When we last left Alex and Tina, he was heartbroken over her going home with movie exec Larry Kozinski. This week, they take their will-they, won’t-they shtick on the road to Houston, to retrieve Tina’s stuff and take it back to LA. Tina’s cooing to Larry on the phone before the plane’s even left the gate, and suggests to the still-spurned Alex that the three of them all go out when they get back to LA. We’ve been suspecting that Tina’s kind of heartless (not to mention kind of nuts) and this adds another check in that column.
Alex meets Tina’s parents, who have brought him a gift from their recent vacation: Mexican Rogaine, allegedly stronger than what you can pick up stateside. Alex is embarrassed—this is what Tina told her parents about him?—but quickly recovers when they tell him that Tina has said he’s her support system in LA. Hmmm…so that’s how Tina sees him.
That night at the local saloon, things get a little ridiculous. Tina’s off being a good-time Sally, getting “felt up by the Marlboro Man,” but she has one eye on Alex, who’s making time with her best friend Pam. When Pam takes Alex on the dance floor to teach him to dance, Tina grabs a dude and pretends she’s having the time of her life two-stepping with him. An informal dance-off ensues, Tina and Alex dancing their hearts out, each trying to show the other they don’t need them to have a good time. It’s a dumb teen movie trope, but Alex subverts it when he realizes he isn’t going to win the dance-off and he’d rather just have fun with Pam. Ouch—we can see the disappointment on Tina’s face as Alex and Pam do-si-do.
In a reversal of last week’s plot, it’s Alex who wants to stay over at Pam’s house at the end of the night. Tina prevails, however, and makes him go back to her place with her, even honking the horn to prevent Alex and Pam from kissing. Tina’s fast turning out to be That Girl, the one who might not want you but wants you to want her and doesn’t want anyone else to have you. In the car, Alex accuses Tina of “the biggest cockblock in the history of all cockblocks” and she argues that it’s too weird to have him sleep with her best friend. Alex declares that he’s sick of Tina bossing him around and that if he can’t sleep with Pam, she can’t sleep with Larry. They go home in silence.
Meanwhile, back in LA, Brett has organized a romantic night at a fancy hotel for him and Michelle, but it’s way too much pressure for their shaky union to bear. Michelle calls Tina from the bathroom, frantically pleading with her to help her get out of sex with her husband. Tina tough-loves her back into the room, where Brett says it’s OK if they don’t have sex (which it’s clearly not, for him) and they watch Biodome instead.
It looks like they’re going to just have a platonic sleepover when marital duty overcomes Michelle and she suggests they have sex anyway. It’s a hard scene to watch—Brett places the pillow under her neck, she has a hard time getting comfortable, he can’t stay hard, the camera work is tight and jerky and unsexy, just like the two of them. They get into a massive fight: Brett screams that he’s 37 and no longer a “steel rod boner man”; he needs her to stop talking so he can “get a rhythm going.” He tells her that he can see in her eyes she’s dreading having sex with him and shouts that he’s “not in love with having sex with the same person after ten years” either.
At the end of the episode, everyone makes up—kind of. Brett and Michelle tell each other they don’t want to get divorced and resolve to go to couples therapy. Tina apologizes to Alex and asks if she can “make it up with a little handy.” She’s kidding, of course. They have an awkward hug and Alex is left to sleep on her couch, sighing.
And we, the audience, sigh too. This show is good—it’s showing us some realistic depictions of mid-life relationships, in all their messy glory. I don’t have super-high hopes for Brett and Michelle—he’s too sensitive and unsexy in his 1990s thin-tortoise-frame glasses, she’s clearly looking for something a little more adventurous. It seems like just a matter of time before Tina and Alex have that inevitable kiss, but I kind of hate Tina after this episode and feel like Alex deserves someone better, someone like Pam who likes him for him and doesn’t see him as a fixer-upper.
Previously: Episode 1: “Family Day”; Episode 2: “Handcuffs”; Episode 3: “Insanity.”