced' personality as Bryce. Because she has alters to protect against attackers. It doesn't make sense to me that it would be Bryce. The self-destructive, self-loathing makes sense to me, but not turning into her abuser. It would make sense for her to transition into her abuser to hurt other people, but not herself.

    I don't know, maybe it does.

    Maybe that's the name she gives those suicidal tendencies so Tara can feel separate/victimised from/by those feelings. That would make sense.

  2. What I'm thinking is that Bryce is the part of Tara that wants to die. It's just all part of the elaborate defense mechanism she's created with the alters. Which might be why Bryce is going after the other alters, because Tara knows that they will interfere with Bryce's plans.

    What I don't get is why Bryce (or the desire to die) has been getting so strong lately, if Tara has been doing so well? I postulated in the past that maybe it was a bad idea for her to take away some of the autonomy of the other alters. She's sort of a menace to herself without them.

  3. Also, I'm not sure they ever explicitly stated what Bryce did to the girls. It might be another red herring, like that Trip Johansen character.

  4. Perhaps it's the fact that I've been out of college and all my critical thinking is now done on a voluntary basis but... I did not see this coming! I actually WAS shocked. Although a ton of questions did surface once the shock had worn off. I guess I just found this episode so creepy. Thank goodness for Dr. Hatteras because he is the main character keeping me coming back this season. Everyone else is just kinda boring. Even Kate who used to be such a source of whimsy and hilarity and just plain interesting is boring me to tears and I completely agree that Monty was ridiculous as a character. Meanwhile Tara continues to irritate me. I just keep finding myself being irritated by her actual personality.( This is not to say that I like her alters more just that I don't actually like HER very much.) I feel like a person with DID could still be awesome/interesting, no? Am I the only one who finds her increasingly grating?

  5. The straight Tara personality is not very distinctive, I agree. But it doesn't really bother me because there's so much crazy going on elsewhere in this show. The character I'm most disappointed in is Charmaine. I feel like she's getting somewhat boring this season, whereas before I could always count on her to make me laugh/shake my head in disbelief. When will we get reacquainted with her trademark "self-loathing narcissism"?