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April 19, 2014

'United States of Tara' Season 3, Episode 2 Recap

by Laura Prudom, posted Apr 5th 2011 5:45AM
Toni Collette['United States of Tara' - 'Crackerjack']

Admit it, who among us would have passed up a little extra help with our homework back in our school days -- especially if we could leave the thinking up to someone else altogether? If you just happen to have an alternate identity who is a published author on psychology, I say why not defer to the expert?

Study buddies are one thing, but as much as we all might have believed that we knew better than our teachers when we were kids, most of us probably stopped short of actually attempting to teach the class ourselves.

Apparently, Tara Gregson isn't so discerning.

We've seen Tara's alters get her into all sorts of mortifying scrapes thus far but, boy, just watching Toni Collette's expression morph from nervous Tara into savvy Shoshana made me feel decidedly nauseous, as if I was the one striding up to the front of the lecture hall to make a spectacle of myself. A lot of people relate to the dream of being naked in front of their class, and what Tara went through this episode was basically the PG-13 equivalent, expertly played by Collette, who should be winning awards just for cleaning her teeth at this point.

Never one to pull its punches, the show added another, deeper dynamic with the inclusion of Dr. Jack Hattaras (Eddie Izzard) who, while snarky, had seemed perfectly amicable in his previous dealings with Tara -- even accommodating her weirdness -- right up until he called her a delusional liar or an attention-seeking dramatist in front of the whole class.

It would've been far too easy for Tara to encounter a professor who believed in her condition and gave her a free ride for being kooky, so I'm totally on board with the antagonistic rhythm between teacher and student this episode (as well as Jack's strange fixation with the campus hotdogs). Still, it's not unwise to assume that Tara -- or her alters -- will do their best to change his mind before the season's end.



Elsewhere, Charmaine and Neil were doing a good job of playing house, right up until Max decided to sell his company to a larger competitor and leave Neil out of a job. I've got to admit, as intolerable as I generally find Charmaine, the scenes between the pair are usually entirely adorable (apart from when they have sex, in which case my reaction is pretty much identical to Kate's) and it's great to see Patton Oswalt's character given room to develop from the "dorky best friend" cliché he was first introduced as. The more he's given to do, the more he impresses.

Kate has always seemed like a somewhat superfluous character, bouncing around from job to job and bad decision to bad decision, but this episode laid the groundwork for some long overdue evolution for everyone's favorite cake-sitting princess.

She's great at coming up with a scheme, but not so great at the follow-through (I was exactly the same at her age), so I could understand her parents' hesitation at handing over $800 to send her to Osaka. And yet, she's a girl who has been so monumentally screwed up by the surreal and unpredictable world she's been raised in, I can also understand why she'd want to get the hell out of Dodge and figure out her own identity independent of Tara and her surplus of identities. As Marshall noted, neither of them wants to get stuck caring for their crazy mom for the rest of their lives, regardless of how much they love her.

It was a little sad that Tara's final decision to support Kate came more out of guilt for hitting her as T than from parent and child having a rational discussion about the job but, at this point, Kate has more than proved herself capable of not only handling the weirdest situations that come her way without going justifiably nuts, but also resourcefully solving her own problems, such as raising the rest of the money for her trip without Tara and Max's help. Wherever the wind blows her, it's safe to bet that she'll land on her feet.

Marshall's main contribution to the episode was a glorious pastiche of Tarantino and costume drama in film class, though I was amused at his teacher's overt profiling when grouping the gay students together in the hope that their short film would be "deeper, more emotional, [with] a little razzmatazz and pathos." I think he got exactly what he bargained for, right?

'United States of Tara' airs Mondays, 10.30PM ET on Showtime.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA.

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Melanie Egan

Enh. Not feeling it so far this season but I can't put my finger on why exactly??

April 05 2011 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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