Breaking Bonaduce 10/29 - No Mystery Here
Lucky us - Breaking Bonaduce picks up where it left off last week. “We” are still in Dr. Garry Corgiat (Ph.d)’s office, and he and Danny are still having an Oh No You Di’n’t finger-wagging, head bobbing fest. Go get ‘em, tigers. Gretchen has her guard up and her ‘mommy’ voice on. Finally, she asks Danny to “just stop”, and listen to Dr. Garry. Dr. Gar says “Danny, you’re setting a really poor tone for me to work with you”. Danny snaps, "Then don't - there's the door". Danny points to the door, so Dr. Garry begins to put his pen away. Way to take command of a session, Dr. Gar - shout, then leave. No wonder Gretchen likes Dr. Garry so much; this is exactly what she's used to seeing.
Dr. Garry gets in some digs at Danny for the road, almost literally saying it’s a mystery to him why Gretchen stays with Danny. Either they are both Dr. Corgiat's patients or they are not...and to say something so negative about any patient within earshot can’t be helpful. Gretchen fights tears and attempts to answer the question anyway, while Danny sits stonefaced. "I don't know the answer," Gretchen half-whispers. “That’s the one thing you better know,” says Dr. Garry. Well, yeh, I’d think that’s why she’s there...but what does Dr. Garry do to actually help either of his patients? Frankly, neither seems to have a clue how to even begin to get healthier.
But now it’s unclear what happened exactly (a running theme in the edit booth, I gather) because suddenly Danny’s driving his red convertible down Los Angeles side streets, and Dr. Garry and Gretchen are kvetchin’. It's unclear - who got kicked out of where? Did Dr. Garry quit, or was he fired? Is Danny coming back to sessions any time soon? Oh, you crazy kids.
As Danny drives home, Dr. Garry tells Gretchen that to continue working with Danny, he insists that Danny must be sober, and taking his ‘meds’ which must be monitored by an M.D. psychiatrist. (Wait - is this show's timeline linear at all? So, Danny and Dr. Garry didn't quit each other? Uh oh, why do I smell a Mad Magazine layout with these two starring in Brokeback Mountain?) Gretchen says that the rehab center Danny was in last year told her that Danny is severely bipolar, and because his condition went undiagnosed and untreated for so many decades, it’s gotten worse. (I didn’t know a chemical imbalance could get worse without medication - I thought medication just alleviated it - but we’re forced to take Gretchen’s interpretation of this.) Dr. Garry tells Gretchen that he always assumes (and assumption is always best when working with a dysfunctional, explosive personality) she and Danny are talking and she knows how he’s doing with his meds and his program. Not surprisingly, Gretchen says that Danny doesn’t tell her much and she thinks he’s on Step 4 in his AA program - but she has no idea if or when he takes his meds (for bipolar disorder). At least, I assume it's an AA program and not NA, and that his meds are for his bipolar disorder. Heck, for all I know, they're talking about the program for Isabella's dance recital. This show makes us all into mini Dr. Garrys - assume along with me, won't you? Although, granted, Dr. Garry's position is very difficult to assume.
Be Quiet, Or You'll Make Me Miss My Program
Dr. Garry thinks Danny is still on Step 1 in his "program" - or actually, not even there yet. Step 1 is “My life has become unmanageable”. Dr. G says Danny has yet to admit that to himself. Tearfully (now it’s a good thing he stopped wearing that eyeliner), Gar asks if Gretchen could ever really leave Danny. (Why do I feel like Dr. Garry is about to break out into a show tune? "If Ever I Could Leave You...") Now it’s seeming more like a Telenovela than a therapy session, but hey, it’s not my dime. Gretchen dissolves into tears and says Danny might kill himself if she left him, and a dead father isn’t good for her children. “What a choice,” she sobs. Being totally serious for a moment - she has a point. And while some say Danny's latent narcissism would stop him from commiting suicide, there's always Exhibit A - his wrist scars.
In a spiteful bit of dark comedy, the show’s editors next give us Danny, heavy-lidded and slurry speeched, still behind the wheel of his convertible (well this is L.A. traffic), cheerleading about how great things have been “for months”. “I think it was gearing up for this show that ...got bad,” he said. (Denial really isn't just a river in Egypt.) And now here again we’re in a grey area. While I don’t believe that the cameras make Danny act out, I’m sure being followed by cameras night and day adds a lot of strain to an already chaotic household. But when it all boils down, I think this reasoning of Danny’s is one example of how deft he’s become with the art of deflection. “Look over here - I’m funny! Look over here - I’m angry. Look over here - I’m outraged. Look over here - it’s all your fault.” If one flashing mirror doesn’t work to distract, try another one. And what is he distracting from? Want to guess?
