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.

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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.

Season 1, Episode 12: Oh Come All Ye Faithful

“If I’d known he was Catholic I would never have gone out with him in the first place – they should make them wear a sign” – Miranda

ohcomeIT’S doubtful Miranda’s line would ever make it into a TV show produced in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong to feel uncomfortable about her boyfriend’s post-sex shower compulsion. She tries to ignore it but can’t help eventually pointing out the god-shaped elephant in the room, with disastrous results.

Carrie asserts that New Yorkers don’t enquire about the religious persuasion of their prospective dates, on the grounds that such a question is “too scary”. In the era of internet dating Miranda’s predicament is perhaps rarer, but ultimately the proof of the pudding is still in the fornicating.

Samantha goes to a jazz club alone, wearing a twinset. A suave fellow approaches and utters the line: “I couldn’t help but notice how you move to the music.” He gives her a bite of his donut and she simpers. What the hell? Is this a dream sequence? No, it’s a super-weird conversion to “believing in love”. But don’t worry – he has a 3″ penis, so it’s not going to last.

Charlotte has only a fleeting role in this episode, which is ironic given she goes on to convert to Judaism for a man. Two different psychics tell her she will never marry, which naturally comes as a disappointment given that she’s already bought her bridal lingerie.

Of course, the Big story continues to be Carrie and her insecurities, this time fuelled by his remark, after a Sunday-morning ambush, that his mother doesn’t need to meet “another girlfriend”. Parents don’t tend to have much of a role in Sex and the City – indeed, it only seems to occur to Carrie that Big might have a mother when she spots him accompanying her to church. I’m not sure the lady is ever seen or heard from again, but his hesitation about the introduction is the catalyst for the first of their many break-ups. As the series comes to an end Carrie mutters that she loves him and he just looks bemused, so that’s the end of that (for now).

Carrie’s column: Are relationships the religion of the nineties?

Fashion: Miranda’s church-going hat clashes with her ill-fitting dress and lipstick and Carrie also looks daft in a mismatched ensemble, but I suppose these outfits were intended to make them look a bit daft and out of place. There’s another meaningful mismatch with Carrie’s outfit for a doomed holiday – Parisian chic for a trip to the Caribbean? – but the combo of white off-the-shoulder top, navy high-waisted skirt and red mules looks fantastic on her.

Puns: Praying for some in season two.

Season 1, Episode 11: The Drought

“He’s just perfect perfect perfect perfect
… and I’m the girl who farts” – Carrie

droughtMR Big isn’t perfect at all. He has an entirely average physique, a floppy fringe he doesn’t really carry off, and at least one pair of old-man pyjamas. But he proves himself to have an excellent sense of humour in this episode when he puts a whoopee cushion on Carrie’s chair shortly after what the episode guide coyly describes as her “accidental emission” in bed.

Unfortunately our new favourite prankster somewhat insensitively follows this up by declining sex for three nights in a row, sending Carrie into yet another crisis of confidence that culminates in more pretty specific foreshadowing of things to come – “What if he never calls, and three weeks from now I pick up the New York Times and read that he’s married some perfect little woman?”

Meanwhile, Miranda’s going through a dry spell, Samantha’s driven to distraction by her flirtatious yoga teacher’s tantric celibacy, and Charlotte discovers that her boyfriend of several weeks has zero libido due to being on antidepressants.

Logically, the last of these problems deserves the most sympathy when the women get together – Charlotte having invested a fair bit in the relationship in the mistaken belief her beau was super keen – but its comedic potential is limited and Carrie’s self-absorption wins out, as always. In the end, Charlotte isn’t so very heartbroken. She articulates – and not for the last time – that while she might not be as liberal as the others, she could never be happy in a sexless relationship. In light of this, you might expect her to adopt a try-before-you-buy attitude to marriage…

Several features of this episode locate it very firmly in the late 1990s. One, Miranda’s frequent visits to Blockbuster video (an even more retro viewing experience than her later Tivo obsession); two, Carrie’s anxious wait for a landline answerphone message from Big; and three, sad to say, Samantha’s utterly incredulous assertion, in a diatribe about beauty standards: “A guy once broke up with me because I missed a bikini wax!”

Lastly, Mr Big has something approaching a Mr Darcy moment after making a surprise visit to Carrie’s (admittedly fairly grungy) apartment. After she reels off a list of its imperfections he stops her in his tracks with “I like it – I like it the way it is”.

Carrie’s column: “How often is normal?”

Fashion: Blunders continue to outweigh the triumphs. Carrie’s fail-safe seduction outfit is spoiled by her naff blue eyeshadow, Samantha’s yoga outfits assault the eyeballs, and Miranda wears the ugliest pair of denim dungarees ever manufactured. However, Charlotte wears a lovely bra in her scene of sexual rejection (I’m pretty sure it’s bridal lingerie – more foreshadowing!).

