Episode 14: T-Ball & Sympathy
By: Carlos Uribe
Suburgatory is a show about a teenage girl who is stuck in her version of hell, the suburbs.
Love can be a wonderful experience. If you're with someone you love then you're happy just because you're spending time with them. Love can also be treacherous because it can lead to betrayal. It might lead to your heart breaking when a relationship ends or when your partner cheats on you. Love can be tricky. It can be good but it can be bad. Tessa has been going out with Ryan for some time now. She begins the episode by narrating that they have managed to survive a few holidays and medical emergencies together. She seems to be content with where she is in the relationship. When Ryan goes on an away game for three days, Tessa doesn't want to realize that her boyfriend is lying to her. That would be too painful as it would suggest that their relationship is coming to an end. What she does instead is meddle in other people's relationships so that she doesn't have to deal with the problems in her own. There is one problem with this. The previous episode had been all about Tessa and Ryan figuring out how they're going to be working as a couple. The episode ends with Tessa realizing he had lied to her. What's the problem? It's a huge plot development move that simply was rushed. We don't see their relationship start to really fall apart and there was no indication their relationship was really in trouble before this episode. The development feels like it comes out of nowhere. It also seems to betray Ryan's feelings for Tessa. The next episode might be able to explain this but it just didn't feel like very organic.
Her meddling begins the episode as Tessa reveals that the longevity of her relationship has made people see her as an expert in dating. This begins with a whole gag where Tessa hands out free relationship advice in the bathroom. That is until a handicap girl needs to use the toiler for it's intended purpose. This leads Tessa straight to Mr. Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe is a bit insecure because Chef Alan is spending time with his ex-boyfriend. Tessa decides to get involved but she doesn't make the situation any better. Tessa decides that she'll try to rectify her mistake but this leads to a scene where she and Lisa overhear Chef Alan and his ex-boyfriend making plans. It's meant to sound like they're planning some kind of affair. Most comedies would have gone with this and create a situation of misreading the situation. It would have turned out to be an innocent Oscar-watching party and all the suspicious parties would have felt silly. It does appear to be heading that way when Mr. Wolfe reveals that the two are having an Oscar-watching party and he wasn't invited because he's been boycotting the awards show. That is until they actually break into the party. At first everything seems like normal until it's revealed that Chef Alan and his ex-boyfriend had been making out. Having this turn out exactly like how Tessa read the situation was subverting the audience's expectations in a good way. It is sad that Mr. Wolfe's first story in a while was such a heartbreaking one for the character.
The one plot that Tessa doesn't get involved with has to do with the rest of the adults. Dallas and Noah have been in a feud over the whole Camren situation. When Noah steals Dallas' hair stylist, Dallas decides to rob Noah of the one thing that gives him any joy. She decides that she's going to beat his t-ball team. The team that she gets is one that fits Dallas very well. They're not very disciplined or athletic. They wear costumes that are way too pink and they're encouraged to have their own unique runs that express their individuality. They might be having fun but they're never going to be able to actually win at the sport. George realizes this and he brings it up to Dallas that she's not going to be able win because she doesn't know how to properly coach a team. She's putting too much into the practices. She's able to convince him to get involved and he agrees. He's hoping that this game will be able to settle the feud between his girlfriend and best friend.
Noah doesn't see it that way. Noah believes that George helping his girlfriend win is a betrayal of their friendship. This is silly but the feud has gotten to be so large that George can't help but be dragged into it. This plot has a climax at the game. Dallas' team is winning because George had been able to coach them to be like any other team. In turn, he has removed their individuality and turned them into sore winners. When they all start chanting to sweep the leg, George realizes his mistake. He had taken too much fun out of the game and it has become a bitter match between all involved. The game ends when one of the kids basically attacks another. Dallas' team loses as they are disqualified but George still sees a victory because at least they learned that victory isn't worth the cost of humanity. Dallas seems to learn this so she decides to “unbreak” her feud with Noah. It's a nice plot with a good resolution. It makes sense that this feud would spiral out of control and that George would eventually be forced to pick a side. The question is really whether the feud is really over or whether Dallas just made a grammatical mistake. There is a small part of me that hopes it remains because it is so funny to see this conflict between the two characters and how George finds himself in the middle of it.
T-Ball & Sympathy is a pretty good episode of Suburgatory. The problem remains that Lisa's resolution at the end would have made a bigger impact if the viewer knew there were serious problems in their relationship. When you jump from them figuring out how to have one to one that is ending and it's easy to see why it feels like there was a missing episode or two between T-Ball & Sympathy and Blowtox & Burlap. It was funny, it had some great moments, but ultimately that resolution really ended the episode on a sour note. Not because out of the content but because how that plot development was way too rushed to really land.
We sadly also miss Tessa's reaction to Malik and Lisa's reunion. Was this episode aired out of order because it sort of feels like it?