Like too many other episodes of Married, the sixth episode’s title (“Invisible Man”) prioritizes Russ’s problems over Lina’s when really, they’re wrestling with a similar identity crisis in the wake of Russ’s vasectomy. Shooting blanks has robbed Russ of a sense of power and danger and self; this is the guy of whom Lina said in the pilot, “Every time you look at me, I get pregnant.” And knowing she’ll never have children again has left Lina adrift, mourning invisible offspring, and wondering what exactly she’s supposed to do now—a question she also faced dipping her toe back into the work pool in episode four (“Uncool”).
Lina loads up the car with all their tot paraphernalia (“Even the bassinet?” Russ asks, disbelieving) and drives it to a thrift store, where no one seems to grasp the weight of her donations. When the guy in the back asks how much all this stuff cost, Lina says, “My youth. Every time I cough I pee a little.” He writes down “fifty dollars” before explaining that, no, she cannot meet the person who claims her children’s hand-me-downs, cannot make sure they go to a good home where they’ll be cherished. Lina wavers before going through with the drop-off, sending herself into a kind of delayed, diluted postpartum depression that no one ever talks about. She’s grieving not only for her sentimentally priceless stuff, but for the pregnancies she’ll never experience, the other kids she’ll never have.
Meanwhile Russ is at a different kind of donation center, trying to come in a cup via his “second favorite core,” which is soft. The awkwardness of medical masturbation is well documented (best/most hilariously captured, for my money, in Ben Lerner’s excellent new novel 10:04)—and sure, the whole thing’s a little juvenile or male (the two are interchangeable). But I still got a sizable kick out of Russ’s limitless requests re: the office’s visual aids, defining parameters like a gluten-free vegan ordering a street cart gyro: No three-ways or gang-bangs, no lesbian stuff because it makes him feel like a third wheel, “Nothing in a moving vehicle because I get carsick.” Rendered flaccid from lack of material, he calls his wife from the thin-walled masturbatorium, saying, “I need you to bring me home.”
The exchange that follows is memorable, not only for the wonderful juxtaposition that is thrift store phone sex (is there a less erotic place? A morgue, maybe?)—and the strangely sweet gesture that is talking a spouse off—but because it’s the funniest thing Judy Greer has been allowed to do on Married. Watching her shift on a dime between moaning and bemoaning, vixen and vexed, all the while skimming secondhand blouses and flipping through coffee table books, reminded me of the comic chops she flashed regularly on Arrested Development, and continues to flash vocally on Archer. This scene—which ends perfectly, with a post-coital, “Okay, I’ll see you at home” from Russ, and a “We need waffles” from Lina—is further proof that at least one of Married’s leads is something of an untapped resource. The writers need to unleash the Greer.
To the writers’ credit, Jess is no longer telling us how old and tired her husband is. Instead, they’ve started showing us what she means, and why she feels so stifled. In this week’s C story, Shep takes steps toward a professional revival, which reignites Jess’s sex drive, if nothing else (break out the kneepads, Sheppie! Doggie is Jess’s jam!). But his resurgence is stunted when his client, a hot little starlet with “the talent of a much uglier girl” (Jess), gets pregnant. In a strikingly unlikable (and occasionally funny) moment, Jess suggests telling the girl to get an abortion for her (really, Shep’s) career’s sake. Shep refuses, and Jess says he’s ruining her life. Shep isn’t invisible; it’s much worse than that: he’s as lost as Lina, and as powerless as Russ, but still somehow destructive.
The closing scene is a nice twist on what, hey, I agree, could and maybe should have been Mad Men’s final shot as a series—finds Jess turning down a movie with/olive branch from Shep to head to the bar and “work” on a gin and tonic. A young man—a musician, maybe—sidles over to her and asks, “Are you alone?” and Jess gives him a look that’s downright Draperian. This is the darkest note Married has ever concluded on, and it could signal a subtle but exciting shift in tone (e.g., compare “Are you alone?” to Jess’s raunchy talk of harmless office crushes). Because if that other show and its leading man are any indication, none of this will end well.
Evan Allgood is deputy editor of Trop. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter.