Melanie Lynskey as Michelle, Amanda Peet as Tina.
Howdy, friends! I’m still reeling from last week’s episode. Michelle confessed to the one-night stand and Tina and Alex are at their most strained. Essentially, this show has become the opposite of Togetherness. It is Separateness.
Whatever the status of the relationships may be, one thing remains clear: This is damn good television. “Advanced Pretend” is my favorite episode of the season so far, which is no surprise because it focuses on Brett and Alex’s friendship. Those two make the show sing.
We begin with Alex chasing after Brett. Vomiting and running like a maniac all over the neighborhood seems like the perfect way to react to your life partner cheating on you, right? I never, ever thought I was going to have this much empathy for Brett, but I do. And to that, I tip my hat to the writers and the way they have made this unlikable character so sympathetic. And guess what? I also feel for Michelle, who is holed up in her room, while Tina takes on the role of caretaker, disposing of the barf-covered bedding.
So, Michelle is a mess. She’s crying nonstop, only pausing momentarily when Alex texts Tina to say that he has Brett. The two dudes are in a car, driving somewhere. Brett says that he just wants to get away from home, so they head to LAX. Only two flights are available this late in the evening: Cancún or Detroit, where they grew up. For some reason, Alex asks Brett where he’d like to go. Dude, just pick Cancún. You can drink all day, look at gorgeous people on the beach, and get mild sun poisoning, which will make Brett tired enough to sleep the day away. Brett mumbles something incoherent, so it’s up to Alex, who ends up picking … Detroit.
At least Alex pays for the seats. But more important, he holds Brett as he cries on his shoulder. As much as I enjoy Tina and Alex or Brett and Michelle, I think l love Alex and Brett the most. Their friendship is so sweet and honest and moving, and in a lot of ways, they are the heart of the show. I know I was tough on Alex last week for losing contact with Brett, but when the chips are down, he’s always there for his best friend.
In other words, I’m ready for some Alex-and-Brett magic. But first, we go back to Michelle and Tina. They’re in bed and Tina is doing a good job caring for her sister — she even volunteers to take care of the kids the next day. (Um, yay? Tina and children?)
Back to Detroit. The cinematography is on point as boys drive through the city. Just had to say that. The Duplass Brothers make excellent directorial choices. Anyway, Alex and Brett end up back in Brett’s old neighborhood. When he sees his dad, he panics and ducks, which makes Alex duck, so all Brett’s dad sees is a car going down the street with no driver. (Side note: Brett’s dad is played by Michael Gross, a.k.a. Alex P. Keaton’s dad.) Turns out that Brett is too embarrassed to see his dad. So, he dodges the impromptu family reunion and decides he wants to go back to Los Angeles. Alex is able to talk him into staying in Detroit for a hot second. He tells him to go for a run since that’s what he used to do back in high school. So, Brett runs while Alex drives beside him. Best friend ever? Best friend ever.
The kids wake up Tina, and she tries to get Sophie ready for school. Frankie pooped his diaper and Christy, who apparently spent the night at the house, says she can take care of it. Tina tells her that Alex left to go to Detroit, and she’s surprisingly calm about the news. Despite Christy’s offer to change the diaper, Tina wants to handle it, even though it looks like the inside of a can of Bush’s Baked Beans. Woof! Once that’s accomplished, Tina drops Frankie off at the school and comes back home. Christy is having a good time babysitting, but lets slip that she never wants to have kids. Tina sees this as the perfect opportunity to pick a fight because Alex wants to be a father. Christy calls Tina out for being jealous that Alex rejected her and Tina is like, “You think that’s what happened?” Things go south from there, and Christy storms out after revealing that she was only hanging around because Alex told her that Tina is horrible with children. Right on cue, Charlie starts crying.
After eating, Alex and Brett end up at a thrift store. They try on a bunch of goofy clothes before settling on ‘70s prom suits, then go to the Bronx Bar, a place that’s chock full of business dudes. Brett takes off his wedding ring — eep! — and slips it into his pocket. Everyone in the bar rightfully thinks they look horrible. So, the fellas get some drinks. They step outside and bump into a former classmate named Kennedy. She seems chill, but I really hope she and Brett don’t hook up. They decide to tag along with her to a party at Anthony’s, who seems to be another former classmate. Brett and Kennedy are making eyes at each other and drinking. She tells him she misses him. Oh, boy. They play ping-pong together and, so far, I’m still okay. When they start heavily flirting, I’m no longer okay. And neither is Alex, who watches as it all unfolds.
Brett and Kennedy dip out of the party to go on a bike ride with a bunch of people. Whew! I’m back to being okay with this. The members of the bike crew end up on a ferry for a bit, then they return to the party. Alex tries to get Brett’s attention, but Brett and Kennedy race to the bathroom to relieve themselves. She pees in front of him and he puts in his earplugs because she’s loud. This amuses her, then he pees. She comes up from behind, takes his earplugs out, and puts her hands on him. This is gross, but also a little hot? After he finishes, she starts nibbling on his ear and takes off his glasses. Abort! Abort! Abort! She asks him if he wants to sleep with her and he says yes. They start making out. But … he still hasn’t washed his hands.
Brett then stops Kennedy and tells her he’s married, so we will never find out if he washed his hands. All kidding aside, I’m glad he didn’t go through with this revenge sex. It would have been both a cliché and a temporary fix for his broken heart. Brett is more complex than that. So he goes outside and sees that Alex is taking a phone call. Brett wants to leave, then gets upset when Alex asks for a minute to wrap up his call. They have it out: Brett says that Alex has not been there for him at all. This is such a ludicrous claim that Alex should ignore it. He doesn’t, though, and says that Brett’s problem is that his life doesn’t revolve around him anymore. Oof. Guys, I’m bummed that Alex is having all these fights! Everyone needs to let him live. Maybe he is career-obsessed right now, but he’s been struggling for so long that it’s only natural he’d be all about business for a while.
Anyway, Alex is like, “You abandoned me all night at the party” and Brett counters that Alex abandoned him when he went to NOLA to shoot a movie. Both make good points. Alex comes again with that “my phone was broken” nonsense and Brett shoots back, “That’s a lie. Just say you blew me off because you having fun shooting a movie and getting laid with a hot lady.” Quite simply, Brett needs Alex around. That is needy, but it is also understandable. I’m glad to see that Brett is happy for Alex’s success. They hug it out and make up. Then, they take off …
… and go to Brett’s parents’ house. They want to dig up a time capsule they buried back in the day. When his dad comes outside, obviously confused about what’s happening, Brett throws Alex under the bus. He says Alex is having a tough time and needs this time capsule. His dad waits a beat, then tells them how to dig it up properly. Weird. I want to see more of this Pierson father-son dynamic.
Turns out the capsule was in the backyard. It’s a cute trip down memory lane with nudie pics, notes, drawers, and mixtapes. They find a letter they wrote to their future selves as teens. They read it aloud; it’s a very sweet moment. Just then, Brett gets a text from Michelle: “please come home.”
So what’s been going on with Michelle this whole episode? Not a whole lot. She stayed in bed all day. Tina tells her the guys when to Detroit. She gets out of bed to rock Frankie to sleep. It’s all kind of a bummer. I wish we got to see her multilayered journey in the aftermath of this bombshell. Maybe that will come in the next episode? I hope so, if only because “Advanced Pretend” is so good to the boys. How good could an episode devoted to Tina and Michelle be? I have high hopes, and I can’t wait to dig deeper into their relationship.