Season 3, episode 12: Don’t ask, don’t tell

“Marriage doesn’t guarantee a happy ending – just an ending” – Samantha

sex wedding.jpgJeez, these women are right cows when it comes to weddings. The trio have all agreed to be Charlotte’s bridesmaids but each one seems to view this as an enormous favour – and each proceeds to give her a different pre-wedding headache.

First there’s Samantha, bitching and moaning about her dress until Charlotte points out she was only included so she didn’t feel left out. She of course proceeds to sleep with the best man, because god forbid she spends even one night in bed with a good book in the interest of reducing the risk of awkwardness at the reception.

Then there’s Miranda, who resorts to speed-dating (or multi-dating, as the show calls it) in order to find a date for the big day. Um… what? In what culture is it cool to bring a complete stranger to a close friend’s wedding? No-one there is going to notice or care that you don’t have a date, because this isn’t about you.

Then of course there’s Carrie, one-upping the rest by choosing the morning of the wedding to tell Aidan she repeatedly cheated on him with Big. She seems to think she deserves some such of prize for honesty, rather than to be instantly dumped.

“Maybe the whole idea is overrated”, she’d pondered earlier on. “Maybe coming clean is the ultimate selfish act, a way to absolve yourself.” Yes, or a way to make your friend’s wedding day all about yourself and spoil the photos with your puffy eyes.

Of course, the day is already marred by Charlotte’s startling discovery that Trey has bedroom performance issues.Not to worry, says Trey: “Sex is such a small part of it for us … that’s what I love about you.” Oh dear. Samantha was right; you really shouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive first. But Carrie has the right approach when Charlotte drops this bombshell moments before the big “I Do”. She decides honesty isn’t the best policy, and provides a reassuring explanation involving a poorly-timed wank.

There’s been barely a nod to Trey’s Scottish roots up until now, yet suddenly he’s wearing a kilt and Charlotte’s walking down the aisle to Scotland the Brave. I’m not convinced our Char would have gone along with this, given how much thought she’s been giving to her wedding day for the past three decades or so (I believe this episode provides the first confirmation of their ages – the core trio are all 34 at this point). Her dad’s there, but reduced to the role of an extra, in keeping with the show’s erasure of familial ties and focus on opt-in friendships.

There’s another poignant ending as a heartbroken Aidan slopes off and Carrie joins the others as her voiceover concludes: “It’s hard to find people who will love you no matter what. I was lucky enough to find three of them”. Sniff!

Carrie’s column: In a relationship, is honesty really the best policy?

Fashion: The champagne bridesmaids dresses aren’t brilliant, but they’re a lot nicer than the pantomime efforts Carrie chooses for her disastrous non-wedding a few years later.

Puns: “Charlotte had something old, something new, something borrowed, and someone Samantha blew.”

Season 3, episode 11: Running with scissors

“Could I feel any more like a hooker?” – Carrie

Sex sam.jpgGood grief. A few episodes ago we learned that Miranda had never been tested for chlamydia in her entire life. This time we learn that Samantha – Sa-fucking-mantha! – has never had an HIV test. Ever. What planet are these women living on? And why is she telling the doctor she only swallows when surprised? She’s only just finished gargling with funky spunk!

The revelation gets Carrie to thinking about safe sex, but in terms of emotional rather than physical high stakes. She ponders how useful it would be to be given a pamphlet warning about this type of self-protection. She’s musing, of course, rather than formulating public policy ideas, but this is the direction in which sex education has been evolving for the past few decades.

Of course, there probably aren’t any schools materials pointing out the heartbreak risk of cheating on your nice boyfriend with your dickish married ex. Surely no-one’s so daft they need that pointed out? The “affair” has now been going on for three weeks, and with Samantha refusing to judge her for it Carrie turns to Miranda, who is rightly appalled.

“I’m just so confused,” says Carrie. “I mean, does he only want me now because he can’t have me?”
“Yes,” replies Miranda bluntly, to Carrie’s dismay.

In Carrie’s defence, the affair does seem super sexy: the pair are creeping around in down-market hotels with no air conditioning, bickering about the difficulties of fitting illicit shags into their busy schedules. In one particularly special moment, Big utters the phrase “let’s get those panties off.” That’s it. Game over. Mr Big? Mr Bleurgh.

