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Masters of Sex 3.05 “Masters of Gravity” Review: Polish Until it is Perfect

10 Aug

Bill Masters has a point to prove and an audience he can’t wait to show how wrong they are. This battle is one which dates back long before the time period covered on Masters of Sex and his relationship with his father has informed how he reacts to the people he perceives as bullies. This covers those at Washington University who branded him a pervert and kicked him out to the several other institutions he was fired from last season. Now is the time he can perform a victory lap and laud it over the doubters and naysayers. Except it isn’t quite this simple or satisfying and an incident with Bill’s son Johnny dredges up feelings of inadequacy from his own childhood.

The Philip Larkin poem “This Be the Verse” repeatedly popped into my mind – “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” – throughout “Masters of Gravity” as we finally get to meet Virginia’s parents. This season is delving deeper into her past as she alluded to her first love last week and why her heart is so carefully guarded. With Bill we have seen in some detail the difficult relationship he has with his mother and the traumatic events from his childhood at the hands of his father was explored in the exceptional “Fight.” Bill doesn’t like to share too much and yet circumstances have led to him revealing far more about himself than Virginia. The surprise visit organized by Tessa – on the one night where she knows her mother will have company – offers up plenty of opportunity to see what drives Virginia and gives Lizzy Caplan so many occasions to use her best exasperated expression, which she does so well.

Masters of Sex 3.05 VirginiaFrances Fisher plays Virginia’s picky mother Edna – like a less snooty version of her Titanic character – and she is queen of the backhand compliment mentioning how great Virginia looks and how she only has a few more lbs to lose. She doubles down on the weight hints over breakfast by pointing out how fattening margarine is just as Virginia takes a bite of her marg covered toast.

Nothing trumps the humdinger she delivers after Bill’s ‘illuminating’ speech “Here I thought you’d made a mess of your life, but now I see that you are this close to being able to fix things.” Virginia hopes the evening has given her mother insight into the importance of their research and instead Edna sees this as an opportunity for Virginia to be the ideal man, all she has to do is get Libby out of the way. The entire thing has been lost on her and the pride her mother feels has nothing to with this achievement as all she can think about is her daughter scoring the perfect husband.

This seed has been planted by the meddling Tessa who has placed one of Bill’s signature bow ties in with Virginia’s laundry and Edna correctly assumes they are having an affair. I doubt Tessa wants her grandmother to approve this relationship so she would be just as horrified by this comment as her mother is.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Virginia and her motherThe episode opens with Virginia and Bill in the afterglow of a hookup, which for once has not been interrupted by the baby and instead they get disturbed by the arrival of Virginia’s parents. Despite the difficulty they have in finding alone time together everything is good between them, until Edna sticks her oar in. The expected reaction would be one of horror that Virginia is sleeping with a married man, instead Edna sees this as an opportunity and Virginia’s immediate response is to ask out Charming Dan Logan. Really, Josh Charles is charming all over the place and his character has a well earned nickname.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Virginia shocked faceThis is how happy Virginia is by her mother’s comments.

Appearances are what count and Virginia’s chief complaint about Edna is how she tries to polish something until it is perfect. This dates back to being made to hold a Popsicle on her teeth before a beauty pageant to try and combat her overbite. Just how accurate these memories are is called into question as her dad points out that she was the one who entered herself. Even if this is the case it sure seems like her mother was a rather enthusiastic supporter to the point of pushing her too hard. In Virginia’s mind there is nothing she can do to live up to the standards her mother sets and even being part of a pioneering scientific research team is not enough if she doesn’t have the love life to match. Her mother wants her to have it all, but maybe isn’t so bothered by the career aspect.

