‘United States Of Tara’ Recap: Train Wreck

Jun 07, 2011 | 6:28am EDT

S03E10: Oh, United States of Tara. I know this isn’t the case and they created this episodes months ago before the news of their cancellation, but it seems like this week’s episode was a direct response to the news a few weeks ago, because everyone starts abandoning the U.S.S. Tara. Well, almost everyone. But a captain never abandons his ship and we’ll get into that later.

Anyway, there were two catalysts for the episode. First was the news of Bryce and the implications of his existence. The second was Lionel's death. Combine the two of them and well, I’m still not exactly sure how we can call this show a comedy after that.

First, let’s start with the central character most removed from the rest: Charmaine. While still a part of the family, she's removed from the general destruction that was unfolding with the rest of the Gregsons. Neil finally returned and while it was really sweet to watch Patton Oswalt hold the baby and be really sweet, it was really funny hearing Char talking about getting some dick (and a little strange to learn that she lost her virginity at 11 to a dude with a hairlip, but I guess it has to be a comedy somehow). The two new parents finally find out about Bryce playing games with Wheels and taking her on the bus, and as Patton tweeted, he fucking lost it. This was the first of the bailouts. Neil finally gets through to Char that he is her family now, he has a responsibility to her and his daughter to ensure their safety and if that means removing themselves from her dangerous sister, so be it. Char eventually sees that she can’t take of Tara if it means potentially taking her away from Wheels. And we all gotta love it when the man of the house finally takes charge, woo!

"And does super casual mean we're khakis or jean shorts?" - Evan

Next to abandon ship had already started to jump, but she kept one foot solidly on deck: Kate. Things had been going pretty well with Evan but when they attempted to define it by way of comparison to pants things just unraveled. This is what happens when you bring Kevin Smith into your relationship talks. Also, in retaliation for him unleashing his demon spawn of a son on her, she unloads her family issues on him. Check and mate, bitches. So, needless to say, they were in a mighty uncertain time. But then Lionel’s death and Bryce’s subsequent tantrum cause her to realize that she has to get out and she pulls an altered run to the airport to meet him at the last minute. Only, since she is a flight attendant, she apparently has the super power to just board the flight and get the seat immediately beside Evan -- not a bad super power to have.

Now we get to the real and uber-dramatic person jumping overboard: Marshall. He makes his glorious return from New York excited about life and all its infinite possibilities, but if there is ever anything life teaches harder than anything else, it's that it’s always too short. Lionel was killed in a car crash and Marshall learns this through one of the worst teachers possibly ever portrayed on film. Everyone, of course, seeks to comfort him and despite his best attempts to keep them out with a locked door that doesn’t stop them. He appeases them by listening, but never lashes out. He prefers to suffer in silence; Marshall never wants to add to anyone’s problems and you really gotta admire a kid like that. However, you can’t suffer the world by yourself and after he realizes that he decides to leave. Actually, he didn’t so much realize that as he did give up after Bryce destroyed his room. When he summed up his problems saying “no one can have a bigger problem than her” it really summed up his whole family’s problem. They aren’t able to deal with anything else, whether it be internal or external, because of Tara. And after his first love dies with no one able to support him in the manner he needs, of course he leaves. Gotta respect that.

"Apparently Woody Allen works the register at FAO Schwartz on 5th Ave." - Marshall

But right as he was about to jump, the captain of the ship ran up to deck to ask for his help: Max. Poor, poor, poor Max. Everyone else had the ability to leave and took the opportunity to do so. But Max? Max can’t leave. Whether it's due to social responsibility or love (Max will always say love), Max has to stay and help Tara. He finally realized that he was in over his head when he finds out that Hatteras gave up Tara as a client and when Bryce was going crazy he asked Marshall for help with this “river of shit.” And then Max finally sees that the rest of his family can’t deal with Tara any more and it’s up to him. And him alone. In that moment, he recognized his duty and he could’ve buckled under that pressure, but he didn’t. You have to respect a man like that. Max is very strong and if he can keep Tara from killing herself or someone else there may just be hope for her yet.

Unfortunately, a ship isn’t able to jump itself; it has to weather the storm: Tara. Tara had the right idea this week: snort the pills. Bryce can’t barf up something that’s gone up the snot tube and it works. Unfortunately it puts her in a high state and that’s only slightly better than Bryce because she’s not destroying anything. But it stops her from being there for her family when they need her. Ah, choices. Comatose or a destructive adolescent? She attempts to stay sober and Tara for a little bit for Marshall when he’s at his lowest, but that choice has disastrous consequences. Because she didn’t take the medication (or immediately after?) Bryce was able to escape. When the family is off to Lionel’s (flamboyant) funeral Bryce goes off in Marshall’s room and trashes the place. So, it’s not enough for Bryce to destroy Tara’s inner self, he starts taking it out on her family and he starts with the most vulnerable. What a dick.

And since we have two episodes left to go, Bryce asserts himself out saying that he’s going to be around for a while. He takes a pair of scissors to Tara’s hair and boom - we’ve got a crisis on deck. With everyone seemingly leaving, the final two episodes will probably focus more on how Tara tries to handle Bryce and the implications of his appearance. Like the title of the episode suggests, this was a train wreck and like a train wreck you really can’t look away (and yes, I realized I used shipping metaphors throughout. Artistic license, FTW) even if you have to wait to weeks to watch the destruction.

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