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October 9, 2015

'United States of Tara' Season 3, Episode 11 Recap

by Laura Prudom, posted Jun 14th 2011 4:45AM
John Corbett and Toni Collette['United States of Tara' - 'Crunchy Ice']

I hate to say it, but the penultimate episode of 'United States of Tara' felt a little bipolar to me, no pun intended.

The season was completed long before the show's cancellation was announced, but the episode still had a frantic, breathless quality that made me feel like the writers were rushing to tie up loose ends but hadn't left themselves enough time to do it, as if they needed 13 episodes instead of 12 to get themselves to the finish line.

Perhaps it's because I had the benefit of receiving screeners of the whole season at once, and I blew through them as rapidly as Bryce picked off Tara's other alters, unable to quite help myself.

When watching episodes back to back, seeing Marshall dramatically leaving home for parts unknown at the end of one episode and then winding up right back under the same roof ten minutes later at the beginning of the next felt a little anticlimactic. Watching the Bryce storyline build up to its climax, on the other hand, was anything but.

We all knew that something was coming, but I didn't predict that Tara's breaking point would be an altercation with Marshall, even though the show had been subtly setting up that particular confrontation all season long as his discontent grew.

It was utterly heartbreaking to see Tara's devastation when she snapped back to herself and saw what she had done to her son, and the fight neatly echoed T.'s showdown with Kate earlier in the season, the fallout of which provided the catalyst for Kate to set off for Japan (even if she never got there).

I love the symbolism of the children confronting the parent (both mentally and physically) in order to assert their independence, and it's interesting that Kate and Marshall both found themselves struggling with two of their mother's youngest, most immature alters, almost as if they were fighting their own childish impulses as well as Tara's. It was a neat way for 'USoT' to bring the kids into adulthood and prove that both are strong enough to stand on their own, even if they both reverted back to infants seeking comfort once Tara was back to herself (Marshall's immediate retreat into his grandmother's embrace, for example, and Kate's regression to calling Tara "mommy" after T. punched her).

The episode was deliciously rife with such subtext -- I also enjoyed the revelation that the real Bryce killed himself on Christmas day out of guilt, which neatly tied into the alter version's distaste for Sandi's Christmas tree and ornaments, even though he seemed strangely reluctant to threaten her directly. It raises the question of whether the alter Bryce already existed and was "aware" of the real Bryce's death, thanks to Buck's investigation, and felt threatened enough to manifest himself, or whether Tara subconsciously created Bryce as a way of working through her frustration and anger with her abuser once Buck discovered that he was dead and thus could never be confronted.

Despite Charmaine's attempts to have Tara committed, it was still touching (if vaguely out of character for Neil, after last week's episode) to see the whole family rallying around Tara to try and bring her back to herself, even if the art museum proved to be a dead end. Max's loyalty is truly his best quality (if his most foolish), and despite the episode's cliffhanger climax, I still can't help but hope for a happy ending for the couple, and for Max to make good, as Marshall observed that he always does.

'United States of Tara' airs Mondays at 10.30PM ET on Showtime. The series finale airs Monday June 20th.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA

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Yeah the cancellation sucks indeed. I know I haven't left any comments, but I'd like to say thank you Laura for these recaps, I've enjoyed them all season (I'm a bit of a lurker). I must also give credit for the best line of the season, and what will be my new signature quote (where it will be allowed),

"So your wife has a dick now?" - Neil to Max, after Tara unzips and somehow pees in a uranal standing up...

June 15 2011 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Still can't believe Showtime is cancelling this series--it's one of its best pieces of programming on the network.

I would think that Showtime would want to avoid the path HBO took with Carnivale and Deadwood...but no. Even if they would just give them one or two more hours to tie everything together, it would be better than cutting off cold turkey at the end of the season with a likely cliffhanger coming.

June 14 2011 at 9:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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