The desire to prove something is also deeply embedded in Bill’s psyche and even though Chancellor Fitzhugh comes cap in hand to Bill needing a favor and offering a platform to show off his success; the resulting feeling is not the gloating or fulfilling one he expected. Instead all Bill can see as he gets his standing O is the time he bought his father’s birthday gift while wearing a gift of his own from his father’s fists. In a moment of openness and vulnerability with Libby he tells her “making that man happy was like trying to walk to the horizon.” His father is dead and it doesn’t matter what he does because he will never experience making his father proud. All he has are the physical and psychological scars he imparted on him.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Bill and JohnnyBill’s a pretty absent father himself and he finds it hard to engage with his children in a meaningful way. The opportunity presents itself this week as his eldest Johnny has been beaten up at school. Bill knows the feeling of being beaten by someone bigger all too well and isn’t going to stand for it happening to his kid. Luckily for the bully Dennis he didn’t go for the Ray Velcoro route (knuckleduster/threatening to fuck his dead with his headless mom’s corpse) and while he possibly went a smidge too far as he later admits to Libby, he didn’t lay a hand on him. He just scared him to the point of pissing himself.

When Johnny has tried to reach out to his father we have seen him dismissed or ignored so it is not surprising when Johnny rejects Bill’s attempts to bond over the book he is reading. First of all Bill, Johnny does not confirm he has got to the part in the book which you then go into detail about. Spoilers, Bill. Maybe if Bill had revealed the real reason he went up to the attic to read Johnny might have stuck around to watch TV, instead he leaves his father alone and they are just as distant as before. One awkward conversation does not lead to a new found bond, but it is a step and hopefully Bill won’t completely retreat from his son after this.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Johnny and BillAlso maybe Johnny just wants to read his book.

After his successful and prepared speech which didn’t go into the bitter depths I feared it might he takes audience questions and he is asked “Where is the love?” as the book goes into so much detail without discussing emotions. Bill’s response is masterful (I’ll see myself out) as he uses another scientific discovery to explain why love is absent from their work. Gravity is the shape of space itself and “the apple falls to the ground because it is following the lines and grooves that gravity has carved into space.” In the same respect love “is the very fabric of those bodies. Love is that which carves the lines and grooves; the curvature of our desire.” It can’t be “rendered into columns and graphs.”

Masters of Sex 3.05 Virginia and LibbyThe crowd as a whole responds with emphatic applause and yet not all are thrilled by this eloquent sentiment. Libby looks downcast probably because she has never experienced such a thing with her husband, while Virginia beams with pride and joy (and looks a little turned on). There is an awkward unspoken exchange between the two women and when Bill returns to the table his body language shows his closeness to Virginia; Edna is perceptive enough to spot all of this.

Time for another round of poor Libby. This is no consolation of course, but Libby as always is impeccably turned out and I bet Edna likes this about her, even while she encourages her daughter to break up her marriage.

Masters of Sex 3.05 LibbyThere’s a whole lot of denial wrapped up in truth telling in Margaret’s relationship with Jimmy Cooper (okay Graham) and his other girlfriend Jo. Margaret is so focused on fixing the sex related issues with Graham she doesn’t want to confront what the real problem is.

The session with Bill and Virginia includes helpful demonstrations – which are interrupted by the protesting religious group and I have a feeling they will keep being a nuisance – and the instructions they give prove to be fruitful.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Bill and VirginiaMargaret has not been living in her truth, instead she has been living in Graham’s and he happens to be a guy who is everything Barton isn’t. While this season hasn’t quite been hitting those high notes, “Masters of Gravity” manages to do just that with every storyline and even though I have left the Scully’s until the end they are just as vital to the success of this episode. The intimacy and vulnerability here is so striking; Allison Janney and Beau Bridges are so good at portraying all the pain and love that exists between them.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Margaret and BartonWhen Margaret asks “Where is home?” it is devastating and yet Barton knows exactly what he must do to give his ex-wife the resolution she deserves and he makes the difficult call to his daughter to reveal the truth behind their marriage breakdown. Maybe it would be better in person, but this is likely due to actor availability and the image of them holding hands is perfect. 

The truth can set you free and yet it can also complicate matters tremendously; confessions are spilling all over the place and the denial is just as free flowing.

Betty Watch 

Masters of Sex 3.05 Bill and Betty Masters of Sex 3.05 Betty and BillOnce again Betty doesn’t have a crazy amount to do sadly and the scenes she is are of course a delight. This includes giving Virginia a break from her parents and helping with Dan’s research. She also fixes Bill’s back, which he hurt while sneaking out of Virginia’s first floor window. There are quite a few farcical elements this week and this injection of humor is welcome. As are Michael Sheen and Annaleigh Ashford’s expressions in the above shots. Betty mentions Helen and this gives me hope for Sarah Silverman and a juicy Betty storyline.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

Masters of Sex 3.05 Virginia bretton stripesThere are many clothes I would wear from this show and this is a feature I do on The Americans reviews and as soon as this Breton striped long sleeve tee and pants pairing made me realize I need to add this to these reviews. This really is my Platonic ideal of a casual outfit.


