|Photo Credit: HBO|
After the epic costumed cringe comedy of “Looking For Gordon Freeman,” this week's “Looking For A Plot,” seeks to tug at the heartstrings rather than make stomachs squirm, and it succeeds resoundingly. The backdrop for all this emoting is an event where emoting is a default state: a funeral.
Like “Looking For Truth,” which gave more insight into Richie via a visit back to his old neighborhood, “Looking For A Plot” uses Dom and Doris' return to their hometown of Modesto to attend Doris' father's funeral to round out the characters and their relationship. Doris benefits from this focus the most. While her relationship with Malik has shown a softer side to the character, more often than not she still functions as the stereotypically blunt fag hag, always at the ready with a sarcastic quip.
“Looking For A Plot” reveals the roots of that acerbic humor, which lay in a childhood spent living with an alcoholic mother and experiencing what's insinuated as a combative relationship with her father's sister Sarah, whom Doris reveals suffered abuse from an uncle. Her father meanwhile, was both her protector and biggest supporter, driving her around late at night until her mother passed out, then cheering her on through her stint on the high school swim team and her move to San Francisco.
It's not the least bit shocking that Doris and Dom dated as teenagers or, that she was in love with him at one point; like, say, Will Truman and Grace Adler, Dom and Doris' bond has always had an air of former romance about it (though you get the idea Dom's initial coming out was less torturous for Doris than Will's was for Grace), like in the way Dom promises to take care of Doris, or how they practically function as a married couple at the post-funeral reception.
The pair's age also allows the show to explore a classic small-town-kids-leave-for-the-big-city question: What if I stayed? While Doris has no regrets over getting the hell out of Modesto, Dom expresses some uncertainty, particularly after coming out to an old classmates who's now married with kids and has a successful career. Dom's arc for much the series has been a search to find himself and realize his professional dreams, and “Looking For A Plot” brings this into focus by filling in some blanks on his past. Turns out his dad, who passed away when he was young, also owned a Portuguese restaurant, but it went under and is now home to a donut shop.
We also learn Dom never came to out to his dad while he was alive, and the fact he'll never truly know how he would have taken the news clearly weighs on him all these years later. The scene where he, Doris and Patrick search for his grave starts out sad (they don't find it), but turns darkly funny as he decides to “come out” by loudly announcing his homosexuality to the entire graveyard as they drive away. And then they're side swiped by a truck. At the hospital, Doris quips that she's an orphan, then offers to give Dom the money her father left her so he can start his restaurant.
“There's nobody I'd rather want to invest in more than you. 'Cause you're my family,” she says, and if you weren't tearing up already, here comes Malik, who's been sending “thinking of you” texts, and who drove to hospital to check on her. In that moment, Doris finally gives into her grief and cries in his arms. Lauren Weedman knew this was her half hour to shine and seizes the opportunity, playing Doris with just the right amount of toughness and vulnerability.
And what about our dear Paddy? As he says on the ride to the funeral, he main reason for accompanying Dom and Doris is escape having to deal with his own issues. Despite his less than altruistic motives, Patrick does provide some emotional support--he gives a mean neck massage--but the aforementioned issues follow him to Modesto. While visiting the local gay bar, Patrick projects his own lonely adolescence--one where he snuck out to gay bars clad in his sister's jeans, got drunk, and listened to Evanescence during bouts of depression--onto a guy sitting alone at the bar, a fantasy that bursts when the guy's boyfriend shows up. It he hadn't totally lost his shit last week, it'd probably be inspiration to get wasted; instead, he strolls over to the dance floor and gets down with Doris and Dom.
However, when Sarah reads Walt Whitman's “Clear Midnight,” the same poem Patrick read to Dom in the season premiere, the words open up the floodgates, as all of his pent up emotion comes out in one ugly, loud cry. His outburst gets him branded as the weird guy, but unlike last week's meltdown, this felt more like a much-needed release rather than self-destructive lashing out. He ignores a call from Kevin, but later, comes home to find him outside at his apartment. Turns out he manned up, broke it off with John and wants to start something real with Patrick.
Patrick, no doubt affected by recent events, agrees.
Next week: Patrick and Kevin wear matching outfits (ick) and get mistaken from brothers!
--The episode starts the morning after last week's disastrous Halloween party, during which Patrick curses tequila while Agustin and Dom offer up a highlight reel of his other antics--ike throwing up on a hobbit's (Eddie's) shoes, and calling Brady a “Truvada whore.” As Dom succinctly puts it “You were a mess girl.”
--Like most small towns, Modesto has it own rainbow-plastered hole-in-the-wall in the form of the Brave Bull, a gay bar where they play fantastic 80's pop like “Walking On Sunshine,” and host drag queens named Kitty Leukemia, who apparently does a wicked Lady Gaga set.
--Patrick: “In high school I came to a place like this [the donut shop] every afternoon and sat in a booth alone with a box of glaze, and read an Out magazine tucked inside a Sports Illustrated.” Dayum that is bleak.
--Agustin: “Actually I'm really looking forward to the drag queen reenactment of your epic speech at The Castro.” Save for that opening scene, Agustin was MIA this episode, though next week's preview implies a self-inflicted bump in the road in he and Eddie's relationship.