During a heatwave and blackout, the out-of-work Roger seeks comfort from Susan, while Bruce faces temptation in the city; meanwhile, Trina gets jealous
Josh Hopkins, Swingtown, ...

‘Swingtown’ recap: Things heat up

Hey there, TV Watchers! Gary, your usual Swingtown master of ceremonies, is on vacay, so I’ll be taking care of you for the next couple of weeks. And what an episode to kick off my short-term engagement. I’m just gonna put it out there: I think this was the best one so far (though watching Janet finally cut loose thanks to some pot brownies ranks right up there). Lately each episode has been better than the one before, and last night’s truly delivered on the series’ promise of complex relationships and issues that can’t possibly be resolved in 47 minutes. Equally impressive was Josh Hopkins’ performance as Roger. Much has been made of the Swingtown ladies’ acting chops, but Hopkins stole the show last night (and he doesn’t look bad in a pair of swim trunks either!). He’s gone from being Janet’s doting timid, husband to a dynamic character I can’t wait to see. What he can convey in one longing glance is just remarkable. And there was definitely no shortage of emotion to express last night. As Bruce so aptly told nubile newbie Melinda, ”It’s all about relationships.” While some were just starting to blossom, others were showing signs of wear.

While a heat wave suffocated the Chicago suburbs, Tom was getting in his own brand of hot water back in Tokyo, spending his layover with the flight crew, including chipper stewardess Bobbi. (I’m not sure how to spell her name, but she just seems like Bobbi with an i, right?) When Trina called to check in, it was blond Bobbi who answered, leading Trina to assume the worst — which ended up coming true. Tom had indeed cheated on Trina, but not because he slept with Bobbi (she was on ”the list,” after all), but because he wasn’t open and honest about it. On this point, I cry foul. Last week Trina had no problem steaming up the sheets with her ex, who she so obviously still had feelings for. Even though Tom said it was all right, didn’t it seem less of a threesome and more of a dirty duo with him playing third fiddle? I felt slimy just watching. She may not have cheated on Tom ”technically” according to the swingers’ rulebook, but she sure cheated on him emotionally.

Meanwhile, Roger was keeping his own secret from Janet. It had been five days, and he still hadn’t told her he was laid off from his unfulfilling insurance sales job. Hoping to lessen the blow by finding a new position first, Roger let Janet continue taking him to the train station so he could hunt for a job surreptitiously. Inevitably the couple ran into the Millers at the depot, giving Janet ample opportunity to boast about Roger’s supposed promotion. ”Things are looking up,” she chirped. ”Who knows, maybe we’ll be neighbors again soon.” Or maybe not. Roger and Susan exchanged several knowing glances (the first of many to come). Janet found out soon enough, though, when her check to Marshall Fields failed to clear. (Did checks turn around that quickly in the ’70s? What happened to float?) After a few sleuthy phone calls, Janet discovered Roger had been fired and headed down to his office to get an explanation from the boss.

With nowhere else to go after his unsuccessful job interview, Roger stopped by the Millers’ to have the tête-à-tête with the wallpaper-hanging, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar Susan that he should have been having with his own wife. Several sexual-tension-filled moments ensued until Roger offered to fix the Millers’ broken air conditioner (Was I the only one who was holding her breath when Roger leaned in to Susan and started telling her the second reason he came? I thought he was going to confess some hidden feelings right then and there — and I think Susan did too.) Just as Roger resuscitated the dead AC (we found out he spent a year as a engineering major at UIC), the city’s entire power grid shut down, leaving Bruce stranded at a bar with Melinda and nothing for Roger and Susan to do but head over to the Deckers’ pool party across the street.

NEXT: Trina’s sexual revenge

As the pair joined the already-in-progress bash, Trina was getting a little revenge on Tom by cuddling up to his fellow pilot Rex, who she discovered was an amateur shutterbug like herself. Tom quickly tried to put the kibosh on their flirtation, but without a leg to stand on (considering he did sleep with the stewardess). The Deckers called a truce, deciding to ”revisit the rules” and stop inviting third parties to their bed — for the time being. While the Deckers rethought their swinging status, it appeared Roger was having his own second thoughts about monogamy as he sat oh so close to Susan poolside. ”I think I can see why you and Bruce went for it,” he told her. After several more awkward moments — including a delicate touch on Susan’s sunburned shoulder — the two were caught laughing and smiling by Trina’s all-seeing Nikon. It would seem that Trina was on to them.

Back in Chicago, lubricated by several drinks (and the romantic candlelit barroom?) Melinda offered herself and her nearby apartment to Bruce. ”Can’t you see what’s right in front of you?” she asked. Though he balked, the scene ended before we heard a definitive answer, which made his out-of-sorts arrival home even more intriguing. Was he frazzled because of something he did? Or because of something he almost did?

Roger finally met up back home with a frazzled Janet, who had turned to her life’s comfort — housework — to pass the hours until her husband’s arrival. Janet was rightfully hurt that Roger hadn’t confided in her, though I’m sure she would have been even more hurt had she known he had confided in Susan. As Roger noted, the Millers are ”the Joneses,” and it seems poor Janet just can’t keep up, whether it be in finances or as her husband’s confidante (which Susan is becoming more and more). Janet finally abated Roger’s fears: ”Whatever you need,” she said, ”that’s what I want for you.”

While the adults worked through their relationship difficulties, Laurie joined Teach, a.k.a. Doug, for a softball game. Well, to watch his softball game in her ridiculous plaid bikini top and too-short shorts. Left in the hands of Doug’s friend Liz, Laurie discovered her would-be boyfriend had been offered his dream job as a faculty member at Laurie’s high school, though ”something” was keeping him from accepting. Laurie invited herself back to Doug’s apartment later that night, though smartly, Doug declined (perhaps the first smart move in this idiotic pairing). We’ll have to wait and see what Doug’s potential position means for the budding romance.

The final moments of last night’s episode spoke volumes without saying a word: Susan sat on the floor gazing out the window while caressing her shoulder — the same spot Roger had touched hours earlier. Oh, juicy goodness.

In addition to Hopkins’ spot-on acting last night, I also appreciated the bits of backstory woven throughout the narrative. We not only found out about Roger’s former engineering ambitions, but we also discovered Bruce used to have a job pumping gas. It was only with the help of a well-connected customer that Bruce landed his first job at the exchange. Obviously these humble beginnings contribute to Bruce’s desire for upward mobility. I wonder what else we will discover about these characters and their pasts. Did Trina have an icy-cold father, which now leads her to seek comfort in many men? Perhaps Janet’s mom was institutionalized for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Okay, this isn’t Desperate Housewives. Sorry.

What did you think about last night’s episode, TV Watchers? How long will it be before Roger and Susan hook up? Will Janet join in? Will Trina ever get over Tom’s ”betrayal”? Do you think Bruce slept with Melinda? And hasn’t it been nice having a break from the whole B.J. and Samantha subplot?

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