Episode 13: Blowtox and Burlap
By: Carlos Uribe
Suburgatory is a show about a teenage girl who is stuck in her version of hell, the suburbs.
Everyone has an imagination. One of the aspects that make humans so unique in the world is that they're one of the few, if not the only, species that is capable of coming up with imaginary situations. Without this capability, we wouldn't have fiction. It has allowed creative people to take their audiences to whole different worlds. How much detail is given is up to the storyteller. They might want to be as detailed as possible but they might also want to leave some parts to the audience. This is because an audience's imagination can be more effective to the story than what the writer has actually come up with. The classical horror movies knew this. They would leave a lot of the violent scenes up to the viewer's imagination because they realized that what a person saw in their mind was going to be more personally terrifying than what they actually showed on the scene. At the same time, it is possible to build up a visual image so much that it makes the audience want to see it. This was the case this week with Dallas. She got some operation that completely made her face look unnatural. It makes her ashamed. For most of the episode, the scenes Dallas were in refused to show the face head-on. All we really got see were the hints of what the face was and the character's reaction to seeing it. That is until the end when she finally decides to show George. By this point, I was conflicted. On one hand, I really wanted to see the face because the show had made such a big deal out of it. On the other hand, I knew that it was going to be worse in my mind. That's partially because of Dalia's description but also due to my own imagination being able to create things that the Suburgatory team wouldn't be able to replicate. We did get shown the face, however briefly, and it was satisfying. It could have been so disappointing and I imagine it might have been for some-but the face itself was just so funny that it wasn't difficult to be happy with it.
Imagination might be a tool or a hindrance to a writer but what's impossible for them is to please everyone. There are six billion people on this planet and each of them are unique. People not only have different tastes but they can dislike individual pieces of fiction if they're not able to connect with them. The goal of a writer isn't to connect with everyone as that's impossible-it's to connect with as many people as possible within your target audience. This is actually what Tessa and Ryan's plot is about. Tessa convinces Ryan to go to an art house movie theater because a film that she's been excited for has just opened. This is exactly the kind of movie That Tessa would love but that Ryan would hate. This doesn't happen. Tessa is not able to connect with the movie so she's bored by it. She didn't enjoy it as she found it to be pretentious. Ryan does like it. He doesn't just like it as he feels like the movie has changed his life. He was able to connect with it and understand it on a personal level. Their different reactions to the movies creates conflict because they didn't enjoy the same experience on the same level. The two characters are so different and it makes sense that this would be a recurring conflict for as long as they're together. In the end, they just have to accept that they're not going to like the same things.
While Tessa and Ryan learn that they're not going to always enjoy the same things, Sheila understands why Lisa broke up with Malik. It all happens when Sheila's mom comes to visit a day earlier than expected-on Valentine's Day. Her mom and Fred hit it off and the two spend the day together so much so that Sheila realizes she's repulsed by it. Suddenly she's able to relate to Lisa's problem with Malik. Sheila is able to scheme with Malik where the two pretend to have a falling out. Lisa is impressed and she's willing to give him a second chance again. It's a nice and sweetly triumphant moment for Malik when he's finally able to win her back. As for Sheila's mom? After taking a tango lesson from her, Fred manages to get rid of her so that he could spend the rest of the holiday with his wife. The plot is sweet and their reunion works on an emotional level but it feels like their reconciliation went about a little too easy. I think the problem is that it became so predictable as soon as Sheila realized why Lisa had ended things with Malik. Once she knew, the solution was going to be obvious and it's a bit sad that Lisa fell for it so easily.
Boxtop and Burlap is a pretty good episode of Suburgatory. The Dallas plot with her messed up face was simply comedy gold-as well as George's attempt to eat that 18-course meal. The Ryan and Lisa story was a great way to explore how these two are so different and yet how this only seems to bring them closer by the end. The whole way Malik got back together with Lisa might have been a bit predictable but it was still funny and full of real emotion. Overall, I've got state that this is a pretty good Valentine's Day episode.