Togetherness, Season 1, Episode 7, “Party Time”
Written by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass
Directed by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass
Airs at 9:30 PM (ET) on Sunday on HBO
“Party Time” continues the relationship trends that were established in the last episode, with Brett and Michelle slowly growing in different directions and Tina and Alex continuing to pettily feud as if they are small children. Everything revolves around a set of two “parties,” one far more traditional than the other. Michelle and Brett’s relationship finally caves in from its fractures despite Michelle attempting to understand where Brett is at emotionally and trying to solve what ails them. Meanwhile, Tina and Alex’s interactions start out ice-cold, but due to Tina’s struggles with her business, eventually thaw to an acceptable level again, even if they don’t find themselves back on perfectly friendly terms. The most interesting part is that where Tina and Alex try not to be around each other for most of the day, their interactions come back around to friendliness by the end of the afternoon, yet Michelle’s voiced desire for Brett to be around for her fundraising party results in what could end up being a permanent separation.
Brett’s excursion to Linda’s house is ripe for a lot of different kinds of rabbit holes, emotionally and physically. After only a few minutes of Brett being there, it is clear that all of them are going to be explored one way or another. He is talked into trying ‘shroom tea by one of Linda’s associates with the promise that he will fill less stressed and more open to the world and others (to be fair, this isn’t a lie). His resulting freakout is Mark Duplass’ first real opportunity all season to be purely comedic, and Mary Steenburgen is a sight to behold as the calming counter to his paranoia. Whomever’s idea it was – probably one of the Duplass brothers – to put Brett next to a horse while managing a bad trip is a genius. His facial expressions alone are priceless, but what is better is the awareness he has of his situation and the way his time on drugs actually alters his understanding of his own life.
Brett’s comments may be humorous on the surface, but Duplass’ acting and physical cues reveal a man who is at last coming around to a place where he can see a healthy and happy version of himself on the horizon and doesn’t fully know how to commit to that vision by himself. The shower scene is erotic in a deep emotional way, with one person fully understanding another’s needs at a specific moment, yet it plays as comedic because of what Duplass does to lighten the scene. Alex’s worry over Brett’s wellbeing is nice to see after a few episodes without some dedicated best friend time between the two, and his apparent inability to articulate the absolute best words at Linda’s and in the car is an accurate portrayal of male friendships and these specific men’s unique relationship amidst ongoing personal struggles. Alex is arguably the less well-adjusted adult between the two, yet nonetheless is the rock upon which Tina leans and Brett listens to when it’s most important.
Michelle’s titular party, a fundraising effort for David and the charter school, starts off solidly, only to be brought down by the appearance of her drugged-out husband, who doesn’t even want to be there in the first place. She bonds with David and his daughters, relating to their rollerblading hobby and touching his shoulder gently, and gets excited about all of the big donations rolling in from their friends and neighborhood residents. Clearly, she would rather Brett not be at the party even if she says she wants him there, all the more time to spend with David who understands her and is able to carry out an interesting conversation. So when she is visibly upset at Brett declaring his need for space and a separation, as valid as it may be, it hurts that much more. Is her fondness for David a way of coping with her and Brett’s increasing differences, or simply a connection that she sets aside in her mind apart from her marriage in order to find happiness without feeling guilty? The opportunity to find out which is nigh, and with only one episode left in the season, there’s little chance that the audience will get to witness a flourishing relationship between Michelle and David. Further bonding with David supporting her in her time of difficulty is more likely, and more welcome at this point in the story. As their marriage drifts farther and farther apart, Michelle and Brett are growing into themselves more confidently, and a formal break is just more of a chance to see them continue to step outside their comfort zones.
Tina, meanwhile, is falling back into her comfort zone from the beginning of the season with her decision to move in with Larry after her bouncy castle business completes its downward spiral into failure. Amanda Peet’s ongoing portrayal of a woman with no confidence in her own skills and accomplishments is captivating. The majority of what she speaks about is something that every woman (or every person, period) goes through at some point in their adult life, when blind assurances from friends are no longer enough to get them through another day “faking it until they make it.” The thing that she knows for sure will work, that she is well-practiced in, is relying on a more successful or reliable man until she figures out the next step. Larry’s ability to understand that these worries exist and find something that will make her feel better without having to ask her outright might just mean he is a lasting solution, not just a patch on her wounded ego who will break up with her after a few more weeks. If last week was the episode where crossroads were reached, this week’s episode is where the decisions are actually made. Next week’s finale is then the point where the audience gets to see if these proclamations pan out as the characters hope they will, or if they are even followed through at all.