Sometimes when you’re in a deep enough sleep, you move a certain way, get stuck in a certain position, and wake up to find that you’ve pinned a limb beneath yourself, isolating it. It’s completely numb, and in those sleepy moments you stare at the ceiling and you wait for your blood to recirculate. You wait to feel something again. You wonder how long something has to be numb before you lose it forever. And just when you think that nothing will ever change, prickles run up and down your skin, the numbness replaced with a searing pain, and you wonder why you ever complained about being numb in the first place.
This week’s Togetherness took a decidedly different path than previous episodes. Where before we saw only the distance that was keeping the characters apart, this week featured every single person making a new and resonant connection. The problem, then, only comes because no one is connecting with anyone they actually should be.
The episode begins with Tina and Alex in full workout mode, scored by the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)." The scene is a perfect opportunity for us to experience the full scope of Steve Zissis’s physical-comedy abilities, which are extensive. Tina is a persistent, if derisive, motivator, and the two increasingly seem like a better and better team. Their workout ends thanks to the arrival of two passes for the red-carpet premiere of Brett’s latest project, and it is quickly decided (in between Michelle and Brett's debate over the merits of private school for their daughter) that the entire quartet will attend that evening’s party.
All in all, this seems like a promising development, but Michelle quickly peels off from the foursome when the babysitter bails. Tina, Alex, and Brett all proceed to the event accordingly, the former two taking every opportunity to try and further Alex’s career by having him force himself onto the red carpet and telling a little old woman interviewer that he played the rapist.
The two then take off to party-stalk Alex’s idol, a famous producer named Larry, played by Peter Gallagher, which goes about as well as you'd expect. Eventually Alex’s awkwardness in Larry’s presence becomes so palpable that the mogul comes over to inquire what Alex's deal is. The three are soon exchanging stories and becoming fast friends, with Tina singing Alex’s praises at every turn. Alex does a sterling Jimmy Stewart impersonation, everyone bemoans the shoot-'em-up nature of modern filmmaking, and the party seems to take a decided turn for the better. But nothing gold can stay, and shortly after Alex realizes his growing feelings for Tina, he sees her cozied up to Larry before she eventually announces she’ll be going home with him, much to a crestfallen Alex’s dismay.
Throughout the episode, the chemistry between Zissis and Peet is beautifully genuine. It becomes clear with each passing scene that while Tina’s affection for Alex is born from enthusiastic friendship, her dogged commitment to him says more about the lack of direction in her own life than anything else. Alex, however, internalizes this care and hopes it can be transformed into something more. Why not take a good thing and make it great? When his hopes are dashed, it seems inevitable, but our concern is less for his nascent romantic feelings and more for what this development may mean for their burgeoning friendship. Thankfully, Alex is able to conclude the night with a vigorous air-drumming rendition of Rush's “Tom Sawyer” alongside his true soul mate, Brett.
Brett has a relatively miserable party experience himself, lowering himself to apologizing to his dick of a director, only to be lampooned yet again about his coyote sounds. This is after, of course, he’s thoroughly embarrassed by Tina and Alex's antics on the red carpet, but before he has a transformative experience recording an unlikely birdsong at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.
Meanwhile, Michelle, at home with the children, is surprised when the babysitter, having extricated herself from her other job, shows up to babysit. Instead of taking this opportunity to meet up with the gang, Michelle decides to don her domme dress from last episode and take a secret night to herself, which entails drinking alone at the bar, bumming smokes off teenage boys, and wandering into an organizational meeting for a new charter school looking like a fancy ‘80s streetwalker.
Inspired by the speaker’s words, she lags behind after to confide in him her concerns about her daughter not being able to experience the color and vitality of real life while shuttered away in a private school, and the man, David, listens to all her concerns with kind eyes. He eventually gives her a ride home, and she finds out more about his life, his daughters, his divorce, before scurrying into her house, no one the wiser.
Everyone connects this episode. Alex connects with Tina. Tina connects with Larry. Brett connects with a songbird. Michelle connects with a stranger. And as great as connecting is, as wonderful as it feels to experience that warmth that come with being understood, there is often a cost. If our connection isn’t returned, if our connection is made in vain, if our connection is with something ephemeral instead of something concrete, if our connection is with someone that could cost us more than we’re willing to give, there is a danger in those connections when we’ve been otherwise numbed by the world.
Of all the characters making careless decisions, Michelle is the one in the most danger, and not a prototypical stranger danger. Sleepwalking through her suburban life, she cannot find words enough to describe what’s at the heart of her malaise (remember the pilot?), but that’s only because she can’t fully feel it. She’s been sleeping on her limb so long she doesn’t even know it’s there anymore. But she will. Because something tells me that Michelle’s about to get all of her feelings back in one mad rush, and it isn’t going to be Brett that gets her blood flowing again.
Togetherness Life Lessons
It is impossible to look cool doing aerobics unless you’re a professional actress. For this reason, all workouts should be done in one’s own home.
Theorizing about which fruit on a platter may be organic does not make for a good icebreaker. Particularly if you’re talking to Sandy from The O.C.
Sound design is apparently an extremely lucrative career choice. If the location of Michelle and Brett’s house is any indication.
Often a woman’s excitement about a social event can be reflected in footwear choice. When she dresses up for the party, Michelle dons Uggs, then makes a decided upgrade to heels when she ventures out on her own instead.
Spanx are unisex. Or should be.