Showtime's Polyamory, Episode 5 recap: "Boundaries"
Jennifer of the San Diego pod is looking good to me these days: happy, confident, outspoken compared to a year ago, not afraid to say what she wants and doesn't want. Episode 5 opens with her and her young boyfriend Jesse heading off on their motorcycles; he taught her to ride about six months ago. They say goodbye to Kamala and her date Jason, who are cancelling their beach plans in favor of what looks like some serious makeout time at home. Jen gives Jason a big hug, and out they go.
We switch to Hollywood, where Leigh Ann is staying in a friend's empty house, alone, after being kicked out by husband Chris — and, implicitly, their live-in partner Megan — for carrying on a cheating affair outside the home and lying about it.
Her paramour, "Chicago Chris," arrives from the airport for a visit. They run into each others' arms. Leigh Ann to the camera: "I'm excited to see him, but I really do want to work it out with my husband, so I've decided to honor his request for my boyfriend to leave early. It's so hard because I know I have to give the bad news to him that he's going to have to leave sooner that he thought."
But no, she hasn't told him yet... even though he has rearranged his schedule to be here for a week and is going to get socked with last minute plane-ticket charges on top of a broken heart.
He asks Leigh Ann for a straight answer about how her family breakup happened. "Like what exactly did you tell them? Because we've been so vague with each other, I think we should really have this talk."
"I told them that I wasn't upfront with you, in the beginning," she says. "Basically, Megan is really angry and like doesn't want to talk to me. And Chris is really angry at you, because he says you shouldn't have been involved with a married woman."
"You never wore a ring. You never talked about anybody. But you seemed way too awesomely put together to be just floating around as randomly as you were leading me to believe. I felt guilty. For a minute. It's not the way I would have chosen to go."
So then, he wasn't quite the self-centered cheating enabler I first assumed. And my opinion of Leigh Ann now descends further. I've happily told sweet people in snuggle piles who notice my wedding ring, "Oh yes, it'll come off my cold dead finger in a funeral home."
They start making out on the couch. "I've always been so afraid of like taking advantage of him. And it sucks. Because he's been really good to me. And I don't want to be bad to him in return." But she still hasn't broken the news that he's gotta get on a plane back home.
Jen and Jesse are suiting up in their riding gear. Jesse, you will remember, is a mono guy with jealousy issues who's antsy about being romantically attached to the edge of a poly crowd. "I meant to ask you, it seemed like that hug you gave Jason seemed a bit much. Like are you guys getting close or something?"
"Yeah, he's at the house all the time, he's dating Kamala, and I think he's really cute." Jesse takes on a sad-puppy look.
Jen's husband Tahl, meanwhile, is driving with podmate Michael to the airport to pick up Michael's brother Christian coming in from Paris. Who is gay. Both Christian and Tahl (who came out as bi in an earlier episode) have expressed interest in seeing if they might get something going.
On the way back in the car, Tahl and Christian fish each other out a bit awkwardly, with Michael dropping a helpful comment from time to time. Michael tells how he and Kamala have an agreement that she will tell him before she and the new boyfriend Jason have sex. Christian: "Everyone has new girlfriends and boyfriends except me. I feel left out." Tahl: "We'll see what we can do about that."
Out on the highway, Jesse stops his bike at an overlook above San Diego. Jen joins him. He says, "I can't stop thinking about what you said about Jason this morning."
"What'd I say?"
"Just that you're like attracted to him, my mind just gets stuck on that, like what does that mean. It seemed like more than a hug this morning, you were looking in each other's eyes."
"I do find him attractive. But I've never given him anything more than a sweet hug."
"Do you want to?"
"I mean I would, if it was okay with you."
"Yeah, I don't think I could do that."
She takes a moment. "You know, I'm just realizing that I really miss going to sex parties, and snuggle parties, and just being with my pod, Tahl and everybody. It would just be more fun, more inclusive, if we could all go together, and I know that they want you around too. It's — hard on me, because I feel pressure from my family to spend time with them—"
"Which is like being all sexual. I dunno. It doesn't sound good."
"Well you knew I was poly when you met me."
"I wasn't looking for that. You know, I met you, and fell in love with you."
