And so, dear friends, it has come to an end. We have endured – oh, have we endured! – a cacophony of insanity, narcissism, and genuine psychological and spiritual breakdowns that have been recorded on film for posterity and can eventually be played on a loop at a Sweet Sixteen or perhaps for a jury.
For this, the second season of True Tori, has actually managed to cram the following madness into merely eight episodes – and know that as I’m compiling all of it together in my mind to relay it to you, that it sounds very much like the haunting hallucinations I experienced that time I smoked opium in the back of a dark Manhattan bar:
· There was the visit to the bearded shaman, someone who worked out of a hut that looked like it was decorated by Jonathan Adler, whose presence brought Tori and Dean together for a few moments of crippling panic and emotional pain.
· We were continually exposed to their children, one of whom is sadly becoming markedly less attractive as he nears the age of tween, but at least he has a brand new swing set with a kick-ass slide and a baby pig as a pet – well, he had the pig for five days until it died. (More on the dead pet later. I’ve gotta pace myself.)
· There was a random and unwelcome birthday party visit from Tatum O’Neill, and I am starting to wonder if she realizes that perhaps she has a future career as a very specific kind of entertainer for children’s birthday parties on her hands. She can show up unannounced, take off her dress, walk around in a slip that will always manage to exactly match the hostess’ outfit so she can steal her thunder, and then sweep out of the party after snagging some candy from the piñata the kids maul. Try to tell me that train wreck would not end up being way more exciting than seeing a poodle sculpted from a balloon by a big-shoed clown, and I’ll tell you that you need medication.
· We met Dean’s rather sleek and eloquent ex-wife. She appeared in three episodes and seemed like she was having an absolute ball. A well-dressed, very attractive woman, she was having the last laugh. The people who once destroyed her – her ex-husband and the woman he left her for – now constantly come off as insane, insecure, emotionally-stunted, and unable to adequately form words to express themselves. And while I’d question anybody’s motivation for agreeing to appear on a show that is crippling a family before our very eyes, I give this woman a break. She hasn’t compromised herself and she has earned her right to be seen as strong after two lunatic weaklings passed her off as old and infertile and full of vengeance in the press for years. I like her so much that I would create a holiday in her honor, but I’ve been really busy lately so I can’t conceive of what the theme of a new holiday could be or what I would serve as a dessert. That said, I’d like to officially invite her to come celebrate Arbor Day with me, whenever the fuck that is.
· What else? Well, we witnessed in tragic close-up the moment Tori’s friends blinked slowly as they each came to the same understanding that their friend is bat-shit crazy. Each friend comes off as compassionate and patient and honest, and watching every one of them kind of nod slightly with the internal clarification that Tori was not just a little loopy but actually out of her fucking mind was kind of sad to see.
· There were weepy therapy appointments and countless times Dean stormed out of a room. I swear, that guy walks into a room and before he even sits down, he scopes out the joint for the exits. I’ve seen him bound out of a therapist’s office, the front doors of his home, and bedrooms. If he didn’t sweat so much while he did it and if he had better hair, I’d almost be impressed.
· We saw Tori’s mother arrive at one of the kid’s parties and we saw Tori shake and stammer and reveal what an asshole she is when, seeing her mom talk to Dean’s ex-wife, she muttered that the ex was probably hoping Candy Spelling would leave her some money. Has someone you chatted with over a cake pop at a child’s party ever willed you a small fortune? Because if this is a thing, I’m going to start RSVP-ing yes to the invitations I always claim get lost in the mail.
But the season has now come to a close and that darkness that has set into the lives of the twelve people (and that includes me) who watch this show is not merely because of the harsh weather in the east and from the sun setting earlier and earlier. The darkness is from our souls and our intellect rotting because of Spelling Exposure, because what we have willingly and continually exposed ourselves to is not just light escapism, but the real loss of sanity from a mother of four.
On the last episode before the finale, Tori was furious that her husband invited a woman he’d met in rehab to be the kids’ interim babysitter. Why was she mad? Let us count the reasons:
1. This chick was recently in rehab for some kind of substance abuse, which might not make a mother feel all that secure about the safety of her children.
2. Dean had asked Tori twice before if this woman could work for them – and Tori said no both times.
3. Tori was out of town when Dean invited the woman over.
4. Tori is not ready for Dean to have a female friend since Dean’s dick was inside of another woman less than a year ago, despite that it’s tattooed with his wife’s name – which reminds me that now I know what to get that one guy I like for Christmas.
I think Tori had every right to be angry, and I’m not so sure I’ve ever thought Tori has been right about anything this show has portrayed her as thinking or doing. But those all sound like good reasons to be annoyed, and with the support of her lucid friends, Tori was set to come home and confront Dean. You know: she was finally going to use that voice she always talks about finding, but I have to say that I would have better luck finding the retainer I lost in middle school than this shell of a woman would have finding her voice.
