Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Review of Brothers And Sisters: "State Of The Parties"

Written by Molly Newman And Jon Robin Baitz
Directed by Ken Olin

Kevin (to Nora, regarding William): “Well if you ever want to miss him with someone else in the room, just call me.”

Buying the first season of Brothers And Sisters on DVD, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get a few deleted scenes. Instead the producers compensated us with this episode, appropriately titled “State Of The Parties” for our trouble.

Originally it was supposed to be the second episode but instead we were given the still good “An Act Of Will”. At least by having this episode available to watch on DVD we could see what could’ve been with certain plots.

One of the strongest things about this episode is the focus on William’s death itself. For some reason it did bother me that “An Act Of Will” barely touched on William’s funeral so it’s nice that this episode addressed that problem head on with some much needed emphasis on the man’s passing.

Kitty herself opens up the episode by getting ready for her father’s funeral and tries to be strong. Although I still don’t generally like Jonathan, it is nice that in the first half of the episode he attempts to be supportive and doesn’t push Kitty for an answer on the engagement question.

Sarah is also a bit stressed too. She goes around the house looking for her mobile phone and also goes out of her way to avoid answering Tommy’s questions. When you have all of your father’s personal files lying around the place, I guess it’s only natural that someone would ask questions.

Kevin on the other hand is sent to collect Justin. Justin is also barely coping and Fawn does a decent thing by sorting out his cuff link dilemma without too much fuss. Nora however is more preoccupied with picking out appropriate music for William’s funeral but Kevin manages to get her out of the house.

The funeral scene itself is around the same length as it was in “An Act Of Will” but with all the moments before the actual ceremony it feels a little more whole. Holly is also skulking in the background and is visibly insulted when Saul asks why she’s there. I remember early in Season One I was a little sympathetic towards Holly. I hate to admit it but I did feel a little bad for her here as well.

It was Justin who originally caught on to the fact that Holly and William were sleeping together and it’s Justin here again that confronts his father’s mistress on that as well. Instead of confronting her while she’s gardening, he goes up to her door and she lets him in.

Now later episodes have shown us that Holly has a penchant for lying but here I almost wondered if her fibbing was out of guilty or a need to protect Justin’s feelings. You don’t have to be the most intuitive of people to see that he’s something of a loose cannon and Holly basically tells Justin that her and William’s affair wasn’t of the 20 year variety. Justin actually buys it and even considers getting Holly back that letter open she so desperately wants.

I’m not sure if Holly requesting a simple letter opener that she presumably gave to William is a way of underpinning that she loved William for who he was rather than what was in his bank balance but it would come back to haunt her later on when Justin effectively told her to disappear.

Justin’s sudden turn from being sympathetic to Holly to spitting vitriol at her actually did make me feel bad for her. Justin didn’t do it to be a total asshole. It’s just when Nora started going on about great William was; Justin was reminded of how much his father betrayed him. In fairness considering the wrath of Sarah, Holly probably got off easily with that one.

Funnily enough she actually called Saul as well and told him what Justin said to her. I never really understood why the writers paired Holly and Saul together during Season One. Was it just a way to constantly keep her in the Walkers orbit or was it just biding time for the writers to explore Saul’s sexuality. It’s been alluded to plenty of times that Saul and Holly didn’t actually get up to much sexually either.

Saul’s another big point of this episode. At first in the series, he was the main suspect of Ojai’s pension fund going missing and originally it was Saul and Tommy versus Sarah. Funnily enough with this episode it’s actually Tommy and Sarah versus Saul. Given how much I hate Tommy for fighting with Sarah over Ojai, I enjoyed this dynamic more.

Another surprise is that Sarah is less critical of Saul’s actions. That’s mainly because she knows that William is responsible for the mess created at Ojai and while Saul doesn’t make a great effort to defend himself, Sarah realises that he isn’t responsible for what’s happening with the family business.

Tommy however doesn’t particularly feel that way and has no problem laying into Saul twice about Ojai’s misfortune. Saul did himself no favours by calling Tommy’s business skills into question (though he might have had a point) but even if I blocked out “Patriarchy”, I think I would’ve believed him.

Another strong point about the business side of things is that Sarah went to Kevin about it. She tried the hypothetical friend angle first but Kevin’s smart enough to realise she was referring to Ojai itself. Kevin has more of an emotional reaction here than he did in “An Act Of Will” and once again he offers Sarah some pretty sensible advice while reminding her about the threat of prison.

Not only that but Kevin also warns Tommy to control his hostility towards Saul. Tommy is unable to do that but Kevin manages to keep Nora from becoming privy to Ojai’s mess by giving some of his own money to fund Nora’s latest project. In a sense it’s a nice thing for him to do but it might have been better for Tommy and Sarah to have told Nora about it.

Nora isn’t quite as vocalised in this episode as I thought she would be but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like she’s being ignored either. We get a nice scene where her and Kevin connect rather well and while it’s not great to wake her son up at 2am, it’s also good to see want to do something good in William’s name.

Nora spent a bit of the episode talking about William’s legacy. She was adamant that the kids took as much of his stuff as possible and she also waxed lyrical about his greatness to Justin. The fact that Justin sat there and didn’t scoff or confess about Holly was surprising for him.

Nora also had a great final scene with Kitty as well. One of the main things of this episode was the two women being cordial to one another and when they were in William’s car, Nora asked Kitty to move in with her. Nora’s timing couldn’t have been any better.

