Change takes time in a place like Paulie. Teddy can offer customers all the complimentary bran muffins he wants, but it doesn't change the fact that serious inquirers insist on speaking with the owner, his stepmother. Nor does it make a difference in the status of his relationship with Tawney, who can't even discuss divorce with her therapist Rebecca unless she spells it out like a four-letter word. And it's certainly not going to change anything about the hell he's stuck in as Melvin's new tenant, which dooms him to hear the sentimental apartment manager's rhapsodies about Daniel and swim in the very pool his exiled half-brother hand-painted.
Sheriff Daggett can empathize. He's trying desperately to investigate George Melton's death with some distance from Daniel's case, even outfitting his office with a fancy new single-serve, multiple-flavor coffeemaker for a fresh start. But he can hardly negotiate that morning's first cup before Jon Stern barnstorms the precinct, looking for answers about Trey and George and Chris, hounding Carl about what he knew, when he knew it, and whether he's been fully willing to open old wounds, no matter how slowly and painfully they sometimes heal. Both men are frustrated, bonded by guilt but divided by duty.
The line between Carl and Jon as they face off in that room is far more tenuous than the tangible miles separating Janet from her son. Yet her connection with Daniel feels more powerful than the limitations of each other's physical presence. Though the two moments are far apart, Daniel's absorption — to borrow an idea from Rebecca's assessment of Tawney — back into the warehouse after a phone call with his mother could have seamlessly segued to Janet, sullen on the couch, coming into frame beyond the depth of her darkened hallway. That doesn't happen, but the scenes in between shed light on so much of what's to come for every Holden and Talbot, each of whom are, to paraphrase the newly insightful Teddy, having their own experiences.
In her own way, Amantha is sourcing through dated history for clues about her future. She and Billy share cheap beers after hours at Thrifty Town, reminiscing about old classmates and the merry-go-round of who's exceeded or lived down to expectations. It's a circuitous way to get to the Daniel question, to see if anyone in Paulie still needs convincing that there's more than meets the eye to her brother and, thus, a deeper story to who she and her family are beyond the horrible crime that happened two decades ago.
And in some ways, Daniel's departure has shaken up Ted Sr.'s core more than most. He was, long ago, Janet's life preserver. You could say she had let herself become absorbed in him, in the safety he provided. As Tawney might confirm, Talbot men have a way of coming along when you're unmoored. Ted was once like air to Janet, but now they're all fighting to breathe after being "pulled under" in the wake of Daniel's shocking return home and abrupt re-banishment. Even without Janet's drunken confession to Amantha, it was evident that Ted had begun to feel as if he were looking at someone else's life from the outside, literally asked to mind the store. Granted, the closest he can come to authoring resentment is disobeying Janet's request to wait before telling Teddy about the offer to buy Paulie Tire's property. Though for a loyal partner like Ted, that's a virtual betrayal.
Jared, on the other hand, has a bigger rebellion in mind. Between getting acclimated to tenting outdoors and selling old Furbys online, it appears the youngest Talbot is intent on breaking out of his extended family's rut. Who could blame him for itching to explore the world beyond Paulie from his own perspective, rather than staying in a spot where his identity is cast and recast by the shadow of something Daniel did or didn't do before he was born? Everyone tied to blood by Daniel — concretely or via Hannah's death — has been turned upside down and inside out by that tragic night, but only Jared has been imprisoned by its repercussions from the moment he came into the world. It might finally be time for his release.
So much of "Bob & Carol & Ted Jr. & Alice" comes down to the essential consequences and possibilities of creating life. Tawney is invariably tormented by the idea that losing her baby created an opening to untether herself from Teddy and be truly born again as the person she was always capable of becoming. For the first time in his life, Teddy's questioning whether to continue following in his father's footsteps, something he'd always done blindly by virtue of inheriting the name. Jon and Carl are losing sleep over ancient semen that was spilled when George and possibly others — but maybe not Daniel — forced themselves on an innocent teenage girl. And surely, Daniel's spent some hours wondering what his past 20 years might have been like had Trey Willis, George Melton, or Chris Nelms never come into the light. Or maybe had he himself never been born. But when he feels that baby kicking around inside Chloe's belly, something around him radiates. Ever since his stay on death row, Daniel has been bedeviled by concerns of what's real. As he and Chloe circle each other at the co-op's art show, poking and preying for signs that it's safe, Daniel presses to know what "her deal" is. When she opens up about being pregnant, he second-guesses her and begins to size up their rapport as more "job interview" than flirtation. He's still Dan, the cautious halfway-house roomie, consumed by his alienness. But if you (or Pickle) prefer, he's Chance the gardener, a man who inspires strong emotion in others by the way he observes. Either way, the new life inside of Chloe is undeniable, and he's grateful to bear witness.
Apart From All That:
- So, pretty good thing Manny didn't come to the party, huh?
- Yes, Daniel bristled at the "ex-offender" label, but this PTSD treatment will probably be a very good thing for him.
- What other "weird movies" has Ted Jr. seen?
- What was Janet Matthews like, and can she get back there?
- Boredom being "a balm of a sort" is some terrific writing.
- "Why would anyone have tires in their blood?" is a funny insight, and on further thought, a fairly rich one.
- Gabriel Mann's scores — tense but not urgent — continue to stand out this season, especially in scenes like Janet and Amantha's tonight.
- Trey better not be behind this property buy.
- Wait, did Chloe and Daniel just kind of acknowledge having already had sex?