Friday, July 29, 2011

Love Bites - Boys to Men

This is episode seven, the penultimate episode of the show. Unlike all the other odd-numbered episodes, I mostly liked this one. It actually aired a couple of weeks ago, and I'm only now catching up on my reviews. For some reason the writers got lazy with this episode and just titled the three stories after the couples' names, rather than after the plots.

The first story "Ben & Marissa" begins at Judd and Colleen's house. They are about to leave on a vacation to New York, and Colleen's 23-year-old nephew Ben is going to house-sit for them. Judd advises Ben to hit the local bars and get over his ex-girlfriend Gwendy. Ben assures them that he won't commit suicide or anything, but after they leave, he still mopes about being dumped. Alone at the house, he calls Gwendy's number and leaves a message. He is apparently cyber-stalking her and complaining that she changed her (Facebook equivalent) page to say that she's single now. He'd prefer "It's complicated" because he's still in denial.

Just then, a woman named Marissa barges into the house complaining that her husband Rico totally forgot her birthday, even though technically they are separated now. She doesn't realize that Colleen's not home until Ben introduces himself as nephew and house-sitter. Ben asks who she is, and she says she's a friend of Colleen, who regularly lets her crash at the house during marital troubles. Ben decides to call Colleen just to make sure that it's all right, but he only gets her voicemail. He leaves a message and Marissa yells into the phone that she's leaving her husband Rico for good. She's also getting quite comfortable and breaking out the alcohol, like she owns the place.

After hanging up, Ben tries to make Marissa leave since he technically didn't get the okay from Colleen, but Marissa laughs at him. She says she needs to go have a hot shower and even asks Ben to unzip her dress before she slinks off. Later that evening, she is lounging in a robe and pouring wine for her and Ben. She complains of Rico again and tells Ben that he's never suffered such heartbreak. Ben says he has, telling her about his painful breakup. Marissa sympathizes and says Gwendy is a stupid name (finally!). Then she unwisely volunteers to listen to more, and is treated to a long rant about how he was such a considerate boyfriend throwing Gwendy surprise romantic dinners, but got dumped anyway. Marissa finally cuts him off and goes full on into seduction mode, flattering him and kissing him. So they wind up in bed together, then she gets up for another drink. Meanwhile Ben is more than just thrilled to lose his virginity; he's in love.

The next morning, Ben tries to make her a romantic pancake breakfast and wants to spend the day celebrating her birthday. She however begs off and goes to the gym with a water bottle full of liquor. After Marissa leaves, Colleen finally calls back, saying that she misplaced her phone in Judd's camera bag. She asks Ben if Marissa is being a good house-guest. Ben is happy but doesn't reveal that they slept together. Colleen says that Marissa was looking forward to spending her birthday in Lake Tahoe with Rico. That gives Ben an idea, and Colleen says "Oh God" as if she is beginning to suspect her nephew's newfound crush. But no, apparently she's looking at something out of the camera view, and she says "Your uncle Judd's an idiot" before hanging up.

Later, Marissa returns to find that Ben has decorated the house with fake snow and lights to resemble Lake Tahoe. He also opens his laptop and introduces her to his college friends on video chat. The medieval history nerds call themselves The Master Minstrels, and begin singing a serenade for her. Before she can interrupt the awkward creepiness, her husband Rico arrives. He's apparently a cop and has come to apologize with a snowglobe. Ben scoffs, and Marissa confesses that they slept together. Rico's disappointed, but not apparently surprised. He still wants to make up, and Marissa goes to kiss him. Ben gets upset and tries to fight Rico, who just handcuffs the boy to a wall shelf. Marissa asks Rico to wait outside, and then she has a serious talk with Ben, saying they had fun but it's not love. She says that Gwendy dumped him because he was too clingy. It's a fine line between being romantic and being clingy, but he's young and has time to find the balance. Ben's phone rings, and he sees that it's Gwendy. Marissa moves the phone out of his reach and says he needs time to get over Gwendy. She leaves him handcuffed to the wall, and Ben's friends sing him a song to commiserate over his being dumped again.

