Recap: Season 2, Episode 8

[info]kelinswriter: “Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!”
[info]rysler: “I’m like… so what are we going to write? Because I only have DOTS. DOT DOT DOT.”
[info]kelinswriter: “Dude. That was such a freakin gift. Oh. My God. I cried like a baby.”

HI SHOW.

Every Tuesday (what [info]kelinswriter dubs “Venice Eve”), [info]jaina47 makes episode wishes. Yesterday’s was “Maybe we’ll see that bar scene with the white top.” So, yeah. [info]jaina47 is a Venice savant. My OMG OMG only a few episodes left panic is over, that’s for sure.

Welcome to the eighth in my series of angst-free Venice reviews. (1 2 3 4 5 6 7) This post contains spoilers. We’re on twitter, btw! Kelinswriter and Jaina47 and rysler. Follow the Venice Episode Reviews at ryslerfic.

On and off we’ve discussed the Peter Reckell situation. A week of reflection brought two insights. First, [info]jaina47 astutely pointed out that Gina might not want to talk about her love life because it’s FUCKING PATHETIC. There’s Logan, the vile heartbreaker before Ani. And then of course, Ani, the one that got away. To put it politely.

Second, The Hours presents a debate about the path not taken. The one not married. Clarissa has turned gay and rejected her best potential mate… Richard. This is not an accident, given literary prowess and certain Meryl Streep cultists in this cast.

But that was last episode.

THIS EPISODE. MY GOD. If you have made it this far into Venice without an Otalia background, it would be really helpful to watch the seminal, defining moment. Just a suggestion.

Let us begin. [info]kelinswriter: “Poor sad Owen and the artfully placed surfboards.”

There are two surf boards waiting. There is only one person. He does not like this state of affairs. He does not know he is being followed. But we know what Van knows; that Sami is somewhere alone.

[info]jaina47: “I…like Owen as much as the next lesbian…”

Gina descends the stairs of the Colonel’s home in what is perhaps her greatest outfit ever (maximum legs, cool multi-layered metatextual slogan). The Colonel greets her peppiness with abject refusal. These people are going to kill each other. Bobby Bowden signed the Colonel’s ball. Gina has contemplated that bookshelf before. But now she’s brave/frustrated enough to violate it.

[info]jaina47: “Heee. Gina is so cheery/falsely determined as she comes down the stairs. ’cause I’m sick of your crap!’ But she says it so cheerfully. Omg, that whole scene was hilarious. And awesome. Yay for football taunting! I like that even though they’re still really not getting along, Gina has a totally different attitude about this now. She’s almost – well, I think she actually is kind of in a way – having fun with it. Way more fun than poor Owen and his rapidly deteriorating relationship.”

Guya is happy to see Amber. Or at least, she’s been waiting for her. Amber quickly terrorizes her but Guya isn’t blocked–I think because she’s starting to believe what she sees. She doesn’t want to, but she does want to, and… Look. This show. My coherency is still obliterated. If it’s a scene with Hillary B Smith or Wes Ramsey it’s going to be fascinating and beyond my ability to really adequately celebrate ANYWAY, and now I’m handicapped.

[info]jaina47: “Liz Keifer is kind of killing me here. Does she mean that she’s been wandering metaphorically for years? I’m puzzled. Must. Keep. Watching. Holy shit. Intense. I repeat, holy shit.”
[info]kelinswriter: “I think Guya has this figured out and she’s so flipped out that she doesn’t know how to tell her.”

[info]kelinswriter: “That sounds like a car crash on the pacific coast highway to me.”
If we’re inclined to take Amber literally, then let me say that California State Route 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway, is a fucking terrifying road. And it’s not even the most dangerous in the state. If you have not yet experienced the joy of driving on a highway in California… count your blessings.

They are so awesome they could have their own show.

We transition from Amber’s open panic to Lara’s carefully concealed panic.

[info]kelinswriter: “‘She just doesn’t understand the pressure I’m under.’ That’s a repeat line. This is Lara’s script running here.”

How much do I love getting to see Lara and Ani in their own scenes? Love, love, love. Not to discount the awesome photography scene or the snugglebunnies of drunken revelry last week, but this is great too. Maybe Lara is socializing with Ani’s friends because she has none of her own?

[info]jaina47: “I’ll admit the way Nadia said that toaster line did crack me up.”

[info]kelinswriter: “Do not lie in front of your gf’s friends. Because if Jamie has to pick you KNOW who he’s picking.”
[info]rysler: “Also ‘I’m not with another woman’ was pretty interesting.”
[info]kelinswriter: “Well that makes me wonder if she has cheated before.”
[info]rysler: “In a blowing off steam sort of way?”
[info]kelinswriter: “Here’s the thing about drunks. A lot of them think that what they do when they’re drunk doesn’t count. The whole college ‘omg I was wasted and look I have a tattoo now’ thing.”

