Season finale of Showtime's Polyamory: My recap of Episode 8, "The Road Ahead"
Season 2 of Showtime's Polyamory: Married & Dating ended last Thursday with a strikingly inconclusive conclusion to half of it. So I wrote to the Hollywood family, and in my next post I'll have an exclusive update on what has happened to them in the months since filming ended.
First, here's my recap of the season finale, Episode 8, "The Road Ahead."
We begin with the split-up Hollywood three trying to make their ways through their mess:
"For the last couple of weeks," explains Chris's wife Leigh Ann, "Chris has been splitting his time between Megan and I. Chris and I have been rekindling our romance. The alone time has really reminded us how special and important we are to each other."
Leigh Ann and Megan, however, have had nothing to do with each other despite their once-strong connection. Chris: "Having to split my time between the girls has been really devastating. I feel like my heart is torn in half.... It doesn't work for me. I can't be in love with two women who no longer have a connection."
He and Leigh Ann agree that it's time for all three to sit down and figure out their future. But, says Leigh Ann, "I'm scared to get together and talk, as I always am."
Michael and Kamala are packing up lube, condoms, musical instruments, and clothes for the big excursion that their network of partners and lovers takes every year to a spot in the Palomar Mountains east of San Diego. "This getaway is so exciting," says Kamala, beaming, "because we are going to have a big sex party with all our new lovers and some of our old lovers as well."
In come Tziporah, Jason, Jen, and Jesse; they're all driving up together. Michael to the camera: "The ultimate goal of this getaway is to bond all of our lovers. The only real concern I have is that we have some new people. The new people haven't been through these events yet, and they're pretty emotionally stressful, I'd say."
Jen is thrilled, for instance, that her young mono lover Jesse is "willing to step outside of his comfort zone and show up." On the drive, however, Jesse confides to Tahl and Jen that he's not exactly excited about coming along. "It's really hard for me thinking about, like, not going and then her going — I don't think I'm going to go to the sex party though, I've got this big knot in my stomach right now."
Back up north in Hollywood, Chris comes home to Megan from Leigh Ann's temporary abode. "So how was your night" she asks him, giving him a Look. Seems he stayed there two nights in a row without asking Megan first, just telling her by text.
Chris: "Honestly, Megan, it's not really working for me either.... What this hinges upon, Megan, is are you willing to give her another chance?" He asks if she'll agree to a meeting of the three.
She says she'll think about it.
The core San Diego pod plus its outer members — eight people in all — arrive at their mountain getaway. There's an awkward moment when Jen and Jesse say they'll be taking a separate room for themselves, and Jesse says he may not want to be around the other lovers when things get intimate.
Alone, Jen compliments Jesse for coming along at all and asks if he'd be okay with her going to the sex party if he doesn't? Even just to be with her husband Tahl? Jesse, apologetically: "I'm trying to be as poly as I can. I've gotta take baby steps."
Michael is showing Rachel around the grounds. It's her first time here. She is moving to San Diego to be with Michael and the family, she has said. Michael opens a talk about their future relationship: "For us going to that next level: what would that look like for you?"
"I'm really looking forward to more one-on-one time that you and I are alone."
Michael, nodding: "Mm-hm?... I know we looked into having that relationship with Kamala and even playing in threesomes — do you not want to pursue that?"
"I think for now I would be okay with letting that one go? It kind of crashed and burned the first time?"
"What about in the sex party as well?"
Rachel comes out with, apparently, some irritation: "Other than group sex and threesomes and things, what does going deeper with me mean to you? What do you mean when you say that? Is there any way that you want to go deeper with me alone, or does everything 'going deeper' with me involve others?"
"You know I still do have a wife, and I have a child—"
"But that doesn't answer my question?"
"Mainly, I've got a lot of things that pull me a lot of ways."
"It kind of seems like if I don't grow into the pod, and into your relationship with your wife, that really leaves us with not a lot."
"It would be more, like, me really having a separate relationship with you?"
"That's still poly," Rachel points out.
"Yes it is, but it's definitely not the way I have my life set up."
"Maybe that's why you never go deeper with girls."
"Maybe — yeah."
Megan is bustling around her designer clothing business in Hollywood and is unburdening to her old friend Emma. Emma has known Chris and Leigh Ann since before they brought Megan in three years ago. "Emma is very good with tough love," says Megan. "She is no-bullshit and will call you out.... She knows all of our drama, so I think she will have some really good insights."
And indeed, here comes some straight talk like we haven't heard before.
