I Love Dick Recap: The Dick Letters

I Love Dick

Scenes From a Marriage
Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Amazon

Twice in this episode, “Scenes From a Marriage,” Chris alludes to her lack of children. Although she stops short of saying that she wishes she had kids, I Love Dick has already shown she isn’t the picture of focus and productivity. She and Sylvère have devoted their entire lives to work, but the work just isn’t that fulfilling or engaging. Certainly not for Chris, not anymore, not after her rejection from Venice and her Dick-inspired realization that she actually prefers Scorsese and Spielberg to the feminist avant-garde artists she used to think of as her heroes.

When Chris returns from dropping off her gift at Dick’s desk, Sylvère realizes that she’s given him “the Dick letters” and promptly loses it. He orders her to get dressed, determined to march her back to the institute so she can take back the package before it arrives at Dick’s ranch. Chris is confused. Is this part of “the game,” she asks him? Is he about to break out the scratchy red bondage rope they refer to later in the episode? He thrusts her jeans at her and counts down to three. At first, she taunts him with a smile. But by the time he gets to three, the smile is gone and the jeans are on.

They scramble to get to the institute, but it’s too late — Devon has already dropped the box off at the ranch. Dick plucks out the chain of taped-together letters as though it’s a poisonous snake. Then he begins to read, transfixed and disturbed. “Dear Dick, I’ve been up all night writing a description of your face.” That and whatever else Chris wrote is so unsettling that he can’t even properly roll a cigarette. He tosses off a shot of whiskey or two, and then sits on his couch, his eyes glazed over as he contemplates the truckload of crazy that has just rammed into his life.

At the institute, Chris doubles over and screams when she discovers the box is already up at Dick’s ranch. When Paula, the curator at Dick’s institute, tries to usher Chris out of his office, Chris starts babbling about her dead children — one aborted, one miscarried. Her films have been aborted and miscarried, too, and there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference to Chris between films that never make it out to the public and babies that are never born. Both are “symbolically” heavy.

Still hoping to retrieve the letters before Dick reads them, Chris and Sylvère drive up to the ranch. To their relief, he’s not home. Sylvère rushes to unlock the gate, but Chris lingers outside, preening like a cat in the sun. Sylvère is too preoccupied with shame to appreciate the landscape or Dick’s taste in taxidermy, especially once he realizes that Dick has definitely read the letters and that Chris wrote about how much Dick turns him on. I suppose that vomiting is a natural response to the knowledge that a straight man like Dick, a man who Sylvère must have hoped would aid his career, now knows that the couple had wild sex while screaming Dick’s name. As Sylvère vomits in the bathroom, Chris spots Dick’s deodorant, savors the smell, and puts it on.

Sylvère is boiling with rage. Back at home, he accuses Chris of ruining “everything good that ever happens” to him. After just a few days in Marfa, Chris has somehow managed to transform an incredible career opportunity into a melodramatic clusterfuck of a love triangle. He asks her why she can’t just support him, and she screams back that she has — that she even gave up having children for him. It’s hard for a viewer to know if there’s any truth to this, but Sylvère scoffs at it. “You don’t even like kids!” he flings back, then locks her out of the house.

One doesn’t imagine that eating 16 tacos is what Sylvère had in mind when he screamed at Chris to take responsibility for her life. She’s working her way through the pile of food from a taco truck when a group of locals and artists spot her. They’re pretty clearly the cool clique in town — the same group that Devon recruited to help with her new play — and as they pass around a joint, they stare at Chris in shock. “It’s taco porn,” says one. “It’s animalistic,” says another.

It’s not exactly monstrous behavior, but Chris is surely operating outside the bounds of acceptable social etiquette when she asks for a drag of the joint and then walks off with the whole thing. The group laughs at the salsa on Chris face, but nobody is laughing later that afternoon, at Devon’s rehearsal in Dick’s gallery space, when they read the letters that Devon took out of Chris’s package to Dick. They’re impressed and captivated by Chris’s “vivid” language. By the time Devon reads the line, “I want to be a female monster,” the group has been won over completely. Inspired, Toby writhes up against one of the thick metal pillars in the gallery, a wild spinning dance in ode to female monstrosity. So wild, in fact, that she spins right into Dick’s brick sculpture and breaks it into pieces — a fitting metaphor for the way that disorderly women threaten to disrupt the perfect, straight lines Dick has spent his life creating.

At a local watering hole, Dick, too, is falling to pieces. At the bar, he exchanges dark quips with the regulars. No, he hasn’t given up day drinking, he tells one. “I thought you died,” says another. “Working on it,” says Dick, tipping back three shots of whiskey in quick succession.

Chris returns home with a peace offering of the taco she didn’t eat and the half-smoked joint. Determined to make up with Sylvère, she does a goofy routine that makes him laugh. Soon enough, they’re entwined on the couch, relaxed as we’ve seen them yet. Once they’re properly stoned, Chris tries to convince Sylvère that they should experiment with nonmonogamy. In a solid example of stoner reasoning, she argues that they may as well fool around with other people since at some indeterminate point in the future “we’re going to be just formless, genderless balls of pure light floating around, constantly fucking each other.” Sylvère agrees that those balls of pure light sound good, but he’s unconvinced such an arrangement would work in the present. You’d be jealous, he insists. She says they could be like John and Yoko, or Sid and Nancy — maybe not the best example given how things worked out for those lovebirds. They laugh about this for a minute, then the mood turns serious again. “Don’t kill me,” Chris says teary-eyed, referring to Nancy’s sorry fate. It’s the first hint of regret we get from her, the first sign that tearing apart her marriage would make her sad, presumably because their nice evening together has reminded her of why she loved him to begin with.

In the trailer next door, another woman is seeking to make amends. Toby has appeared to apologize to Devon for what she did to Dick’s brick. Devon was fired as a result of the mishap, but she doesn’t seem angry, especially not after Toby drops to her knees, building on the chemistry sparked that afternoon at the gallery. “I want to suck your big cock,” Toby says, and Devon doesn’t resist.

Chris has more work to do than Toby to get back in her man’s good graces. To fix the mess she’s made, she must explain to Dick that the letters are purely a work of art and that Sylvère, in any event, does not harbor erotic fantasies involving the laconic art professor. Sylvère insists Chris talk to Dick in public, too, so he can watch. There’s an edge to the way he says it that captures Chris’s imagination. “You want to be tied up with the red rope,” she asks, “Watch me flirt with Dick?” He denies it, but Chris, her hand on his crotch, knows he isn’t being quite truthful.

As they go at it, Dick is all alone, drunk and bellowing to no one in particular that “we have to get rid of the Holocaust wife.” Stumbling around his gallery, he comes upon the broken brick, which Paula had attempted to reassemble. There is a second where it seems he might explode in anger — as Paula surely imagined he would — but Dick surprises us, and perhaps himself. He props the three pieces of brick into a new shape and the shards form a triangle. He beams down at the new piece and changes the date beneath it to 2017. Once again, female monstrosity has pushed him to create new work.

Film clips, in order of appearance

I Love Dick weaves short clips from avant-garde feminist directors throughout each episode. Sometimes, those clips blend into the story lines unfolding in Marfa; other times, they’re used for contrast. In each recap, we’ll identify them.

1) Cheryl Donegan, Head

2) Carolee Schneemann, Fuses

I Love Dick Recap: The Dick Letters