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Brothers & Sisters Recap: Faking It


And thus, with a loud splat, lands the first clunker episode of Brothers & Sisters fifth season.  I admit to being very excited when I saw Geoffrey Nauffts credited as a co-writer; he wrote one of my favorite episodes of all time, “The Pasadena Primary” from last season, and he’s also the author of the fantastic play Next Fall. The first two episodes have been solid, but we still haven’t seen one sparkle with the kind of humor and emotion that mark the best entries of the series, and I was hopeful when I saw his name that his would be the one.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

Three main plots thread through the show: the possible reconciliation of Justin and Rebecca, Sarah and Nora’s fear of getting older and Kitty’s flirtation with a hunky plumber.  The Justin and Rebecca stuff  seems largely unnecessary as Emily VanCamp has announced her departure from the show so the dramatic “will they or won’t they” tension isn’t very tense or dramatic.  However, after shoving their relationship and how perfect they are for each other down my throat for seasons on end, the show needed to bring some closure to the storyline.  David ends up going to see Rebecca who has somehow managed to procure herself another job without being the direct beneficiary of her mother’s nepotism.  I mean, seriously, this woman doesn’t have a college diploma, am I wrong?  How is she in managerial positions?  David tells her that Justin has been seeing Holly and he thinks that the visits are having a positive effect.  Already we know this storyline is headed for tears.  Rebecca goes to thank Justin for trying to help Holly, and they wind up having a talk which amounts basically to comes down to an “I can’t trust you/yes you can” argument.  As I pour myself a glass of wine, I wonder if there’s a more cliched argument in television history.

Rebecca goes to see her mother, and it appears to be going well until Holly generously says “don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find your mother.”  I knew there was going to be an other shoe dropping in this scene, but even so that one spun me around a little bit.  I find it difficult to believe that Holly could remember who David is and who Nora is, but have absolutely no idea who Rebecca is.  Rebecca flees to Justin in the aftermath and the two wind up kissing.  It turns out that she served him with divorce papers while he was away in battle (that’s cold), yet even though they’re divorced neither has been telling people that it’s official.  Justin claims this is because Rebecca hasn’t given up on them yet; I think it’s because whenever they try to tell someone, that person probably falls asleep from sheer lack of interest in their romance.  Maybe that’s just me.  While Justin macks on his ex-wife, Holly runs away; the episode ends with David placing a 911 call reporting her missing.  I’m firmly against this path for Holly, the character has lost all the things that made her fun since she isn’t needling Nora at every turn.

Up in Ojai, Kitty wonders why the woman she rents her house from doesn’t have a coffee maker, though I’m fairly certain she would be more concerned about the lack of a wine press.  She then goes to clean some wine glasses in the sink and I realize that in the absence of caffeine she’s clearly turned to liquor, which seems more in character.  The sink explodes and one commercial break later a hot plumber arrives to check her pipes.  The arc here is so predictable it’s barely worth writing about: Kitty and plumber flirt, plumber dislikes city-folk, Kitty lies about her city-folk-ness, the two wind up on a disastrous first date and then hunky plumber returns with a pizza to make amends.  The one saving grace is that the two wind up on a date through Kevin’s machinations, as he supplements his sister’s claims of country loving with a ridiculous anecdote about how she enjoys gutting catfish, delivered in a hill-billy accent with the gusto of a community theater actress playing Annie Oakley.  Kevin doesn’t have much to do the whole episode but walk around and snark at people, and he does this well.

Finally, Nora and Sarah are feeling their age.  Sarah has a birthday, and as it turns out has never told Luc her real age (which it’s interesting to note is never specified in the episode), but has simply allowed him to believe that this was her 40th.  There’s an amusing shout out to the Walker Phone Trees of old when Kitty and Kevin call her to mock her on her birthday and find out about her deceit to their mutual glee, but it simply lacks the grand scale of the greats.  It’s more like a Walker Phone Shrubbery.  Nora, meanwhile, has been recommended to a plastic surgeon for a tune-up, and this is where the episode really goes off the rails.  Not only are we expected to believe that she seriously considers it enough to actually make an appointment, Sarah finds out about it and goes with her!  If the set-up was mined for nothing more than pure comedy I might be able to look past it, but we’re being expected to find the sight of the two strong-minded, independent Walker women in a plastic surgeon’s office somehow…interesting.  I suppose an argument could be made that since even these two are considering plastic surgery it says something about the state of the country and blah, blah, blah.  I don’t come to Brothers & Sisters to hear about body issues brought on by an unfair society.  I come to listen to a family rip each other to shreds while drinking wine and loving each other, and there was precious little of that to be found tonight.

Ultimately, we find out that Luc knew Sarah’s age all along (he’s seen her driver’s license) and Saul (in desperate search of a storyline) tells Nora that she’s perfect as she is, she’s just lonely.  This gives her the strength to stand up to her boss at the flower shop and quit.  That boss, by the by, was a ridiculous caricature; unfortunately, Sally Field’s take down of her was somewhat blunted by feeling like it was a pay-off with no set-up.  The boss had maybe ten lines in three episodes and most amounted to “You’re old!  OLD!  Like, Guinness Book level of old.  You only look good because your childhood was spent running away from dinosaurs because you’re SO OLD!!”  Meanwhile, the boss looked about 5 years younger than Nora.  Nora leaves, secure that there’s a job out there that her life experience will be appreciated…like a radio advice show.  Which was discussed last week.  And wasn’t mentioned this week.  And was actually kind of interesting.  Bring that back.

And just a few bullet points:

– I don’t mean to make it sound as if I blame Geoffrey Nauffts for the episode.  He was co-writer on it, and obviously he was given a set-up to work within.  I was just disappointed because my expectations were higher due to his involvement.

– “Oh my God…you’re dying, aren’t you?” That’s Sarah, getting the Leaping to Incorrect Conclusions Award for the evening.

– Where exactly was Evan during Kitty’s date night?  Lazy writing.

– I am glad they didn’t attempt to make me buy that Kitty, who can’t cook, successfully made a souffle on her first attempt.  That would have been less believable than the plastic surgery storyline.

– Scruffy Matthew Rhys makes a lot of things more bearable. If I was grading the episode, I would have bumped it up one notch for his styling.

– Why is Rachel Griffith’s hair still cut like that?  I withheld judgment at first, but I can no longer hold my tongue.  HATES IT.  I do, however, love how she downs that glass of wine, tongue out and all.