Saturday, September 07, 2013

Week 15 of "My 25 Favourite Episodes of TV"

There are ten weeks left in this little project, which should take me into early November. Though I'm heading back to school and will busy with that, there shouldn't be many interruptions going forward. I might take a week off here and there if I feel particularly swamped, but my goal was to finish this project in 2013 and that's still my intention. With that being said, I decided to dick around my last week of vacation and procrastinate this final post-summer entry, to the point that I put a lot more work into the ABC comedy fall preview thing I posted yesterday late in the week not realizing that it has no set schedule, while this does. So once again, I'm late with a fairly short writeup. What you call lazy and corner-cutting, I call short and sweet.

After the break: Who knew "case of the week" could be such a gut punch?

Terriers, "Change Partners"
First aired on FX Wednesday, September 22, 2010

“Isn’t that part of the allure of love? You let someone in you know will hurt you and make you feel alive?” – Miriam Foster

There are those who say that the only story worth telling is of a relationship in crisis. I happen to subscribe to that theory, and the appropriately titled “Change Partners” is full of broken and damaged relationships varying in type. Most are romantic connections, but others are formerly romantic, platonic, or formerly platonic. And ultimately, it’s an hour about how many lies you can tell a loved one before you’re really in too deep.

Hank Dolworth is the linch pin in just about every one of those damaged relationships. At the start of the episode, he deceives Britt into spying on Gretchen’s new fiancĂ©e and Britt isn’t all that happy to find out he’s now been used twice in Hank’s effort to keep tabs on his ex. There’s a brilliantly awkward dinner between Hank, Gretchen, and Jason where he’s asked to try and figure out how Jason’s wallet and identity might have been stolen (hey, maybe Britt knows!). Later, he bonds with his client Miriam (played excellently by Olivia Williams) over what it’s like to be trapped in a toxic relationship with someone who doesn’t really love you for you anymore. And their fling eventually drives Harmon Foster over the edge when he’s unable to cope with the idea that the more times he pushed Miriam to cuckold him, the more likely it was going to be that there might come a point where she actually likes it.

“Terriers” was kind of a fish-out-of-water show at FX. While most of the channel’s original programming was heavily serialized and anti-hero centric, Hank and Britt were mostly good guys whose dark sides occasionally came out. Hank doesn’t mean to do bad things, but his alcoholism caused a lot of people pain so he’s obviously not 100% innocent in his various damaged relationships. But “Change Partners” might be the first time that Hank willfully does something that isn’t just selfish – as mentioned previously, he’s prone to take advantage of Britt – but kind of scummy, when he uses Harmon’s suicide note to forge one last missing signature on his loan application just seconds after Harmon jumps out the window. Even in the second viewing, I couldn’t help but get chills watching it – most of the time this show was just a fun buddy cop adventure, but that was a moment where you realize, “Okay, this is what’s up. I guess it’s still FX and we’re gonna get a little dark along the way.”

As Hank has been conditioned to do through his rehabilitation, he confesses to Miriam that he told Harmon about their affair, one that he didn’t order her to partake in. “I needed the loan, Miriam,” he tells her, and that’s all he needs to tell her before she slams the door in his face. What’s interesting is that after having screwed over almost everyone he knows, in ways big and small, in the span of maybe a week, Hank arrives home to maybe the person with whom he has the most solid relationship in his life at that moment, even if he has no idea they’re there (since we’re entering spoiler country, more on this later).

It’s an interesting parallel with Britt, whose old partner in crime shows up and threatens to reveal that Britt never told Katie the whole truth about his past life as a thief. But the difference of course is that while Hank made the decision to hurt the people he loved, even if he was stuck in a spiral he couldn’t get out of, Britt didn’t know it was Katie’s house he had robbed, as he had never met her. Seeing her picture, tracking down the bar where she worked, and falling in love with her led him to hang up the balaclava and start settling down. Britt became a changed man, for the better. That’s why when he finally tells Katie that he once broke into her home, she pretends to throw him out only to reveal she’s roleplaying a sexual fantasy. Hank has changed for the worse, and it’s why every relationship of his has either crumbled to the ground, or could be on its way down faster than Harmon Foster if he doesn’t step in and try to break the fall.

Let’s deal with the rest in bullet points (spoilers for future episodes are included)...

- Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, Hank and Britt respectively, were good friends and roommates when they filmed the first and only season of “Terriers,” and it really shows in “Change Partners”. While they have amusing conversations about Britt accidentally seeing how big Jason’s penis is, I really like the scene in the bar where Britt calls Hank on having him spy on Gretchen for him. It’s dialed up to just the appropriate “dude, not cool” level and it really feels like an authentic relationship

- So let’s talk more about that super weird thing at the end of the episode where Hank lays on his couch playing the guitar as a shadowy figure climbs onto his kitchen counter and up into his attic. We learn in the next episode that it’s Hank’s sister Steph (played by Donal Logue’s real life sister Karina), who isn’t exactly stable. I remember being kind of freaked out by it, but it also made me nervous that this was going to turn out to be a really stupid plot contrivance. Thankfully, I was wrong and it gave way to one of the best relationships on the show

- No Rockmond Dunbar in this episode. I didn’t really dislike Gustafson as a character, but I never missed him in “Change Partners”

- If you’ve never heard this show’s theme song, prepare to put Robert Duncan’s “Gunfight Epiphany” on an endless loop. Speaking of which, I should get back to listening to it over and over

Next week: The hardest I laughed in 2011