Here in my Car
And now we’re treated to a montage of Danny and Gretchen both talking about their marriage, from behind the wheel of separate cars. (Gretchen: “He hoped I could say things are better, but I just couldn’t say that, because it isn’t the case. In his mind, everything’s fine. Danny’s a great guy - he’s just a sh**ty husband.” Danny: “To be honest with you, I don’t think Gretchen really likes me any more, and we stay together for the children. I don’t think that’s healthy.” Nice line readings, both of you.)
I’m unsure why they take separate cars to the same therapy session (unless of course, Gretchen doesn’t feel safe with Danny behind the wheel?), or come to think of it, just about everywhere else. It's strange the way this show films so many scenes from the passenger seat. (Do Danny and Gretchen never go home?) I know people spend a lot of time in their cars in L.A., but this is more like they live in their cars, and that mansion is just a movie set. And while we're at it - Danny’s half shut lids and Gretchen’s monologues do not safe driving techniques make. I feel the urge to say, “Stop talking and drive, you two! Pay attention!”. A screech of brakes and a lawsuit are just a matter of time.
Back at the Bonaduce
film set mansion, 12 year old Isabella runs up to her mother’s newly arrived car. Before her mother even has a chance to put away her car keys, Isabella’s grilling her about the therapy session. Is it just me, or should a 12 year old even know about her parents’ therapy session? Let alone be able to ask about it in specific? Isabella presses Gretchen to say that things are good, or are better, are "goodness, pretty much". Clearly Isabella at 12 already has a sense she must run this family. This pushing Gretchen to say things she doesn’t want to say seems very familiar. All Gretchen finally gives is a “we’ll see”. It was hard to tell who was the mom and who was the child until that moment.
Exile on Drain Street
Before Danny arrives home, the family assistant, Jackie, phones realty companies to arrange an apartment for Danny to go to that very evening - for at least a five day stay. Jackie’s busy asking about apartments on Sunset and Vine, which is not exactly a great neighborhood by the by. Somewhere on the editing room floor must be a moment where Gretchen comes to this decision but we weren't privy to it. Danny arrives home unaware...which accounts for the grimace Jackie shudders with when she hears Danny’s voice in the hallway. Gretchen intercepts Danny before he can walk in and overhear Jackie’s phone call. G & D caucus in a closet after G has asked for their mics to be removed. Danny is a bit churlish, but handling this very well, actually. He’s fairly calm. Gretchen still talks 'down' to him, telling him to “act nice with the kids”. Granted, we see the tip of the iceberg on this show, but I’ve yet to see or hear about Danny being mean to his kids or mistreating them. Gretchen has this annoying, “Romper Room” sickly-sweet tone that whenever heard, means she’s put on her 'mommy' persona and is in charge. Danny obediently hugs and kisses his children goodbye. Isabella asks Gretchen where Danny’s going and gets a non-answer: “He has to do some stuff”. Isabella’s more alert than that, so it seems unfair to mislead her. Danny gets behind the wheel of his red convertible, and a cameraman asks if he can “hop in with him”. Danny thankfully has a shred of self respect and denies the cameraman this request. The half-sob that escapes when he says the word “No” tells it all, though. Adding insult to injury, even his car seems to give up on him, sputtering as he drives away.
Chain smoking in a plastic patio chair in his new apartment, Danny is on the cell phone begging Gretchen to tell him she misses him. (So much for his self-respect.) Intercut with this scene, we see Gretchen and Dr. Garry having a solo therapy session. Kicking Danny out of the house agrees with Gretchen; she suddenly seems 10 years younger and more vital, and even her hair looks healthier. The dry, kinky uncombed mop of straw from earlier is replaced by an actual hairstyle. Her makeup is fresh, smooth skin replaces puffy eyelids, and her eyes are clear and focused, rather than watery and flitting about in a haze of misery. It’s such a striking difference, it's almost as if an exorcism has been performed. Clearly and concisely, Gretchen says that she thinks "something is going wrong with Danny" - she doesn’t know the cause, but he “doesn’t seem right” to her. I’ll venture a guess at the cause for Danny’s dissolution: He’s bipolar, possibly off his meds and cut loose from his mooring.
