Togetherness, Ep. 1.05, “Kick the Can”: Oh, to feel young at heart

Togetherness S01E05

Togetherness, Season 1, Episode 5, “Kick the Can”
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 worst part of growing older is starting to realize that you aren’t the same person and can’t do the same things as when you were younger. Then the understanding sets in as to what that means for your future. The class president or the hot girl from high school aren’t always the center of attention two decades down the road, and it takes a lot of small incidences to reach the point where that reality takes root permanently in one’s mind. Do things like humor, charisma, and love for a partner fade? What kind of work does it take to sustain happiness that was last memorable as distantly as five or ten years previous? This is where Brett and Michelle, and to a certain extent Tina and Alex, find themselves in “Kick the Can”, Togetherness’ fifth episode and the halfway point of its debut season. Fresh out of what could be their first session of therapy or seventh time going, Brett and Michelle both feel drained. Committing to discussing the problems in their marriage is a big step to take but actually following through and talking about their issues and how to move past them is clearly far more difficult than either of them expected it would be.

Brett’s “dream” day is to go to a Barnes and Noble, find a quiet corner, and read Dune in a comfortable chair. He is leaning into aging and becoming more of a relaxed dad type, content with the most boring of all possible fantasies just because the calmness soothes him and makes him happy. It isn’t something to be ashamed of, and it is definitely not something he would have done at the beginning of his and Michelle’s relationship if she’d asked him about a “dream day”. Michelle, on the other hand, is rebelling against the specter of aging and becoming dredged in a repetitive and unsurprising cycle of an unhappy marriage with little excitement. Her desire to play kickball stems from a need to feel spontaneous and fun and is as much about making herself happy as it is about contributing to any repairs in her marriage. Michelle’s entire face lights up when she thinks of the idea and it is plain to see in that moment that she has the whole day planned out in her mind, never expecting that it could be blown to smithereens by the young and hip Los Angelenos that she and her husband used to be themselves.

The worst part about making “dream plans” is that 99 out of 100 times they are not going to pan out perfectly in sync with an imaginary blueprint. Michelle’s friends are all excited to play, they have beer and supplies, and just as things are about to get going a group of friends a generation younger steps in to ruin their day. When the older group was their age, there is a good chance they would have reacted in the exact same way as the younger group if a bunch of adults tried to commandeer a field that rightfully belonged to them. From the older group’s perspective, Larry offering to buy the field for a few hours is problem solving but to the younger group, it is a little creepy and a rude gesture on their friend’s birthday. They have no way of knowing how important a simple game of kickball is to Michelle; they followed the rules by reserving the field properly and this rogue group of people is rudely interrupting an actually well-planned party. Michelle’s insistence on not giving up the field is near heart breaking from the audience’s point of view because they are seeing it from her side. The thought of a few hours bonding with her friends just as they used to when they were as young as these “hipsters” is the only thing keeping her together after suffering through therapy with her more and more distant husband.

It’s hard to believe the youths would agree to a showdown with these PBR-chugging 30-somethings in the first place, or that they would accept Michelle’s “win”, what with Alex and Tina cheating in order to get her to the can, but that isn’t the point. Her momentous run through the sprinklers falls short of cheesy because it’s the culmination of a day of little struggles just to get to that feeling of accomplishment and spontaneity. She gets what she wants, with the help of new acquaintance David none the less, and is momentarily happy. If they hadn’t already met in the second episode, the sprinkler moment would officially qualify as a meet cute. He doesn’t even know her that well, yet David sees how important the victory is to her. All her close friends suggest alternatives to the day (drinks, sushi) and her own husband sullenly gives himself up to the other side rather than going along with the fun for even a few minutes, but this charming man who shares interests with her is willing to drop out of his own basketball game to make her day. There are already cracks in Michelle and Brett’s marriage, sure, but this type of alternative option is how a marriage gets permission to break. Michelle is starting to see David as a way out and Brett either doesn’t care enough or truly can’t change enough to keep their marriage together. At least he sees the look they share right before the credits roll, so he knows what he’s up against. Togetherness is too confident a show to fall prey to a cheating storyline where the two sides of a triangle don’t even know about each other.

Random thoughts:

  • Melanie Lynskey plays being drunk and bummed so perfectly. That both her big emotional moments this episode come as she’s standing behind a shed with a PBR in her hands and still land on target proves what a high level she is currently operating on.
  • Alex makes a move on Tina in a community center/high school broom closet, which he probably did once or twice when he was a popular teenager. Whether he expected it to go over well because of his intoxication or whether he knew it would go poorly, that kiss causes more problems between them than it solves.
  • Did Alex get all of the kickball supplies and the beer from one place? If so, that is one well-stocked convenience store.
  • Peter Gallagher carrying a small dog in a sweater and pink collared shirt is hands down the hottest thing about this episode.
  • Brett may be a depressing sad sack sitting in his car alone instead of being excited about a day with his wife, but listening to “Walking in Memphis” redeems him ever so slightly.

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