[info]jaina47: “Hmm, interesting that Lara seems just as desperate to keep Ani. That’s the first time I’ve seen that. Her cracks are really starting to show.”
[info]rysler: “I took her avoidance as Ani being too clingy and too present lately. But maybe Lara just has ever-more to hide from her.”

Drew is enthusiastic (and adorably cute, omg.) Jamie is polite. Whose secrets does Jamie keep? Clearly, Gina’s. Presumably, Ani’s. Lara’s? As a secret-keeper, he would. As a loyal friend, he might not. Decisions face him. It’s nice to see Jamie in his element–in his bar–here. He must be a catch. He’s a businessman and an intellectual and I’m going to say drug-free. Along with being charming and funny blah blah blah. He’s like what Gina would be if she were raised by Guya and Katie, rather than Guya and the Colonel.

Meanwhile Van and Gina are togeether. Do I need to point out they’re drinking? This is Gina Tognoni’s best scene to date. I don’t know if Wes Ramsey is working some Chappell Effect voodoo on her, or if the plot is sufficiently anchored now to expose her, but here she is. As Van confesses his secrets–okay the theme of the episode is secrets–Sami’s hamsters are all on their wheels. She’s thinking. She’s analyzing. She’s Active Listening. Watching her think is the most extraordinary thing. The thing that makes Sami who she is–bleeding heart, compassionate wanderer–are coming out. Van, a fellow wanderer-stranger, has brought her into being. Not Owen, who is Venice Beach. Who is Home and Family.

The best annecdote that comes to mind for me is Into the Wild, which is a series of strangers encountering each other and forming intimate relationships based on introspection and feeling. Kindred Spirits are not the same as companions. Sami’s getting a buzz she hasn’t gotten in a while. And OMG, I want Sami to do more.

[info]kelinswriter: “It’s a different energy than her daytime roles, but she’s got that internal thing she does going. The first time I saw that scene I thought ‘oh wow, Sami as therapist’ and it’s clicking. She’s in a caretaker profession. She responds to stories and people taking responsibility for their behavior… Sami may be kind of low key but if you think about what she’s done with her life… Those are some ballsy things. I mean for those who know LA geography, a tiny little white girl like her going down to Flowers? that takes guts.”

[info]kelinswriter: “Owen looks at his dad’s situation and says ‘serves you right.’ Sami looks at it and sees a chance to reach out and help someone who might not be capable of asking for help.”

Gina outside with the football and the Colonel is just delightful to watch. I love her moment of pure joy.

[info]jaina47: “Aw, Gina’s so cute and proud of herself and…HOT! [meant to be sung in a Jessica Leccia like trill]”

[info]kelinswriter: ” On to the scene of the century.”

[info]jaina47: “OMG, I’m psychic! Hi Bar! White outfit. Ani. Damn, she’s so pretty.”

Then we get a nice moment of Ani alone, smiling, drinking. She’s texting and she’s waiting for Gina and she’s in Jamie’s orbit in a beautiful place and really, what isn’t good for Ani right now? She glows.

[info]kelinswriter: “This banter is so adorable. Do you notice how she tenses when Gina says ‘Lara was thinking.’ They fall into this groove the second Ani says ‘you know me.'”
[info]kelinswriter: “‘You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met’… Okay. First. That’s Olivia’s voice. And second. just…wow.”
[info]rysler: “The eating thing, it sounds like Gina’s heard that before.”
[info]kelinswriter: “I get the feeling this was an issue in their relationship too. Ani would get down on herself. Gina wouldn’t know how to talk her out of it and then it would sort of cycle.”
[info]rysler: “Yeah, there’s a little of “oh, god, this?” in Gina’s reaction here.”
[info]kelinswriter: “And a little bit of ‘dammit I wish you would listen to me’ in Gina’s look, especially when Ani says she’s going back to yoga and bootcamp and dealing with it. It hurts her to see Ani hurting. She wants her to feel better.”

[info]jaina47: “Clean Slate, really? That’s like otp song. Way to go, Kimmy. Like we needed REMINDING.”

I am not going to summarize this scene, I’ll just point out a few things to watch out for:

1) Ani’s awkwardness. Played excellently by Jessica Leccia–perhaps too well. That prickly, scratching awkwardness shone in episode two and it reappears here. It’s an acting choice to express the sheer anxiety of coping with Gina, but I think she’s so naturalistic it almost seems stiff. Because it is, in character.

2) Gina’s attempt to discount “bias” and Ani cutting her off. Ani literally does the “talk to the hand” gesture. She doesn’t want to hear whatever Gina’s going to say. Instead, she smiles and listens to the music.

3) Ani’s squeeful, quick hug when Gina’s figuring out how to dance with her. She gets to touch Gina! Yay!

[info]kelinswriter: ‘The “Please dance with me’ is a direct response to Ani saying that she danced with Lara. [Gina] wants her to feel good about herself again. Very directly. I would like to add that that little smile that Ani gives right before Gina asks her to dance is quite simply sublime for so. many. reasons.”

