”Tell Me You Love Me”: What turns David on
Early on in this episode, David stared dopey-eyed up at a billboard for America's Next Top Model while he pumped gas into his old Volvo. What world do those shiny, glassy-eyed women live in, and is it better there? I too found myself getting lost in the come-hither of Tyra’s hair extensions, wishing for a minute that my task at hand was to instead marvel at a show where women dump their worst traumas at the pedicured feet of their mistress. Foster care? Fierce! An abusive boyfriend? Look at the vulnerability in your eyes! Work it out, ladies, grow, grow! Evolution is possible in one single judges’ panel on The CW.
Now counter that with the scene in tonight’s episode of Tell Me You Love Me when unflappable May asked Carolyn if she was all right about another unresponsive pregnancy stick, and Palek’s resulting withdrawal. Carolyn looked at her therapist as if she wanted to rip that white hair out at the roots, inflicting the same punishment onto May as she did onto that innocent paper-towel dispenser. Hulk angry! Instead, with every emotion from fear to rage surging underneath Sonya Walger’s roiling skin, Carolyn tightly told her, ”Dumb question.” Wide-eyed Tyra would sputter and gape — ”Miss J., did this bitch just refuse me her tears?” — before falling treelike to the floor if ever faced with Carolyn’s refusal to be pandered to and put right.
Life on TMYLM continues to move at the same glacial pace, issues unpeeling so slowly that there seems at times to be no sign of relief. (The show, which I still admire greatly, sometimes sends me fleeing all this reality to the numbing comforts of good old-fashioned ”reality TV.”) But finally there was a hint of romance tonight, however unconventional. After three episodes of resisting confrontation, David turned to Katie and asked her what time her appointment was. ”I’m going to meet you there,” he said before shuttling the curtain climbers off to school. That’s about as real and valuable a gesture of love and commitment that we’ve seen.
Of course the appointment was a rough one, with Katie fidgeting and tunneling inward and David a knot of frustration and disbelief. Feeling cornered, he finally erupted in a vomit of protest, lashing out against the expectation that ”I should be in the mood every time I clean out the gecko cages. Oh, yeah, that really gets me hot!” Then he lashed out at shoelaces, Cheerios, and apple juice — and that sad trio alone could make the most throbbing biological clocks go silent for an evening — until he sputtered out of gas, embarrassed by his outburst. Own it, fool! Poor Katie, who seems much more comfortable pointing out her husband’s foibles, glancing back and forth to placid May for reinforcement, looked burned. Later in the episode, after a sad shot alongside her kids at Hair Fairies, where, draped in a Disney-type smock, she was having her head inspected for nits, Katie asked David if he was still attracted to her and if he’d ever cheated on her. ”Never have, never will,” he said solemnly. These two, however mired in the molasses of suburban family routine, have a future.
My hopes for Carolyn and Palek continue to nose-dive. After her meltdown at Rite Aid, she marched down the slope of Palek’s construction site — so oddly vulnerable in those flats and red handbag — to tell him she had bought another pregnancy test. Stammering, he told her they’d take the test together and deal with the results. Sucker! Later, she nosed up to him like a scared dog and admitted to an abortion in college and the grave fear that that long-ago episode had left her barren. This was Palek’s moment to shine, but he proved he’s every bit as good at cutting her off at the knees. In monumentally cruel fashion, he backed away from her, suggesting that this confession was only about pointing out that someone else had once gotten her pregnant. Eager to squeeze a little lemon into her suddenly exposed wound, he asked her how old the kid would be today if she hadn’t you know, had a shmashmortion.
Carolyn may be cold and rigid and rude to people at drug stores, but Palek, this behavior I cannot tolerate. Ironically, he opened this scene with a tell of a line: In all their herculean efforts to get pregnant, he said, ”I just don’t want to lose us, you know.” Anybody else got the feeling that they might not have been in tip-top shape to begin with? The rips in whatever seams hold them together widened as Palek started basking like a snake in the hot sun in front of a doting salesgirl at an upscale clothing store. That boy is going to stray.
NEXT: Sex in the kitchen