‘United States of Tara’ – ‘Crackerjack’: Substitute teacher

As I said last week, because I’ve seen the entire third season of “United States of Tara,” I don’t know how much I’ll be writing every week, but I’ll try to at least have a few thoughts on each episode to at least provide a jumping-off point for discussion. A quick review of episode two coming up just as soon as we share sweatpants…

“I worry a lot about getting stuck.” -Marshall

“Crackerjack” features a lot of movement on Tara’s back to school story, as Shoshana emerges on her first day of class, and we discover that Jack Hatteras believes in DID as much as I believe in James Dolan’s competence to own the Knicks (and is a complete prick in the way he lets Tara know this). Max also gets a new job – and costs Neil his own job, at a time when Neil’s desperately trying to convince Charmaine that he’s a reliable grown-up – and Marshall and his boyfriend Lionel make an amusing mash-up between Tarantino and a 19th century comedy of manners.

But for the first time in a very long time – maybe for the first time in the life of the series – I thought the most compelling part of the episode involved Kate. Kate’s a character it feels like the writers are never quite sure what to do with, beyond wanting to give Brie Larson something to do. But this season, that directionless quality becomes a crucial part of what Kate’s about. She wants to grow up, she wants to get out of this boring town and away from the stress of her crazy mother, but she doesn’t quite know how. And just as she comes up with her latest scheme – going to Osaka to teach English to Japanese students – Tara has another DID flare-up, and Kate winds up brawling with T on the front lawn, trying once again to save her mother from herself. Kate shouldn’t have to be her mother’s caretaker, any more than Marshall fears he’s going to be, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt sometimes, and that scene – both before and after Tara re-emerged – was pretty damn terrific.

Okay, your turn. What did everybody else think?