I thought it was pretty cheeky of the writers of
Swingtown to start "Get Down Tonight" with a little post-coital chit-chat between Bruce and Susan about her "faking it." Because even though there was quite a bit of actual coupling in this episode, there were also several plot devices that faked it - served as sex surrogates, if you will - some of which then led to actual sex, and others which merely outlined the hungry, empty space that held the desire for intimacy. Let's spot the fakes together:
I can't believe I'm starting with Ricky. Let's face it: Ricky has been kind of a
pill this season. I wish his character had been more sympathetic along the way. That way, his budding teen romance with "Kissing Cousin" Lisa would be as awkward and charming as that of Sam and B.J a few weeks back. But since he continues to be a blustery crankypants, it's hard to root for the kid, isn't it?
Also, he is totally saddled with all kinds of winky, unsubtle, "he doth protest too much"-style dialogue about masculinity that practically throws the poor guy his own Pride parade. Ricky mocks his father for being the one who "wears the apron in the family." He actually says: "I'm not spending a perfectly good summer day at the beach with two lame girls," but amazingly he does not add, "Oooo, yucky, girls are gross." Janet responds to Roger's assertion that Ricky and B.J. have a double date by asking: "With girls?" Sigh.
Anyhow, on said double date, the boys play poker, which, borrowing liberally from the TV cliché handbook, segues into a game of strip poker that ends with two horny boys in tighty-whites thinking: This isn't how I imagined it
at all. But, wait a sec, Lisa actually likes Ricky, and actually kisses Ricky, and then they disappear inside the house to make out or whatever. Something happens though - or doesn't happen, as the case may be - and a shirtless Ricky reappears and takes off in a huff. "Girls ruin everything," he tells his father the next morning. Oh, Ricky - not
Sick of taking the El downtown to see Doug, Laurie abandons her green stance (not very 2008 of her) long enough to decide to get her driver's license. Bruce offers to teach her, but Doug already has that covered, old man. Which is actually fine with Bruce because he had to "call in three favors" to get a tee time at some schmancy country club so he can't take her anyway.
[Rant begins here - > OK, let's back up a second. I call foul on the writers for using the expression "call in three favors": What the hell does that mean? Was Bruce unable to get a tee time without the assistance of three other people? Did one guy say, "No, no, no - two favors is not enough for this coveted tee time; you owe me
three favors for this one, buddy!" Was it a chain reaction of favor-owing? I just don't get it, even though we hear it said all the time on television.
<- Rant ends here]
And it was actually fine with Laurie too, because after she played pretend-driving school with a plunger, some sponges and Doug, she got to have sex with her teacher, which, as we know, is kind of her thing. Since it wasn't much of a lesson - a driving lesson anyway,
nudgenudge - she had to resort to dear old Dad's automotive tutelage. But Dad won't let Laurie pull into traffic (read: grow up) because he always thinks she's wrong. But then he asks her if she knows how proud he is of her, and she says no (oops). But she seems happy to hear it, so then everything is right, and Laurie is going to get her license, making hot-for-teacher booty calls that much simpler. Problem solved!
Susan and Bruce attempt to recover from last week's disastrous family vacation with some together time. But what to do? A movie? No. Scrabble? "That sounds like a night with the Thompsons," snarks Bruce. Trina helpfully suggests some dirty, dirty disco-dancing at a new club called Jet that Tom's bud Bud has opened. Perfect! What better way to reinvigorate one's marital bonds than to go hang out with the neighborhood swingers at a discotheque? There is some plot device about the Deckers investing in Jet, but it seems mostly inconsequential, except did anyone notice that once Trina agreed to invest, Tom said: "It's your money anyway"? What's that all about?
Before they board Jet, though, Tom and Trina invite the Millers over for dancing lessons, which is a really cute and funny scene. The actors have clearly been coached because their "New Yorker" technique is flawless. It's at this point that the episode began its takeoff from the safe, grounded 1970s realism of the runway it has taxied on thus far and into the wild blue yonder of the campy 1970s excess of the disco scene. Tom even wore a fairly obvious homage to John Travolta's white vest and bellbottoms from
Saturday Night Fever. At the end of this scene, the camera closes in on Susan, whose mischievous grin seems to indicate that she sees some serious stress relief in her future, and not just on the dance floor.
So this is probably the scene that we all imagined what we first heard about
Swingtown. Jet is like the Windy City's Studio 54 as seen through a candy-colored kaleidoscope, complete with the scene outside of everyone angling to get in. On the turntable: The Sylvers' delirious "Boogie Fever." On the dance floor: an assemblage of chiefs and chicks of every gender, color, and - as Bruce slyly notes - sexual orientation. It's a groove-gasm and it makes you realize how restrained this show has been in its interpretation of the decade, and that maybe it deserves a little "Boogie Fever" every now and then to keep the blood pumping.
Then Susan takes another Quaalude, which as we all know is this show's shorthand for: I would like some partner-swapping tonight, please! Those dance lessons certainly paid off, as the horny quartet showed off their formidable coordinated line-dancing skills. I have to say: It really looked like the actors had a blast filming these scenes, as their faces periodically broke into very natural, non-actor-y smiles and infectious laughter throughout.
Eventually, our faithful DJ takes things down a notch, though, switching gears to the "slow groove" portion of the program, perfect for making out with someone else's spouse! To the deliberate throb of Exile's "I Want to Kiss You All Over," Bruce did exactly that to Trina, as they did that back-to-front dance that always looks better in movies and on TV than it actually feels in reality. A blissed-out Susan similarly draped herself over Tom, reaching skyward as sparkly confetti fell from the sky like a thousand shattered disco balls. "Should we all head back for a dip?" purrs Trina.
