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. Here, writer Cara DiPaolo takes us through episode 3, “The Cat’s Out.”
Well, the cat’s out of the bag, folks — both in the literal sense (poor Bonkerz!) and the figurative one (Caroline! Who saw that coming?).
Part of the challenge and beauty of working on this show is that it’s a real blend of truth and fiction. The challenge being that Tig, and all of us writers, really want to be respectful of the people upon whom many of the characters are based, but we also want to tell a compelling story. Sometimes that lands us into prickly territory — as is the case of this episode with Caroline (based on Tig’s real mom) having a (SPOILER ALERT) secret love-child (totally made up).
And then there’s Mick (played by the amazing Ritchie Montgomery), who is based on Tig’s actual dad (who sadly passed away during the filming of the pilot). And yes, he did claim to have been part of the Dixie Mafia. And yes, it’s unclear if the Dixie Mafia was a real thing or just a bunch of his weird pals putting on airs of criminality. But either way, it makes for a great story.
On a brief tangent, I have to say that Tig is a veritable fount of great stories. I’ve never met someone whose every day existence is so organically cinematic. It’s almost like she’s not a real person — just a compilation of amazing scenes in a riveting movie. I’m not kidding. She only seems to know weird and interesting people and her life is literally chock-full of unexpected twists and turns. Almost every time she told a story in our writers’ room, we’d be like “let’s just shoot that. It’s perfect.”
Anyway, back to business. The thing I really loved about writing this episode was the opportunity to delve deeper into both of Tig’s fictional father figures. Up until now, Bill seemed pretty much devoid of emotion. I would even go so far as to say he was a robot. His upset over Bonkerz absence felt like the first real sign of a person in there. And though it’s hard for Tig to wrap her head around him expressing more dismay over the cat getting out than her mother’s death, the audience is able see in that touching private moment of Bill alone in bed, that his grief for Caroline is both real and deep. (On a side note, can we take a moment to celebrate the great John Rothman? He’s truly a national treasure.)
RELATED: Hear what TV shows to watch and avoid this fall
Then, on the other end of the spectrum (literally) we have Tig’s biological father, who never appears to have an emotion he doesn’t express publicly. Mick seems to feel everything too deeply. And though he and Bill couldn’t be more opposite in that respect, they are alike in the way that neither of them are able to really connect with Tig and Remy, which is something I found both sad and interesting.
The other thing that excited me about this episode is, of course, Tig discovering her half-brother. What I found most intriguing about Dalton — beyond his droll, deadpan delivery of shocking dark truths — is the bigger picture idea of what he represents; no matter how close you may think you are to a person, you can never truly know them. (I even feel sometimes like I don’t know myself. But that’s a story for another time… over drinks… and a secret smoke.)
The puzzle of who Caroline is/was is something that carries us throughout the season. In flashbacks we see her as this irreverent, fun, larger-than-life woman but it feels at odds with the person who, we assume, willingly married someone as boring, practical, and literal-minded as Bill. It’s true (for me, anyway) that the revelation of the long-term affair sheds some light onto Caroline’s relationship with Bill, but it still doesn’t explain why she stayed with him for so many years. It’s all so frustratingly unknowable! (Or perhaps a revelation for season 2?)
The last thing I want to say about this episode is how moved I was by Tig’s performance in the final scene when she looks down at her scars for the first time. This was a real thing for her. After her mastectomy she couldn’t/wouldn’t look at her scars for many weeks. She was afraid she was grotesque… unlovable. I think the honesty of this moment plays so poignantly in her eyes.
She’s facing her ugly truths, in more ways than one.
Be sure to return to EW.com on Monday for a dive into episode 4, “Let the Good Times Roll” by Noah Harpster, who plays Tig’s brother Remy.