‘Tell Me You Love Me’: Babies Talking About Making Babies

And now for a splash of color …Photo: Courtesy HBO

The episode gets off to an ominous start: Dave and Katie’s 10-year-old, Isabella, is watching Jesse Bradford and Erika Christensen in the 2002 stalker-thriller Swimfan. And it’s giving her funny feelings — down there! How did she get her hands on that DVD? And … why would she get her hands on that DVD?

Clearly little Bella’s growing up, and Katie gives her a thoughtful, if somewhat circuitous, speech on loving your own body. Of course, this is meant as a case of physician, heal thyself, or in this instance, physician, touch thyself and bring thyself to orgasm already. When May asks Katie to recall the last time she had an orgasm, Katie does her trademark stammer: “Well, you know, I don’t know.” She then spends the rest of the episode delaying what she herself set in motion. In a well-handled switch, Dave, who resisted therapy, is now May’s biggest defender (“I think we should see what May says,” he answers, when Katie says she wants another baby, sounding more than a little like he’s talking about David Koresh). And Katie, who sought the fix, is now tossing wrenches in the works: She wants to quit therapy and, yes, have another baby, which seems an obvious ploy to ensure she and Dave don’t have conjugal relations for at least another eighteen years.

As this story line takes off — and it’s the best example of the pleasures of the series’ slow build — another continues to lie flat. (As it were.) Sir Nevershowers moves in with Jamie. Predictably, she squirms, and their sex, while telegenic, is awkward and halting, and eventually halted. Wait — have we ever seen this couple have two seconds of fun together? Why in the world is he moving in? Watching them is bed is like watching a storm cloud and a frown having sex.

As if to provide relief, Mason and her boyfriend show up, and they are worse together than Jamie and Greaseburger Jones are — which only serves to prove that Jamie and the Squintmaster General are the second least-suitable couple in all of the Mystery City In Which They Live.

Meanwhile, Carolyn gets spanked at work by the Evil Asian Boss, who spits, “Shitty timing,” when she hears Carolyn’s pregnant. (This character is one venomous comment away from prompting a class-action defamation suit.) And Palek heads back to May to discuss his daddy issues. In short: He never had one, and so he doesn’t want to be one.

Carolyn and Palek are in some ways the show’s most intriguing couple: Some weeks you want to strangle him, most weeks you want to strangle her, yet they do manage to seem like they’re in love. And this week, they star in one of the series’ best scenes: Palek, at the chaotic, SpongeBob-themed birthday party for little Dashiell, crawling into the big inflatable jumping thing to save a crying boy. This, friends, is great TV. The scene was both touching and so rich with symbolism you could dissect it in a graduate-studies seminar. Watching Palek’s entry through that tiny hole into the jumper, it was hard not to think of it as a symbolic rebirth for him, a passage from his old life of fear into fatherhood — oh, sorry, there’s the bell. We’ll continue this next week. —Adam Sternbergh

‘Tell Me You Love Me’: Babies Talking About Making Babies