Is there a rule against recappers picking a favorite episode? Because I think “The Sand Situation” is probably my new favorite. Wasn’t it nice to see everyone back on-screen together? And, did you also realize you’ve just been waiting your whole life to see Melanie Lynskey lose her mind with rage? Also, I said the other week that Brett’s electric car was the big leitmotif of this show. But I think a close runner-up would have to be sand.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. We begin at the building that allegedly will hold a charter school one day but is still mostly just empty industrial space and holey ceilings. Brett and Michelle are both there — apparently since they got kicked out of Alex’s, the boys have been storing all the various puppetry ephemera there instead. Michelle speaks for so many of us when she rolls her eyes and mutters, “Stupid-ass Dune.”
She’s running a charter school meeting and trying to explain to the people assembled what the deal is: that Anna had wanted to turn the whole shebang into a private school which Anna didn’t have the authority to do. But, uh-oh, Anna is right there! With an evil look on her face, too. Anna tells the now-confused crowd that she has all the funding to turn the school into a dual immersion French school (haha, bien sûr). She calls for a vote to change the charter into Anna’s name. And it just gets worse! This broad wants to screw Michelle at every turn — she tries hard to make Michelle look scatterbrained and incompetent as she points out, in front of the crowd, that Michelle doesn’t even have a curriculum (never mind that it was Anna’s job to come up with one, ugh).
For a brief moment, Michelle looks defeated. Then she takes a breath, looks out the window and sees the boys and the Dune puppets. I guess Dune really is inspiring because she starts telling the crowd to check out some examples of the arts and humanity curriculum she has in mind for her school. She calls Alex and Brett in, and, bless them, they vamp it up and spout nonsense about how the school would engage all the senses and throw words around like “renaissance” and the like, which is just catnip to the modern helicopter parent.
Afterward, Brett is all hey, what the hell? Michelle points out it is in his best interest to help because, if they lose this fight, their kids are screwed; they certainly cannot afford private school. He reminds her that she can thank stupid-ass Dune for this! He also realizes they need to get the show up and running by that Saturday night, so they’re going to need a lot of sand. Where does sand live? Oh yeah, the beach. The idea is to gather up as many people as possible to go steal some sand and help create a magical learning kingdom. (Sandworms not included, I hope.)
So the next thing you know, there’s a moving truck and a lot of bright, eager faces showing up to volunteer, including Dudley (yay!) and, uh-oh, Uber girl Natalie. She’s super cute and carefree; she didn’t even know this was Brett’s thing — she’s a friend of Dudley’s. Of course. And to those of you reading this who don’t live in big cities and think this is a ridiculous coincidence, let me tell you — these small circles totally exist, and in fact, the odds of running randomly into your latest hookup are more likely than you could ever possibly imagine.
None of this is comforting to Brett, who looks like he’s about to wet himself or worse. They’re all in the back of a van, and Alex is dancing along like a clown, and Natalie is watching the ease with which Michelle and Brett sit beside one another. He’s also wearing a wedding ring, which I’m assuming Natalie hasn’t seen because I think Brett was going pocket-full-of-gold up until this point.
Alex asks Michelle to dance with him. But she refuses, and Natalie volunteers because, guys, that’s just so Natalie, right? She’s so darn appealing, in fact, that even Michelle comments on how cute she is.
They pull up to a parking lot of a public beach. Michelle is personally thanking everyone for coming and introduces herself to Natalie. She then turns to introduce Natalie to Brett, and Brett — completely shadily, he is unused to deception — mutters something about how they’ve met already. Yeow.
So they’re shoveling sand into barrels, which is most definitely illegal, and Dudley is on the lookout for cops while using a child’s walkie-talkie. Alex essentially says, Hey, that chick Natalie is hot; what’s the deal? Brett explains the totally FUBR-ness of the entire situation. Even Alex thinks he’s hosed.
When the cops swing by, through, the group hilariously improvises a beach exercise class, with Alex as the leader, and you can just see, after they succeed, that this is a bunch of thirtysomethings who are downright thrilled to their tippy toes with their own daring. Hey, we all need to shake it up now and again, right?
Natalie finds a quiet moment to find Brett and be like, Sooooo, anyway… She’s fantastic about this whole situation. Of course, it’s Natalie! And part of the wonder/horror of Natalie is that she does indeed seem very cool and chill and has great rapport with Brett. But but but. You know.
NEXT: Michelle rages, and it’s a sight to see (especially for all you Emmy voters!)
Meanwhile Michelle is filling Alex in on Tina’s new baby craze and how she’s worried Tina will do something Tina-like, a.k.a. crazy. They both watch as Tina wildly flirts with some dude on the beach.