In the Belly of the Beast on Hannibal

3 Jul

To catch Hannibal you need to be several steps ahead of him, which is hard to do as he has been playing this game far longer and with more success than anyone else. Season 3 of Hannibal has turned away from the case of the week format where Hannibal played a role in helping catch killers while adding to the ever growing body count. The confrontation between all the participants in Hannibal’s world at the end of last year – friend, colleague, lover – revealed who Hannibal really is (some were more aware than others) and set in motion a whole chain of events which has led to this very different narrative setup.

Hannibal 3.05 HannibalThe pacing has been a little meandering in places sharing in Hannibal’s indulgences while the survivors piece themselves back together and decide what to do next. There has been much talk and many shots of snails doing their thing whether they are being eaten or helping the transformation of another creature such as the firefly. Snails are hardy creatures when not being devoured by Hannibal and his dinner guests as they can survive being eaten by a bird and making it out of the “belly of the beast.” The firefly played a big part in the tableau Will created at Hannibal’s childhood home and signified a transformation with Will taking on the Hannibal role as he talks to Chiyo about the man he manipulated her into killing. Chiyo might have spent years practically alone ‘standing still’ but she can read Will’s intentions. Hannibal taught her well.

In a rather intimate scene shifting away from their usual bathtime philosophical discussion – do they ever take part in talk which is not layered with meaning? – and with Hannibal as the one wearing less clothes the conversation is dominated by doing things that are in our nature. Hannibal’s belief in not shocking news is that it is “Better to live true to yourself for an instant” Bedelia thinks that almost anything can be trained to resist its instincts including Will Graham, but as Hannibal points out that instinct is always there, regardless of the training. There is also the reciprocity of Will travelling to kill Hannibal while Hannibal waits to kill Will. Plus all those other interested parties waiting to upset the balance. While all of this is going on Hannibal caresses Bedelia’s neck which both reads as menacing and comforting. I’m still wondering if they have slept together and leaning at probably not despite the lack of clothes.

Hannibal 3.05 Hannibal and BedeliaSnails and fireflies. Night and day. One comes after the other and this issue of duality is an underlying theme of Hannibal. The person we are versus the person we allow the world to see can vary and for the first two seasons as the audience we know exactly who Hannibal is and for the rest of the characters this has come to light at different points. Will is sympathetic towards Hannibal because he understands him and this bond is rare, but this is probably not a good enough reason for the crimes that have been committed and would not stand up in court as a reasonable defense.

The battle for Will Graham pits Jack against Hannibal even when Will is not present, plus it is an internal war he wages with himself as he fears he might become Hannibal if he doesn’t kill him. And really he has already done some pretty fucked up bad things as part of this long game.

Chiyo reasons there are other ways to influence outside of violence and she blindsides Will with a kiss before pushing him off the back of the train. Sex and money are two big ones with money playing a big part in the downfall of Pazzi. Pazzi is down on his luck and even though his home life is one full of light and happiness it is his forever quest to catch Hannibal that haunts him.

Pazzi’s folly is that he repeats the mistakes of Jack and Alana as he goes after Hannibal outside the bounds of the law he works in. For Pazzi this is motivated in part by Mason Verger’s reward along with the desire to catch his monster. Once again Hannibal is one step ahead and he even has an elaborate and public way to kill Pazzi echoing what happened to one of his ancestors who also fell foul to the promise of riches.

Hannibal 3.05 Alana, Mason and PazziThis is one dance with the beast that won’t result in surviving to tell the tale and Will warned Pazzi that Hannibal would kill him. Like Will, Alana knows Hannibal intimately and after they have spoken to Pazzi she tells Mason they are sending him to certain torture and death. Alana is different after the attack and this is evident as I mentioned last week by her shift in styling which has moved away from ultra-feminine silhouettes and prints to tailoring with a severe edge. Long gone are the wrap dresses and pencil skirts; enter pants, a whole lot of red and silver blazers with amazing lapels (this echoes the Margot Verger gold jacket which sadly never made it to screen).

