Tuned In

TMYLM Watch: Careful What You Wish For

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“If I lived in a place like this, it would be impossible for me not to be happy.” — Jamie

HBO photo: Alan Fraser

I haven’t been quoting Jamie a lot in these reviews, but this–Jamie drooling over the house that Carolyn and Palek can’t wait to flee–is really Tell Me You Love Me in a nutshell: how you can be made miserable by things that are supposed to make you happy. There’s sex, of course. There’s also the products of sex, children, whose anti-amorous properties are on display not only with Dave and Katie, but with Palek and Carolyn’s exhausted friends, whose inept wrestling with tiny terror Dashiell is like a flashing DO NOT ENTER SIGN above parenthood. (The friends are drawn a little broad, but the picture of the indulgent, beaten-down parents–“I don’t want to be too tough on them. I don’t want them to think I don’t love them anymore because of the baby”–is pretty recognizable, even if no one will ever cop to seeing themselves in it.)

Here’s one theory of TMYLM, which did not occur to me until now but seems so obvious in retrospect that someone else may already have written it. The three couples in therapy form a circular chain of wanting, each of them thinking they’d be happy if they only had what the next couple had. Jamie would be happy if she were married and in a beautiful house. Carolyn, who is married and lives in a beautiful house, thinks she would be married happy if only she had children. Dave and Katie believe that they would be happy if only they could get back to where they were before they were married, got a house and had children. Each of them is connected in some way to home-making and nurturing (Palek builds houses, Dave supplies home builders, Jamie is a chef) yet none of them is able to complete their own nest.

This was the first episode, incidentally, in which I was actually more interested in Carolyn and Palek than in Dave and Katie: Palek tentatively floating the trial balloon that he might be happier never having kids, Carolyn taking out her frustrations on her co-workers, especially the poor, nosy, well-meaning sandwich lady. (Do they still have sandwich carts outside Mad Men, by the way? Did I get into the wrong career?) I did, though, enjoy Ally Walker’s performance as Katie explored the world of MILF websites in an effort to see if Dave had been secretly surfing porn. (He hadn’t, of course, and their boring, plain-vanilla browser history–espn.com, consumerreports.com, publicdomainimages.com–was probably the saddest thing in the episode.)

One last thing: I’ve noted before that TMYLM deliberately leaves out any details that might place the show geographically, but did any other Midwesterners out there notice that Jamie was apparently playing Euchre with Ian Somerhalder’s elderly aunts? I call hearts alone.