Somehow, despite all his talent, intelligence and ability, Danny still needs to plunge his tap roots deep into Gretchen’s psyche and siphon off what he needs. "I don't want my life - I want hers" he said earlier in 'therapy'. He needs this symbiosis, but for her, their parasitic relationship is draining and exhausting. Granted, she's had a use for his dependence up until recently, but it seems now she's trying to (what shrinks call) individuate, or become a 'real person'. Using Danny’s conjoined twins metaphor from last episode - it’s amazing how the separation affects them both. Gretchen is sitting straighter, her confidence seems greater, and her eyes are clearer. Danny’s body language is hunched over, he’s needy and whiny, collapsed, and lost. Gretchen seems almost chipper, while Danny slowly seems to be dying. The contrast and changes really are astonishing. I’m not sure if this is a reality show or science fiction - but I think David Cronenberg might have directed a film just like this.
I Love the Smell of Intervention in the Morning
Another day, another begging phone call. This time, Danny sounds more confident of the result. He’s asking Gretchen if he can have his Sober Support Group over there, rather than squeeze them all into his furnished efficiency apartment. Gretchen agrees, and Danny begins digging around for clean clothes. He’s got his clothing stuffed into a Hot Topic shopping bag (oh please, say that trip was for Isabella) and is doing laundry. Wow, this apartment really is crummy, from the ratty carpet to the all purpose living room with stacked washer/dryer in a closet. This apartment alone is enough to make anyone want to 'fly right' - especially if what you just left was a hilltop mansion. Call it Punishment By Real Estate.
Apparently even Danny’s methods of transportation were downsized, as now he’s riding a mini motorcycle to his meeting. Looks like Gretchen doesn’t wanna be around when Danny is, because she and Dante are leaving Casa Bonaduce, and driving somewhere too. (More scenes in cars - yay?) Gretchen and kids are gone as Danny cycles up the driveway. He’s wearing a long leather 'duster' coat like cowboys once wore, and stalks up to the house as if it’s High Noon. Wait - Danny’s in the house alone? Because the Sober Support Group is also driving up, in a van. Keeping with the subtheme of this show, we hear them talking as the Mystery Van speeds along. Keeping with this episode's subtheme, they're discussing the Mystery that is Danny.
Shaggy, Velma and Fred The assorted members of the Support Group discuss Danny’s recent behavior and their worry about it. They decide to play things by ear. That doesn't last too long. Around the table at the Bonaduce Mansion, a woman broaches the topic of an AA (I assume?) sponsor for Danny. Danny makes light of the fact he has none. He begins congratulating himself due to the fact that last season of Breaking Bonaduce has convinced some viewers to get into rehab. (Remember what I said about Danny’s Deft Reflector Shields? He senses something’s up, I think...just not exactly what.)
But no one has a better BS meter than a group of people who’re working AA, so, the Group’s apparent leader (Jason - a guy in bowler hat, white t shirt, and tattoos) bluntly calls Danny out on his “relapse behavior pattern” of 3 AM phone calls, dramatic text messages, and his staying in hotel rooms. “You haven’t seen me in weeks” Danny rebuts as he clutches his coffee cup - but the group adds that to the list of relapse symptoms (hiding from people). Danny looks ‘caught’ but also a bit annoyed and it isn’t long before Danny begins to ‘spin’ excuses faster than the twizzler stick he’s stirring. Again, Jason nails reality down to his trying to call Danny for weeks but getting no response. A biker-looking hulk of a man says that he got a text message at 3 AM saying “I want to die. Call my wife” and biker guy deems that “abnormal”. “Not when you love your wife like I do”
Romeo Danny opines. I feel for Danny at this point - it must be humiliating to hear this stuff and to hear it from a burly guy with red goatee, biker tats, sporting “Destroy Yourself” written on his T shirt...Well, okay, not so different from Danny himself. But maybe that makes it even worse.
