Since you were probably watching last night’s awe-inspiring Olympic opening ceremony instead of Swingtown, you missed what was actually one of the most satisfying episodes so far. Nearly everyone’s secrets spilled out, resulting in a lot of awkward silences, bitter confrontations, and cathartic emotional outbursts. All because Bruce’s determination to fix his family (as he stated at the end of last week’s ep) took the form of a seemingly harmless trip to the cabin, which quickly went to hell.
The weekend proved dramatic even for the folks left back home, the Thompsons and Deckers. Janet (Miriam Shor, pictured) and Roger (who had packed Rick off with the Millers so they could have some private time) went to see a shrink, ostensibly because Janet felt Roger was depressed and going through a midlife crisis after losing his job, but the therapist could see that the tightly-wound Janet was undergoing a crisis of her own. Janet stormed out, dragging Roger with her, but she returned the next day and confessed what was really disturbing her: Tom’s attentions (especially that kiss last week) and the sense that, for a moment at least, she had feelings for him, too. Some sage advice from the psychiatrist: Roger won’t feel any less manly if you support him by getting a clerical job, and you should confront Tom about how uncomfortable he’s making you feel.
Janet went to Casa Decker to do just that, but when Trina appeared, Janet got flustered and ended up inviting the couple to dinner. (And despite the role-playing, costume-wearing games that Tom and Trina have been playing to keep their swinging moratorium spicy, they were so bored that they accepted the invite.) The pricelessly awkward dinner party did yield positive results (and I’m not just talking about the saucy way Tom complimented the nuts on Janet’s cheese ball). First, Janet did manage to tell Tom to back off, and he took it like a gentleman. Second, Trina (whose almost as insightful as the Thompson’s shrink) told Roger he needed either to tell Susan how he feels about her (and face the consequences) or get over her. Third, the Deckers realized they were in danger of turning into the dull, domestic Thompsons and quickly ended their moratorium after dinner with a couple of old friends, Anthony and Michelle.
Roger and Susan did spend much of the weekend on the phone; she clearly missed him, too. This tied into some great conversations with Laurie, still appalled by what she saw in the living room last week. She told Susan she didn’t understand how, if Susan still loved Bruce, she could entertain the idea of sex with someone else, and she didn’t buy Susan’s it’s-complicated-and-one-day-you’ll-understand line. For Laurie, it wasn’t complicated; she loves Doug, doesn’t want anyone else, and couldn’t bear to see him with anyone else. She also told Bruce what we observed in this space last week: that he no longer has any moral authority to pass judgment on her. Clueless, arrogant Bruce was to angry to see this, but Susan finally made him realize that if he tried to keep Laurie from seeing Doug, she was only going to act out in dangerous ways. Which she did, by hitchhiking back toward Chicago to see her former teacher and attend a Jackson Browne concert with him. (Did teenage girls ever get excited about mopey Jackson Browne?) Fortunately for Laurie, she was picked up not by an axe murderer but by a wise old lady (hey, it’s Ida Greenberg, the cat-loving, fastball-hurling Wisteria Lane resident killed by the tornado on Desperate Housewives!) who couldn’t remember if she’d been married three or four times, and whose whose salty aphorism about how men are as disposable as light bulbs (the best line of the evening) helped Laurie realize that maybe not all romances last forever — maybe not her parents’ and maybe not even hers and Doug’s. Doug finally proved to Bruce that he was a man of honor by showing up at the diner to pick up the stranded Laurie; tempers were cooled via some soothing pie; and Bruce finally let Laurie go.
I’m still puzzled by what’s going on with Rick. He picked a fight with B.J. over last week’s spin-the-bottle incident. For the third time this series, he got punched out over a girl. Still, after some grappling and wrestling, the boys made up and were soon doing male-bonding stuff again like shooting at cans with a BB gun. I still think Rick is harboring feelings toward B.J. he doesn’t want or even know how to acknowledge (and of course, B.J. has no idea), but it could just be that he misses the friendship he and B.J. used to have before B.J. moved away and met Samantha. Alas, despite the boys’ idyll in the forest, the days of shooting BB guns and building sofa-cushion forts in the basement are probably over for these two.
Questions: Will Roger and Susan ever admit their feelings to each other? Will Roger, who fished the psychiatrist’s phone number out of the trash where Janet threw it, see the shrink on the sly? What’s up with Rick? Is trouble looming for Laurie and Doug? Why did the producers pick a Jackson Browne song from 1977 that hadn’t been recorded yet (“Running on Empty”) for this week’s episode title and final montage, instead of, say, 1976’s “The Pretender,” which is all about the failures of love and the emptiness of life in suburbia? Who among you had tonight’s episode in the pool for when the Deckers would start swinging again? And are Anthony and Michelle the first black people we’ve seen on this show?