One Mississippi episode 2: Showrunner Kate Robin recaps
One Mississippi, a semi-autobiographical show from comedian Tig Notaro, dropped its first six episodes Sept. 9 on Amazon. To guide us through our binging, the cast and crew will be taking EW behind the scenes. They’ll take turns sharing their thoughts on what went into making each episode. Showrunner Kate Robin takes us through episode 2, “Effects.”
The second episode is always the hardest. After the establishing energy of the pilot, the long hiatus, and hiring of writers and a new crew, the show has to re-estabish itself. With One Mississippi, this was even more true of episode 102, “Effects” (which had a number of other titles along the way, as further proof of its protean journey toward its ultimate realization: “Eat Shit and Live,” “The Gift,” and “The Caregiver” among them), than for most. One of the compelling and fresh things about the pilot of One Mississippi is that it feels like an indie film with an intimate journey that has a beginning, middle, and end, and not like a traditional pilot that overtly lays out the template for the series to follow.
The only thing the pilot tells us, regarding future potential stories, is that Tig is going to stay in Mississippi at Bill’s house for “a while.” We don’t know much about the life she’s left, how long she will stay, or how long Brooke will stay. We don’t know where Remy lives, or how big a role he will play in her stories, and most importantly we don’t know why Tig is staying or what she wants to accomplish in Bay St. Lucille. Also, the major emotional events of the pilot are taking Caroline off life support and burying her.
It was very important to Tig and me to hew close to the truth of her emotional state right after her mother died, which was one of shock, grief, and paralysis. This was a tricky thing to dramatize. Our heroine had no drive forward into the rest of the story. What did she want? I felt that, in the same position, I would really want to know what happened to Caroline, how it could have happened, and why. Of course, the last question is unanswerable, but I’d be obsessed with the desire to find an answer anyway. For me, this was the crucial drive of the episode. It was an unusual/unorthodox motivation for a TV character because it was internal and existential. It was difficult to convince our network executive team that it was interesting and valid because they think in terms of external actions. And of course, many viewers may be more engaged with external drives as well. But I love the kinds of stories in which characters’ struggle toward awareness is more important than whether or not they accomplish a given thing.
After many development conversations, we arrived at an episode that worked for all of us. The external objectives for Tig were her need to rescue her radio show from Anja, the crappy sub who’s been covering for her, as well as the need to deal with Caroline’s stuff. I interwove my more esoteric interest in Tig’s need for an explanation for her mother’s random fatal accident. The other dynamic that interested me on a deeper level was her unconscious belief that Bill should have saved Caroline because this was his essential role in the family. Throughout the episode Tig becomes aware that she has always seen Bill as a caretaker of the wild and sometimes reckless Caroline. The fact that he failed in this unacknowledged role has created a subtle resentment in Tig but is in fact causing Bill great pain. (I brought my own emotional life to this. I’m unconsciously always looking for someone to blame when things go wrong, because of my own family history. Real Tig is actually not like this at all and she had no resentment of her father-in-law when her mother died).
In the episode when fictional Tig — in the writer’s room we referred to her as Fictig, or Fig, to distinguish her from the real Tig, who does not or did not do all the things or behave in all the ways we have her play like she does/did — realizes all this, she sees how much Bill is trying to take care of her, now that Caroline is gone. Increasingly concerned about Tig’s health, he makes an appointment with a C Diff specialist in near-ish New Orleans and takes her himself when she says she doesn’t want to go. (Real Tig did not actually have a Fecal Transfer. She was finally able to turn her life-threatening C Diff around with a course of pre and probiotic supplements recommended by her girlfriend’s nutritionist, as we mention in the episode.)
That was actually another challenge of 102: In my first draft, Brooke was still in Mississippi and she was the one who dragged Tig to the doctor. I’m obsessed with the character of Brooke and the hilarious and moving way she is brought to life by Casey Wilson, so I loved that element of the episode. (I relate to Brooke!) But then we realized we had made a scheduling error regarding Casey’s availability, and the only way we could shoot that version of the script was to shoot it way out of order, which felt like the wrong thing to do given that we were already crossboarding (shooting two episodes at once) and that the second episode was so emotionally connected to the pilot.
In that version, Tig’s awareness of her expectations of Bill as a caretaker was catalyzed by a fight with Brooke in which Brooke angrily points out that Tig has put her in the same role that Caroline made Bill play: the responsible nurturing and annoying parental figure that Tig/Caroline can rebel against. It was the same realization we dramatize in the current version, but it was a little easier to get Tig to it when it was articulated by Brooke. Also, we liked how much Tig was forced to deal with Bill and Remy when she didn’t have Brooke there as an escape island.
Anyway, I could go on, obviously forever about every detail but I think I’ve written enough meta-commentary about episode 102!
Be sure to return to EW.com on Sunday for a dive into episode 3, “The Cat’s Out,” by Cara Diapaolo, the episode’s writer.