"I'm just trying to have us grow a little teeny bit? What would be nice is if we could go to a party and it's possible I could kiss another guy? Just kiss? It seems like that would be a natural progression."
"How does that seem natural? 'I'll come home to you, but I'll go have fun with somebody else'? That's how it feels to me—"
"No no no! I don't want to do any of it without you there. You're getting the wrong impression. I absolutely don't want to do—"
"I can't even talk about this any more. It's too much for me. Let's just go home."
Up north in Hollywood, Leigh Ann is admitting to the camera, "What's so special about Chicago Chris is he is really enthusiastic, and really sweet and attentive. I'm not the best communicator especially about the hard stuff. So, he tries to make me more comfortable." She still hasn't told him he has to go back to Chicago early.
They go out to a taco truck. That's where she breaks the news: Husband Chris "said you could come out here to say goodbye."
"Say goodbye? Come on... I'm speechless." Eventually, "I want you to work it out with your husband. I don't believe that me leaving early is going to help you work it out with your husband, though."
Leigh Ann: "That's why I was hoping that if you guys met, maybe we could all be friends."
She has been texting Chris and Megan asking them to meet him. They have not responded.
Chris and Megan, meanwhile, are at home in an emptier house than they've known. A longtime friend of all three comes visiting, and she and Megan have a heart-to-heart. Megan: "She keeps texting us asking us to meet her boyfriend she's been having the affair with.... I hate saying this but I feel like she's threatened by Chris-and-I's bond. But cheating on us isn't okay. Fucking lying to me—"
"So lying is the problem," the friend observes. "It's not the other guy."
"Then why don't you just meet him?"
"I don't know...."
Back in San Diego, Kamala's day with Jason has turned juicy. "We're taking it slow physically because he hasn't been in a poly relationship, and I have to remember that it's all new to him."
Kamala asks him for details about a date he was on the night before. "Well, we kept our clothes on. We just made out and, dry humped?" Giggling.
Kamala to the camera: "He's able to communicate with me the way I need him to. And that gives me the big green light to go deeper with him."
Which they proceed to do. As Michael, Tahl, and Christian arrive home from the airport and walk in on them. Whoops.
Michael: "I walk in, and I'm confronted with Kamala giving a blow job to Jason, and I'm like hold on, our agreement obviously has been broken." He sits down with them. "Our agreement was to not have sex without letting me know."
Kamala: "Yeah, um,"
Michael, "You heard and understood, right?"
"Yeah. I — we weren't having sex, yet. Yeah. It was oral sex. And so,"
"Oral sex is sex."
"We hadn't really defined what, what you meant by sex." The Bill Clinton defense! From Kamala Devi?! "We just moved too fast and didn't check in—"
"I'm kind of shocked because it's kind of exactly what I was hoping wouldn't happen."
"I'm sorry honey, I'm really sorry."
Michael: "By the way, Jason, I'm totally fine with you guys having sex. But the agreement was that she'd let me know before. And include me if that was in the works."
The mood is shifting. Michael says to Jason, as Kamala bites her lip: "She's been bad. Very bad. Do you, know what I mean?" To the camera: "Do I want to be the angry guy who's not getting laid? Or do I want to be the angry guy who's converted that into sexual energy, and love?"
He catches Jason's eye. "I think we need to punish her." Kamala giggling: "I can accept my punishment!" Jason holds her arms while Michael starts spanking her rear. Laughter, shrieks. And, "can I continue doing what I was doing to Jason?"
Michael: "I think that you should, actually. Yes."
Things advance from there. Bonobo conflict resolution in action. Kamala: "Michael really got off on the idea of punishing me. Jason is like all lit up; this is the first time we're having sex, and it's in a threeway. And then it's this whole discipline thing. Which is pretty hot because I felt real guilt, and then I felt real arousal." Pause. The scene actually "relieved me from my guilt."
After, as they lie nude on the bed, from Jason: "Thanks for sharing, Michael."
Michael: "Thank you. It was beautiful."
Kamala, laughing: "I'm going to weep. You guys are so beautiful."
|Christian and Tahl|
So much for the criticism of the show that it lacks gender-relationship diversity.
