”Tell Me You Love Me” recap: The season finale
Well, it was worth it. All the awkward sex, the dry spells, the rough patches, the things about them that I liked at first and then quickly started to drive me crazy. All those times when I just thought, ”Is this it?” But after 10 episodes of thoroughly strange TV, I can honestly say I’d do it all over again.
There wasn’t a minute wasted in the finale, and I’m even including scenes with Jamie. I’ve griped throughout the season that she is a waste of screen time, and that even if she did embody some of the smug obliviousness of one’s 20s, her character was, as she put it, a blob. But at least her plot finally kicked up a notch in this last episode. As misguided as you might have found her and Hugo’s reunion, as ill conceived as their giggling decision to pool all their cash and get hitched at the justice of the peace was, at least there were some stakes finally involved. The writers made a big mistake by shedding Hugo for so much of the season and leaving Jamie’s mush character to hold up the story line alone.
May, mirroring distracted, vaguely disdainful viewers everywhere, looked as if she wanted to slide out of her chair in protest when faced with a final private session with Jamie. Reeling from the news that her former flame had died of a heart attack, the good doc wobbled into the office to tend to her broken flock. But then Jamie started chirping out fortune-cookie pronouncements about the sheer miraculousness of running into Hugo again at the very gas station where they had broken up. In May’s first passive-aggressive moment of the season, she sharply wondered if bumping into each other at your neighborhood filling station is truly a sign of destiny or just the glowing sign of your Saturn’s gas gauge hitting empty. ”More like fate,” snapped Jamie, uninterested in having May shake up her snow-globe version of romance.
Insisting that she was a stronger, bolder, better person after, what, two weeks alone, she shrugged off May’s shrewd observation that ”if you’re so sure, I don’t think you’d be sitting here selling me so hard.” Therapists just don’t understand! Undeterred, Jamie left a scrawled marriage proposal to Hugo under his windshield. We left them snuggling and giggling on a justice of the peace pew, looking like a couple of small-town teenagers high on hormones and visions of picket fences and happily ever after. I’ve had more faith in couples from MTV’s Engaged & Underage.
Oh, but there was a season’s worth of rage and pathos in Carolyn and Palek’s scenes tonight. She started off the evening roaring like a wounded lion, begging him not to walk out of their relationship and then plunging in the dagger that he’s just like his worm father. (A minor criticism, but Walger’s British accent was waving its flag throughout this scene.) The mean streak that runs through her is fast and furious, but surely even Carolyn’s biggest critics melted at the ocean of tears that pooled in her eyes as she blocked the door. Palek, who seemed destroyed by his own unhappiness and willful insistence on following in his father’s footsteps, had a brilliant interaction with Dave that artfully summed up his season of frustration. Furious about a botched supply of steel, he cruelly took it out on Dave in his Paddington Bear jacket. ”What do you want?” yelled Dave. ”I want what I ordered!” Palek spat back. ”You don’t know what you ordered!” screamed the older and wiser man. Palek is lost, and all his money and style hasn’t made the adult demands of marriage any more manageable. He doesn’t know what he wants or how to go about getting it. So he acted like a d— and took it out on Dave’s poor Volvo.
Later, with a mile of couch between them, Carolyn brought out the big guns in May’s office, announcing that Palek would never see their baby, he’d never have a relationship with their child, and he was going to end up a more hated father than even his own. But she slunk over to his ma’s house later — the irony! — and apologized for her brutality. She loves him, he loves her. But, Palek wrongly summed up, love has nothing to do with this. Love does matter though, if only because it got him to the hospital after he learned of Carolyn’s miscarriage. She tried to slap him away, insisting that she didn’t need him as she shrugged back into her sad clothes. But in his first good move in weeks, he was impervious to her protestations and remained by her side. She got into bed looking like a lost little girl, and he insisted on curling up next to her. Both of them ended up broken, but at least they were finally partners in their grief and confusion.
NEXT: Katie and Dave have a breakthrough
What a relief then that Katie and Dave barreled out of their tunnel of darkness. The two took their newly separated friend to Jamie’s restaurant, the Mix — which is really a hammy, dumb name for the place our couples intersect — where Katie gave our twentysomething couple quite the once-over. First, she shyly checked out Hugo, unsure if he would see her as a comely cougar or a scrim of a woman in a turtleneck sweater. After they paid their check, she looked at Jamie with curious sorrow. Poor Katie, so unsure of her place in the world. (The scene was well acted on all parts, and I admire what the writers were going for. But Katie’s prolonged examination of a younger woman, looking for remnants of her own lost youth, felt a little too stagy and forced.)
Katie finally melted down at May’s. She’s old. She’s unmoored. She can’t blame the kids for their nonexistent sex life. They simply don’t know each other anymore. In one of the best lines of the series, May talked her down from the ledge. ”A therapist can turn a light on,” she cooed. ”The trick now is not to be so stunned by the glare that you want to turn it off.” Back at home, Katie swore again that she wished she’d never forced them into therapy and then dared Dave to finally up and leave her. But when she stormed off to the numbing comfort of the fridge — the light from the opened door a nice play on May’s wise warning — he stormed after her and planted a wet one on her mouth. No more talking for these two. She followed him back into the bedroom and dared to whip off her T-shirt. (So there is an actress left in Hollywood with a real body? Hats off to you, Ally Walker.) She climbed up on Dave, and he forced her hand down her pants. It was her job to tend to her body, and he would take care of his own needs. The scene was long, too long probably, and maybe even too realistic. Those squawks will echo in my head for a while. But it also left me in tears to see these two fall into each other’s arms and rejoice at their breakthrough while Janis Joplin hallelujah’d in the background. It’s a wonderful thing to compare Dave’s shameful masturbation scene at the season’s beginning with the couple’s triumphant diddle in the finale. She earned that orgasm.
And now, tender hearts, an idea for the second season. By all means, bring back formidable May. But how about throwing mysterious Bella (what is cooking underneath her roiling surface?), Mason, and Palek’s mother into her office. This way we can keep tabs on our initial couples — Carolyn, get help! — while moving forward into new territory. Or is the wiser move to start over altogether, jettisoning all but May?
What did you all think of the finale? How long do you give Hugo and Jamie’s marriage? Was that a tearful last moment together for Carolyn and Palek, or the mournful first day of the rest of their lives? What did you think of Katie and Dave’s reunion? Would you tune in for a second season? And how would you cast May’s next waiting room?