Okay I must digress here: Said dude, Colin, is played by Todd Louiso! This is important to know because he is a very talented actor (you might remember him from films like High Fidelity) and writer (he co-wrote last year’s Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender), but most importantly, at least for me, is that he directed the absolutely wonderful 2012 film Hello I Must Be Going. You know who starred in that movie? Melanie Lynskey. She is absolutely incredible in it, of course. This movie is so so so so good. If you like Togetherness or just enjoy good things, I really recommend you take a look. In fact, here is the Amazon link. Do yourself a favor.
Moving on. Alex figures out some reason to separate Tina from Colin, and she’s basically like, Can a sister live? He tells her to slow her roll and to pace herself. She gets instantly mad, and I wish these guys would just make out.
The great sand caper hits a bump when Brett and Michelle realize they have no ramp to load these incredibly heavy barrels into a truck. This is bad for them but good for us because Brett and Michelle are forced to be cute together as they problem solve their way out of this. Their solution is insane, and it involves a swing set. But, whatever, a corporate retreat couldn’t dream up such a good group-bonding exercise. It was around this point of the episode that I started thinking that maybe the sand is supposed to be a metaphor for something, like how light and inconsequential we are on our own but how impressively heavy we are when we are together. Or how in life there are no ramps. Or marriage is supposed to be the barrel. Or maybe it’s the swing set that must be strong enough to endure the weight. Or maybe it’s just sand, and I was drinking wine while watching this because I’m sad this show is ending. You decide.
Everyone is pumped this lunatic plan is working, and they’re singing a silly song about sand and dancing around. So they can’t hear Dudley frantically trying to signal them that they are about to be busted by the cops. He decides to take take one for the team, so he pulls down his pants and starts peeing in the street — acting drunk and nuts; he has experience with both — and manages to get the cops to flash the lights and save the expedition. Dudley, I knew you were a hero. When Brett drives by and sees him getting handcuffed, they share a deep look of Dune understanding. Men!
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Alex won’t let Colin into his car, and Tina is furious. But it’s still so nice to see them together, even if they’re fighting. He’s like, you are being sloppy and gross and clearly trying to get randomly pregnant. She points out he’s been MIA for months and has a lot of nerve telling her anything. He tells her she has better sperm options, and she starts dying laughing as she comes to the conclusion that we, the smart audience, came to last week: They should totally get pregnant together. The laughing is a little rough, as is her description that Alex’s sperm probably look like Jon Lovitz, which is an image I cannot erase from my brain. Alex takes the time to go into a lecture about why Greeks are the best, and the whole thing is very charming, and oh, man: I love this show.
But any lighthearted anything quickly disappears as we get back to the school. Michelle watches Brett cross the parking lot with great affection, which is replaced with great rage as she sees him kiss Natalie. Michelle is no dummy! She instantly figures this whole situation out and takes off like a mythological warrior. God, she’s so mad. This is so hard to watch but yet so satisfying and so impressive. Melanie Lynskey is truly transformed by rage. She pushes him; she curses at him; her voice is in an entirely different vocal register as she is consumed by anger and raw pain. Brett, rightly, is completely freaked out.
He raises some weak objections to her being mad, lamely going with the whole who-cheated-on-whom-first thing, but she’s not to be stopped. She’s furious he made her look foolish by pretending not to know Natalie. And she tells him that he doesn’t get to do this anymore. He no longer can judge her. She tells him, every word full of suffering, that the last two months she’s done everything she could to keep the family together. She starts to cry, those kinds of tears where you are so mad and sad your body cannot keep up, telling him about how she’d think all the time about how she ruined things, how she broke them, and how she went to sleep at night thinking of him at Alex’s house. “And you were in some 17-year-old’s p—y.” Damn, Michelle. Sing it! She says, suddenly very calm and composed, “I really hope you are having a good time sleeping at Alex’s. Because I am done. That’s where you live now.” Man. (Emmy voters, please remember this scene! Give it all to Lynskey! Or Peet! Can they share?)
The camera pans out, and we see that Alex and Tina are standing there, watching all this go down. They also look devastated.
Next we see where all of our heroes (except Dudley) are trying to sleep. Michelle is too mad. Alex watches Brett looking rather destroyed on the couch across from him. Tina, bless her, is completely out and snoring. Classic. But she is woken up by the knocking on the door. It’s Alex. He gives her a plaintive look. She gives him the finger. But she goes out to the porch to talk to him.
They agree that in a million years they never imagined they’d be in this spot with Brett and Michelle and feel as though their world is crumbling. Alex tells her he also wants to apologize. He acknowledges he’s been freezing Tina out and is completely honest: He was hurt; he was jealous; he was angry. But he wants to be her friend now more than ever. Amanda Peet has never looked more gorgeous, with her eyes filling up as she smiles at him.
One episode left. Ugh, my heart.