Carrie’s then horrible to Aidan, cruelly telling him she hates his kissing noise before switching to needy and annoying mere seconds later. Aidan really has a lot of credit in the bank here. Frankly I think he could do better, girlfriend-wise.

Soon afterwards the cat’s out of the bag when Charlotte bumps into the panties-off pair exiting a hotel together. Carrie tries to convince her she feels bad for Natasha, but it’s an obvious lie and Charlotte doesn’t let her away with it. Good.

After a session in the marital bed – and fresh from being mistaken for a prostitute – Carrie says she can’t got on like this. Big responds by threatening to tell Natasha it’s over then issues an ultimatum to Carrie – in or out. Carrie seeks clarification – what’s he really offering? A proper, public relationship, “out in the daylight”? “Carrie, in or out,” he repeats, like a slippery Brexiteer MP. Things then take a disastrous turn (that I’d totally forgotten about) when Natasha comes home early to find a half-naked Carrie in the flat, gives chase and falls on her face.

I’m really not sure why Carrie then declares to Big that “we’re so over, we need a new word for over”. Because he was willing to leave his wife for her? Was she, in fact, was the one who only wanted someone she couldn’t have?

Elsewhere, Charlotte’s hijacking brunch with her quest for the perfect wedding dress. “Kill me, please,” is Miranda’s typically on-message response. “Just take a sharp object and drag it across my throat.” Fortunately, everyone is spared the effort of helping Charlotte plan her outfit when Samantha gives her the number of bitchy stylist Anthony. This seems a little cold. They’re bridesmaids, right? Isn’t this stuff part of the gig?

Sex char dress.jpgCarrie’s column: When you crawl in bed with someone, is sex ever safe?

Fashion: Charlotte wears a nice grey halterneck dress for her trip to Vera Wang with Anthony. It reminds me of the lovely blue number with lapels she sported when Trey took her to Tiffany’s.

I also love the navy shirt dress  and red scarf combo Miranda wears to make an irrational complaint of sexual harassment against a man dressed as a sandwich.

Puns: Nope.

Season 3, episode 10: All or nothing

“You have no right to do this.
You can’t just come back into my life and fuck it all up” – Carrie, to Big

sex all or nothing.jpg“Next time we’re going to a hotel,” says Big, lying in Carrie’s bed. “I can smell the guy on your sheets: woodchips and Paco Rabanne.”
“He doesn’t wear cologne.”
“Maybe he should.”

Carrie should be defensive at that. If she loved Aidan she’d surely be sick with guilt at the mention of him, even if the context wasn’t a suggestion that he stinks. Instead, her voiceover informs us: “It all felt so easy and so good”.

Technically, there had been no exchange of L-words at this point, a fact Samantha was keen to emphasise. “Don’t beat yourself up,” she tells Carrie, refusing to judge (“not my style” she purrs with an adorable wink). “Aidan hasn’t said ‘I love you’ yet – until he does, you’re a free agent.” Inevitably, the three little words follow a few days later … shortly after she’s fallen into bed with Big for a second time. “Apparently I had become lovable,” she reflects. “I felt awful. And so good.”

Later there’s a heart-stopping moment after she sneaks out to see Big, promptly loses Aidan’s dog then has a meltdown back at the apartment. “I don’t want be paranoid here, but I can smell something,” he says. “Are you cheating?” … but he’s referring to her smoking habit, not her infidelity. “Are you gonna quit?” he asks, and her reply – “I really want to” – feels like an answer to a different question. It’s a great performance by SJP.

At Samantha’s housewarming party I had to laugh at an incredulous Miranda’s “you can get DVDs delivered?” Sometimes I forget that our characters don’t even have mobile phones, let alone Netflix and chill. Still, a landline’s all Miranda needs for old-school phone sex with a colleague from the Chicago office. Unfortunately, the hi-tech sophistication of Call Waiting allows him to talk dirty to multiple women at once.

The theme of the episode is having it all, although not the conventional combination of job, husband and kids – more like friends, boyfriend, fabulous apartment and free-flowing cocktails. This is the one where Samantha gets the flu and loses her mind because not one man in her little black book is willing to come and help her out with her curtain pole (not a euphemism – an actual curtain pole). In her delirious state she bemoans the fact that she hasn’t got hitched – interestingly, earlier in the episode she makes a rare reference to her childhood, breezily remarking “at my age, my mother was saddled with three kids and a drunk husband”.