Hannibal 3.05 AlanaThe old Alana hasn’t been completely erased due to the extra marrow in her blood or the pain she is trying to mask with lipstick, a new wardrobe and a steely gaze; she’s still there below the surface and her instinct tells her to ring Pazzi to warn him of how dangerous his task is. But she is too late and instead she gets a rather chipper Hannibal who seems very pleased to hear her voice. Alas he has pressing issues (bowels in or out?) and can’t chat for long.

For Alana it looks like she has been punched in the gut and seen a ghost at the same time when she realizes who is on the other end and this temporarily cracks her cool give no shits demeanor. She might be able to handle Mason and all his crass talk about her relationship with Hannibal without even flinching, but Hannibal Lecter is a whole other story. This is the worst kind of running into your ex when you least expect it story, even when it is just his voice. Months of therapy down the drain after that interaction. I’ve been rewatching Wonderfalls and Caroline Dhavernas is the queen of the reaction shot and this is the case in this moment too as she gives a look of shock and a brief chin quiver before resetting to almost neutral.

Hannibal 3.05 Alana phoneThe Will/Hannibal reunion is going to have to wait a little longer especially as Will has found himself alone (well apart from the stag) and on foot. That really was bold and cold move by Chiyo but I also have to applaud the way she dispatched him so easily. If only Will could jump onto his imaginary stag and ride it like a horse.Hannibal 3.05 trainPrior to this as they chatted on the back of the train the idea of night and day came up and how at night we are a little less seen. Once again the notion of who a person is versus how they appear is an important discussion point and Hannibal has been embracing who he is far more this year than previously.

Hannibal 3.05 WillFor Will he is still caught between these factors and he mentions how he hears voices from everywhere. As he lies on his train bunk bed enveloped in darkness it gives off a coffin vibe. Water has played an important in showing which characters are drowning or sinking into this bleak world, here it is just darkness.

The dance up to this point has been slow with the narrative unfolding in a manner which has allowed Bryan Fuller to indulge in his love of art house cinema. This has mostly been brilliant and an interesting approach with incredible visual flourishes, but I did have to stifle an eye roll at the coins going into the payphone in slo-mo as that really did feel unnecessary. Tension was increased as confrontations took place first with Pazzi and Hannibal followed by one supremely kick ass fight sequence.

Hannibal 3.05 Jack Hannibal 3.05 twisted Romeo and JulietRepetition of shots is something Hannibal does so well and early in “Contorno” we see Jack look to the skies prior to scattering Bella’s ashes in the country they met. He also throws his wedding ring into the water in a move that is maybe a tad impulsive as this feels like something to keep hold of. Maybe he is really letting it all go and the ring is a necessary casualty. Later he has this super twisted Romeo and Juliet looking moment with Hannibal, but they are not star-crossed lovers and there is man missing his guts swinging between them. This episode includes many trips down memory lane and how past mistakes get repeated in the present. Hannibal plays the piano because it is the instrument which has the “quality of a memory” and he knows exactly who Pazzi is. Pazzi makes the mistake of his ancestor in valuing money above honor and pays the exact same price. Alana makes a phone call as a warning as she did in the season 2 finale which doesn’t have the outcome she wanted. Time is a flat circle, right?

Well one bit of history not repeating comes in the epic beat down Jack delivers on Hannibal and as with the kitchen fight he uses all the tools at his disposal including a rather unpleasant grappling device. It takes the tension from the Pazzi scene and explodes it over the screen as Jack does by throwing Hannibal through a glass case. Hannibal tries to bait him with sympathy and suggestions of how he eased Bella’s pain and when this doesn’t work he asks the simple question “How will you feel when I’m gone?” Jack answers with the equally simple “Alive” and is everyone going to feel trapped for as long as Hannibal is free?

Jack doesn’t kill Hannibal and instead Hannibal makes his escape bloody and broken down the dangling body of Pazzi looking very much like he probably did at the end of the new Rihanna video.

Can anyone ever truly get over having been in the belly of the beast?