Jason Bowler Hat says that the upshot is that he can’t prove Danny’s backslid, so, he would like Danny to prove it to him. Oh yay, this means we get to follow Danny while he takes a drug test. And they say reality tv is unscripted! Danny drives Jason to a doctor’s office, where Danny refuses to allow anyone to witness while he creates a urine sample. The doctor specifically asks Danny to let someone watch him take the drug test, but Danny mysteriously chooses now to be shy. Jason shakes his head but can do nothing. Danny emerges from the bathroom, asking the doctor to help him put the lid on
his habit? the urine sample cup. Without wearing gloves, the doctor takes the cup to his office himself. Now the doctor dons latex gloves and pours the urine into a test tube. And that’s all we learn - we aren’t told if Danny passes the drug test or not. Just how little did Danny and Gretchen allow VH1 cameras around them if the show fills segments pointlessly this way? (And why, if we don't see the results, did we have to see a closeup of Danny's cupful of urine?) Well, it’s possible that next episode we’ll discover if Danny passed. But I’ll just add this: In one of the ‘extra footage’ segments on VH1’s show website, Danny boasts “if you can’t rig a drug test...”. He as much as admitted in that outtake footage that he knows how to change a sample from 'dirty' to 'clean'. That, plus the fact Danny insisted on being alone in that room? Call me cynical. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the doctor finds nothing in that sample but apple juice.
Riding in cars with boys
Gretchen has her own tortures to endure...I don’t envy any mother whose child sing-songs “I want my daaaadddy” the way little Dante is doing in his child seat. She is now the villain of the family, in her children's eyes. This is where it’s harder to be sympathetic to her, because although it's impossible to pin down a villain in this tortured family - As a viewer I find myself wanting her to reassure her toddler son somehow, at least by validating his sorrow...but Gretchen only offers a steely “I know” while she taps her fingers on her carefully torn jeans. Gretchen too has her deflector shields and in her case it’s an icy exterior. It’s impossible to tell what’s underneath it, but one senses uncertainty, and an urge to please the strongest person in the room. Although she kicked Danny out of their house, I get the feeling she’s doing that to please Dr. Garry - it’s what is expected of her. Gretchen has what many “Army brats” (people who moved to many cities in childhood due to parents who were in the armed services) do - coping mechanisms. Decision making seems her weak point. Perhaps that’s partly why daughter Isabella makes her view clear: she knows better than her mother what’s best for Danny.
And now Isabella is a happy girl - she and Danny are singing a duet in, yes, one of the cars. Inexplicably, Danny’s driving Gretchen’s car, and Isabella is leaning over the seat as he drives. She is leading the tune with a conductor’s gesture. Danny is clearly miserable, and wiped out; Isabella only knows her father is in the car and they're singing together. The song sounds like “Piccolo Minnie” but I have no idea what or when or why that song is. Danny seems very serious, so I’m betting this took place during his exile. It's hard to tell, the way this show's edits keep jumping around from one day to the next, and back again. Anyway, this wistful scene is poignant. It's clear Isabella idolises her father, she resents her mother; she feels in charge, without fully understanding a thing. Her parents share this lack of clear vision, and it's also what's gotten them in trouble. (So why is this family always driving, since none of them can see? Although come to think of it, do they ever go anywhere other than home?) This child has such an air of "If only things were up to me - I could fix it", it's palpable. And heartbreaking. She's 12.
Time warping again - BB’s editors take us to a pool hall with Jason and Danny. Jason has
kidnapped offered to babysit Danny for 72 hours to make sure Danny isn't abusing drink or drugs. I guess a pool hall is the best place to take a recovering addict? What's wrong with a public library? Both seem equally bad at the game...any moment, one of them will hustle Minnesota Fats out of his pocket money. Jason even pockets one of Danny’s solid color pool balls. Danny has a hard time hitting anything.
Well meant but lame attempt at recreation over, Danny finds a curb and dials Harass a Wife. On his cell phone, he apparently gets his daughter on the other end of the line. Also apparently, (I'm getting the feeling this crew only ever got ten minutes worth of film, not all of it cohesive - and were stuck with making a show out of it) Gretchen is on another phone call on some separate line. No matter - Danny asks Isabella to pry Gretchen off her other call and come talk to him. We only hear one side of the ensuing conversation, but it's clear Gretchen isn't happy about being pulled off her other call. Danny's excuse is "I miss you so bad, I couldn't help it". He then requests, "If you feel you miss me, would you sometime call me and tell me?". The request is so odd, so puerile, (the way to make someone miss you less is to continually harangue them to tell you so) I'm beginning to see why Jason Bowler Hat Support Leader thinks Danny's been "getting loaded". Complicating things for Danny's support team and for the viewer - bipolar disorder without meds can also feature extreme emotion and lack of logic.