Charlotte is dismayed when Trey casually hands her a prenuptial agreement, and wounded to discover she’s only worth half a million dollars (and that’s assuming she sticks with him for 30 years). Contracts and bonuses threaten to ruin the romance … until she successfully negotiates with Bunny, declaring: “I’m worth a million”. Of course, we all know she won’t be cashing in three decades down the line … and the less said about the baby bonuses (for sons only, please note) the better.

Carrie’s poignant thought as Trey whisks his fiancee away from her pals caught me by surprise: “It was then that each of us realised that we didn’t have it all,” she says. “Because we no longer had Charlotte.” Sob!

Carrie’s column: Can we have it all?

sex-bum-trousersFashion: A few episodes ago Charlotte was so insecure about her thighs she wouldn’t sit in a sauna. Now she’s wearing the world’s least flattering lime green mom trousers to Samantha’s housewarming. They’re so awful I had to take a photo of my TV. Her blue dress, hair and make-up at the engagement party are lovely though. Carrie wears a fabulous kelly green bodysuit while sorting out her shoe collection, then the most ludicrous dungaree shorts for Aidan’s homecoming.

Puns: Nada.

Series 3, episode 9: Easy come, easy go

“We always used to share a cigarette together” – Big
“We did a lot of things that were bad for me together” – Carrie

sex-easy-comeThe problem with Big is that he just isn’t a nice guy. He’s an arsehole, in fact, and not even a very charming one. Frankly I reckon he and Carrie deserve each other … just when I’m feeling sorry for her, whoops, she’s cheating on Aidan.

Things are going swimmingly between the pair, and they’re having coupled-up fun at a design show, when along come a miserable-looking Big and Natasha in search of new furniture. Carrie’s response, naturally, is to crouch down on the floor. Once she’s upright things are no less awkward, and just when it seems like she has no choice but to introduce Big to her beau – using his actual name – there’s an accident involving hot coffee.

Drinks of a different kind are involved soon after, as a drunk and sloppy Big returns to bemoan his “bullshit beige” married life. Addressing Carrie through a trumpet made from a rolled-up auction catalogue, he announces in a sing-song tone: “It’s not working. I’m getting out. If you know anyone who’s interested…” Carrie scathingly declares that no-one is interested in that information, and naturally we instantly cut to her promptly announcing the news to her very interested friends.

“Why’s he telling you?” asked Miranda, aghast.
“I dunno,” replies Carrie. “To save postage on his newsletter?”

She assures everyone that she is not going to doing anything, for two reasons:
“first, I have a great boyfriend, and second, I’m not insane”. So far, so sensible. But the episode is all about the conflict between going with your heart rather than your head.

Miranda and Steve might have split up but he’s still hanging around, because he has “no money, no savings, nothing”. It’s only been three weeks but obviously he can’t be expected to go all that time without a shag, so he has no choice but to give out Miranda’s landline to all and sundry. Dick. “A 34-year-old guy with no money and no place to live – because he’s single, he’s a catch. But a 34-year-old woman with a job and a great home – because she’s single, is considered tragic”. Ugh.

Here’s Bunny! I remember Trey’s mother being infuriatingly interfering – what I didn’t recall was that Charlotte quickly picked up on her sure-fire way of getting Trey to do anything she wanted … and put it into action herself. Unfortunately, a combination of great expectations and this intoxicating power leads her to blurt out her desire to get married … and Trey’s response is a crushingly unromantic “alrighty”. Fortunately, a well-timed trip to Tiffany’s puts a smile back on her face.

Samantha’s storyline, about a guy with “funky-tasting” spunk, is most notable for the glorious first 15 seconds of this clip:

But back to Carrie and Big. When he calls and leave a message asking her to call him back urgently, it seems to me the most likely explanation is that he’s horrified to have blabbed about his marital woes to his big-mouthed sex columnist ex. “He wants to get back together, right?” says Carrie. “What happened to the not-insane part of you?” replies Miranda. Of course Carrie’s gone all giddy-knickers with expectation by the time she returns his call, and you’d think it’d be something of a passion-killer when he says that he’s thought about getting out of his marriage, “but it’s gonna cost me a lot, so maybe you should forget about what I said”.

