Once and Again Season Two - Episodes 7 and 8
Continuing my, slow-as-molasses, ep-by-ep look at season two.
Episode 7 - "Learner's Permit"
An episode focusing on Jake's and Tiffany's relationship, with a parallel plot about Grace using the attentions of a dorky boy who likes her to gain access to the boy's hunkier friend, whom she actually likes. The relationship between Tiffany and Jake was always tricky, in that the producers made it clear that she was the uninhibited, sexy young woman who he turned to for fun when married. And yet after the divorce, Tiffany stuck around, and in this episode we see that conflict, between Tiffany's status as girlfriend or not, come to a head. Jeffrey Nordling was especially good in this episode, especially in his last monologue/confessional in which he admits that he's probably never really loved any women apart from his daughters. I like that the producers didn't feel the need to give him any big epiphany here, or have him run to Tiffany to tearfully confess his love. At this point, he doesn't love her. And he doesn't know why. That's a much more interesting dramatic question than the typical "he does love her but just can't admit it."
Meanwhile, as Grace's plotline intersects with Jake's (she accidentally catched her father on a date with another woman, bringing back bad memories), Whelan is again excellent at portraying the whirlwind of confusing emotions that comes with adolescence. Her awkward date, and mid-date kiss, with the motormouth dork is a series highlight. The episode also features one of the show's all-time best uses of the "confessional" gimmick, when the dork puts his hand on her thigh during the movie, and we cut to the confessional, and a freaked out Grace says, somewhat calmly, "His hand is on my thigh!" Cut back to the movie theater. Hand still on the thigh. Cut back to confessional. Grace screams "His hand is on my thigh!!" Priceless. A subplot also starts here around Eli beginning a relationship with Grace's "bad girl" friend, Carla. that will feature heavily in the remainder of the season.
Episode 8 - "Life Out of Balance"
The old standby - a pregnancy scare that freaks out the man and gives the woman pause about their relationship. What makes it more than cliche is how they build it into Rick's newfound feelings of parental inadequacy, with Eli dying his hair blue and getting kicked off the basketball team and having a disastrous acadmic year and Jesse's anorexia. But the episode's crowning touch is how we see Grace completely sidelined by both Eli and Carla's relationship and her mother's relationship, and how all of it seems to conspire to make her feel ike an eternal spectator to life. "Sometimes I just feel like everybody in the world is like, living, and I'm just watching it happen." A climactic scene paralleling and cross-cutting between Lily and Rick reconciling (after the pregnancy scare had thrown a wrench into their relationship) by having sex in the laundry room and Eli and Carla having sex for the first time in Eli's (Rick's) truck does a fine job of showing how tense and messy sex can often be.