Megan complains that other than Chris and Leigh Ann, she has had no support system for the last three years. She can't talk to her birth family. "And since this all fell apart, I really have to think about what is my future going to look like.... I just don't want to feel like the girl on the side."
Emma: "Well what's exactly what you are right now."
Megan says she wants a commitment that they will all be equal, and complains that Leigh Ann "wants to be the wife."
Emma, sweetly: "But you want to be the wife, too." There, someone said it!
(Cue the poly sigh here — between the couple privilege on one side, and the fact that no two relationships can be forced alike on the other side, it's popcorn time. And about having no support system? I remember Kamala insisting [outside the show] that the first thing she stresses for making poly work is, "You need a tribe.")
Megan to Emma: "My question is, can we keep going forever? I want kids like, in a year." An even bigger thing we've never heard discussed.
Emma informs Megan that before she came on the scene, Chris and Leigh Ann always were known to, um, experiment, and that about a year into their new closed relationship of three, she remembers "Leigh Ann saying to me, 'Wow. I really should have had a discussion with Chris before this started. Because now I'm in a position where I'm in a relationship with someone that I don't know if I want to be in a relationship with. And I should have, as a married woman, with my husband, set boundaries before we entered into this relationship.'"
Rather a shocker for Megan to hear two years after the fact, and from a third party.
Emma continues to lay it out: "Leigh Ann's too afraid of Chris to say anything. When you have a conversation, do you say what you think? Or do you say what Chris wants to hear? And I don't know that Chris knows what polyamory actually means. Because he gets to have two people who love him, and cater to his every need. Chris is Chris's priority. And you and Leigh Ann, you just do what you can to make Chris happy, with your own self just pushed by the wayside."
Megan decides it's time to agree to this three-way talk, and "to say that I'm looking for equality in this relationship."
Back at the mountain retreat, we see an utterly different scene. Here is a transcript of nearly the whole thing, because it is a fascinating model of how an important and unusual thing is done.
Kamala tells the camera, "In the seven years that I've been doing play parties, I've found that having a pre-party conversation to set intentions is essential. And since we have a number of new people, we want to find out what their boundaries are, so that we avoid having breakdowns, and we increase the breakthrough."
On a sunny patio in the greenery, Kamala starts off the discussion among the eight. "I need to know if somebody is like, 'I don't want you guys to sleep together.' If you want to say, 'I'm a red light to that person sleeping with that person.' Or maybe 'I'm a yellow,' which means go slow. Or green, 'it's totally cool.' Jason and I had a check-in," she continues (they're cuddling), "and I'm happy to say that he's a free agent, and I'm excited to share him with other people in the pod.
"How about for you, Jesse?"
Jesse is oozing youthful discomfort. "Um... I'm not comfortable with Jen being sexual, or really sensual, with any guys except Tahl; women I guess I'm okay with.... I don't want to be left alone."
Kamala reassures him: "You guys can stay together all night, and you don't have to necessarily play with anyone else."
Tahl to Jesse: "It's awesome that you came up here. And, I want Jennifer to really respect Jesse's boundaries."
Jennifer, however, is chafing at Jesse restricting her like this.
Tziporah: "I do have a red light, and the red light's with sexually playing with Rachel. Mainly because, I'm not 100 percent comfortable yet with knowing you?"
Kamala to Rachel: "I've not connected with Rachel yet. Sexually we kinda have that incomplete" — the failed threesome — "and it'd be nice to see what happens between us tonight? That's kind of an intention."
Rachel sets a boundary here. "That was actually the one thing I told Michael I didn't really care to revisit. I don't really need to have a second time that doesn't work out? That I'd like to explore some other people tonight. And not really revisit the threesome with you."
Kamala seems about to roll with it okay, but then: "Michael and I always have a total inclusion.... For you to say you're not comfortable doing a threeway with me is like you're excluding me, and I'm not okay with that." But having stated this aloud, Kamala has done what she needs to, and that's that.
To the camera Kamala explains, "I want to have a sister connection with Rachel. But if she doesn't want to play with me, she at least needs to know that the rules of a play party is that my husband and I always include each other."
Some viewers might see strain and awkwardness here that they would never want to be involved in. I see impressive modeling of the way that direct, honest communication within a poly network can work — even when it's saying tough things between people who don't particularly like what's going on with each other. This is how to make what might look like a utopian fantasy actually function well in a non-utopian world.