Instead of getting a grip of herself and reminding herself that Aidan is not only lovely, thoughtful and kind, but up for spending a whole day sanding her floors for free, she complains about the noise he makes while doing said DIY, complains about his dog (who apparently “deletes things” while she’s trying to write), complains about the cost of going to a hotel, and strops out. Disastrously, Big shows up and won’t take no for an answer, telling her he loves her and forcing himself on her in a lift. By the end of the episode he’s blowing cigarette smoke in her face (gross) and she’s musing “Just like that, I lost my head”.

Carrie’s column: When it comes to relationships, is it smarter to follow your heart or your head?

Fashion: It seems to glaringly apparent now that Natasha wore white in every single scene, but I don’t remember this from first time round, when I had to wait a week between episodes. No wonder she’s a fan of beige furniture too. What a bore.

Puns: Nope.

Series 3, episode 7: Drama queens

“We whine when we don’t have a boyfriend and we whine when we do” – Miranda

sex drama queens.jpgPOOR Charlotte hasn’t had much luck with boyfriends up til now. Yes, she’s a bit prissy and conservative, but she’s had more than her fair share of dating catastrophes. Somehow she’s managed to retain her glass-half-full outlook, but you get the feeling she could crack at any moment. Thankfully, now that Miranda’s shacked up with Steve and Carrie’s loved up with Aidan, the writers have finally decided to give her a break.

Of course, they have subject her to a little more indignity first. After consulting a how-to guide, she decides the best way to find herself a man is through the husbands of friends. It seems a sensible strategy and sure enough, a suitor is promptly identified over dinner with Amy and Dennis. Hopes are raised, then dashed, and just when it looks like Charlotte’s blown her chance with a bombardment of voicemails, Dennis himself appears and declares that his marriage is on the rocks and he’s in love with her himself.

So far, so soul-crushing, and Charlotte can’t get away fast enough. The next thing she knows she’s face-down in the road and a taxi driver’s performing an emergency stop. And who should emerge from the back of the cab … but Trey McDougall! Hurrah! (Or at least hurrah for now.)

Meanwhile, Carrie’s freaking out because things with Aidan are going too smoothly. After all the drama with Mr Big, it’s unnerving. To be fair, he’s keen for her to meet his parents after just three weeks of dating, which is pretty full-on, but in every other respect he’s as chilled as they come. He’s emotionally and physically available, and always ready with perfect lines like “I have a life – I’m just making room in it for you.”

In other words, he’s the polar opposite of Big, who was never willing to make room in his life for Carrie and kept his mother as far away from her as possible. So of course it’s only a matter of time before Carrie encounters him, and is sent into a stomach-lurching tailspin. It’s telling that their eyes meet through opera glasses halfway through the first act of Aida, hinting at a common bond of some kind (restlessness? Nosiness? Disrespect for the arts?) All the signs point to her freaking out and sabotaging a good thing. But no – a couple of days of no contact are enough to make her appreciate what she’s got, take the plunge and turn up to meet Mr and Mrs Shaw over breakfast.

Miranda hasn’t met Steve’s mother yet, but their relationship is far past the butterflies stage. In fact, she proudly tells the gang that her knew favourite hobby is doing Steve’s laundry. “Your relationship is my greatest fear realised”, observes Samantha, justifiably. And that’s before the discovery of skidmarks.

As I side note, I found it notable that Charlotte phoned Miranda to report that Carrie had ditched her at the opera. Upon learning this Carrie winced, and asked Miranda: “Is she pissed?”, and the answer certainly wasn’t no. Maybe the others complain about her self-absorption behind her back regularly. I hope so!

sex-cleavageCarrie’s column: Do we need drama to make a relationship work?

Fashion: Carrie wore a couple of lovely dresses in this episode – a pale blue/lilac floral number with bold gold accessories for strolling with Miranda, and cute stripey number for meeting Aidan’s parents, but her cleavage-boosting opera dress wasn’t flattering at all.

Puns: None that I noticed, but I worry I’m not paying close enough attention.

Series 3, episode 6: Are we sluts?

