Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving "Classic" Recap: Suburgatory: "Thanksgiving"

“On Thanksgiving Day, half a dozen members of the Shay family will descend upon our house to eat with their mouth open and dispense unsolicited advice. Most of which will be about my hair.”

“Suburgatory” is a favorite comedy of mine that never quite made it to regular blogging status. It has always had fun Thanksgiving episodes, though, so I figured this was the perfect time to showcase the strange world of Chatswin, Connecticut. “Suburgatory,” in its effort to parody suburbia, can be kind of cartoonish more often than not. What really makes the show work, however, is that those cartoonish characters and situations are grounded in real emotion. I think the snarkiness of Tessa, our high school heroine who was shipped out to suburbia by her dad when he got worried she would fall into bad influences in New York City, also tends to cut through the cartoonishness more often than not. Thanksgiving is a great example of this. Both the Royce and Shay Thanksgiving gatherings are heightened reality and parody, but Tessa’s feelings about not being in New York City for Thanksgiving for the first time are more raw.

As I already alluded to, this is the first time the Altmans (Tessa and her father, George) have spent away from New York City. They had traditions back in New York. They were quirky traditions, but they were theirs. They would go see the balloons for the Macy’s parade being blown up, then they’d have a dinner of turkey burgers and black and white milkshakes at their favorite diner. George is insistent that they’re going to keep their commitment to the suburbs this year, though. He accepts an invitation to a Thanksgiving party at the Royce house. Of course, since it’s Dallas and Dahlia doing the planning, the invitation is ridiculous. A guy shows up in a pilgrim outfit asking for their RSVP and using ye olde language. To say Tessa is unhappy would be an understatement. She’s extra broody about changing the family tradition and not getting to go back to New York.

Meanwhile, Lisa, Tessa’s best friend and across-the-street neighbor, has the Thanksgiving blues, too. She really isn’t a fan of her extended family. All they do is act gross and criticize her hair. To make matters worse, her crazy mother, Sheila, has decreed that Lisa will wear the same dress that her much younger cousins will be wearing. A dress that is part of a Pilgrim costume. Teenage Lisa is not amused. Tessa suggests that Lisa could simply tell her mother that she’d like to wear something else. This is clearly early in the series run before Tessa completely understood the crazy that is Sheila Shay. Lisa takes Tessa’s suggestion, and Sheila shoots it down immediately. She says that if Lisa doesn’t wear the Pilgrim dress, Lisa will not be participating in Thanksgiving. Lisa says she’s fine with this, and she says she’ll be spending the holiday in her room.

George says he has a big architecture job he needs to work on, so he asks Dallas to spend a day with Tessa. The idea is that George wants Dallas to show Tessa all the fun things there are to do in Chatswin so Tessa won’t mind spending Thanksgiving there so much. It’s clear that by this point, the romantic chemistry between George and Dallas is starting to heat up. Dallas is definitely crushing on George, although I think George is ignoring it because Dallas is still married. Anyway, Dallas’ idea of a fun day is to go to the salon. She really wants Tessa, who has curly (albeit rather tame curly) hair to get a Brazilian blow-out. And I’m now wondering why I’m writing about sitcoms using Brazilian blow-outs as a plot point twice in one week. I guess it’s funny because of all the misunderstandings that can take place surrounding the name? Anyway, Tessa has no interest in straightening her hair, but Dallas insists. Dallas offers to do whatever Tessa wants to the rest of the day, and that’s when Tessa knows she’s got her way back to Manhattan. Dallas ends up taking Tessa (now with straight hair) to Manhattan against her better judgment, and she loves the knock-off purses she can buy. They also have fun eating greasy pizza while walking. The fun ends, however, when they see George making out with a woman, who we will later learn in named Zoe. Both Tessa and Dallas are really pissed about this, Tessa because George has been going to Manhattan when he won’t let her go, and Dallas because of her feelings for George.

Given that big reveal, Thanksgiving at the Royce house is bound to be awkward. It also doesn’t help that Dallas’ always traveling for business husband is home for the holiday. The party is, of course, extravagantly offensive (everyone has to choose “Founders or Feathers” as they enter the party). The whole dinner does blow up, but surprisingly, not so much because of Dallas and Tessa having seen George in New York. Instead, there is a big fight between the Royces and the Werners. The Werners think that the Royces aren’t being good parents to Dahlia (which is true, sort of), and the Royces think that the Werners are stuck up (which is definitely true). Tessa does blurt out the fact that she saw George in Manhattan, which doesn’t help the drama, either. It’s the fight between the Royces and the Werners that really makes everybody leave, though.

Meanwhile, at the Shay house, Sheila has gone to new diabolical heights to try and get Lisa to wear the stupid Pilgrim dress. She turns up the heat in the house, because heat rises, and it will make Lisa’s room especially uncomfortable. After a rather touching scene where Lisa’s brother Ryan tells her that he’s proud of her for standing up to their mother, Lisa eventually decides that she just can’t take the heat anymore. She takes refuge in a cold shower. When she gets out of the shower, though, she finds that Sheila has put the Pilgrim dress in the bathroom. Lisa enacts her revenge in the only way she knows how. She goes downstairs naked, and she tells off the whole family. The feeling is so liberating that she runs outside and starts streaking. The fun ends, though, when she hears police sirens. At that point, she starts trying to hide in any nearby cars that might be unlocked. Apparently she finds the Altmans’ car, because she pops up in the back seat when George is driving Tessa to Manhattan for a conciliatory black and white milkshake. Gobble gobble!

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