A&E premiered Neighbors With Benefits tonight, and I feel icky now. That’s it. That’s the end of my blog.
No, I guess I should write more. That’s part of what they pay me for here. Plus, despite the weird subject matter of this particular show, I truly like A&E’s programming. And I guess I can take one for the team and recap this series, as sort of community service for those of you that want to know what happens, but don’t necessarily want to watch. (Wait. Are there people like that out there?) I won’t go into graphic detail in this blog — not that they can show anything particularly graphic on this show — but this is another one that isn’t for the easily-offended, so I’ve given you fair warning. Another warning: I don’t know just how far I can go with this one; I don’t know if I want to go all the way (tee hee). I’ll try to get through all 9 hourlong episodes, but there’s a chance I’ll just drop off and stop writing about this show. Why? Because, just like those uncomfortable high school parties, I’d rather stay at home watching nerdy science stuff than sit awkwardly alone on a couch* watching a couple make out on a couch across the room.
*By couch, I mean my desk, at work. If you think this sounds awkward to watch at home, try it from a cubicle under the glare of fluorescent lighting.
The show features couples from a typical-seeming, suburban Ohio neighborhood who are “in the lifestyle” – in other words, they’re swingers. While the entire neighborhood isn’t into the swinging lifestyle, there is apparently a higher concentration of swingers here than elsewhere, due in part (or in full? I’m not sure) to Tony and Diana.
Tony and Diana are the ringleaders for their group of swingers. (So does that make them the swingleaders? Yes. Henceforth, that is what I shall call them, because I find that word hilarious.) Diana presents herself as an average suburban mom, who works, helps with homework, makes dinner, and — oh yeah — on the side, she and her husband Tony have sex with other couples. Tony is a self-described player who never figured on settling down, but he loved Diana and she loved him, so she went outside her comfort zone and experimented with swinging in order to keep him. And she ended up loving it. Now that they’re the swingleaders they don’t hide their lifestyle. Everyone knows. In fact, they actually look for and recruit young, physically attractive couples into their swinging lifestyle.
Diana and Tony are headed to a non-swinging party (just a normal, sexless barbecue, like the rest of us have) and on the way, we see them stop off and talk to Mark, who lives across the street. Mark and his wife Aimee are strictly monogamous. They’re friends with Tony and Diana, but there’s kind of a faceoff between the couples, because whereas Tony and Diana try to recruit people to be “in the lifestyle,” Mark and Aimee try to talk people out of it. There’s a whole good/evil thing going on here. Mark wants to keep Tony’s recruiting numbers low; they talk about recruiting like it’s a work thing – like they’re headhunters for competing companies. At the barbecue Diana & Tony and Mark & Aimee go into a room with Penny & Vince. (There are so many couples here, I’m going to need an infographic or a flow chart or something.) Penny & Vince just moved to the neighborhood, so it’s Tony & Diana’s job to act as a welcoming committee and recruit them into the group. Mark, who remember is down on, not down with, the lifestyle, asks if the couple is really considering becoming lifestylers. Vince vehemently answers that they are not, and Diana looks downright shocked, because she had heard that they were. Vince says he’d have a hard time watching his wife with someone else. Penny, however, is curious, so the couple decides to go to Tony & Diana’s party that coming Friday night. Mark warns that getting into this type of lifestyle can really mess up Vince & Penny’s relationship (and tells Tony & Diana that he thinks theirs will crash and burn as well).
For those of you keeping track at home, here’s who we have so far:
- Tony & Diana (swingleaders – I will never tire of that joke, sorry)
- Vince & Penny (not in the lifestyle, but maybe … maybe)
- Mark & Aimee (not in the lifestyle and trying to keep others from heading down that path)
Let’s meet the other couples (all of whom are lifestylers):
Eric & Lori – Together 16 years, married 11, in the lifestyle for almost 5 years (introduced to it by Tony & Diana). They’ve been through a lot together, including a brain surgery for Lori, which led to them realizing how short life can be and how they need to live life to the fullest and enjoy it. We’re introduced to this couple as they look for a new car. They’re trying to figure out if they can fit a mattress in the back of the car they’re about to test drive (for obvious reasons).