Uh oh, Danny has spotted the cameraman. Apparently - we're to assume - Danny did not know he was being filmed. The crew never admits to sneaking the footage, so it's unclear. Danny says that he had no idea he was being filmed during this "super private conversation with my wife". One by one, he goes to the film crew, asking if each is able to 'back that up' and erase the film. One by one, the film crew claims to be unable to do that. Again it's not clear whether the crew is shady and has snuck film, taking advantage of a less than lucid man, or whether this less than lucid man doesn't realise he is on a reality show and has signed away his life for six episodes. In any case, the stonefaced crew calmly assert as one that none of them has the footage. This seems impossible, even in the digital age, but Danny is forced to accept their answers. He's so calm about it, and so let down when each assures him it's impossible to find the footage they just shot. It's like watching a kid lose his lunch money, and try not to cry as he asks someone, anyone, to help him find it. Everyone insists they never saw any money. Meanwhile the bigger kids divide up the candy they just bought with it.
Red Bull and Popcorn Make It All Okay
A sad pall hangs over Gretchen and Isabella too, as Gretchen approaches her daughter: "I just wanted to kiss you 'cuz I love you". "No," Isabella says flatly. Gretchen backs away sadly, saying "I'm sorry. I just love you" over her shoulder. Isabella tells her mother, "I'm really angry at you", and once again, the mother/daughter roles shift: Now Gretchen is the one lacking clarity or honesty, as she says "Why?". Isabella offers up the obvious: "You kicked dad out of the house. You got him an apartment, and got him out of the house". Has Gretchen forgotten this little detail - something that must be hugely frightening to a child. Now the editing becomes confusing again, because we see Gretchen walk out of Isabella's room, but the next thing we see is a closet door closing (what is it with this family and closet caucuses?) and hear Gretchen (and only Gretchen) talking about this issue. Er, I mean justifying everything and not comforting Isabella's feelings. She has her overly sweet, Romper Room voice on again, as well.
"You know mommy wouldn't have done that if I didn't think it was the right thing to do, right? I know you're angry at mommy, but I wouldn't have done this if...we need daddy to get it together, honey, and I'm sorry. And if you wanna be mad at me, I totally understand. You can be mad at me. But mommy wouldn't make that decision if she didn't think it was the right one. Okay?" There is a pause and a faint voice says something. Gretchen continues patronising: "You're the best girl. You want some popcorn? Extra butter?" (A laugh) "I'll bring it right up." And that's that for family counseling. Orville Redenbacher solves it all.
Danny smokes on Sunset Boulevard, and Gretchen pops microwave popcorn. It's hard to tell how she is doing...she looks very sad, but her hairdo is still bangin'. If I had to...assume, I'd say she is not faring as badly as when Danny's in casa, but she's maintaining. Viewers criticise Gretchen for not letting out all her emotions. They even question if she has any. But imagine spending your entire adult life on a roller coaster. Eventually, you stop screaming. You stop crying. You stop begging for the ride to stop. Your hands lock onto the safety bar and your face freezes. Can we blame her if all the ups and downs have finally left her numb? Danny's on the same ride, even though it appears he's got the key in hand - he doesn't, either. He's leaning against a newspaper vendor on Sunset Boulevard, nowhere else to go - clutching a can of Red Bull while Jason the Hat consoles his lament. Jason takes Gretchen's point of view. "She's hurt". (As if to illustrate this, we're shown Gretchen in her kitchen, dabbing a tissue at her face.) "But she treats me like an animal" Danny moans. "You've acted like an animal so long, she doesn't know how else to treat you" Jason points out, and Danny nods. Jason tries to implement AA philosophy, urging Danny to stay sober, work a program, then who knows, things might change. "You might not want to be together any more; or you might fall madly in love all over again". Danny nods hopefully at the latter (this all reminds me of relationships most people have while still in school; there's even the hipster guy - in this case, Jason - offering what sounds like sage advice - when he's really just stating the obvious). Jason grabs Danny's shoulders and assures him (or assumes for him?) "It's gonna be alright". It's all just like some teen movie. And Gretchen reaches for the popcorn.
Next week's preview scenes show us Danny in a suit romancing Gretchen, a nude Danny at Harvard, suited Danny pole dancing and banging open a door with his noggin. While Danny acts out like a wild man, Gretchen again threatens to leave him. They're stuck on a loop de loop, and where the roller coaster ends up is no mystery - after the ups and downs, we're gliding along with them - right back to the beginning.