Brett’s back in the mountains, recording sounds, when he happens on a corpse hand poking through a pile of twigs. Except it’s not a corpse, it’s the gorgeously ethereal Linda, played by the gorgeously ethereal Mary Steenburgen. Linda’s lying in a hole covered in tree branches, in some Wiccan-ish ritual of “connecting with her death.” She and Brett get to talking and he admits he never does or says what he wants in life—he lies about his feelings and he’s not happy. Linda tells Brett he’s “like a ghost in chains,” takes his hands, and in a spellcaster’s voice informs him he’s a free spirit with no future, nowhere to go and nothing to do.
Of course Brett’s not happy—we saw his marriage nearly come undone last week at the Kick the Can game. Equally miserable are Alex and Tina. Alex is sick of Tina bossing him around, interrupting his rigorous jungle-gym workout to enlist him to play a clown at one of her upcoming kids’ parties. Michelle tells Tina she’s a cocktease, leading Alex on after last week’s stolen kiss.
Tina argues that even Alex admits the kiss was just a “freak drunk thing” and complains that Alex is “so high maintenance, like a girl.” Michelle is the voice of reason, urging Tina to be more careful with the people who matter to her, and that includes Michelle. Tina feels ganged up on, but she’s had this one coming. Her gallivanting around with Larry, stomping on Alex’s heart and cashing in on her sister’s good will add up to a pretty selfish showing from our resident party girl.
Michelle, meanwhile, is hardly beyond reproach. She meets up with David to look at a charter school site at an abandoned building. There’s a corny scene of the two of them digging through office detritus to get to a blocked doorway, wherein Michelle impressively crafts a makeshift crowbar out of a piece of furniture—this woman is taking charge of her life! The two are forced into a series of pretzel contortions, each more intimate than the last, in their effort to move the furniture and pry open the door. The result is basically a PG, clothes-on sex scene, with David and Michelle writhing, grunting and heavy-breathing. The only thing that would make this situation more ridiculous is if Jack Tripper and Chrissy Snow were listening aghast outside the door.
But the romance continues to blossom. David informs Michelle that they are going to have to make a convenient road trip to Sacramento to attend a public auction to try to buy the school building, promising more near-scandalous encounters between these two in upcoming episodes.
Taking Michelle’s words to heart, Tina tries to be a good friend to Alex by getting him an audition for a role in one of Larry’s movies. Alex is at first grateful, but his glee turns quickly to furor when he discovers that the role he’s auditioning for is the “comical chubby best friend.” Why has he been working out and taking Mexican Rogaine if not to snare leading roles? He and Tina get in a shouting argument outside Larry’s office and she makes him go inside and audition, arguing persuasively that the alternative is staying on Brett’s couch for the rest of his life. Alex goes through with it, but insists on reading for the role of the leading man, which does not go over well with the studio execs. He marches out and informs Tina he’s not going to do her bidding anymore. She can continue carrying on her “superficial charade in Larryland,” but he is done with her.
Brett’s not taking any more shit either. After that jackass director who’s been treating him like garbage keeps him waiting around at work all day without food, he snaps. The recording studio is a dark cage, it’s inhumane and he needs air. “I’m a ghost in chains!” he screams at the director, who laughs like a schoolyard bully. Brett heads back to the mountains, where Linda speaks to him in mysterious koans and attempts to get him to lie down in her hole. Brett is enraged—he is so sick of people bossing him around! This episode appears to be written by refugees from the men’s movement—it’s time for these poor, brow-beaten dudes to take back the power from the evil, omnipotent harridans!
After his tantrum, Linda offers sweetly to hold Brett’s burrito as he climbs docilely into the hole and she gently places the branches on top of him. Will getting in touch with his death help Brett to chill out already? Does it even matter, since Michelle is clearly one furtive glance from hopping in the sack with David? Here’s hoping our wayward foursome can find their way back to one another next week, but I’m not holding my breath.