They are a “soft swap” couple, which means that they engage in acts with other couples, but stop short of intercourse. They always stay in the same room when they mess around with other couples. In this episode, they meet up with another swinger couple (Tim & Nina), whom they’ve flirted with in the past. They’re not the type to hook up with other couples randomly; they like to make sure they click, so they’re discussing code phrases they’ll use tonight to indicate whether or not they want to hook up with this couple. They end up wanting to after all, and then they all make out on the couch. Yeah, they’re in public and they are in full-on makeout mode (which surprises the bartender and creeps me out so, so much).
Cody & Brittany – This is a young couple in the lifestyle; she’s way into it, and he clearly isn’t, though he says that it turns him on to see her with other men. She wants to move into the swinger neighborhood; he doesn’t want his kids around it. It’s pretty clear that he’s thinking about monogamy. This will undoubtedly cause tension throughout the series.
Mike & Maria – Mike & Maria have been married for almost 10 years, and got into the lifestyle after talking about their deepest, darkest fantasies. We learn more about Mike & Maria through the major conflict of this episode, which also involves Cody & Brittany.
Brittany has been sexting Mike. (There’s a rule, apparently, that texts are supposed to be group texts, couple-to-couple, rather than one-on-one.) It’s gotten out of hand, in Mike’s opinion (at one point, we see her sending him a pic of her in the lingerie she plans on wearing to Friday’s swinger party). He talks to swingleader Tony about his concerns, and Tony points out that Mike is feeding into this; it’s not all on Brittany. Mike is older and knows what he’s doing; Brittany is young and impressionable. This type of situation (swinging) is tough on even the best relationships, so structure and rules need to be in place, and Mike and Brittany are breaking the rules. Mike fesses up to his wife, Maria, who is deeply concerned and feels betrayed. She wants to know why this wasn’t brought to her attention sooner, and Mike says he initially thought it was harmless, and didn’t want to wreck the friendship that they have with Cody & Brittany. (Ugh, dude. What about wrecking your marriage?) This friendship not only involves the couples “playing” together, but Maria also points out that she and Brittany have hung out together as friends.
Maria is unsure as to whether she wants to go to Tony & Diana’s swinger party on Friday night, because she’s so upset, but alas, they go. Maria tells Cody about the sexting, and he is very, very upset, and hurt. He talks to Tony about how upset he is and Tony agrees that Mike has put Cody & Brittany’s family in jeopardy, but advises that Cody not talk to Mike one-on-one about this situation. Back inside the house a bit later, Mike & Maria confront Brittany together, and we don’t see that whole situation, but we do see a very (in my opinion, falsely) remorseful Brittany after the confrontation. (The next morning, we see her eating breakfast with Cody, and he gets all sad when she gets a text – likely from Mike, though that’s not explicitly stated – about which she seems kind of ambivilant.)
Mercifully, confrontation scenes aside, we don’t see all that many swinger scenes from the party. There’s food, flirting, and Truth or Dare (where to Vince’s dismay, Cody gives a lap dance to Penny, who, remember, is there to observe). Obviously, because there HAS to be, there’s a shot of Mark & Aimee looking with dismay from their own house across the street to Tony & Diana’s. And later, we see a bunch of oh-look-sex-is going-to-happen shots (people heading upstairs, a bra hanging suggestively from a chair, cheesly silhouettes of couples kissing). We also see snippets from the upcoming season, and of course, it looks cuh-razy. What will happen? Pregnancy? Breakups? Jealousy? We’ll see. Well, some of us will see. I have to get past my discomfort and see if I can manage to recap this entire season. I kind of have an incentive now: I giggle whenever I type “swingleader” (I am a genius with puns, aren’t I?) so maybe I’ll stick around for the season just for the laughs.
Neighbors With Benefits airs Sundays at 10pm/9c.