Episode 13 - You Me Her
You Me Her (2016)
I'm gonna review this new TV show one episode at a time. Which means that I don't know how it ends or where things go when I review it. And this whole thing is going to be spoilerific for each episode. This is one of those new kinds of "original shows" that the alternative entertainment providers have been producing to compete with the good ol' boys networks and cable shows. Since they don't have sponsors to appease or censors to bow to and they are trying to create a niche market where the heavy hitters don't already have a stranglehold, they can afford to do things a little differently.
I have been nothing but impressed with Netflix originals, for their unique content and brilliant and sensitive writing. You Me Her is not Netflix, but an AT&T original, showing on Direct TV, a service that normally provides access to networks and cable channels here in the US. DirectTV is a pay service, like satellite or cable, so I don't have it, which is why I'm getting a late start on this series. I think this is going to hinder their ratings because so many of us don't have pay-for-TV services anymore, but perhaps if you do have DirectTV, you could host viewing parties for your friends who don't?
You Me Her explicitly advertises a moresome kind of relationship and it comes very highly recommended by reputable sources who have seen all the episodes available so far. IMDB even says "Centers around a three-way romantic relationship involving a suburban married couple." The cast has been quoted in interviews as recognizing that the poly community is watching and they want to be careful about how they tackle the subject matter because our eyes are on them. So I'm going to be very kind about it starting out with an infidelity, at least until I see where this goes.
As per my Criteria List, an infidelity isn't an automatic disqualification; it depends on what the show does with the infidelity. Some of my favorite poly movies started with an infidelity. Many people come to open relationships through an infidelity. I am a bit irked about the whole starting-from-a-couple-opening-up-with-a-bi-woman perspective yet again, but that's also not surprising because so many polys did become poly by opening up a couple and because it's the least threatening configuration so it's the most likely one to get the first foray into mainstream television. I understand entertainment business - if it's *too* out there, no one will watch it and those who do will complain about it because they can't relate. I'm grumpy about it, but that's also how progress is made - with baby steps.
So, the plot. The official website says:
"Suburban Portland couple Emma and Jack Trakarsky are totally in love but seriously lacking spice. They end up tangled up with an escort (grad student Izzy) to get the mojo back, setting into motion a life-changing series of events for the trio."
A married couple, Jack & Emma, are trying to have a baby, but there's no romance or passion, or sex for that matter, in their relationship. Jack takes some terrible advice from his brother to hire an escort as a way to, I dunno, restore that passion by osmosis or something? Suck out the sexyfuntimes vibe from the escort and transfer it to the wife? Relieve the pressure by sex with a stranger so that the wife doesn't have to perform the function?
I'm unclear on how he thinks this will help. There are ways that an outside partner can help an existing relationship, but it's not clear how the *brother*, as someone who isn't involved in the ethical non-monogamous community where he would learn these ways, thinks this will help.
So Jack hires an escort who doesn't have sex because "no penetration doesn't count". Don't get me started on the problem of ranking sex acts and PIV sex being some magical pinnacle of sex elevated above everything else. If you're interested, I have lots of rants on that subject on my own blog.
Anyway, Jack hires an escort, freaks out, tries to cancel but it's too late, and then gets to know Izzy, his escort, and falls in like with her. So he immediately runs home and comes clean. Emma does what a lot of people do when they find out their love is interested in someone else - she stalks her.
Emma also hires Izzy to see what the big deal was and also immediately falls in like with her. Sounds a lot like Summer Lovers, other than the exchange of currency, actually. Emma reveals herself to Izzy, and Jack actually calls Izzy up to "break up" with her, even though Izzy explains that he doesn't have to break up with an escort, he just doesn't have to call her anymore.
And *then*, Emma comes clean to Jack about her own encounter with Izzy. So, even though the first episode starts with an infidelity, it's actually the most ethical and considerate infidelity I've seen on screen. The first episode ends with everyone knowing the whole truth about everyone else, which is a much better place to start from if you have to go through the broken relationship agreement method. Like, with Kiss Me Again, it took the couple forever to finally reveal all the secrets and lies involving their mutual tryst. So, already this show is one-up on lots of other movies with similar plots.
I did feel that, for the sake of getting to the meat of the story, the first episode kind of rushed past the difficulties that actual real people would be having in this situation. The two separate hookups with the escort happened literally within a single 24 hour period, and the "betrayed" wife managed to get over her feelings of shock and betrayal by the end of that same period.
In my experience, when people feel betrayed, even if they go out and do something out of revenge or even if they're also guilty of their own secret betrayal, lots of people still manage to hold onto their own feelings of being betrayed. I don't think I've ever seen someone find out their spouse "cheated" on them one night, run out and have revenge sex the next day, or meet the Other Person the spouse cheated on them with the next day, and then have smooth, passionate, makeup sex that very night. Not that I think it's never happened in the history of ever, but I doubt it's very common and I've certainly never seen it before.
Emotions are complex, especially when there's entitlement involved (which is what usually sparks feelings of betrayal - the idea that one's partner owes one sexual or emotional fidelity) and also when there's insecurity involved as evidenced by Emma's concern over her age and comparing herself to the "hotter, newer model". I would expect Emma's feelings of betrayal and guilt, or betrayal and vindication to take longer to get past and to make the next several interactions with her husband much messier with confusing emotional twists and turns. People whose emotions are a complicated mess of conflicting feelings tend to act out in unpredictable ways.
However, the first episode ends with Emma's confession, Jack's confusion, and Izzy's belief that she messed up a marriage and that she just lost two people she likes very much, so there is plenty of time for all that confusion and messy emotional stuff to still make an appearance in upcoming episodes. Plus, Emma's seemingly overnight forgiveness of Jack that turns into sex on the kitchen floor could also be interpreted as partly made up of her own feelings of sexiness, worthiness, and validation because of her experience with Izzy as well as maybe some vengeful feelings about having sex with him while she held her own secret, which she didn't reveal until after the sex. So maybe it wasn't that simple after all.
All in all, I'd have to say that, knowing ahead of time that the series definitely goes towards a poly relationship and that those involved in the show are aware of and sensitive to the poly community, I liked the first episode. The characters seemed mostly realistic with their awkwardness and confusion, and my concerns could easily be addressed in later episodes so I'm not holding them against the show ... yet.
But even if my concern about rushing past the complicated emotions remains consistent, this is still a poly show on mainstream television that actually cares whether or not they're portraying us considerately and accurately. So I recommend watching the show and I will put it on the Poly-ish Movie List, barring some unforeseen anti-poly situation in upcoming seasons.