Swingtown: Wake Up And Be You

By Elaine B
Those of us who came of age in the late ’60s and early ’70s were part of the “accommodating generation.” First, we accommodated our what-will-the-neighbors-think ’50s parents until we broke free and went far away to college where we could accommodate ourselves for a change. There we shed our bras and joined communes and expanded our minds with illegal substances and protested an unpopular war and got arrested. Then the most turbulent generation of the last century settled down and heaved a big sigh of relief that we had survived the mess and went on to become stuffy accommodaters of our children – some of whom now have parents so accommodating that they have not left home to this day.

The problem with the characters on Swingtown is they missed all the fun of accommodating themselves. And now, with children who might be scandalized by their behavior, they are finally trying to find their way in secret. But no one has done as marvelous a job as Janet (and to be fair, Roger) does in the Aug. 8 episode. Hopefully you have DVR so you could watch the incredible Olympic opening ceremony (a dramatic, precise and overblown event that Nazi architect Albert Speer would likely have appreciated) and catch Swingtown, too. If not, CBS.com offers full episodes for viewing on their website a few days after they have aired on the network.

The episode opens with Bruce trying to reconnect with his children by ordering a family weekend up at the “Door County” cottage. BJ is young enough to be pliant even though they are taking Rickey with them and he and BJ have not made up after Rickey kissed Sam (to be fair, her left hook handled the situation pretty well and she does not need his help). Later, BJ hits Rickey, which makes them even and they do make up.

Laurie tries to stay home but, in a most un-adolescent moment, decides to side with her mother, give up the Jackson Browne concert she’d planned to attend with Doug, and stay with the family. Once there, she hits the phone, talking to Doug every chance she gets. And are her parents happy that she isn’t sulking, sarcastic and using her potent adolescent energy to make them miserable? Of course not. Instead Bruce makes her join them in a game of charades which ends with Laurie sulking back to the phone and Bruce ripping it out of the wall. Later Laurie asks Susan why she married Bruce. Was it because you were pregnant? she asks. It was part of it, Susan says, but they would have married anyway, only later. Most people who married too young and are still married say that. Maybe they even mean it.

When she has time alone, Susan calls Roger and has a bit of subtle phone lust. Laurie later heads off to hitch rides back to Chicago. Her first one is with a wise older woman who imparts a bit of reality in to her romance-addled brain.

While Bruce and Susan are dealing with family issues, Janet takes Roger to a psychiatrist, who immediately focuses on Janey, who obviously needs the help more. But Janet can’t take the heat and walks out, dragging Roger with her. Later, she goes back to say she will not be paying the woman, then breaks down, confessing her attraction to Tom, who kissed her. And how did Janet feel about getting kissed? I felt sorry for him because he can’t have me, she says. Then nip it in the bud, the good doctor says. And, she adds, you might get a job and take some of the pressure off Roger.

To have time for the nipping, Janet invites Tom and Trina over for dinner. “We eat at 5:30 sharp,” she says, prompting the swinging couple to look at each other once they’re alone and note “that’s practically lunch time.” But they go and seem so painfully (and comically) out of place in the Thompson’s modest and drab living room. When Janet asks Tom to help her, Trina has time to impart some of her copious wisdom on Roger after he asks if she ever develops feelings for other men. Seeing exactly why he is asking, she tells him, “Janet is trying … but it won’t make any difference if she’s not the woman you want.” What can I do? he asks. “You have two choices. You can tell Susan how you feel and take the consequences – and there will be consequences – or you can find a way to get over her.” I do believe she winked when she said that last line, but then Roger is such a cutie.

Meanwhile, Janet is confronting Tom in the kitchen, telling him “your actions are making me uncomfortable” and “I can’t be a part of your world.” A totally befuddled Tom once again channels Billy Dee Williams, praises her directness and courage and leaves Janet feeling better about herself. Grant Show’s expression through this whole exchange is so perfect that I hope his peers consider his role worthy of an Emmy nomination. Just before they call it a night, at least as far as Janet and Susan go, Tom says to Trina, “How can an evening be freaky and boring at the same time?” In need of some relaxation after the tense meal, they decide to break their monogamy for the night and invite a couple over.

Janet tells Roger that the psychiatrist wasn’t as bad as she thought and she got some good advice. If he doesn’t mind, she is going to look for a job to take some pressure off his shoulders.

Frantically trying to find Laurie, Susan says she will never forgive herself for putting her children second, what with all the parties and “acting like they still love each other.” Bruce catches that and says, “I still love you.” Then they hear a Jackson Browne song on the radio and Susan decides to call Doug who says Laurie made it to a truck stop in Honey Creek (about 150 miles to the west of where she would need to be if she was going from Door County to Chicago, but hey, what writer in L.A. has time to check Wiki maps?). They arrive about the same time Doug does, making for an awkward meeting, but one that Doug, charmer that he is, manages to soothe over. They let Laurie leave with him – essentially telling her that she is a woman and can make her own choices. From what we’ve seen, she is ready.

As Bruce and Susan reach the cabin, the phone is ringing. It’s Roger trying to call Susan. He hangs up, just as she picks it up. It’s better that way. He can tell her in person about how he feels next week.

The series closes with Jackson Browne’s song Running on Empty, as Susan and Bruce who have so much to say spend an evening side by side, without speaking, Roger pulls the psychiatrist’s card out of the trash where Janet had dropped it, and Laurie lets her hair down as she and Doug speed down a glorious highway that does not exist in Wisconsin.