Togetherness: “Insanity”

TV Reviews Togetherness
Togetherness: “Insanity”

“There is always a bit of madness in love, but insanity always contains a bit of common sense.”—Freidrich Nietzsche

Love can make you do crazy things—like the insanity workout, while being forced to listen to The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” in itself a song about doing a crazy thing for love. “Insanity” is about those moments when our heart leads rather than our head. The pros of going with your heart lie in the fact that it can take you places your brain would never allow you to go. But the con—and it’s a big one—is that, if it all goes wrong, it hurts even more.

“Insanity” takes us to the night of Brett’s premiere for the show he’s working on. He is dragged there by Tina and Alex, who is trying to further his career in doing so. But Brett’s main goal is to mend the problems he caused with his director, played by Joshua Leonard. When Alex finally finds the director at the party, he apologizes, first earnestly, then in increasingly awkward ways, until the director is yelling at him to get out, then laughing it off as a joke. The mixed messages abound, of which Brett and everyone else can’t make heads or tails.

Brett’s actions in the episode are the most sane, with his confrontation leading to texting his wife, then getting some audio of a bird, which he considers a breakthrough. That’s about it, and I think this could end up being Brett’s downfall. He’s too straight-laced, too by the book, too black-and-white. His wife clearly wants him to be more adventurous, yet he can’t think outside of his head. The director rightfully thinks his real coyote noises sound ridiculously, yet he thinks that the audience will actually care that he captured the sound of an actual coyote in a ridiculous show about canyon rapes. He needs a bit more insanity in his life, without overanalyzing things.

Which is exactly what his wife is good at. When the babysitter says she won’t be able to watch the kids for the night, Michelle volunteers to stay home with the kids. But when the babysitter ends up coming through, she decides to miss the premiere in order to just have a night to herself. It’s nothing too crazy: getting drinks and hummus at a nearby bar, borrowing a cigarette from a skater, even capping the night with a boring town hall meeting. Earlier in the episode, she bought up her fears about sending their kids to private school, to which Brett proclaimed he would build a new school for the kids as a joke. Yet strangely, she walks right into a meeting with a man that literally wants to do that.

Michelle meets John Ortiz, played by David Garcia, who wants to make a charter school for her neighborhood. The two strike up a friendship and he drives her home. There’s the hint that if either of them tried something with the other, it might go somewhere, but the closest we get is Michelle Googling John long after he’s dropped her off. Although nothing happened, it’s the lingering thought of John that could be dangerous. He represents aspects of a relationship possibility that she doesn’t have with Brett, and that excites her. But at this point, she’s not ready to shake things up in her life in such a dangerous way.

“Insanity” also gives us Alex Pappas as the definitive, awkward heart of Togetherness, and does so in an incredibly beautiful and charming way. He’s going all in with Tina’s plan to turn him into a leading man, from the workouts, to cramming himself into Spanx to look good for the red carpet. He’s putting his trust in her, not only because he sees someone who can make him his best self, but also because he’s been falling for her without knowing it.

You can start to see so much of who Alex is on the inside, and how Tina is able to bring that out to the world. He takes chances, he walks the red carpet (albeit in the most unmemorable way possible), and he gets multiple opportunities to talk to the producer he wanted to meet at the party, played by the always great Peter Gallagher. After a night of starting embarrassing discussions with Larry the producer about organic strawberries and single-ply toilet paper, it’s with the help of Tina that he gets to spend the night talking to Larry about his work, which leads to Larry calling Alex the life of the party. Unfortunately, the victory is short-lived, since Tina ends up going home with Larry.

This “twist” of Tina and Larry ending up together can be seen a mile away, yet Steve Zissis as Alex plays the part so wonderfully, you can still feel the expected pain just as hard if you hadn’t figured it out prior. He didn’t know that he was falling for Tina, but now that he’s aware of it, he’s not going to be able to shake that feeling.

The final scene of “Insanity” is a perfect encapsulation of how fantastic this show is, balancing pure heartbreak with complete joy that few shows can pull off. It’s a move that made The Office such a great series and Togetherness is already nailing this ambiance. Brett is able to turn Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” into a metaphor for Alex, where Sawyer was able to raise spirits by the very nature of who he was—and Alex is just the same. So he should never feel embarrassed for who he has feelings for. It’s a beautiful moment, punctuated by the absolutely hilarious air-drumming of Alex and Brett to “Tom Sawyer,”—one of the best TV moments so far this year.

In just three episodes, Togetherness has shown how big its heart is through Alex and its other characters. It’s also shown how incredibly it can balance tone through even the simplest of set ups. “Insanity” is able to warm your heart, then smash it into a million pieces, only to leave you laughing hilariously at the end.

Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.

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