The Americans 3.05 “Salang Pass” Review: Making it Real

26 Feb

Elizabeth and Philip really aren’t the best at communicating with each other on The Americans. Sure they make an excellent spy team with a shorthand that’s about more than words and we’ve seen how in sync they are when out in the field. At home they also have an outward appearance of harmony as a couple who managed to work through their differences and hit the rare reconciliation mark rather than divorce which Stan is clearly headed towards. Real and fake intersect at every turn; a fake relationship produced a real family followed by falling in actual love years after getting together. It is this unique aspect blurring professional and personal which makes the marriage at the heart of The Americans so utterly mesmerizing; seeing how these emotionally stunted people trying to navigate their relationship while also dealing with matters of grave national importance.

The Americans 3.05Last season we watched as Philip’s soul was eroded away by his rather large kill count (this season he is still on zero to Elizabeth’s one) and he is being tested in another way this year; he might not have killed anyone yet but he is still doing some very bad things to other people all in the name of the Motherland. Gabriel voices his concerns to Philip in a way that would suggest paternal instinct and yet it is hard to fully trust him as his methods read more manipulative than caring.

Gabriel tells Philip he is worried about the amount he is juggling with Martha, Paige and Kimberly offering up compliments about how he is “the best.” Philip doesn’t seem all that swayed by these attempts simply saying that he isn’t confused about what he is undertaking. Time for another paternal tactic and Gabriel puts a supportive arm around him while also reiterating how important this operation is and how “conscience can be dangerous.” Effectively he is telling Philip to do whatever needs to be done and if that means sleeping with a 15 year-old so be it.

Ah yes the hormonal teenage girl problem and in “Salang Pass” Philip tries to navigate this unsavory aspect of the mission with a whole lot of deflecting and some very strong pot. His interactions with Kimberly are all flirty on her end whereas his behavior reads as everything we see with his own children from the food fight to scooping a half passed out Kimberly and taking her to bed. It is only when she wakes up from her weed induced slumber and smooches him that it switches; thankfully Philip is saved by the sound Kimberly’s parents getting home and his exit would have only been more ridiculous if he had to shimmy down a drainpipe.

Returning home and trying to sneak in only adds to how teen this whole situation is, but Elizabeth has waited up for her husband to return from this dalliance. In his semi-stoned state they have one of the most honest conversations we have witnessed between the pair and it echoes – right down to the close face to face embrace – my favorite scene from last season when they talked about icicles back home. This chat is on the bleak end of the scale as Philip discusses the seduction training he underwent and in the brief flashbacks we don’t see Philip’s face just a stream of different people he had to sleep varying in age (both men and women) and how they were told to “make it real to ourselves.” Looking exhausted and at his wits end Philip lays down next to his wife and asks if he should sleep with Kimberly – not your standard bedtime discussion – and he reiterates this by asking her honest opinion and her response is probably not that helpful to Philip’s predicament because she doesn’t know if he should.

the Americans 3.05 Philip and ElizabethFeeling bad about the whole situation is just one aspect, another is the moral line he would be crossing and how his own daughter is the same age as Kimberly; Kimberly’s sad garden story and how little her parents are around mirrors the situation in the Jennings home and that’s got to hit a nerve along with the ick factor. In part Elizabeth’s answer is informed by this moral quandary and there is also an element of jealousy as she shut down her own potential hookup with Hans a couple of weeks ago on account of Philip. But then the importance of the mission looms and as Philip now has access to Kimberly’s CIA dad’s briefcase and jacket it is not an opportunity they can pass up as the war in Afghanistan continues to go horribly for the Russians (the title of the episode is named after this tragic event which is on the radio when Elizabeth remarks that Philip looks worried).

Back to the conversation about making it real and shifting away from the predicament Philip faces as Elizabeth asks “Do you have to make it real with me?” The expected ‘never’ doesn’t come from Philip’s lips instead he answers with a vague “Sometimes. Not now.” It is the first part of that sentence which comes loaded with questions; is that sometimes from the way it used to be before they fell in love? Or is it more recent because of all the Paige angst which is going? The lack of a definitive answer outside of the here and now suggests there are still some trust issues and this makes sense considering who they are and what they do.