[info]kelinswriter: “Other thoughts… That pause before and immediately following ‘I love this song’ was so deliberate. That was giving the audience time to catch the reference and realize what the song was… They kept it low at first. So it was an undercurrent, you couldn’t really peg it. it just felt familiar. Also…they had it playing on the sound system. Then when they danced they went to an overdub. But that meant they were committed… They couldn’t NOT use it if it didn’t work. That takes some balls.”

[info]jaina47: “The two big Giani scenes this season are related. Because the first one – the flashback of dreamy kissing – was all about Gina wanting to take Ani to some place special, just the two of them. And if you think about it, that was what her offer to dance was about too, creating a moment, a little world for just a second that was all about just the two of them and showing Ani that she really was beautiful… They are so freaking adorable together. And seem like they should be making out any second now. That was so sad and hot and omg. Dancing. Um, wow. This is even better than I was like hoping. wow. Just wow. They’re both so sad and even though they’re touching it’s totally not enough touching. It’s not even entirely sexual it’s just that they can’t get enough of each other. Holy crap, this is hitting all my angst buttons. I love it. Now I just need to rewatch that scene 300 more times.”

[info]kelinswriter: “Okay Owen.”
[info]kelinswriter: “Unless we have more to say on the scene of the century.”
[info]rysler: “Ask me in a few days when my heart stops pounding.”

Owen. And flowers. Owen’s still bringing Sami gifts. This is actually really helpful to me, as a gift-oriented-wooer. They sure don’t solve anything. Poor Owen.

“Let it go.”
“No, I won’t let it go.”

They’re both completely right in their way. And at a complete impasse.

[info]kelinswriter: “Sami thought: Sami gets that taking care of other people isn’t always fun and that sometimes it really sucks, but you do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. Sami is really uncomfortable with Owen’s competition with Van. It’s becoming the focus of their relationship and she’s had it. I think we found out who Sami is in these two scenes (and by ‘we’ I mean the Venice peeps as well). I’m fully invested in her now.”

[info]jaina47: “Sami might have something in her past that she very much regrets allowing happen/doing which is why she’s so down on Owen not giving the Colonel and Van second chances. Because to me her coming back from doing all these very good things in Africa and starting over in LA and all her wistfulness for family sounds like a big wipe the slate clean and start over kind of thing to me. And to me, Sami seems…damaged in some way. Not like Gina, but fragile. And careful.”

Speaking of impasses, Ani is in Lara’s kitchen, despite being dissuaded from dinner. What has motivated her to show up? But she picks sides and reads Lara’s email. Lara is about to lose everything. Where is she?

[info]kelinswriter: “Ani really thinks before she looks at that email. She really struggles with it. But she’s hit the point where she can’t not see any more. Before, when she saw the bottles, she looked away. She can’t look away any more.”

[info]kelinswriter: “Nice car, Lara. I want. But you’re gonna have a helluva crick in your neck come morning.”

Lara’s doing the only thing that gives her peace anymore. She’s listening to the ocean.

Nothing that happens in this episode is new. Owen’s giving presents. Lara’s by the sea. Amber’s freaked out. The Colonel takes some condescending digs at his first born. And yet, every moment is refreshing and new and colorful. Maybe because I anticipate the characters I love now? Or maybe there’s an amplification effect? It’s like we’ve completed another circle around our community, and everything’s a bit more vibrant. Amber’s more present. Owen’s more screwed. The Colonel’s more able-bodied. I don’t know how to make all that thoughtful, but there it is, and it’s cool.

Ani is no longer World’s Perfect Girlfriend. That’s totally okay. Her flaws only make her more loveable and interesting. More vibrant. See directly above. I have spent so long anticipating Lara’s fall from grace that I didn’t consider Ani’s (after all, she was perfect.) But here she is, participating in the madness.

It’s nice to see. Jessica Leccia has had to play “she who sins in her heart” before, and her naturalistic, internal acting makes her achingly sympathetic. There’s no falsehoods here to provide justification. She’s just screwed. She’s got a potentially great mate, someone she could be with for a long time, who’s not Gina, who sucks. And yet, her life is nothing but questions.

Now that Sami’s gone from “Owen’s girlfriend” to “really cool character” for me, I want to see more combinations and revelations. However this shakes out in future seasons. Will Lara and Van end up commiserating together? Will Ani find Owen the preferable sibling? Will Drew and Brandon win Hottest Male Couple on the Beach? I am happy any way this show goes.

I am so happy.

[info]kelinswriter: “The music choices for this episode were spot on. Not just the choice to use “Clean Slate” (because they had to live up to it), but that closing song as well. It foreshadows trouble on the horizon, but it’s not ominous – it’s an elegy for what could have been if human weakness didn’t get in the way.”

Music:
Clean Slate by Kyler England
Habit by Charlotte Martin

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