Crossing the Stream: Part 33 - "Santa Clarita Diet" Sn1, Ep 4

The best work always seems to be done while I'm asleep. I remember hearing somewhere that actual weight loss occurs during the REM cycle, but I haven't got a clue how accurate that is. All I know is that I went to bed after posting that I've hit a plateau. Today, the scale says half a pound lower than it did yesterday. I realize that eight ounces is such a difference that I've literally gained it back while typing this, thanks to the crazy straw whirlygigging down into my practically endless supply of seltzer water. But screw it, I'm within shouting distance of the lowest weight I've been since I was seventeen years old. You have to celebrate tiny victories.

As a matter of fact, tiny victories are what build up a massive victory. I'd like to take this opportunity to call my shot, Babe Ruth style, and say that what-the-hell-ever I'm doing to gain these small victories is something I should start applying to other places in my life. My finances are pretty shabby, thanks to kid number two surprising the hell out of us back in the winter of 2016. How much of a surprise? We found out in February, and we brought her home the first week of August. Now, I'm really, really craving one of those Dad status symbols. A study. A man-cave. Shucks, folks, I'll take a broom closet as long as you can fit a TV and a stationary bike in there. Also, the kids could use their own rooms and currently the master bedroom in my house has no door, or fourth wall. So, maybe the level of aggressive change that I see I'm capable of can be applied. It could also apply to my work. It could also apply to my parenting skills. I like results, and I'm going a little nuts with the idea of getting them everywhere. What can I say.

On a lighter note, anyone ever tried eating salad for breakfast? It wasn't bad. Spring mix, some crumbled mushrooms, and a splash of balsamic, and there I was. I've had a little bit of pep in my step for the day, I wonder if it was that or not. I'm always looking for legitimate reasons why I might be doing better. I like to replicate those. Live with a Mexican woman for ten years, you'll start to see the value in blurring the lines between traditionally exclusive foods. Eggs for dinner. Salads and soups for breakfast. Hell, I'm going to make big turkey legs and bring one to the office for lunch. I'll tell everyone that I'm training for Disneyland.

Sorry, this is a ramble, and ramble on I shall. I'm just trying to avoid typing the actual title of today's television episode. I really don't want the data-scraping systems of Google and Amazon to see me typing these particular words in this particular order. But, I'm here, so...

"Santa Clarita Diet" Season 1, Episode 4 - "The Farting Sex Tourist"

Well, okay. It was bound to happen within the first six episodes, but "Santa Clarita Diet" put together a confluence of imagery, editing, irony, and bouncy ironic music that made the whole thing a little too precious. Sheila's stomach-churning breakfast shake and her empowering power walk with the neighbors is clearly the construct that Netflix used to base all the show's marketing around, and it's just striking me as a little twee and off-kilter from the rest of the show. As a matter of fact, this episode's entire structure suffers from the cutesy vibe-over-matter opening.

Sheila's impassioned new outlook on feeding base desires, distilled down to the cat-poster phrasing "live your best life," turns out to be terrible advice, but the problem with this conceit is that it's terrible advice specifically for the people who get it. Rick the Santa Monica PD officer is pushed hard into buying a new Range Rover to match Sheila's, while his wife succumbs to her frightening obsession with John Legend and following his tour through four different dates. Meanwhile, Dan the Deputy's wife is inspired to have extramarital sex with a doctor. But, you know, none of that is on Sheila. The episode is not so much commenting on the possible consequences of "living your best life" or living your new truth, etc. It's commenting more on how easily people can be convinced to buy into fortune cookie wisdom without discussing it with the people who matter, and who might be affected by such a shiny new lease on life.

This dovetails with mixed success with Abby's reaction to "live your best life." Though the teen has been cutting class every day since her mother has become undead, her reaction to Sheila's suggestion of dropping out is one of confusion and fear. Cutting class was a form of rebellion, probably from a kid who rebels very little. What a disappointment to her when her parent cheers such behavior.

Sheila's impulsive streak notwithstanding, it's strange how she views the principal's threat of suspension as in any way unreasonable. I mean, yeah, suspension is a weird punishment for skipping school, one that might defeat the purpose entirely, but her defensive parent routine in the man's office is a mighty bad look. I suspect that I, the viewer, am supposed to side with the unearned indignation of the parent since the demographic for the show is likely a parental one. I also assume that ill will toward the principal should stem largely from Thomas Lennon's performance. His facial hair also seems...premeditated. Well, okay. I get the gag. Lennon is terrific in his prolific string of guest characters that could all be classified as fussy little shitheads. But this one doesn't seem malicious enough to draw the ire of our protagonists.

While all of that feels inelegant in its plotting and characterization, Joel's practiced speech in the occult book store is something masterful by comparison. His rote recitation about a fictional National Geographic documentary speaks to how uptight he is. Even a bookstore that has "witch balls" and zombie porn requires him to try so hard at a rational explanation for his every movement. Even his real reason for being there is to find a rational explanation (or an irrational one, at this point) for why his wife has become a literal monster. I'm not sure if the kooky ancient curse narrative is going to stick around for long, and frankly I don't think the show requires it, but I love that Joel is still trying.

And then there is Dan, and his alarming obsession with the erroneous ant infestation. Is this supposed to be one of those "we all have this one pain-in-the-ass neighbor" things? Drew Barrymore plays it that way, with her bile rising into every interaction with the overly macho Deputy. But suffice it to say, Dan's discovery of Gary's stray finger in the Hammonds' backyard is going to probably drive the plot of the show for a few episodes from here, so we either need to deepen that character's motivations beyond "he's a nosy fucker" or we need some epic misdirection wherein he's dead within the first five minutes of Episode 5. Either way, I can forgive "Santa Clarita Diet" for what feels like an episode designed to sell the show to CBS rather than Netflix.

Random Notes:

-"We need someone who can speak Serbian, in Santa Clarita, which just got its first Indian restaurant."

-I'm so, so, so glad that Joel and Abby finally get a moment to freak out with each other. It's absolutely imperative that Abby's emotional connection to her parents become a part of the show and not just a given.

-Between Dan's fateful findings in the yard and Sheila's enthusiastic reprise of "I want to adopt Eric," I feel as though somehow the robot-crafting, squirrley boy next door might actually end up a member of the Hammond household.

-"I am a realtor, and I can destroy you."

Rating: C


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