Take earlier in the episode as they go from talking about Martha wanting to foster a kid to remembering their own children being small and falling over all the time – “Remember Henry?” – with such fondness. It’s also a point of friendly contention as Philip recalls Paige being graceful whereas Elizabeth’s focus is on the summer of grazed knees. It’s something really small and yet the time the time they are referring to was long before the mostly loving relationship we see now. And with the mention of Paige the wall goes up and Elizabeth makes her excuses to go make dinner.

The Americans 3.05 shoppingElizabeth is queen of the conversation switch as demonstrated by their bathroom chat where she gets pissed at Philip for seemingly being on board with the whole baptism thing because of the dress shopping trip (which is a very sweet father/daughter moment and thankfully unlike the pilot it doesn’t end with some skeeze checking her out). Philip gets his own zing in with “you’re the one who has been singing with the choir.” The convo switch comes in with a dig and a half as Elizabeth refers to Kimberly as “your girl” raising the tension up another notch by equating Kimberly’s ignorance to her father’s job as being the same as their situation. 

Juggling various sources and missions is not just limited to Philip as Elizabeth is working hard on her new BFF Lisa. The funny/tragic thing about the whole Lisa friendship is Elizabeth is actively helping her, but it is all a means to an end and a way to get vital information. She is helping Lisa move on with her life and if Lisa had stayed with her husband she might have got pulled down with him, now thanks to Elizabeth she is sober and free from a toxic relationship. To Lisa, Michelle is her lucky charm and if only she knew why Michelle was doing this. As Michelle, Elizabeth becomes warm, fun and compassionate; words you might not use to describe Elizabeth and it is refreshing to see her laugh like this even if it isn’t real.

Elsewhere Stan enlists Oleg’s help in his quest to prove Zinaida is not as she seems and tries to appeal to his sense of love for Nina to dig a little deeper. Oleg comes up with nothing and his attempt was a tad lackluster using alcohol and a suggestion of placing a double agent in the form of a defector. A defector sends out a signal of weakness and it is still unclear whether Stan is grappling for something that isn’t there in the same way he has been doing with his relationship with Sandra. He seems to at least be moving on from that as Toni from EST upped her game by ringing the FBI to ask him out and that is one way to show interest in someone. Stan spends dinner and on another occasion getting beers with Philip and despite their deep down fundamental ideological differences this is a friendship that is pretty real. If only Stan knew who he was really having a beer with. Stan talks about his estranged father/son relationship as there’s “nothing like a teenage boy.” All Philip must be thinking is try a teen girl; the one he is trying to protect and the one he is trying to work.

The same problems still persist and while it doesn’t feel like Philip and Elizabeth have made all that much progress in terms of any of these, this final conversation is a big step and maybe when they need to clear the air they should get a little stoned as it certainly has a positive influence on how they communicate. It might not be the best spy tool.

Shot of the Week

The Americans 3.05 stonedThis is a reverse of the post fight standoff from last week and while the focus is on Philip in the foreground, the manner in which Elizabeth stands attentively in the background is important.

Bonus Shot of the Week

The Americans 3.05 PhilipAnother shot which relates to something from last week with another props department shout out and as we’re spending a lot more time in their bedroom/bathroom this season certain details pop out like this light bulb mirror. Excellent pissed off face from Matthew Rhys in the midst of another argument with Elizabeth.

Disguise of the Week

the Americans 3.05 ElizabethElizabeth does some recon early in the episode with a lab as her companion and this look is not all that dissimilar to how she usually appears, albeit (sorry Henry had to use it somewhere) a little more frumpy. It is the classic blending in before you later murder someone disguise.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.05 Coach bagPutting the Coach bag blatantly on show and flashing about her new designer duds is one way Elizabeth subtly works Lisa and I think she will soon be getting her all the information she is after. Gorgeous green color top too.

New Girl Review: What’s in the Box?

16 Oct

There were feelings of discontent in the loft on last week’s episode of New Girl and that continues with “The Box” as Nick and Jess get into their first proper couple fight and Schmidt hangs out in the pity pool after his recent (self induced) romantic woes. It’s not all doom and gloom as Winston gets to feature in both of these stories and not in the crazy way we have seen so far this season; setting up a cat brothel was his wake up call.