Tahl draws back. He tells Christian, "I'm really turned on right now. And I also know I need to talk to my wife Jennifer, and just kind of clear it with her."
Christian: "Yes, I respect that."
Tahl: "Thank you."
He's growing up.
Megan and Chris are also getting kinky, now that they're on their own. By candlelight we see Chris "taking the reins," as Megan puts it, and some paddling, and hot-wax play. (So that's why she lit so many candles.) I'm reluctantly agreeing with the criticism of the show that sex scenes are becoming gratuitous.
Afterward, naked amid cold candle wax and whatnot, Chris checks his phone. Leigh Ann is texting them again. "Again asking if we would come meet her little boy," he says. "It seems really absurd to me."
To Megan: "How am I going to sit in the same room, and not fucking kill this kid? What positive really comes out of it?" And yet, he says, "I am really conflicted as to whether or not I should agree to this meeting. I don't believe it would be helpful to us fixing things. But, I also, don't know everything.... Maybe it's time that we gave her what she's asking for."
Told you so! Stay tuned.
Here are previews of this Thursday's Episode 6, "Serious Affairs." In which, we're told, "Chris and Megan come face to face with Leigh Ann and her boyfriend."
Discussions continue among poly movers-and-shakers about whether this series adds up to a Good Thing or a Bad Thing for us. I quoted some critics at the bottom of my last post. Here are a couple of rejoinders to them. (All quotes are by permission.)
From Anita Wagner Illig, longtime poly educator, advocate, and speaker-to-media:
I have come to be much less worried about the polyamory-equals-sex imaging that our community has historically done a lot of hand-wringing about. Today I'm grateful for the balance that has been established via other highly visible media events. Obviously people who see the Showtime series may not see anything else and may come away with a skewed image of what polyamory is. Still... in exchange for a LOT of visibility, I feel like it's worth putting up with the negative aspects.
...We've seen a few instances on the Showtime series where people haven't treated each other lovingly — and they are no different than how I see a fair number of poly people treat each other. There are many more examples in the show where the love is apparent, even when mixed with the hot sex scenes, even if presented with a fair amount of dramatizing. I have a feeling that this mirrors what many poly people experience fairly well. I have to hand it to Kamala and Michael specifically, their love for each other and their partners consistently shines through.
Whether we like it or don't like it, the series exists. It has happened, and making our concerns known to Natalia has also happened.... I think we have to continue to tell our story whenever and wherever we have the opportunity to tell it, with the belief that the trend toward awareness of polyamory can only continue. I've been correcting misconceptions about it practically since the day I began to be an advocate, and I don't see that changing, ever.
Michael Rios, a builder of the Network for a New Culture and a creator of poly communities since 1964, writes:
Shows like Natalia’s go a long way toward normalizing polyamory. It becomes just another thing that some people do or are, like being gay (Ellen), or Black (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), or Jewish (The Goldbergs/Seinfeld), or single-and-sexually-active/aggressive women (Sex and the City). All of these were startling when they first hit the airwaves, but they helped normalize and familiarize their context to millions of Americans. The specific plots of these shows were not taken as defining [all] people who shared their prime characteristic.
...There should be no expectation that every character is practicing polyamory perfectly at every moment, or even that the group is doing a good job as a whole.... The show is probably a lot more accurate than I would have expected. Go watch an episode of Seinfeld, or any other sitcom/drama — how much like real life are *any* of those?
...With the show out there, at least people are aware, and will have questions to ask. Previously, most talks on polyamory to general audiences spent most of their time [trying to convince the audience] that such a thing actually existed.
And in real life, it's three weeks to the San Diego pod's four-day Poly Palooza, taking over a resort hotel in Desert Hot Springs October 10 – 14. Space remains available. Wish I could be there.
Here are pix from their big public TV viewing and Q&A party in a theater September 7th.
Each episode airs Thursday at 11 p.m. ET/PT, then again several times during the week; see schedule (on the left there, click On TV > All Airings).
If you're a Showtime subscriber, you can watch any episode on demand (click On Demand) or on a computer or device via Showtime Anytime, after it first airs.
Showtime’s Facebook page and 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). There will be eight episodes this season.