‘United States of Tara’ – ‘Wheels’: Long live the king

A quick review of tonight’s “United States of Tara” coming up just as soon as my suitcase bursts into consciousness…

“You’re not in control.” -Charmaine
“I am. I am in control, mostly. Sometimes.” -Tara

“Wheels” has some of the funnier material of the season so far, most of it revolving around the titular baby, and about the different things that Patton Oswalt as Neil gets to say and do about her: that he likes the name Cassandra because it has “ass” in it, that immediately post-birth “It looks like Abe Lincoln after he got shot in the face,” and, for that matter, that her middle name is “Wheels” – with the quote marks on the birth certificate! And there was also some light, fun stuff with Kate as she hung around the airport for a while, decided against the sitcommy idea of lying to her parents about being in Japan, and finally settled on flight attendant as her new career goal.

But at its core, “Wheels” was the darkest episode yet of this young season, with Charmaine understandably not wanting her crazy sister anywhere near her new baby. Where once upon a time the show played Tara’s condition as an eccentricity the rest of the family has learned to tolerate, the climax of the two previous episodes were reminders of just how much pain (physical and emotional) her DID causes for her loved ones. After the scene that led up to Charmain’s water breaking, could you blame her for not trusting Tara around Wheels? It’s a hard thing to say to your sister, but not an unreasonable thing.

And Charmaine’s rejection is painful enough that it finally sparks Tara to end the little democracy that gives the show its title and lay down a new set of laws under which the alters get some of what they want but where Tara is the unquestioned ruler of the body. It’s a very good scene – as pretty much all the co-consciousness material the show has done has been – but what makes it really strong is the revelation of where it’s actually taking place: in Dr. Hatteras’ lecture hall in the middle of an exam, with Tara’s body covered in writing as if she were Leonard from “Memento.” It’s an unexpected twist, but far from an unfair one, and Hatteras’ reaction suggests he might finally recognize that Tara isn’t wholly inventing her multiple lives.

What did everybody else think? And does anyone have a theory on why Max’s new uniform work shirt has his name as Greg Maxson instead of Max Gregson?