Togetherness, Season 1, Episode 3, “Insanity”
Written by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass
Directed by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass
Airs at 9:30 PM (ET) on Sunday on HBO
The one thing that Togetherness needs to do in order to make it unique compared to the myriad other LA-set comedies and dramas, and which it hasn’t done through the first two episodes, is to show why these characters at this specific point in their lives are worth caring about. The first two episodes let the audience get to know this quartet of slightly unhinged people in controlled environments. Whether at Michelle and Brett’s house or at local restaurants and parks, the group interacted for the most part with only each other and assessed the state of their lives from a relatively safe perspective. Here though, it sends them all out in to the city to stand out against a backdrop of pretty and successful people who have everything much more under control than they do.
The episode title, “Insanity,” works as both an overarching concept and the jumping-off point for a night on the town. Tina’s continued commitment to Alex’s image overhaul finds them deep in a session of the popular exercise trend Insanity, with Tina putting on her best drill-sergeant face and Alex failing to make it through the requisite aerobics without hugging the floor at the end. Alex will never be male model levels of good looking, but keeping his confidence up with the thought of it is more important than the actual results. This blind dedication in service of a hopeful outcome might not work for Alex’s waistline, but it has a chance to work for his career. In one night, Alex goes from thinking Tina’s strategies are more than a little crazy to being on board with her strategies as well as admitting his feelings for her.
Brett’s premiere gives everyone the chance to dress up and attempt to be someone slightly different than their normal selves, and it gives the show the opportunity to show rather than tell how they interact with industry people. Tina is a knockout in a sparkly dress, and Brett and Alex clean up nicely as well (the latter coming out in spandex while getting ready being a highlight of the episode), yet despite outward appearances they don’t immediately fit in around other celebrities. Tina’s strategy to get them in the door works, but not before Alex lies to an old lady and Brett has to avoid the cops on their behalf. These aren’t smooth people, and they don’t mesh perfectly with fancy folk even if they are technically part of that world. Tina does best interacting with hotshot producer Larry (Peter Gallagher), almost certainly because of her looks rather than her tact. Alex’s awkwardness works in his favor by the end of the event, as his unsubtle attempts to alternately interact with then avoid Larry draws the producer’s attention and leads to a productive conversation. It may not help his career in a measurable way, but it certainly boosts his faith in himself to be taken seriously as an actor and as someone with opinions about films. His enjoyment of the night is palpable, then is shot down in only a few moments due to his feelings for Tina. The “Wonder Twins” comment from Tina puts a smile on Alex’s face that has only been seen a handful of times, but before he can fully appreciate it he turns to find her in the arms of Larry, leaving him to confront his feelings about her head on.
His willingness to admit to Brett how Tina’s flirting with other people makes him feel is the mark of an adult acting like a grownup instead of hiding behind a crush like a character in a soap opera. Between Alex’s admission and Brett’s apology to his project’s director, Togetherness continues to prove that even if these people don’t know exactly where their lives are going or how to handle certain insecurities, they can still act maturely. The episode-ending singalong to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” has all the makings of two teenage boys working out their emotions in a garage band, but the sensible family car location grounds the problems they are trying to work past in the world of grown ups where there are larger issues than a girl not liking you back.
Michelle’s night out by herself, separate from her husband and the glitz of an LA premiere, doesn’t turn out as she initially hopes but results in something than she couldn’t have predicted. Her decision to ditch the party and go out in as sexy a getup as she owns stems from her lack of feeling desired in her home. The problems with Brett and her’s sex life, Tina’s presence, and her ongoing indecision about life goals have all left her in a rut. She goes to the bar in hopes that someone will notice her as a beautiful woman, not a mom or wife, and is disappointed by the bartender’s interacting with her the same way as the other guests. She speaks of “wanting to see where the night goes” as if she imagines herself to be in a movie, then is shot down by his standard response about hummus toast (which sounds like the most cliché LA food ever). For a moment she gets to show off in front of some teen skateboarders on the corner by bumming a cigarette and (literally) blowing smoke, but not in as alluring or mysterious a fashion as she hopes. Encountering David Garcia, a local proponent for charter schools, at an education reform meeting and getting lost in conversation is the most alive Michelle looks all episode and it is because of the way David values her thoughts and opinions just as much as he might find her attractive. Even though nothing actually happens between them, her demeanor in bed alone at home is one of contemplation about what it might be like to be with someone like David rather than Brett. Michelle finds the mind of another man alluring, while Brett is getting sonic inspiration from birds. It isn’t a completely broken marriage, but there are problems that both sides might not be able to work through without opening themselves up to more intense scrutiny.