‘Swingtown’ recap: The pluses of pornography
Who’d have imagined that it would take porn star Harry Reems to bring feminism to the sleepy suburbs of Swingtown? The Deep Throat star’s visit, for a benefit party the Deckers threw for his legal defense, resulted in a few raised eyebrows and raised consciousness for Susan and Janet, and maybe even for Trina.
Susan underwent the biggest change in this episode, titled ”Go Your Own Way.” At first, she was disgusted by the idea of a fund- raiser for a controversial porn star. (Swingtown‘s writers made an impossible-to-miss contrast between the Deckers’ soiree and the Tupperware party Janet and Susan were throwing.) But after Susan read Reems’ legal file — and after she learned that Bruce had seen the movie without her, with some of his coworkers on a boys’ night out — she changed her mind and decided that there was an issue of freedom involved. First Amendment freedom for Reems, freedom to go see the notorious flick by herself, and freedom to go to the Deckers’ party despite Bruce’s disapproval. (Check out Lindsay Soll’s take on the series’ spot-on ’70s fashion.)
Janet, too, overcame her initial revulsion and came along (to give moral support to Susan, she said). After she met the guest of honor — who told her he’d been paid just $250 for his role in the hugely profitable movie, only to be hit with tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills and the loss of any interest in him from non-porn casting agents —, she warmed to him as well.
Meanwhile, Bruce and Roger were still stuck in the 1950s, bowling together like Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton. Bruce was mystified to come home and find that not only was his wife championing a porn star but she was having her own thoughts and was too busy to cook him dinner. It was like the scene in Pleasantville, where Joan Allen is off discovering herself while William H. Macy comes home for the first time to a darkened house and a cold oven.
The surprise event of the evening turned out to be a living-room screening of the movie. Janet and Roger, once they got over their squeamishness and mystification that a movie that silly could be the source of so much controversy, actually found themselves turned on, and when they went home, they broke their sex-only-every-other-Friday rule for the first time. Bruce and Susan had a rockier homecoming, as he whined that he wanted to know where this was all going, and she said (with her usual candor) that she didn’t know. (Cue Helen Reddy’s ”I Am Woman” on the soundtrack, obvious but effective.)
NEXT: Young love
Reems may even have worked marital magic on his hosts, Tom and Trina, and not just because he inevitably ended up taking the party to the basement. (So far, he’s the only character who has a better mustache than Tom.) Tom reassured Trina that he loved her and that no one would come between them — the way Trina, back when she was a stewardess, had come between Tom and his ex. He also assured her that there’d be no hanky-panky during his Tokyo layovers. We saw the party animals among Tom’s flight crew bring the carousing to his hotel room, but we didn’t see Tom do anything he’d have to apologize to Trina for later. Still, I have a feeling that Trina will start to demand more from Tom — that is, to recognize that even she has limits to what she’ll put up with in her marriage, and that she has the right to demand that Tom respect those limits.
As for the kids, B.J. and Samantha are becoming awfully adorable. B.J. is happy with who he is, unlike Samantha, who said she wished she were Nadia Comaneci (the kids were watching the Romanian gymnast on TV) because then people would think she was perfect. B.J.’s gesture, holding up a ”10.0” sign outside her window, was aw-shucks sweet. Also sweet was Samantha’s reconciliation with her mother (after the latter had unsuccessfully thrown herself at Reems at the party), reassuring Gail that she didn’t think her mom was a bad person, just an unhappy one. Still, the differences in their home lives could mean rough waters ahead for the teenage not-quite-a-couple, as suggested by B.J.’s apprehensive expression looking at Samantha and Gail’s tearful moment.
I’m also not sure where the Laurie-Mr. Stephens relationship is going. His diffidence toward her could be read as an attempt to return to more formal and appropriate teacher-student roles (yeah, good luck there), or an effort to keep his passions in check during the last week of school, or coy flirtation. Laurie was more overt, bringing him late-night doughnuts as he graded papers, but while it was clear where she wanted things to go, she was still on her best behavior. She managed to neutralize her wild-card ex, Logan, who observed that he had the power to get Mr. Stephens fired. Laurie countered that she knew from experience that Logan could be sweet and chivalrous when he wanted to, and that he had the power to do the right thing and let her have what she wanted.
So, what do you think? How long will Logan’s silence last? Did Tom misbehave in Tokyo in ways we weren’t shown? Will Roger stop thinking about Susan now that things are heating back up with Janet? Will Bruce have to learn to love TV dinners? Will Samantha ever truly warm up to B.J.? And where was Rick this week?