Sunday, November 19, 2023

REVIEW: 'Fellow Travelers' - Hawk Proves He Doesn't Feel Guilty About Anything in 'Your Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire'

Showtime's Fellow Travelers - Episode 1.04 "Your Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire"

As the government's purge of homosexuals continues, Hawk faces a polygraph test about his sex life and publicly courts Lucy while involving Tim in a desperate plot to destroy McCarthy and Cohn. Marcus makes peace with his attraction to Frankie's feminine persona. In 1980s San Francisco, Hawk meets Marcus and Frankie's adopted son and Tim recruits Hawk to help his AIDS activist group.

"Your Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire" was written by Anya Leta and directed by James Kent

Hawk is such a convincing liar that it's difficult for him to even know what the truth is anymore. Is he actually capable of love for Tim? Or is he simply using him to advance his own objectives? The future shares that Hawk is ultimately successful in his pursuit of an overseas posting in the State Department. He builds a lengthy and esteemed career as a diplomat. To do so, he believes he must hide his true self. He's a shell of a person. He walls himself off from ever feeling anything. In private moments, he reports to express his feelings. Even then, he's carefully guarded. He also has further objectives that must be done to preserve the crucial work he's doing in the government. From Tim's perspective, intimacy and love is growing. For Hawk though, it's all a carefully calibrated manipulation. He's a toxic figure who must exert control. That's the only way he knows how to function in life. It's all an act out of self-preservation. He's incapable of allowing anything else to shine through. That simply creates a lifetime of pain for both Tim and Lucy.

Even in 1986, Hawk is hesitant to bottom out of the fear of what that suggests about his masculinity. It's framed as more than simply not being his preference. It's all the internalized homophobia he was brought up with and tasked with accepting. Being on top provides for complete control. It doesn't threaten his masculinity. Hawk enjoys the freedom of being sexually promiscuous. Casual sex is a release for him. That's a constant throughout his life. It's a way for him to avoid his feelings elsewhere. That isn't healthy. Nothing changes. That will remain true until he confronts what's truly happening. In the 1980s, people are capable of having fulfilling lives out of the closet. Hawk doesn't view that as a possibility for him. He can't even be associated with the queer community. He can't afford any insinuations about his life. He suffers in silence. He isn't the only one struggling. The community needs powerful allies to advocate for their needs. Tim has channeled his feelings into actions despite his health. Hawk always remains at a distance.

When Hawk and Marcus first met, they saw themselves as kindred spirits. They each enjoyed emotionally distant hookups. Their lives didn't need more than that. They were two masculine men who enjoyed having sex with other men. Marcus' perspective has shifted because he has allowed himself to be open and vulnerable with Frankie. It's been a rapid development. Marcus was afraid of what being with a man who performs in drag says about his masculinity. But now, he's accepted being aroused and intimate with Frankie while in drag. That shows his confidence. Because he arrives at that peace in the 1950s, he's capable of supporting others in the decades that come. Marcus and Frankie open their house to others who need it. Fortunately, Tim isn't alone when he has a seizure. Hawk abandoned him yet again. He couldn't handle the pressure. Tim was willing to let him get by with his own understanding of death and tragedy. That doesn't offer much peace in the moment. Tim is dying. He still fights back. His community deserves their rights to be respected and upheld. Tim has changed a lot in the years since he was working for Senator McCarthy. That change happened during his relationship with Hawk. However, so much more was possible afterwards too that was equally transformative.

Despite all of this, Hawk and Tim are still bound to one another. They have never been capable of having another serious and meaningful relationship. That suggests their bond was ultimately real and loving. Hawk wasn't lying when he answered that question while hooked up to a lie detector. He's still willing to deflect by engaging in meaningless sex once more. Again, that's comforting. He doesn't plan for a future with Tim. All he can offer is the fantasy of what could be if they took a vacation to New York City. Instead, Tim goes there for work. He's meant to keep David out of a meeting between McCarthy and the General Counsel of the Army. Each side is accusing the other of using their power and influence to get benefits for their allies. It's no longer a system built on trust. That's hard to establish when these investigations are producing multiple suicides every week. Hawk feels the pain of those deaths. It's a visceral experience as people are being targeted for who they love. People are open with their hatred for those who don't conform to a heteronormative and Christian lifestyle. Tim has plenty of love in his heart for God. He's also a gay man advocating for his community. In the 50s, he's in love with Hawk. He never wants this relationship to end. That may have always been destined to occur because of the favors Hawk always demanded.

Hawk only makes those requests after receiving sexual satisfaction. When he knows he'll be asking a lot from Tim, he ensures Tim is the one on the receiving end of the pleasure. Usually, Hawk is the one in control. Tim abides by that because of his submissive nature in their sexual dynamic. They've explored kinks of power and control. It has been perfectly healthy and consensual. It's transactional for Hawk too. It always has been. He's engaging in this bond with Tim while also being seen in public with Lucy. He wants people to stop questioning his sexuality and loyalty to the government. No one should have any reason to doubt his patriotism. He fought and nearly died for this country. That was true even when it wouldn't uniformly defend his rights no matter what. The government was weaponized to destroy lives. McCarthy and his allies were sanctimonious with their accusations. Their impact was felt for decades. Their own sexualities were open secrets. Hawk believes that can be used to take them down. He's still trusting bad people to do bad things. His hands aren't clean throughout this experience. He can't have a passive role dictating the fate of this community. Countless people die. More fight back. It's important. Hawk simply chose to remain in the shadows. He believed he was producing effective policy. He still lives a life of shame. He's absent from the moments that truly matter. Both Lucy and Tim expect that from him. "Just getting by" is as good as it simply gets when they relay their lives to one another over the phone.