At the beginning of this episode Kitty was going on about several things to Jonathan about her father’s last wishes. One of those wishes was to reconnect with Nora and this episode showed that promise. I’ve always enjoyed any scene with Nora and Kitty and it’s pretty obvious that Calista Flockhart and Sally Field equally feel the same about working together.

Kitty had a lot to do in this episode. Her first day at Red White And Blue had the usual work related hiccups you’d expect. First she had to deal with the transition from radio to television and then she had an image consultant telling her to glam herself up. To be honest, I’m with the consultant. While I don’t exactly expect Kitty to dress like someone posing for FHM, if Warren has to be all pretty, then so should Kitty.

Besides while the image consultant is an annoying bore, Lilah is a pretty fun make up artist to have. Kitty’s bright but she’s also attractive (though Sarah is obviously hotter) and both Lilah and Warren have no problem in mentioning both of those qualities during good and bad moments for Kitty.

Kitty and Warren have also had more convincing chemistry than Kitty and Jonathan. Warren might goad her but he did genuinely care when she explained about her father and while he might have ambushed her during her show, if he hadn’t, then Kitty really wouldn’t have the fire in her belly to deliver some good arguments. Warren was right to point out that Kitty wasn’t bringing her A-Game.

Besides he was also a lot more supportive than Jonathan. Jonathan clearly has some mild control issues and he never wanted Kitty to take on the Red, White And Blue gig in the first place. Instead of being supportive, he revelled in the fact that her first show wasn’t great.

Thankfully though Kitty managed to realise that Red, White And Blue is a far better bedfellow than an unsupportive would be fiancé and she did herself and the rest of the audience a massive favour by ditching Jonathan. Given that none of the Walkers, especially Nora are all that fond of Jonathan it was cute to see them slightly revel in him leaving after Kitty turned him down.

Also in “State Of The Parties”

The start of this episode has an introduction from co-writer Jon Robin Baitz. Apart from some obvious plot differences, I wished this had been episode two.

Kitty: “No, please don’t hurt me. If you do, I’ll get all wobbly and I won’t be able to make it through this day.”
Jonathan: “I don’t have to go to New York. I think I should just and be magisterially supportive of you.”

This episode revealed that Kitty sometimes suffers from low blood sugar attacks. She suffered one prior to William’s funeral.

Nora (re song): “I think he would want this played at the funeral. Something with charm. Can we do that?”
Kevin: “I think it might be too late.”
Nora: “I guess it is. Okay, let’s go.”

Saul: “You shouldn’t have come, Holly.”
Holly: “Did you really think I wouldn’t come to the man’s funeral?”

There are at least two scenes where some of the dialogue is exactly like that of “An Act Of Will”. The scene where Justin tells Holly he knows her and the scene where Nora suggests moving in with Kevin.

Tommy: “Come on, Dad told you it was Saul.”
Sarah: “Dad lied to me. Don’t you understand? He looked me in the eye and he lied.”

Holly (re William): “He thought the world of you. Your courage. Your heart. He was incredibly proud.”
Justin: “Okay, okay. I should go before I die of the weirdness of all this.”

Justin really does believe that William didn’t think very much of him. In a certain episode he conveyed that in the manner of a spoiled brat but here I pitied him.

Saul: “I’ve been working day and night Thomas to try and shield you from the truth about this whole disgusting mess which is single-handedly your father’s doing.”
Tommy: “He would never.”
Saul: “But I would?”

Warren (to Kitty): “Hey they know what they’re doing. I used to look like an escaped Berkeley lesbian. Now look at me, I’m sort of gorgeous.”

Kitty got a bunch of bibs in the American flags. Warren’s comments about the tinfoil in her hair disrupting his phone reception were neat.

Sarah: “You will not be domesticated will you? What’s wrong with two boys shopping?”
Kevin: “Nothing. Depends on the boys.”
Sarah: “You know there’s a fine line between high standards and bizarrely neurotic.”

Kevin: “Who’s responsible? Was it Saul or was it Dad?”
Sarah: “I’m not sure. Dad knew about it. That’s clear.”

We learned that Kevin had an ex-boyfriend called Hank, who he dumped due to commitment issues. I assume Kevin commitments issues rather than Hank’s.

Warren: “Kitty this is television. All’s fair in love and TV.”
Kitty: “No, don’t make nice. Now I know who you are and what you are.”

Holly: “It’s not that easy. Promises were made.”
Justin: “I’ll make it that easy. Whatever arrangement you had died with my father. It’s over. You don’t exist so get on with you life and disappear for good.”

Three significant things: This episode didn’t debut Scotty, we got nothing on William’s will and Justin didn’t wind up in jail.

Sarah: “The company will pay you back as soon as.”
Kevin: “Tell the company to take it’s time.”

Kitty: “Thanks for being nice, not calling me calling a fascist.”
Nora: “The night’s still young.”

Standout music: I’m going to give some praise to Blake Neely the series’ composer seeing as I fail to on occasion.

Nora: “Why not? Our ceasefire seems to be holding. As long as we don’t talk about Justin or the war. Or gay marriage or the death penalty. Or stem cell research. As long as we talk about the weather, we’ll be just fine and I could do with the company.”
Kitty: “Me too.”

Chronology: At least two days since the end of “Patriarchy”.

“State Of The Parties” surprised me. I wasn’t expecting this episode to be awful but I was taken aback with how brilliant it ended up being as well. If this had actually aired (with some tweaking), I could see this one being in my Top10 episodes from the first season.

Rating: 9 out of 10.