Dissolve to the sparkly water in the Deckers' pool, where I got a chuckle out of the fact that this too-hot-for-CBS sex scene began with an underwater shot of artfully framed, interlaced legs, which reminded me of the couples' first Fourth of July assignation on the sofa, where network TV made it necessary for interlaced fingers and backrubs to stand in for actual sex. The editing in this scene was pretty hilarious too, with more quick cuts than an episode of
Club MTV (Holla at your boy, Eric Nies!), lest they reveal any naughty bits.
As the Millers say their awkward, polite goodbyes after what is presumed to be a vigorous bout of hot, offscreen monkey love, Trina has another opportunity to molest Susan's jewelry, as she has almost forgotten her earrings again. And then the door closes and the Millers stand silent for a second on the front step
Bruce: (Hopeful) "That was fun, right?"
Susan: (Absently) "Yeah."
Bruce: (Resigned) "Let's go home."
It's clear that, with their instantaneous regret, the Millers appear to agree with me that another romp with the Deckers was definitely not the solution to what ails their marriage.
The industrious Janet gets a temp job in the steno pool of the local newspaper. (She also got a shiny new hair-helmet to wear to the office, which was nice.) This is where my sex surrogate theme doesn't exactly apply. Sexual-harassment surrogate maybe though! You see, her new boss is kind of ass-grabby. "With all due respect," she tells him, "if you touch my rear one more time, my husband will come down here and kick yours." Go, Janet!
Let's talk about Henry (David Monahan, who you probably barely recognize from
Crossing Jordan), Janet's no-nonsense coworker, for a second. Is it just me, or did his hair, that 'stache and those trim-cut suits give him an unfortunate resemblance to Tracey Ullman playing a flight attendant named Lance?
It's clear that Janet's insane organizational skills make her a natural for the business world, and she quickly proves herself to be worthy of a permanent job offer. So maybe
work actually is Janet's sex surrogate, because one look at her face and you can see that an empty in-box comes pretty close to ecstasy for our favorite little domestic dominatrix.
Emboldened by her first day on the job, Janet decides to have a come-to-Jesus talk with Roger about his still-pretty-aimless job search. It's clear that she is
totally freaking out (in the most calm and supportive of ways, of course) that her husband is still unemployed, and thinks it's time he get back to work. "Once that happens, everything will fall into place, and we can go back to exactly the way things used to be," she says. Uh-oh! Haven't you been listening, Janet? Roger doesn't want the status quo; he wants
Making Chicken Kiev
While Janet is off at the salt mines playing
9 to 5, Roger is at home playing
Mr. Mom. First thing on Janet's OCD-assisted to-do list: Make Chicken Kiev for dinner. This dish was a perfect choice for many reasons. First, everyone ate Chicken Kiev in the '70s, but practically nobody does anymore - much like Waldorf Salad, Veal Oscar, sherbert, and Quaaludes (see above). Second, at first glance, it's just an ordinary breaded chicken dish, but - oh! - when pierced with a knife, a molten butter-and-parsley center squirts out. Kind of sexy for chicken, right? (A similar construction was employed to a less-sexy effect with
Freshen Up gum in the '80s.) All in all, it was a perfect sex surrogate for this fake couple who likes to
skip rocks together, if you know what I mean
Roger goes to the only grocery store in all of Chicago's North Shore and naturally runs into Susan because it's impossible for anyone to buy fresh produce alone on this show. He's all moony-eyed and "my place or yours?" with her, and they end up back at the Thompsons' house massaging salt and pepper into chicken breasts while the bow-chicka-bow-bow music plays in my head. "It helps if you rub it in," Susan says. Contrast Roger's bursting sexy-chicken with the dry, tasteless fish sticks Susan serves Bruce that same night (with a most unsexy glop of ketchup on the plate) and I think we all know what's going on here.
"The only way to tackle a problem is to give it a name," says shrink Carolyn Gardiner, who Roger sees again this week. "Susan," Roger says, going on to say, about his marriage to Janet, "I think there should be
more." (There's that word again!) A few scenes later, we get a better idea of what he wants more of when he bum-rushes Susan in her kitchen and, you know,
makes Chicken Kiev with her, by which I mean he kisses her! As the significance of this moment sinks in, the soundtrack narrates their inner monologues with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?", a song made famous by the Shirelles in 1960. This 1971 version, however, is a cover by Carole King from her seminal album
Tapestry. (Aside: When we were kids, my sister and I thought the singer's name was "Carole Kingtapestry.") Freed of its girl-group bounce, King's version reveals the longing and desperation that she intended the song to have when she wrote it when she was just 18. If you listen closely, you can hear Joni Mitchell and James Taylor on backup vocals, making sweet, sweet love to plaintive harmonies. The song is cut off as the episode ends with an abrupt fade to black, leaving a stained-glass question mark hanging in the air: What will happen in the song's figurative tomorrow?
Next week (in two weeks actually): We're at the end of the road, folks! I have a confession to make. I have actually already seen
Swingtown's season (series?) finale, which is very appropriately titled "Surprise!" because it is jam-packed with them. You won't get any spoilers from me though, for I found it very interesting to see which tidbits CBS chose to tease: Roger tells Susan he's in love with her! Trina is pregnant?! Bruce lies about having to go back to the office to get his briefcase! (Suffice it to say that they are not giving away all this episode's juicy surprises!)
What did you think? Is disco dancing a gateway drug? Where do Susan and Roger go after The Kiss? Will Janet get her ass grabbed again (ha, I kind of hope so)? And are you craving Chicken Kiev as much as I am? Or do you have another sex surrogate you'd like to share with the group?
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