Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trophy Wife 1.02: "Cold File"

“I have said it once, and I will say it again. You know, aside from me, I do not understand your taste in women.”

“Cold File” was clearly an effort to try and show how “Trophy Wife” is going to work on a week-to-week basis. We aren’t just going to focus on the action at Pete and Kate’s house. The whole family is going to be in every episode, even if one or more of the kids are at their mother’s house. Or at least that is how it appears from this episode. To be honest, I’d prefer if the show were more focused on Kate’s point of view. The fact that the entire B plot took place at Diane’s house, with one phone call to Pete being the only connection to Kate and Pete, makes me think this is going to be more about the whole family than Kate’s particular journey. That change definitely also led to a change in tone. The tone feels lighter, for sure, and it feels like there’s less depth. Kate just does stupid things trying to take care of Burt. There’s no journey, really. I’m going to chalk this one up to Alan Sepinwall’s theory that the first few episodes of a show are just the creative team trying to recreate the pilot over and over to make sure everyone understands what the show is going to be.

So the main theme of this episode is that Kate really wants the opportunity to do some parenting. We see Kate’s frustration with how Pete pretty much does everything for the kids when they’re staying at his house. I feel like the creative team knows what they want to do with Burt more than the twins. There’s a scene where Pete is going through Burt’s bedtime ritual, and Kate is lying on the bed with them because she wants to feel included. Bert’s bedtime ritual is very elaborate, by the way, involving multiple glasses of water, multiple stories, and a final countdown. I was a pretty bad sleeper myself at Bert’s age, but I don’t think my parents would have put up with all that. I got a story before bed, a Dixie cup of water, and that was about it. I still didn’t sleep, but by that point I had learned not to bother my parents about it. There’s also Bert’s soccer games, where Pete coaches and Bert is the goalie. Meanwhile, Hillary and Warren get a really clichéd plot that doesn’t deepen them as characters at all. But more about that later.

Anyway, after one of Burt’s soccer games, Jackie asks Pete if he can watch Bert on a night that he is supposed to be at her house. Jackie wants to go on a pub crawl with her tai chi class, but she needs someone to watch Bert. Jackie is more just plain wacky (rhyming not really intended) as opposed to slightly exaggerated crunchy granola in this episode, which was a little disappointing. Anyway, Pete has a client meeting that night, so he’s not available. Kate jumps at the chance to watch Bert on her own. Jackie warns her that putting Bert to sleep is a project, but since Kate has watched Pete go through the ritual time and time again over the past year, she thinks she can handle it. Jackie is skeptical, but Kate still gets the job of watching Bert for the evening.

Meanwhile, at Diane’s house, Hillary and Warren get into an argument. They start to push each other around a bit, and they accidentally spill a dish of salsa on Diane’s nice white couch. Hillary, by the way, has gone through a casting change. She is now played by Bailee Madison, best known as young Snow White on “Once Upon a Time.” When I first heard about this change, I feared she would be too young to really continue on with the characterization of Hillary that we saw in the pilot (the rebellious teen who would sneak vodka in a water bottle to school), but she doesn’t look quite as young as I feared. It remains to be seen if Hillary as a character is now written differently, because the plot involving Hillary and Warren in this episode was pretty generic. They’re terrified that Diane is going to exact one of her bizarre punishments, so they try to hide the damage by turning over the couch cushion. Any good “Big Bang Theory” viewer knows that doesn’t work, though. A turned-over couch cushion is pretty obvious.

Diane does indeed notice the couch damage, and she decides to implement a little psychological torture on her own children. First she makes quesadillas for a snack for the kids and serves them with salsa. Then she starts salsa dancing in the living room. Finally she just turns the couch cushion back the right way and leaves it there for the kids to discover. At that, they finally crack and admit all. Diane makes them promise not to eat in the living room or lie to her again. Marcia Gay Harden is really the only thing that saves this plot. She seems to delight in torturing her kids in this way, which is really the only thing that’s at all subversive about this episode. I miss the subversiveness of the pilot, really. That’s what made the show interesting and not just a generic family sitcom. More, please!

Anyway, as you might predict, Kate’s night watching Bert by herself does not go at all as planned. He just will not go to sleep for anything. Eventually, Kate lets him watch TV in bed with her, figuring that will make him sleep like it did for her as a child. Instead, Bert sees a show about a doctor who cut out women’s uteruses, and he gets really freaked out. The next morning, Bert is really sleepy because he didn’t sleep well, so Kate offers him a sip of her coffee. Instead of a sip, he drinks the whole thing. This makes Bert act super crazy at soccer practice, which culminates in Kate accidentally hitting Bert. Jackie has had it by this point and starts telling Kate how she’ll never be a mother. Pete manages to put a stop to the bickering, though, reminding Jackie that she once faced the same challenges as a new step mom to Warren and Hillary. Jackie takes this to heart and apologizes to Kate. And so all is once again right in the world of this super crazy family.

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