Episode 16: How to be a Baby
By: Carlos Uribe
Suburgatory is a show about a teenage girl who is stuck in her version of hell, the suburbs.
The trick to selling a ridiculous plot point in a comedy is to have the characters treat it like a life-or-death matter. Noah's reveal that he was in love with Carmen could have been treated as a quick joke that the series promptly forgets about it but this episode picks up on that plot thread and runs with it. George is so concerned with his friend's proclamation that he takes him to a therapist. It's an easy gag to have Noah's response to what each of the ink blots means to be Carmen but it's an easy way to get across the idea that it's the only thing on his mind. The gag is also funny because of his eerily specific responses to what they could represent. George decides that the best way to salvage Noah and Jill's wedding is to try a new hobby so that Noah would forget about Carmen. This doesn't really work. Noah remains depressed because he can't be with the woman he loves. He's not going to pursue her because he doesn't think she's interested. The plot does hint that Carmen might return the feelings when she gives George a small cloth so that Noah could wipe his phone. This could be taken as a small sign that she wants to be with him. George decides against giving Noah this symbol of hope. Why? The excuse he gives for most of the episode is that he's trying to be a good friend. Noah has just had a baby, being a a single parent is hard, and a marriage is supposed to be challenging. Noah can't just leave because he gets cold feet.
It's the marriage point that really drives to the root of George's actions. It's not until Tessa questions him on why he's defending Jill when George realizes why he's been pushing to keep Noah away from Carmen. George is defending her because he knows how it feels like to have been left. He was married to Tessa's mom but she had left him when she got cold feet. He was forced to be a single father. He was taking his own situation and trying to keep Noah from putting Jill in the same position. George realizes that he has to let Noah live his own life and gives him the cloth. Noah believes in this so much that he announces to the world that he's going to live his wife for Carmen. George probably picked the wrong place to do this as this was in the middle of Jill's book signing. Noah rushes to try and romance Carmen only to find out she only sees him as a boss. It's a pretty great scene as Noah builds it up to be this big romantic scene when it's nowhere near that for Carmen. He's not willing to give up on her just yet as he decides to show that he's serious by watching her mop. Overall, it's a great plot simply because you really believe that Noah really has fallen in love with her. It might be because she's warm where Jill isn't but it does provide the character with the agency that really drives this episode. It mostly made me laugh but I think they went a bit too far with the whole peek-a-boo gag. Noah has never been a complex character but he's never really been stupid. That gag didn't really seem to fit with the character and it felt forced. The rest of the plot did work. It was nice that even though it's ridiculous, and the writers know it, there was some actual character work done with George and even Noah, to a point.
The episode doesn't just explore Noah but Jill. An interesting point that George raises is that Jill really isn't like the other women in Chatswin. She's a career women who has published books. She's basically the opposite of the housewife that the community is made up of. She's still an extreme as she's completely cold and irrational. This is interesting because she's basically the only career woman on the show and she's presented in such an unflattering light. On the other hand, she is also a lot like the Chatswin community in how self-absorbed she is. The one difference separating her from the other housewives is her drive and that's seen as a bad thing. I don't think the series is seriously suggesting that being a career woman is wrong because clearly being a housewife isn't really portrayed in a positive light. The female characters are also too strong to be anti-woman. A key example of this is Tessa. She's a great protagonist that is three-dimensional and a great female character. She interns for Jill this episode. Jill represents a women that Tessa idolizes until she meets the person. She realizes that Jill is a terrible human being so she eventually goes back to work with Dallas. This is because Dallas can show her how to be a good person. It's like Tessa is faced with two options: be a shallow caring mother who lives in the suburbs or be a shallow cold career woman who can make it anywhere. Only this is not true because Tessa can't be shallow. She cares too much about other people. There might be times where she gets caught up in her own events but she isn't self-absorbed. She has a drive but it's also met by her desire to care for others. Tessa is faced with two extremes that she could potentially become.
In other news, the episode also deals with Mr. Wolfe's break-up with Chef Alan after he got cheated on. He's depressed and getting rid of everything that reminds him of Alan until Dalia gets involved. She makes him realize that it's not going to make him feel better to throw stuff away. Her solution has two phases. The first is to get a makeover. Wolfe is delighted when this is done since he looks better but he doesn't feel better yet. Dalia's recommendation is for Wolfe to make Alan feel jealous by pushing his sad and mad buttons at the same time like seventeen times. This will make Wolfe feel better and allow him to get over his break-up. It's nice that the show didn't forget about this plot thread even it if feels a bit late coming in two episodes after Wolfe found out Alan had cheated on him. The timing might have felt a bit off but it was still funny plus it provided that awesome bit where Dalia dry-cried when asked if someone broke her heart.
How to be a Baby is an episode that chronicles the end of two relationships. Mr. Wolfe and Chef Alan are officially over and Wolfe tries to move on. Noah leaves his wife for his former housekeeper, whose not really interested in him. It's an episode where Tessa temporarily leaves Dallas for Jill. These are all ways that simply show how tightly plotted this whole episode was. It was hilarious and overall a pretty good episode.