Saturday, October 3, 2015

REVIEW: 'Blunt Talk' - Jim Takes Over the Show as Walter & Rosalie Wander the Desert in 'Meth or No Meth, You Still Gotta Floss'

Starz's Blunt Talk - Episode 1.07 "Meth or No Meth, You Still Gotta Floss"

Walter joins Rosalie on a mission to find her missing husband. Meanwhile, Jim must step into Walter's shoes.

"Meth or No Meth, You Still Gotta Floss" is probably the strongest episode of Blunt Talk so far. And yet, that's completely because it's an episode not really about Walter at all. This episode is about Rosalie and Jim. Walter plays an important part in both of their stories and reaches some significant character developments too. But he doesn't distract from what this episode sets out to do. It takes Walter out of the show for a little bit in order to help his friend in her time of need. He puts aside his various eccentricities and neurotic tendencies in order to search for Teddy. This episode takes away all the outlandish hijinks in order to tell stories about its characters. That is much appreciated.

There is a couple of meaningful character transformations in this episode. Whether they will be changes that stick or not for the remainder of the season is yet to be seen. And yet, this episode proves that it is taking these characters on a journey this season. Sure, it's not all that subtle what the show is trying to do. Teddy was introduced having these newfound memory problems. Jim's problems with hoarding have been exposed to the office leaving him uncertain of how to act. Walter has been trying to be a better person after his arrest but has found his vices to be just as tempting as before. All the plots that happen in this episode are expected of the show. Walter has prioritized the show over many things in his life - including his children. Him choosing something else had to carry a significant weight to it. The depth of Walter and Rosalie's relationship hasn't been explored all that well by the show in its first six episodes. And yet, it is perfectly understandable why he tags along with her on this mission to find Teddy - although it works better in theory than in execution.

Walter chooses to stay with Rosalie and miss doing his show for the first time ever. That's a huge moment for his character progression of being a better human being. It also comes about in the spur of the moment. He doesn't spend a lot of time anguishing over the decision and seeking out counsel from Harry or his therapist. He just does it without question. That's how strong his love for Rosalie is. He knows that something is going on with Teddy and knows that he has to be there to support Rosalie in this difficult time. He knows that this is something personal that she has to deal with. All he has to do is be supportive. He does that too. He doesn't get in her way of finding Teddy because his desires and vices come into play. The only time that creeps into the narrative is when the two of them are pulled over for driving through a red light. It's something that happens and allows for some physical humor of the two trying to change seats in the car. But it's not something that overwhelms the show to the point of becoming annoying.

All of this is leading up to Rosalie acknowledging that Teddy may be developing dementia. This race around town that leads them out into the desert has been very eye-opening for her. Sure, it's told a little broadly. He is eventually found in a pool in the desert fully dressed simply because he was hot. That didn't completely feel like the character since earlier Rosalie mentioned his two favorite things are nudity and poetry. Nevertheless, it is a crucial turning point for that relationship. She doesn't want to sit back and watch the love of her life slowly fade away. But there's also nothing she can do right now but spoon him and make him feel safe and comfortable.

Spooning is something this show uses frequently in order to develop connections with its characters. It was initially introduced as something odd that Walter and Rosalie would do whenever he gets stressed about a show. It was played as a joke when the head of HR walked in on them. But here, it has immense value because it establishes a sense of intimacy and comfort. Rosalie doesn't know what will happen with Teddy. But in that embrace she feels better than she has all day. Elsewhere, Jim and Celia do it in order to get Jim ready to host Walter's show. He has been given this wonderful opportunity that comes with great risk. He can't mess up because that could hurt the show and actually get him fired. It's a privilege that Walter asked Jim to do this. Harry gave his services to the new host to make sure that he is camera ready. Jim has a physical transformation in this episode. He cleans up well. He just needs the confidence in order to get the job done. That's how Celia's comfort comes into play.

The show has been directing things slightly towards a Jim-Celia romance. It's been nothing more than subtle but meaningful glances. But here, they do share an intimate moment in the hopes of still making the best show possible. They are in completely new jobs with new responsibilities. They are senior producers but Jim doesn't know how to be Walter and Celia doesn't know how to be Rosalie. They step into those roles because they have to. The show must go on without Walter and Rosalie. Sure, the staff have their fun choosing whose role they want to step into - and no one wants to be Jim. But there's still the pressure of doing the show. When Jim is actually on camera, his eyebrows give quite the exaggerated performance. It's delightful to watch but not the best when talking about document leaks from the Pentagon. Celia gets him to pull things together and do the show. They celebrate in the end by saying they were them and not Walter and Rosalie. That's apparent a second later when Jim notices her feet. A romance between them wouldn't be completely surprising. But is it something anyone is really asking for? That little bit didn't take away from how improved this episode was from the season as a whole so far though.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Meth or No Meth, You Still Gotta Floss" was written by Duncan Birmingham & Jonathan Ames and directed by Michael Lehmann.
  • That ostrich hat sure was interesting. It was fantastic to see Jim just work around the office with that thing on his head. Sure, it was meant to heighten how lousy he was pre-transformation. But it was still very delightful.
  • Celia was worried that Walter only chose Jim to be in charge and to host the show because of gender bias. And yet, Walter claims that wasn't the case - and that next time he misses a show she can host. But what are the odds that will happen any time soon?
  • The little detour to the bar where the bartender didn't want to answer questions was a very weird story beat. Fortunately, the show quickly recovered from it.
  • Jim was a wholly different person when Harry presented him to the staff for the first time. He looked completely different. But his insecurities returned as soon as Bob showed up to tell him he can't mess this up.
  • Is it just going to keep being a running gag that Walter and the show keep having to bump Jason Schwartzman's zero impact family? At least now the show doesn't have to worry about Schwartzman and Timm Sharp looking too similar in the same scene.