“I’ve slept with women quickly and I’m still single. So my new thing is, I just want to try to sleep with somebody I care about” – Aidan

Sex sluts.jpgHold up a minute. Miranda finds out in this episode that she has chlamydia, following a routine trip to the gynaecologist. There’s nothing surprising about that, but here’s the mad bit: it was the first time she’d been tested. What the hell, ladies? Given you’re asking yourself the question in the episode’s title, that seems more than a little bit irresponsible. Even madder is when she tells Steve, and he replies: “I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds like a problem.”

Meanwhile, Charlotte has a jarring experience with a lovely guy who unwittingly shouts out “You fucking bitch, you fucking whore!” when he comes, Samantha’s neighbours are unhappy about her slutty antics (they’d bitten their tongues up until now, but her late-night liaisons are compromising the building’s security), and Carrie’s forgotten what chaste romance feels like.

Aidan is a man who knows what he wants: a non-smoking girlfriend who’s willing to wait. And wait. Carrie’s initially baffled that he lets a week and a half go by without trying to get in her pants, but as time marches on she fears they’re slipping into the friend zone. Then they have a bath together. Then they go to a blues club. Then Aidan presumptuously arranges a dog-sitter. Romance is not dead after all.

Samantha moves to the meat-packing district after the neighbours start sharpening their pitchforks. To be fair, one of them sustained a pretty serious eye injury thanks to her opening the door at 2am, so I can’t really blame them.

sex sluts outfits.pngCarrie’s column: Are we simply romantically challenged, or are we sluts?

Fashion: The patchwork coat was back again. Maybe Aidan complimented her on it or something. Carrie matches her trousers with Miranda’s top when they go for a style-challenged stroll in the park.

Puns: None – the slut-or-not soul-searching was serious business.

Series 3, episode 5: No Ifs, Ands or Butts

“I don’t wanna be a jerk … but I can’t date a smoker” – Aidan

sex aidan.jpg

I had misremembered this episode, in which Samantha dates a black man whose sister doesn’t approve. I knew that was why the relationship had faltered, but I thought she’d offered some sort of Save The Last Dance-style rationale. She doesn’t – she’s just a radge. It’s a shame, because Chivon seemed to have the measure of Samantha, as well as an enjoyably cheesy line in pillow talk.

The episode is all about deal-breakers, and sets up a series of butterfly-inducing first dates only to land a series of gut punches on our poor pals. Charlotte’s new man Brad is a face-licker, Stanford’s paramour collects china dolls, and Carrie’s new love interest won’t date a smoker. He’s Aidan! I’d totally forgotten that Carrie kicked the habit for him – an unrealistic compromise right from the get-go.

Meanwhile, Steve’s deal-breaker is his personality. At one point he wants his mum, sorry Miranda, to go and watch him play basketball but she has to work on a case. “I ask you to do one thing, one time for me, and you can’t – what the fuck is that?” he snaps, before bouncing his basketball off the walls of the expensively decorated apartment he has been effectively squatting in since the emotional manipulation of the last episode. Did I mention I hate Steve?

Anyway, back to Aidan. His and Carrie’s expertly contrived meet-cute results when Stanford spots a “beautiful man downtown selling beautiful furniture” in the New York Times style section. Within seconds Aidan’s rubbing her hand on some ancient leather and bingo, she’s bought a ridiculously expensive chair and snagged a date.

I’ll leave you wish an exchange between Miranda and Carrie, who is giddy at having a crush on a guy for the first time in a while:

Miranda: At this age, I’d have to say I’m crush-proof.
Carrie: What about Steve?
Miranda: Oh god, right, I forgot about my boyfriend – is that normal?

Get out now, Miranda – no good can come of this!

sex aidan coat.jpgCarrie’s column: In relationships, what are the “deal-breakers”?

Fashion: There’s another outing in this episode for Carrie’s coat of many colours, which in itself would probably be a deal-breaker for many. I hope it didn’t cost a month’s rent. I loved the bronze sequin dress Samantha wears when Chivon’s sister delivers her first warning, but by the time they’re brawling she’s in an entirely ridiculous pants-flashing number.

Puns: None per se, but I enjoyed everyone’s horrified responses to Samantha’s attempts at “black talk”.