The second story "Steffi & Tommy" starts on the morning after a one night stand. She is getting ready to leave, and the guy makes awkward conversation while he gets dressed. They both admit to not remembering each other's names, and not caring. As she's walking out the door, though, her mother calls and reveals that her father just had a heart attack. She can't get to the hospital easily and turns around to ask for a ride. He reluctantly agrees to drive her, but since he's going to a tailgate later with friends, he needs help taking down beer and food to the car. On the way to the hospital, Tommy's friends call his phone and ask him questions about whether he banged the Latina chick from last night. They don't know she's in the car with him, and Tommy can't get a word in while they embarrass him. He finally just hangs up and apologizes before dropping her off at the hospital entrance. He drives away and calls back his friends to explain what happened, but then he notices that Steffi left her own cellphone behind. He reluctantly drives back to the hospital and goes inside.

Steffi's waiting anxiously with about ten relatives, and he gives her back her phone. Steffi's mom looks suspicious that Tommy has her phone and apparently Steffi lied about being at church this morning. Steffi tries to say they're just friends, but Tommy looks at an image of Jesus on the wall (this is apparently a religious hospital) and feels guilty, so he says that he's Steffi's boyfriend. He tries to go, but Steffi's mom then asks if Tommy can drive Steffi back to the house to pack some things and to change out of her party dress. Tommy tries to get out of it, but they find his excuse of going to a tailgate lame, and he agrees. They also drive the grandmother back to the house. The house still has breakfast dishes on the table and the oven is on, indicating the suddenness of the heart attack. Tommy offers to clean up the kitchen while Steffi goes to change and pack a bag. Later Steffi sits in her childhood bedroom holding a stuffed giraffe with a top hat. She reminisces about how her father gave it to her when she was younger. Tommy tells her that his brother had testicular cancer and that the whole family rallied around him and wore bracelets in solidarity. He says Steffi needs to have faith, and comforts her with a hug. Later they all drive back to the hospital, and Tommy makes a remark about how he respects her now, and Steffi retorts that he thought she was just a ho this morning, and is surprised that she's a real human being. They argue and the grandmother even joins in. She doesn't speak English; she's just yelling because Steffi is yelling. The car has to stop because Judd is standing in the street with his camera, taking a picture of something. On the sidewalk Colleen is on the phone with Ben, and says "Your uncle Judd's an idiot."

Anyway, Tommy drops off Steffi and her grandmother at the hospital. She goes inside and hears from her family that her father is stable now. She's relieved, but then her mother opens the bag and asks why Steffi packed the giraffe. Steffi didn't, and she's surprised to find Tommy's bracelet attached to the giraffe now. She suddenly feels terrible and goes to run after Tommy. He's coming inside with his huge tailgate sandwich, though, and he's happy she found the giraffe. She apologizes for the fight in the car, and asks what he's doing with the sandwich. He says he figured that her family might be hungry. Besides, he wanted to get her phone number. They kiss and rejoin her family. Presumably Tommy found a parking space and maybe called his friends to say he wasn't coming to the tailgate. Also, while Steffi and Tommy are in the lobby, a man with long hair comes rushing in and asks where the lobby is. He's clearly in a panic about some medical emergency, but he calms and looks excited when they answer him. He grabs a wheelchair and goes out, presumably to a pregnant woman who's about to give birth.

The third story "Dale & Audrey" begins with that same guy from the hospital, but much earlier. Dale is a lawyer, and his work friends are throwing him a baby shower (without his wife present). He's excited, but is having trouble finding a special toy--a giraffe wearing a top hat. Sir Giraffington the Dapper Giraffe was his wife's favorite toy as a child, and he wanted to get it for her. (So this clearly sets up one mystery--why didn't he remark on the one Steffi was holding? Did he find another one?) As Dale leaves the shower, two male colleagues tease him about how he'll have no life whatsover when the baby arrives, and he might as well give his concert tickets to one of them. Dale insists that he'll still have time for fun. Meanwhile the other guys ogle the French receptionist named Audrey. Mystery #2--why is Dale coupled with Audrey in the title, instead of his wife? Sure, Ben & Marissa didn't stay together in the first plot, but they did have a one-night stand.

