Showtime's Polyamory, Episode 2: How to communicate, and not.
When Showtime's Polyamory: Married & Dating opened this season, we saw two seemingly happy, capable poly families. In Episode 2 last Thursday, we started witnessing an instructive divergence. I hope viewers were astute enough to recognize the contrast being displayed for them.
Episode 3, airing tonight, will surely pursue this further.
Episode 2, "Triggers," opened with the Hollywood-based trio of entrepreneurs waking up in bed. Leigh Ann has to rush off to teach an early class at her pole-dancing studio; she is short-staffed. Chris and young Megan (below), who have businesses of their own but less rigorous schedules, wheedle her to stay and cuddle. No she can't, she's already late. Leigh Ann explains to the camera: "I don't really have the luxury of not going to work." Yet she is also feeling wibbly and resentful of the others' greater alone time together, and shows it. Chris responds, "We aren't the ones who are not available."
At the pole-dancing class, Leigh Ann misses a move and takes a fall. After the class she unburdens to a good friend that the morning's stress with the two at home threw her off. "They spend all their time together because I'm here all day," she says. "She gets to have sex with him all alone, and I don't. Chris and I never get alone time. It sucks."
And yet, when the friend suggests talking it out with them, she says "I'm really bad at confronting, like, the hard stuff. I get overwhelmed by the emotional conversations and I want to run away."
She also bemoans to the friend that she can't find advice about her situation anywhere, "because no one else is doing this!"
Um, yes they are. A huge body of hard-earned poly-community wisdom has accumulated in the last 30 years, often by bitter trial and error, and it's there waiting to be tapped. But that means finding the community, and these three seem to have no contact with it. They assume their thing is just about them.
Meanwhile down the freeway, things are going better with the San Diego pod of four-plus. At a restaurant, Michael is having a mature and practiced conversation with Jason, his wife Kamala's new lover-to-be, about how he's fine with them moving forward into sex and with them spending more time together. (A developing theme here is that in the poly world, time can be a scarcer resource than sex, and therefore its allocation can be more jealousy-inducing.) This is Jason's first experience with polyamory, and Michael is gentle and helpful about putting him at ease.
|A moment of TV fame.|
Back in Hollywood, we see Chris at the gym he owns, training a young fighter. Cut to him talking to the camera about Leigh Ann: "It's so difficult because obviously I understand career, and travel, and wanting to make a name for yourself and wanting your business to be successful.... Maybe she's feeling like we're doing our own thing [in bed without her].... Maybe I really need to, like, make an effort to be more with her for a while."
He buys flowers for her on his way home, leaves them on the bed, and invites her in. She is thrilled. They discuss the problem of that morning and seem to work through it to a happy resolution, and they begin getting intimate. In walks Megan, chirping "Am I interrupting something?"
Instead of saying yes, which she clearly is, they invite her to join them and soon are again in a three-way. (Yes, the sex is a little more explicit than in Season 1.) In the midst of it Megan ducks out, ostensibly to refill her wine glass. Chris and Leigh Ann are left uneasy, the mood dampened. They all end in an argument. Chris: "It just felt like you bailed on the whole thing." Later to the camera he says, "There are times when the strength of mine and Leigh Ann's connection is somewhat threatening." Leigh Ann to the camera: "It seems like it makes her insecure. And that seems like it makes it wrong to love my husband — and that's just wrong."
In the argument we saw Megan starting to turn shrill and show her youth (she's now 24). Folks, if you partner up with someone much younger than you, understand that they may be emotionally younger too. Chris to the camera: "This is the first time I've really seen this kind of discord" in their three years of living together. "If we don't find a way to really resolve it quickly, it's the kind that could really fester."
Did viewers notice that each of them has been speaking to the camera with the insights and thoughtfulness that they are not expressing to each other? Think about why. I wanted to step through the screen and hand them this.
Back in a San Diego restaurant, Tahl, Jen, and Jen's new, besotted young boyfriend Jesse (below) are having a model discussion. Tahl asks Jesse about the rules that he is putting on Jen, such as about Jen not kissing any other guy on the lips except Tahl (who's her husband). Jesse is handling things well, looking into himself and explaining himself with some insight, and not being shy about how new and strange to him this feels, and that he can't yet say how far down the poly road he will end up wanting to go. Young people can also be mature and reflective.
The three end up working out a time-sharing agreement they're all happy with: Jen will spend three nights a week with Jesse, three with Tahl, and one night a week they'll all do things together, until further discussion if need be.
Tahl to the camera: "In our experience, it's always more difficult when monogamous people come into the picture. They kind of want the lover all to themself, and there's no sense of sharing."
Jesse to the camera: "A lot of it is really still just kind of getting comfortable with it.... Getting to know everyone in the pod, and all her different friends, naturally is where I think that comfort will come."
Tahl, sympathetically: "Jesse's new to this world. It's gotta be just fucking weird for him. I mean he's talking to his girlfriend's husband. He is taking these steps, though. I do see it. I just hope he keeps on taking those steps."
Last July, when I spent ten days with Kamala Devi and Michael at the Network for a New Culture's Summer Camp East, someone in a big group discussion asked Kamala what her number-one piece of advice would be for making polyamory work. Her instant response:
"You need a tribe. You need a community. It's so much better than trying to do this alone."
Here's Mindchaotica's recap of Episode 2.
Here are previews of tonight's Episode 3 (in which, says the promo, "Leigh Ann drops a bomb on Chris and Megan, and Michael asks Kamala for a threesome with his new lover"):
Each episode in the eight-week season airs on Thursdays at 11 p.m. ET/PT, then again several times during the week; schedule (on the left there, click On TV > All Airings). Episodes can also be watched on demand after they first air (click On Demand), or on a computer or device via Showtime Anytime if you're a Showtime subscriber.
Showtime’s website for the series.
All trailers and video clips from Season 2 so far.
All video clips from Season 1.
To keep up with doings of the San Diego family, see their Facebook Fanpage.
Here's my own stuff about Season 1, with plots, spoilers, commentary, and notices in other media.
My stuff about Season 2 so far (including this post; scroll down).