‘United States Of Tara’ Recap: Crunchy Ice

Jun 14, 2011 | 6:51am EDT

S03E11: The penultimate episode of United States of Tara really brings out the big guns. Questions that needed to be asked years ago are finally asked. Relationships are laid out plain as day. And as Tara has really shown this year, the show knows how to end an episode.

We start off with a look into the relatively normal lives they’re now leading. Marshall is now living with his grandmother, Char lounges with Neil, Kate is making eggs for Evan and the spawn of Satan. Only Max seems to be frustrated as he walks past Bryce’s room (formally Marshall’s). It’s a calm, brief, respite of peace and since Tara is on Showtime we know it can’t last. And how does it get kicked off? With Buck making an appearance. He’s calling this the Nam of the brain and Bryce is hunting them down one by one. It’s a scary concept, especially since these are characters we’ve been with the entire show. So, Max takes Buck’s guns over to Neil and Char’s and the show gets pretty crafty going from talking about blood and guts on the wall to using old chests for coffee tables and missing ferrets. Char asks the question on everyone’s mind, “why don’t we have her committed?” but Max reassures them that a) Tara will be back and barring that b) he’ll figure everything out. This makes up pretty much half of the themes for the episode: Max’s unyielding faith in Tara and himself to fix everything themselves.

“Still Bryce?” - Marshall

“Still chugging cock?” - Bryce

The family seemingly reconvenes in the basement and Kate makes her return with another giant bear face on her shirt. Brie Larson you’re adorable, but not that adorable.

Anyway, Max’s grand plan is to take Bryce to an art museum because Tara loves art. Great idea, Dad! While there, everyone tries to get him to at least consider taking her to get professional help. Needless to say, he really doesn’t like the idea of locking his wife up. His mom tries to tell him that kids need stability, but he doesn’t listen; Char says they’ve reached the end of their rope. He’s basically covering his ears and shouting “lalalalala I can’t hear you!” It's really frustrating, to say the least. I really admire Max’s determination to reach Tara himself and try to fix everything, but this is his wife we’re talking about here. Courage only lasts so far before it become stupidity.

And this is getting bad/stupid. If you’re barricading your doors to protect yourself from your mother, that’s bad. I really liked this little insight into their earlier life when they were kids. They thought their mom was being silly. Makes sense. Max’s mom actually manages to trick Bryce into says he’s his wife when they’re talking to each other. And then she breaks out the big guns and straight up threatens her if Bryce touches her Christmas stuff. Badass mom? Check.

Luckily though, an answer seems to be found when Neil is rocking his daughter and looking at porn (again, we gotta make this into a comedy somehow) and he discovers the location of Bryce’s (the real Bryce) grave. They take her to the cemetery where they find Bryce’s grave in order to confront it. Char has the expected reaction where she snaps at the grave and curses him for everything he did to her family. But Bryce doesn’t believe it. Bryce says that Tara wanted it (the molestation and subsequently the DID) to happen, that’s why she never told. Is he telling the truth? It's impossible to tell, for now, but it’s an interesting notion. If Tara did indeed want this to happen, that creates such a complicated character.

“Wearing an ascot is a quirk. This is fucked up.” - Marshall

To further complicate the character, we can make assumptions about Tara’s feelings towards her family from how the alters “died.” Buck came to Max, T went to Kate, and Alice went to Marshall. The relationship between T and Kate seems to suggest a more friendly sister/sister vibe than anything. And if T is jealous of Kate that means Tara really admires her daughter. Marshall really needs a mother (or at least a normal parental figure) after Lionel’s death so Alice steps in to say that true love never really leaves your heart. It’s really sad to see these alters go, especially since these are the ones that we have been with since the beginning but it is sweet to see Tara’s true feeling emerge. Marshall needed a mom, Kate needed a sister, Max needed a friend, so she altered into all those for them. What Hatteras said earlier is true, but Tara just can’t see it. She's not actually seven different people. She is being everything to her family, she just can’t recognize it. That’s probably the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever seen a comedy achieve.

But Bryce (being the embodiment of both the DID and Tara’s id) wants to set Max and her free. The biggest thing he during all this is that “Tara doesn’t deserve you.” That’s the root of her problem. Tara sees herself as undeserving of her family and lets the DID take control of her. Again, it’s heartbreaking.

Tara finally comes out after Marshall tackles Bryce interrupting Alice with an assassination. Striking her kid is the final straw (as it should be), so Max is taking her to an institution. On the ride over he reassures Tara that he isn’t going anywhere, which seems to suggest that he listened to his mother. But then she makes him stop and jumps off the bridge. Holy shit, Tara knows how to end an episode.

This was a fantastic episode. The themes were laid out on the table and investigated, the humor was jarring as usual amongst all the heartbreak and the ending was one of the best of the season. It’s such a shame watching an episode like this knowing that the end approaches but at the same time I’d rather see the show go out strong rather than peter out. And who knows how the hell they are going to come back from Tara jumping off a bridge?

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