Audrey later sees the concert tickets on Dale's desk and they geek out about music they like. He offers to make her a mix CD of music she's not heard before, and then we see him staying late at the office using his work resources inappropriately for CD designing and burning. As he goes home, he leaves the mix CD on the receptionist's desk and has a brief fantasy that he's in one of those artsy black-and-white French films, being complimented on his mix CD. Here I got more concerned about where this plot was heading. A little innocent fantasy is fine, but I did start to wonder how far the flirtation might go before Dale presumably gets back to his senses. Love Bites does not seem to be so angsty a show as to actually have a married man with a baby on the way blatantly carrying on an affair. The next day Audrey loves the CD and offers to buy Dale lunch in return. They go out to lunch at a fancy restaurant, and she only orders wine, saying that French people always have wine all the time. Uh, yeah, but in America if you return to the office drunk you'll be in trouble.

In cliche fashion, wine gets spilled on her blouse, so they go to buy her a new blouse. But they don't just go pop into some department store and leave quickly--no they linger at a fancy boutique, and he tries on hats while she takes her time modeling different blouses for him. Just how long a lunch are they having, and why isn't she in trouble yet? I considered even turning off the show at this point but kept soldiering on because of the mystery of Sir Giraffington. Luckily, the flirtation finally ended when she opened the changing room curtain to show her lingerie, but instead of kissing her like in his fantasy, he saw the giraffe in the mirror behind her. He gets reminded of his wife and baby and is genuinely excited about them again, while Audrey just stares aghast. Dale rushes to buy the giraffe and then head back to the office. He announces his find to everyone and then says he's going straight home to show his wife. --So he takes a long lunch and then takes the rest of the afternoon off for a non-emergency. What kind of dreamworld law firm is this? Audrey just shows up, dressed now, and now believes that Dale must be gay.

On the street outside their home, Dale runs into his wife and shows her the prized giraffe. She's happy, and he apologizes to her for acting weird lately; he can't wait for the baby now. She says good, and tells him that Annie is having the baby. Annie! Dale's wife is Annie's sister Chloe, the one who kept setting her up on bad blind dates. The writers were clever in not revealing that Dale's wife wasn't pregnant, although presumably the breast pumps were for Annie. Anyway, the happy couple rush to pick up Annie and take her to the hospital, where Dale has his run in with Steffi and Tommy.

Meanwhile in California, Colleen and Judd finally come home from New York. They discover the house still looking like a snow globe, and Ben still handcuffed to the wall. Judd looks for something to free him, while Ben tells them what Marissa said. Colleen begins to suspect something happened, but on Judd's cue, Ben does not confess to the sex. Colleen says that he shouldn't take all his advice from an alcoholic cheater, but balance is good. He says he's over Gwendy now, and Judd releases him. Ben's left hand is numb, but he asks Judd to help him change his (Facebook equivalent) status to single now. I would imagine he'd have to go pee soon as well. Then recharge his laptop.

Anyway, cut back to the hospital, where Steffi's dad is being released, and Tommy's still part of the family, helping to take them home. Meanwhile, Annie finally gave birth to the baby she's been carrying all season. It's a boy, and it's time for him to go home now. Dale arrives in a minivan, with the giraffe in the baby seat. Chloe thanks Annie again for being a surrogate, and Annie half jokes that she'll keep the baby herself. They disagree on whether the baby's name is Griffin or Kevin, and Chloe assures her sister that she'll always be a part of the baby's life. Dale puts the baby into the car seat instead of the giraffe, and Chloe gets in the back with the baby. Dale almost drives off from the hospital without Annie, but comes back, apologizing, and everyone drives away to the sound of Dale's new mix CD of eclectic music for the baby.

The reappearance of Annie after so long was a nice surprise. I feared that she would be written out, or just never show up in the final episodes. Her appearance was the only thing that made me like the "Dale & Audrey" story, because I liked neither lead. Audrey was kind of stupid, a French cliche, and somehow has a side-job babysitting a rock star's kids. Uh, right. Dale had a weird sense of humor and I didn't find him that funny or charming, so I wasn't willing to go along with an adultery storyline for him. That and the improbable never-ending lunch made me glad to see the last of Audrey. Also, I didn't like that we revisited Colleen on the phone with Ben yet again, to reveal that Judd was taking a picture of Audrey bent over to pet a dog, showing her ass to Colleen and her cleavage to Judd. Really kind of childish and out of character. It's not like the picture was that sexy either.

I thought Annie giving birth to the baby would be the closure for her storyline, but apparently they wanted to wrap up her flirtation with the Matt guy who rescued her from the bad blind date. So the final episode will feature Annie again, as well as some couples from the 2nd episode. Yay for the return of the gay neighbors!

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