Breaker one-nine, breaker one-nine… Oh, the nostalgic glee that filled my heart when B.J. and Rick broke out the CB radios on last night’s Swingtown. I was wondering when the show would recapture the mid-’70s moment when the CB went from being an unglamorous communication tool for professional truckers to a status-symbol accessory in the station wagons of carpooling moms. (To be followed, of course, by the radar detector, allowing every suburban dad to imagine himself as Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, outracing and outwitting the law through superior nerve and machinery. But I digress.)
The writers expertly deployed the glorified walkie-talkies in this episode, fittingly titled “Surprise,” as a metaphor for all the bungled communications and unexpected revelations taking place here in Swingtown. Starting with the unlikely “handles” the boys chose for themselves: Rick was “Ladykiller” (as if!), and B.J. was “Silver Bullet.” (What did that mean? That he kills werewolves? That someday he’ll be a Coors Light drinker, once they introduce the brand in a few years?) Lesson two, after choosing a distinctive CB username: Don’t sit on the mic button, or your friends will hear you reveal that you panicked when an eager girl took off her top, or that you don’t understand what your friend and his almost-girlfriend see in each other, or that said-almost girlfriend is moving to Naperville to live with her aunt, who plans to fight the girl’s cokehead mom for custody.
Sam may not be the only one moving out of town. Roger finally got a job offer for his dream gig, applying his actuarial knowledge to safety assessment for a company building skyscrapers. (Follow that dream, Roger!) Unfortunately, the job’s in Cincinnati. As usual, Roger told Susan but not his own wife. He was still pressing Susan to declare her feelings for him after last week’s kiss, and she she was still resisting, though they were plain on her face. When she finally told Roger that she really wanted him to take the job and move 300 miles away, she couldn’t have sounded more unconvincing.
Janet remained blissfully unaware of the monkey wrench about to be thrown into her potential promotion from office busybody to newspaper advice columnist. Of course, the old Janet would have dropped that opportunity in a heartbeat to be a dutiful wife and rush off to Ohio, but now, blossoming under mentor Henry, I’m not so sure. (Anyone think Henry’s being set up as a possible romantic rival to Roger?) Then again, she still thought Roger and Susan had been spending so much time together just to plan her surprise birthday party. In fact, Roger and Susan made sure to invite lots of Janet’s friends so there would be a buffer to keep them from having to talk to each other. But that plan would backfire in unforeseen ways.
For instance, Bruce, who has finally entered full-blown midlife crisis mode. When he told Susan he felt like a stranger in his own home, it wasn’t just because it was full of guests he didn’t know. (Typically, he didn’t seem to grasp that when Susan said she felt the same way, she also was not talking about the party.) Bruce was miserable because of Melinda, the co-worker he’d made out with a few weeks back, who was now threatening to leave for a rival brokerage. He was moping about being barely able converse with Susan, while with Melinda, he could talk about interesting stuff like the stock market and baseball. Still, I didn’t expect him to go so far as to concoct that obviously false lie about having left his briefcase at the office and having to go back into town, so that he could secretly hook up with Melinda. Susan, who’d overheard his incriminating phone conversation with Melinda, let him spin this unconvincing story — perhaps because it gave her an excuse to talk to Roger.
(Let’s pause for a moment to note one other, superfluous example of miscommunication: Laurie mishearing Doug’s “All I have is Yoohoo” as “I love you” and responding, “I love you, too.” Realizing she’d said “I love you” first, she jumped to the conclusion that Doug was preparing to dump her and take that faculty job. This is the plight of characters who, unlike us viewers, don’t have the benefit of knowing how to deal with such situations from having watched them thousands of times on episodes of Seinfeld and Sex and the City. Fortunately, Doug does love her and is even willing to give up the job so he can keep dating his former student. That seems foolish, especially to those of us annoyed by the Laurie-Doug subplots, but it’s certainly sweet.)
The lone example of positive communication this episode came from Janet and Rick, who vented his frustration by getting belligerently drunk at the party. Taking him aside, Janet quickly figured out that what was really bothering her son was his sense that he’d lost B.J. to Sam, then gave him some good advice (be a pal and earn his friendship back), and made it all better with a motherly hug. It was a tender and lovely scene, the first we’ve witnessed between these two all season. It certainly impressed eavesdropper Trina (pictured), who marveled at Janet’s maternal skills, then revealed her own big secret.
Show of hands: When did you realize that Trina was pregnant? She’d been dropping hints the whole episode, from her early-morning queasiness to those den-mother comments about mentoring fledgling swingers Bruce and Susan (an analogy that becomes really creepy if you think about it), to Bruce’s rant to Trina about how hard it is to be a parent and breadwinner, and how lucky the Deckers are that life has yet to throw them any real curve balls. At least Trina’s sure that the baby is Tom’s (she did the math and figures that she conceived during the Deckers’ moratorium on swinging), but it seemed clear that she and Tom hadn’t planned to have a child…ever.
So: How do you think Tom will react when he finds out he’s going to be a dad? (Pretty well, judging by the spoilery preview for next week’s episode.) How will Janet react when Roger tells her he was offered a job in Cincinnati? How will Bruce react when Susan confronts him with his apparent infidelity? Will Rick’s gift of the CB enable B.J. and Sam to conduct a long-distance relationship? Will we ever find out if Rick’s feelings for B.J. are more than platonic? And how do you think the season will wrap in next week’s finale?