First let me start by saying that I am so happy that this show is back. I was a fan of last season but now that I’ve watched a good bit of season 2, let me assure you that you can all happily buckle up and get ready, because things get really, really good. Also apologies in advance for what will surely be many, many times that I blah blah blah about how incredible the cast is, and all my worshipping at the feet of Melanie Lynskey who can, in my humble opinion, do no wrong.
Anyway, let’s dive in, shall we? We open with a tangle of limbs and hot and heavy sex sounds. Who could it be? It’s Alex! And he’s wearing a heavy wig and vampire fangs and he’s with a super hot lady in his trailer. Alex is in a trailer! And now he’s being called to set where it becomes quickly clear he’s like a high school senior, all high fives and chatty with everyone and a real swagger to his step.
He’s told he’s got some fans waiting and he, of course, believes that. But no! It’s Michelle and Brett and Tina and Larry there for his birthday. It’s all a bit awkward from jump, between Alex being all Hollywood (he calls at least two different people “captain”) and Brett passively choking back irritation that Alex hasn’t been calling him while in New Orleans and Tina smiling so brightly her face is in danger of cracking in half.
The friends gather in video village — we learn the production is called Blood Red which is pretty freakin’ great — and Alex enters in a haze of dry ice and green-screen tights. Tina barely can stifle a laugh. But everyone’s amusement at the absurdity of the situation is silenced when they see Alex do some inspired emoting. Everyone is impressed and yet Alex asks for another take because his partner in the scene stepped on his line. Ruh-roh.
Back at the hotel Brett comments on this, that people seem almost afraid of Alex. Michelle, meanwhile, is afraid of being in a hotel as it’s giving her some serious PTSD. And why is that? Well, we see in her memory what we didn’t at the end of season 1: that she did indeed give in to her crush. According to the memory the sex seemed to be pretty good and hot which, let’s face it, it usually is when you are having an affair in a hotel room after years of some pent-up sexual longing. However, before the sweat cools, you see Michelle’s face morph into a giant OH NO shape. We also see the incredibly bad timing of Brett showing up with his new enthusiasm for life and marriage the very next day (better than during the night, I suppose). Poor Michelle. This woman can’t take one tiny step off the righteous path for a second.
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Tina, meanwhile, is on the hunt for a birthday present for Alex that will somehow convey that she does love and value him and doesn’t want to lose his friendship even though he declared his love for her and she spurned him. No, she doesn’t say all that — but we know it. While helping Tina shop, Michelle can’t take it and all the guilt she’s feeling bubbles right up and she practically screams, “I slept with David!” One of the many things I love about this show is this nuanced and very realistic relationship between these two sisters. Like how there’s an instant silent agreement that they’re going to switch roles: It’s Michelle turn to fall apart while Tina takes a turn keeping it together.
Michelle tells Tina that Brett is now campaigning for World’s Best Husband (he did order up fries and pie!), and it’s so hard to keep it in, she thinks she needs to tell Brett the truth. Tina, who has been around this particular sticky block is all, listen up: “Keep your f—ing mouth shut.” Lots of debates to be had here as to whether or not that is the right advice (I’ve had at least three debates in the last few days), but let’s move on because at this very same moment Brett enters the store and these two sisters can’t keep their cool at all. Brett is oblivious.
NEXT: An awkward dinner followed by awkward karaoke
At dinner Alex is very dapper and engages in totally unacceptable acts of PDA with the comely lass we saw in the first scene. Her name is Christy, and let me tell you: She is incredible. Or, rather, props to actress Ginger Gonzaga, who manages to just nail that perfect flavor of I’m-super-hot-but-let’s-call-each-other-dude-and-I-like-burgers-and-beer-and-lots-of-sex kind of vibe. It’s just wonderful. Michelle and Brett tell Alex what they got him — an original It’s a Wonderful Life poster with a Jimmy Stewart autograph (of course Alex loves this movie!) — and then Christy gives him a smart watch so they can sync their watches together (blech) and Tina has total gift panic. She unconvincingly pretends the store gave her the wrong gift and then bullies the poor store owner to selling her the giant and clunky antique compass that costs $4,200.
When she gets back, sweaty and triumphant, everyone looks at her like they have a lot more they’d like to say, but not Alex because he and Christy are clearly off in the bathroom having sex. They all decide to keep the party going (poor Larry is clearly desperate to go home) and Tina insists on carrying the crazy compass around through the French Quarter.
Brett and Alex fall in step together and skirt around the issue that Brett is mad that Alex hasn’t been checking in with him. He tells Alex how he laid it all out there when he got to Sacramento — he thinks Michelle was hesitant to believe all that he said (Oh Brett, we know that’s not why) but he feels fantastic.
At karaoke Christy kills it on “Back That A– Up” (of course), and Tina asks Larry to duet with her on a little “Leather and Lace” (sidenote: It can’t just be me that had about a thousand mix tapes with this jam on it, right?). But she’s called to the stage while Larry is in the bathroom (oh, Larry) and she starts doing the song on her own, panic skittering at the edge of her perky, forced good cheer. (Amanda Peet, you can’t fool me: You clearly have a very good voice.) Christy urges Alex to get up there and rescue her and the two of them, duetting, is ridiculously charming. Christy, no fool, does not like the looks of this one bit. Larry, out of the bathroom, is clueless. The pianist tells them they have something special at the end. Woof.
Brett tells Michelle he wants to take a walk, and they head into the night holding hands. It’s sweet, but Michelle looks like she has an ocean of guilt crashing down on her to the point where it’s almost hard to watch. Brett really is being so nice to her; he begins to deliver a pretty speech about how this — his new attitude toward life and marriage — is the real thing. (You can tell Michelle thought he was about to bust her, because that’s how guilty people feel all the time. It’s terrible!) Brett pulls a ring out of his pocket and, my goodness, Melanie Lynskey’s face in this scene is simply incredible as her emotions struggle to take facial dominance. It also looks like she may just barf all over him.
Back at the hotel Tina gooses Alex in the hallway and tries to act casual, but she’s dead serious when she asks him, “What is your deal?” They have one of those weird conversations about the compass and the price and saying thank you — all the sorts of things you talk about when you aren’t having the real conversation you should be having — till Tina comes right out and says things feel weird and she misses having him and declares him her best friend.
Alex pretends not to get it for a second till he admits that it’s not easy to be around her. I think Tina genuinely doesn’t know why — or at least won’t allow herself to know. “You broke my heart,” he says finally. And finally, Tina seems to grasp just how big a deal that really is and that maybe getting back to normal is not an option.