Nick's box New GirlNick and Jess are fundamentally different and it’s the whole opposites attract thing (plus you know all of the chemistry) that will help produce plenty of stories to stop this couple from becoming old hat. In the last episode Nick’s inability to express his feelings and Jess’ oversharing came up; this was more about Schmidt trying to come between them, rather than them stumbling over these issues. When Nick receives a paper bag with $8000 in cash from his dad it opens up a can of worms, or in this case Nick’s box of things he doesn’t want to deal with. This is primarily unpaid bills and instead of using this money to pay off these he goes on a shopping spree, followed by a drinking binge. Jess can’t resist going through Nick’s box and pays off these bills for him.

This isn’t the first time we have seen Nick’s very random financial situation (after all he has the credit score of a homeless ghost) and his reluctance to face up to things is a consistent character trait. Jess is the loft know-it-all (it is her pogo) and so these two things combined was always going to lead to a situation where Jess meddles and Nick gets mad. Jess realizes that she has made a mistake and her attempts to cover up what she has done is hilarious as she contemplating starting a fire and ends up under Nick’s bed, you know for the shade.

As arguments go they both have valid points as Jess has violated Nick’s trust by going through his private things, but his system is pretty dumb. Nick and Jess yelling things at each other is nothing new, but this is the first time they’ve yelled at each other as a couple and so the stakes are now higher. The word ‘box’ is used for maximum effect as Nick stumbles for a moment before he returns to being mad at Jess again. The random things he picks in her bedroom to question their existence vary from a drawer of night peanuts (a cousin of night cheese?), some bobby pins (or Bobby’s pins), enough yarn to make a mansion and Jess’ vintage purses which he throws out of the window because they don’t have enough gems on them.

Jess insists that she doesn’t want to change him; she just wants him to grow a little which I guess kind of sounds like the same thing. What I think she means is she’s happy with who he is there are just some fundamentals that need addressing. It’s all about character evolution and a lot of Nick’s hang-ups revolve around not feeling like he is worthy. He’s a screw-up but he is willing to address these issues. This episode is dealing with this side of Nick’s personality and how it plays into the bigger picture of their relationship. This is why Nick goes to open a bank account as when he comes out of his drunken haze he realizes that he would do anything for Jess. It goes both ways and Jess plays the Nick role as he resists complaining about the $8 processing fee, but Jess goes all in “I understood at least 30% of the financial crisis and guess what I got from that? You suuuuuuuck. You suuuuuuuck so hard.” And hey they don’t have to pay the fee, free $8!

One issue this episode has is cohesion and there’s something about Schmidt’s quest to find out whether he is a good person that doesn’t fit tonally with the rest of “The Box.” Schmidt is wallowing after his recent love mishaps that were caused by his inability to choose between Cece and Elizabeth and while I understand that his question plays on how selfish Schmidt can be, it doesn’t quite work. It feels like a reason to have him have a slap fight with Jon Lovitz in front of a class full of kids or to save someone’s life and make it all about him. I did enjoy the length of time we spent watching Schmidt run like Tom Cruise; Schmidt is definitely the kind of person who would practice and perfect this style of running but overall this story is lacking something. It feels like they are isolating Schmidt from the rest of the housemates and I wonder if this has anything to do with the former roommate who will be turning up soon?

nick owing winston moneyWinston got a lot of funny things to do that don’t involve him being crazy which is an instant bonus even if he did disappear for the middle of the episode. The gift of the candelabra is random but thoughtful; after hearing Nick’s breakdown of why gold, silver and brass are much better than paper I think he would have appreciated it a lot more than Schmidt did. I can also see why Winston ventures into crazy land with Ferguson the cat as it’s not always fun being the rational one in this loft. Oh and this is not the first time Winston has attempted to get money off Nick and he still hasn’t found a good way to get it back. Bribing Jess is at least more successful than his using the Memento method back in season 1.

This feels like an episode that might work better on rewatch and once again it’s the Schmidt plot that isn’t really flowing. The writers have a handle on Nick and Jess so far as a couple and giving them an episode of dealing with couple problems feels like natural progression, I just hope they can sort out the rest of the loft dynamic soon.

Julie Hammerle

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