“What’s going to replace this? When this is gone, what’s going to replace it?”
When Alex utters this line two thirds of the way through this week’s Togetherness, he’s wondering about pizza. He’s wondering what will happen if he throws a pizza out, scared of the uncertainty that rushes in to fill the void when you let something go. But in reality, he could have been talking about anything, and his question could have been asked by any of the characters.
We get to see Brett at work as a sound designer, where he’s every bit as inflexible as he is at home, evidenced by his fight with a director over the technical accuracy of coyote howls. Meanwhile, Tina and Alex’s friendship is off to a tenuous start, spending the night out with the kids in order to facilitate a sexy escapade (sexcapade?) for their friends. Despite the sitcom-y nature of their relationship — full of manual labor, ice-water dumping, and flashing — there is something real in the way that Tina insists that Alex needs to take himself seriously (as an actor, as a person), and the look in his eyes makes it clear that no one has ever really suggested that to him before. Michelle, meanwhile, also following Tina's advice, decides to be more proactive in regards to her sex life and attempts to take creative control in the bedroom ... via handcuffs. Her attempt fails in almost every aspect, and by episode’s end, she and Brett are back in their respective positions on opposite ends of the couch.
Every person inhabiting the world of Togetherness is stuck in a rut, be it of their own making or otherwise. Some of them recognize the rut and are struggling against it. Michelle has become anesthetized to her own life and is searching for ways to rediscover herself; as she tells Tina, “Every part of my life, I know what it’s going to look like. Every day I wake up, I know what the day is going to look like. Brett and I have sex, I know what the sex is going to look like.”
In the morning while getting ready for the day, she sings along with her earbuds, dancing around her room and crooning to her fascinated baby. As she preens in front of the mirror, she seems like a different person altogether, almost like a teenager preparing to go out for the night. Michelle prefers this version of herself. She misses it. And with each day that passes, the divide between who Michelle is when she’s alone and who she is when she’s with her family grows wider. And now she’s purchased a lock. So extreme is her need to protect the person she is when she’s alone, she’s seeking out ways to physically reinforce her personal boundaries; a lock on the bedroom door is likely just the start. Perhaps not the most surprising development, considering this was the second episode in a row that featured someone barging in on her, violating her private time.
Alex, too, knows that he’s stagnating but chooses to make the most of it. He sleeps all day and embraces the avenue that leads to chubby, funny, best-friend roles by eating all he can eat. This makes Tina crazy, and just as she encourages Michelle to enact her sexy fantasies with Brett, she becomes determined to break Alex out of his career funk, even going so far as to tell him she’ll train him to be a leading man.
As laughable as it may seem for Tina — given the state of her own affairs — to be giving anyone life lessons, this is actually where Togetherness may be subverting expectations the least. Say what you will about Tina; say what you will about what she’s accomplished in her life and what she has to show for it. But she tries constantly. She’s always going after love and adventure and work, even if her career is encompassed wholly in the bounce-house and bounce-house-accessories field. Like Alex, Tina's situation demonstrates that trying doesn't guarantee happiness, but where Alex yearns to give up, Tina’s energy is boundless. She's not content to be the only one working to improve.
And then there’s Brett. Poor Brett just can’t do anything right this week. His pursuit for truth in coyote sounds goes denied by the director of a shitty film who thinks wolves just sound cooler. He’s stymied by his wife, who won’t undress and won’t let him have a sandwich before getting down to sexy business. And by day’s end, he’s left sitting on the couch icing his balls, both metaphorically and literally.
Michelle and Brett’s marriage continues to misfire, as the former attempts to spice things up by taking a little control in the bedroom. While the failure of this experiment is likely due to the fact that Michelle just sprang this on her husband, unbeknownst to him (which, granted, is likely 90 percent of the thrill), the surprise is definitely not the only failure in communication. At some point, Brett should have realized what was going on and just gone along with it — especially when you remember how desperate he was to get laid in the last episode. Instead, he just keeps asking for a snack. The two keep missing each other’s point; they can’t even see each other’s wavelength. With every awkward incident, it becomes clearer and clearer that their communication issues won’t improve any time soon.
The reason for that is simple: In order to return to some kind of status quo, each partner needs something from the other, and right now, those needs are diametrically opposed. Brett needs Michelle to go back to the way she used to be, the way she always was, so they can slide back into the life they’ve always lived. Michelle needs Brett to understand she needs some kind of upheaval, some kind of change. She wants her “fucking head to bang around.” But neither of those things are going to happen without some kind of major upheaval in one direction or the other. Out of sheer necessity, things are going to get much uglier, and soon.
But at this point, things are moving, people are trying, relationships are changing, and the show’s world is slowly but surely expanding. As resistant as most of these characters are to change, they’re all drawn inextricably forward into a path that will allow for nothing less. Change is coming, like it or not.
Togetherness Life Lessons
- Effort does not necessarily equal success. Sorry, Frank, Alex probably can’t be the next Brad Pitt, whether he stops being a big puss or not.
- Some people use the phrase “tree full of assholes.” And that is awesome.
- Professional dommes probably don’t use the word “underpants.” That one seems self-explanatory.
- Testicular trauma is a very real threat in everyday life. That’s why you should always refill the ice tray.
- The royal family is likely single-handedly holding up the pantyhose industry. No Nonsense thanks you, Queen E.