So all ready to confront – all ready to be strong – Tori instead makes a detour on the way home to delay the confrontation and then buys a five-day-old piglet. Seriously, this episode starts with Tori getting out of the backseat of a car holding a pink baby pig that is wrapped in a blanket. She brings that pig home to her rented house where there are four children, several dogs, no order, and is run by parents who cannot have a conversation that doesn’t devolve almost instantaneously into a passive-aggressive emotional breakdown that ends with either streaming torrents of tears or a the rattle of a slamming door.
Welcome home, pig!
To try to relate to Tori’s odd choice to add a pig to her current sty, I thought of my own life for a moment. My mother is in rehab for a hip replacement; my sister and I are not close these days; I am writing recommendation letters and editing college essays until I think my eyes are going to bleed; I’m being formally observed on Tuesday and I’m doing a lesson where my students have to turn pictures of the Eric Garner protests into examples of German Expressionism; I have to first teach them what German Expressionism is; I just published a book and I’m trying to promote it; my entire dining room is a heaping mess of ribbon and presents for other people that now I kind of want to keep for myself; I’m avoiding sugar and chocolate; I’m craving a Hostess Twinkie; I’m meeting new people while trying to break in new bras and boots; and I think I might be genuinely addicted to black coffee. The thought of bringing home anything else – a pig, a gerbil, even a new towel – would probably send me straight to either an asylum or maybe to the bearded shaman.
What in the hell is Tori’s problem? A pig? A baby pig who needs to be fed from a bottle? How could this be a good choice? And she questions her husband’s thought process?
One of the friends who was with her when she brought the about-to-die piglet into the backyard gave an interview to the camera in Tori’s kitchen. She spoke quietly and she looked almost dazed by it all and she said the whole trip home was kind of quiet and sad because all of them, except for Tori, could so clearly see how delusional it was to be buying a pig just so she would have a squealing distraction and not have to actually face the issue with her husband. And she mentioned how messed up it was that Tori could not live her life without cameras pointed at her face. And then all of her friends just kind of slowly shook their heads and tried to slink away from the crazy lady before she adopted them too because then she could have even more distractions in her life.
I suppose I should have felt badly for Tori, but the only one I felt badly for was the pig. That pig died a few days later, just as Tori came down with a bout of bronchitis that sent her to the hospital for thirteen days. Thirteen days for bronchitis? Was she trapped in an iron lung that had to be constructed from a hard-to-meld form of iron that you can only find in some strange land that requires that you sail through the rocky waters guarded by Scylla and Charybdis to reach it? Who is in the hospital for that long for bronchitis and still comes home so sick she can hardly stand? And how was she all of a sudden fine with the fact that she had to leave the kids with a husband she branded as the least responsible person who ever roamed the earth while she was in the hospital? Was it because they she had no choice – or because she knows she has nannies and babysitters she pretends she doesn’t have so she can moan on the show that she is essentially a single mother? And could she see through her fog of medication and misery that the kids, without her around for nearly two weeks, ended up alive, seemingly chipper, and far less frazzled?
Over and over this season, Dean has broken that fourth wall and stated directly to the cameras that the filming of all of this family strife is a grave mistake, that it is destroying any chance they have at real happiness. And while I think even the casual viewer can see that it is highly unlikely that this couple will ever achieve marital joy for longer than ten days at a time – they rarely communicate and when they do, both of them only hear the hidden messages in a conversation – the slight chance they have is being dissipated by the scrutiny this filming brings. And now Tori’s friends have brought this ever-present-filming-is-fucking-up-your-life matter to her attention, as has her therapist, and so has her husband. And each time someone says plainly and directly to Tori’s face that the constant filming is veering into territory that is rather sick, she can just stare at them for about a minute, her bottom lip – usually painted a shocking shade of matte pink berry that is a mistake any way you look at it – hanging slack as she seemingly feels stunned that anyone would balk at her sick and twisted choices. Why she appears continually startled when she keeps receiving the same feedback over and over from source after source is something I can’t figure out – I’m not a therapist or a pharmacist – but it’s clear that nobody is breaking through.
That woman will not give up her camera crew. Rumor on the internet street is that Dean is not signing on for another season of this drivel, and maybe for the first time ever I respect him a little bit, but if the series does get another season, Tori says she will do it alone.
Because she will not lose her voice.
She will not lose her ability to make herself be heard.
But it’s pretty clear that she might lose everything else – and I know with my entire being that she’s gonna turn that moment where she can’t even stand up under the weight of her pain into a Christmas spectacular.