So after weeks of tension and cliffhangers and whatnot built around Sheila’s money-pilfering problems, in the end, we don’t see her comeuppance on that at all? We don’t see how she tried to weasel her way out of that one, we don’t get to see Danny’s confused mug twist and curdle in confusion as he tries to process what his wife’s been doing behind his back? No shots of Jerry delighting in the Schadenfreude, no sounds of Sheila’s inner monologue working overtime to berate herself?
You know what? That’s okay. I’m cool with it, seriously. I never really cared about the money, to be honest. So, when Simone asked Sheila about her “money problems” at Danny’s beachside campaign event, I mean, I was surprised to see that we skipped over all of that — especially when the very last shot of the previous episode showed Sheila and her mountain of lies just moments away from crumbling — but then Sheila ripped off the top of a banana and threw it into the sand before giving it to Maya as a snack and I’d almost forgotten all about it, too.
Unfortunately, Danny clearly hasn’t forgotten about it. He and Jerry swarm over to Sheila the second they see her making moves to leave his dumb clean-up event and Danny’s all “You’re gonna leave before my big speech?” and Sheila is like, Our child is hungry, hello, so Danny decides to act like half a grown-up and not throw a temper tantrum in the sand (so he’s at least more mature than Maya, who literally threw sand). Danny instructs Sheila to “Go straight home,” and Jerry throws in a “No secret trips to the bank” to add insult to injury. So much for Danny’s growth from last week.
Sheila seems like she may be regressing, too. Not only is she unable to send herself straight home, pulling into the fast-food drive-through instead of making something “simple and satisfying” for herself and Maya, but she does so while her “Fill her up” incantation repeats in her head. (To be clear, I’m all for Sheila grabbing a burger to go, even if she only did it to spite Danny; I just wish she could make that choice as an easy solution to the lunch problem without reverting to unhealthy thought patterns.)
Tyler and No-Longer-Evil John Breem are going through some stuff, too. Tyler, it turns out, is losing his hearing, a revelation he comes to after his dear surfboard TyTy is decapitated on the street because he couldn’t hear oncoming traffic. (I was really impressed with the sound editing in that scene; did anyone else believe for a moment that their own device was the problem there?) Meanwhile, Breem’s not-Trudy-Campbell-from-Mad-Men wife is determined to make him and us as uncomfortable as possible by hitting up a minister for marriage advice. (I’m guessing she regretted that choice and a few others when she was asked to describe their marital relations and she told the pastor they were “adequate.”) The minister then challenges her to do more to help her husband, implying that the “robust physical life” she’s been enjoying through her aerobic workouts “can have a strain on the marital bond.” So, because she is worried about water being “a challenge” for her husband, she gets a waterbed. Hilarious! And … gross! (Seriously, why were there waterbeds?)
Next comes one of my favorite scenes in the entire series so far. Sheila and Greta encounter one another outside preschool (which is, like, so episode 2), but the bewigged Greta (because, remember, she shaved her head) clearly wants none of it. Sheila attempts an apology by telling Greta, “I know that you’re angry at me,” to which Greta astutely replies, “You’re not always on my mind.” That’s a pretty stand-up-for-yourself statement coming from Greta, who then shocks Sheila by telling her, “All you had to do was ask and I would have let you borrow the camera.” Sheila is somewhat taken aback by this deceivingly simple statement, and as someone who has been a lifelong, pathological ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission kind of person, I totally get this. I think maybe it’s a part of feeling like you can’t ask for what you want because that would be taking up too much space, or maybe it’s about feeling convinced that you have to always project an air of self-sufficiency. In either case, Physical has provided so many of these little moments that reflect life as it really feels to live it, not just what it looks like to dramatize it in a fictitious narrative. Those moments provide little working-through points for me in a way no other show I can think of has, so I’m just super grateful.
Greta then shows Sheila the buzzcut she’s got hidden underneath her wig, and Sheila is shocked all over again. “You look amazing. It’s so cool. I’m a little bit scared of you,” Sheila confesses. It feels like the first genuine emotion she’s expressed all season.
That seed of self-actualization falters a bit on its way to fully germinating throughout this episode. Sheila practically slams her front door in Bunny and Tyler’s faces when they show up to inform her that somebody’s been bootlegging their aerobics tape. Sheila says she can’t be involved anymore, and then there’s a swooping-camera reaction shot of Danny’s face like he’s in Goodfellas. Danny really needs to check himself and calm the hell down.
But then Sheila sees Greta again at yet another one of Danny’s endless campaign events. (There have been too many campaign events. Why couldn’t this show find any other reason for Sheila to leave her house besides going to another one of Danny’s campaign events? Actually, I don’t know whether to blame Sheila or “the show” for this, but either way, I’ve registered my complaint.) And after hearing Breem mansplain her future to her — which was doubly frustrating, I’m guessing, because the future he believes her tape could provide sounds exactly like what she really wants — she finally goads herself into uttering, “The truth, for once in your fucking life.” She tells Greta things are not okay. She asks Greta, “Will you drive me somewhere?” and they go to the beach, where Sheila apologizes to Tyler and Bunny for fucking everything up. (After not apologizing to Greta for so long about the camera she pilfered, this is progress!) “Aerobics saved me,” she tells her motley crew. “Let’s take back what’s ours.” There’s some badass, slo-mo camera action like they’re the Reservoir Dogs, and Greta gets the gumption to pull her wig off, and Bunny’s slo-mo reaction is priceless. I’m so glad we’re finally here.
Except for the fact that “here” is at that hilarious surfer dude’s house! How dare you betray us by bootlegging Sheila and Bunny’s tape, dude! (Luckily, he forks over the tapes and the cash he’s made so far without a fight.)
Petulant about Sheila bailing on yet another campaign event, Danny finally cheats on her with Simone (BECAUSE OF COURSE), and Simone, showing her new-feminism bona fides, pushes his head down between her legs rather than opting for the traditional, patriarchal, just-regular-sex route (see: Breem and Mrs. Breem attempting the impossible by doing it missionary on a waterbed). But just like the whole money thing, I mean, who cares at this point if Danny cheats on Sheila? I don’t think Sheila cares; Sheila just said to herself on the car ride back from the surfer dude’s place, “I can’t hide anymore. I don’t want to.”
And so, in the episode’s final scene, Danny once again runs into Sheila in their garage — except this time, her hidden aerobics secret is on full display. “What is all this?” he asks about the tapes. “This is how we win,” she tells him.
My only hope at this point? He’s not included in that “we.”