“In Utero” finds nineties-era Hank and Karen contemplating their then-burgeoning relationship; contemporary Hank worrying over a lump on his groin; and Charlie rethinking his marriage.
You can easily recognize the flashbacks: There are streak of Manic Panic in Karen’s hair, an already-haggard Hank has a goatee, and news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide is unfolding on television. Karen is crying, and not just over Kurt: She’s pregnant. If this glimpse into the couple’s rocky early days (when they were both cheating on other people) is revealing, it’s also a little frustrating: Fourteen years later, not much has changed. Karen says in ten years she’d just be another woman he got tired of; he counters that in ten years she may be the love of his life. They agree she’ll have an abortion.
Meanwhile, Karen has spied a note that Hank wrote and left in the typewriter. As they’re parting ways on the street, Karen sees him drop the letter into a mailbox and knows he’s ready to commit: “If you’re reading this, it means I worked up the courage to mail it. Good for me … The bad news is that I don’t know how to be with you right now, but I’m afraid if I’m not with you we’ll get lost out there.” So, no abortion.
Back in the present, Hank still doesn’t know how to be with Karen. But while he’s waiting to hear back about the angry lymph node near his “cock,” he and Karen hit the sheets (and confuse their daughter). And Hank’s still jealous that Ashby kissed Karen. When Ashby comes by, Hank chases him down and tries pinning him on the kitchen table. Of course, the boys soon make up and agree not to boink each other’s soul mates, and Hank gets his diagnosis: It’s not cancer or syphilis — Hank just needs antibiotics. But the scare has helped him get his priorities in order: He knows that he wants to be with Karen. (Never mind that he knew that fourteen years ago.) And when Hank hears that Charlie is thinking of leaving Marcy to be with Daisy, he threatens to kick his ass. We suspect that the Hank-Karen story will drag on and on, but at least the Runkle story holds some suspense.