And then they break and all join together in setting up and decorating the main room, and dressing up. As they're getting ready, other lovers arrive — several folks who we've not seen on camera. For the record, at least one is black, so the cast is no longer entirely white (or part Latina) as critics have mentioned.
Chris, Megan, and Leigh Ann are finally having a meeting. Leigh Ann is resolved to "be really honest by finally coming clear about my biggest fear about our relationship."
They sit on the living-room couches. Megan: "I think a lot of our problem is that we haven't ever talked about what is our future is like, moving forward. We didn't talk about things.... I'm looking very much in the future. And I want to feel like I'm an equal. That I'm a priority."
Leigh Ann: "You know honey, as much as I've wanted to give that to you, I don't know if I can give you equal rights in this relationship."
Chris to Leigh Ann: "Well I'm going to be honest, I don't know if it's your choice anymore."
Leigh Ann to Megan, becoming teary-eyed: "You know when I met you you were you were young, and beautiful, and I totally fell in love with you. But the truth is I never anticipated how serious you were going to get, and we were going to get in this relationship. Like, it was really not what I wanted... and I did not speak up. I was afraid to say, that's not what I wanted."
Megan, who knows this: "It's not the easy thing to hear but... I know you've been scared to say it for a very long time. I know you're finally being honest to me. But I don't want to just like be the girlfriend forever. I want a commitment, you know? I want to have kids. And I can't help but ask, if it's something that you're ever going to be able to work towards."
Leigh Ann: "I can't commit to it right now. I think that you two would have beautiful children. But it scares me to think that a girl that's ten years younger than me could come in, partway through our relationship, and earn all the credit and all the respect that I have. It scares me."
The meeting ends. Leigh Ann leaves. We see her driving away in the night.
Chris: "If it doesn't work out, I'm really not sure whether or not I would attempt polyamory again."
And that is the last we see of them. A very inconclusive conclusion.
That was filmed several months ago. An update since then comes in my next post.
It's night in the mountains at the lovers' retreat. Everyone's sitting in a circle on rugs in the main room. Kamala reviews ground rules: Everything is consensual, "you're only doing that which you're a 'hell yes' to." If you want to leave early then you do; you take care of yourself. "It's not a free-for-all"; everyone "stay really true to your relationship agreements." When things get into any fluid exchange, "which is anything involving the genitals, we want to be practicing impeccable safe sex."
And then we get multi split-screens of a gentle controlled orgy, including, amid all the warmth and closeness, shots of Jesse sticking close to Jen, Michael paying special attention to Rachel and saying he'll be spending more time with her and will probably do polyamory somewhat differently now; Kamala privately expressing concern about Rachel's distance from her — and in the end, Kamala having the last words of the season:
Want a Season 3? Then, Kamala is urging, say so on the show's official Facebook page. This matters. She writes,
You may think writing, emailing or calling a big cable network is a waste of time, but since Showtime and Time Warner recently had a dispute (which dramatically affected the ratings of Polyamory: Married & Dating), they are deciding on whether they have enough interest to buy another season and they are looking for and listening to feedback from their viewers (or potential viewers), like you. Your voice matters in this powerful decision.
Watching polyamory represented in the media is important for social change. Whether you feel the role modeling is positive or negative, this show is a conversation starter and making a difference in the minds and hearts of viewers across the globe.
It's only a few days to the San Diego pod's four-day, "heart opening" Poly Palooza, which they and their network are holding at a resort in Desert Hot Springs over Columbus Day weekend, October 10–14. Spaces are still available. "Immerse yourself in a sex-positive celebration of liberated love: learn from top love experts, express yourself in group, experiment at play parties, soak in healing waters, and create lifelong relationships with a worldwide tribe of love leaders."
Workshops include Free Love vs. Agreements, Into the Heart of Jealousy, and Visioning the Future of Polyamory. ZEGG Forum daily after breakfast, music and parties in the evening. Workshop presenters include Diana Adams and Reid Mihalko. I wish I could be there.
Viewing party. The San Diego cast is holding a season-finale viewing party of episodes 6, 7, and 8 on October 26 in San Diego's Victory Theater, followed by a Q&A with the cast and the director, Natalia Garcia. Info.
Here is Heather McGuire's recap and review of Episode 8, for a somewhat different viewpoint than mine. You'll also find all her other episode recaps there.
All eight episodes begin reruns very late Thursday nights, from the night of October 10-11 to November 28-29; see schedule (choose from the Episodes drop-down, then on the left 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.
Showtime’s Facebook page and website for the series.
All video clips from Season 2.
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 (including this post; scroll down).