Puns: Carrie spends too much time worrying in this series. She tells Miranda she’s been putting on an act the whole time with Big, and hiding her imperfections. But surely that’s no excuse for keeping a lid on her terrible punning habit when among friends?

Season 1, Episode 9: The Turtle and the Hare

You know who wants to get married?
Men who miss their mommies”
– Miranda

Black wedding

THIS is a very significant episode in the grand scheme of Sex and the City. Hots on the heels of the relevations about Mr Big’s ex wife, Carrie gets a shock when he lets slip he doesn’t want to get married again. That’s right, HE DOESN’T WANT TO GET MARRIED AGAIN. Worth bearing in mind for the future.

I’d forgotten all about Stanford’s granny and her inheritance-upon-marriage rule. There’s not really scope within the episode to discuss the fact that she seems to be sticking to this rule despite knowing Stanford is gay. And therefore, as this is the 1990s, unable to get married. Perhaps the deal is that he gets his when she dies, as is traditional with inheritances. I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m not certain, but I think Carrie breaks the fourth wall in this scene. I don’t believe that ever happens again.

Anyway, that plot strand is just a flimsy device, as is the one about an actual device – a Rabbit vibrator to which Charlotte becomes addicted. I have some serious hygiene concerns about the Rabbit scenes. Stop touching it in the shop! Stop touching it in Charlotte’s bedroom! Oh god, why are you putting it in your handbag? Gross.

Samantha’s plotline is also pretty weak, dependent as it is on the idea that her ballsy exterior masks low self-esteem and the even less plausible notion that she’d enjoy treating a man as a dress-up dolly.

There’s a nice retro touch when Stanford places a personal ad, but a contemporary-feeling result when the sole respondent arrives, looks him up and down and rejects him (the gay scene is “too competitive”, poor Stanford bemoans).

Carrie’s column: It’s not entirely clear which title she chooses for the column. She types up “Is it always better to marry someone who loves you more than you love them?” after a just-married friend whispers the assertion in her ear, but the final draft seems to be “In a city of great expectations, is it time to settle for what you can get?”

Fashion: The women all wear black to a wedding in the opening scene, which seems like a bit of a rude statement even if they do have to face the indignity of the children’s/weirdos’ table at the reception, but I’m no wedding etiquette expert. Carrie later wears a fairly minging royal blue and mustard tartan coat, but the worst offender in the episode is a cad Samantha meets at a wedding who invites her out for dinner and then – despite sporting attrocious blonde highlights – manages to chat up another woman instead. Stanford’s granny is super-chic in vintage Chanel.

Puns: Maybe I’m not listening closely enough.

Season 1, Episode 8: Three’s A Crowd

You in a threesome? You won’t even wear a thong!” – Samantha, to Charlotte

ep08_charlotte

IS Charlotte a prude? Or just a woman who knows what she wants and plays by her own rules, regardless of peer or partner pressure? It’s a surprising leap to go from an episode where she rules out blowjobs straight into one where she seriously toys with the idea of a threesome, and Carrie acknowledges as much.

The weaving together of contrasting stories linked by a theme continues to work very effectively, albeit Miranda’s strand about feeling rejected as a threesome buddy by the other three reveals an insecure, neurotic side that I’m not sure is evident anywhere else in the series.

While Charlotte is flirting with women at charity benefit nights, Samantha is becoming the third person in a marriage (unbeknown to the wife – at least initially) and Carrie is shocked to discover Mr Big was once married. As usual, it’s unclear to what extent the concealment of this information was a shady move on Big’s part. Had he omitted the detail during discussions of previous relationships, or had no such discussions taken place?

Curious to learn more about ex-Mrs Big, who happens to work in publishing, Carrie contrives a meeting. Refreshingly, the two women get on like a house on fire – but over lunch Carrie learns the marriage ended due to his infidelity, causing her further anxiety. The twist in the tail is that the divorcees are still on friendly terms, and Carrie’s research wasn’t quite as undercover as she’d hoped. We’re left to speculate about how she came up in conversation. Was ex-Mrs Big really such a fan of her work that she would happen mention the meeting when catching up with her ex-husband, or had he already told her the pair were dating? It’s a shame this character is never (to my memory) seen or hear from again. She would have been a plausible guest at the infamous wedding of film one, and could have popped up periodically to remind viewers that Big isn’t the slippery cad he so often appears.

Carrie’s column: “Are threesomes the new sexual frontier?”

Fashion: Charlotte sports a truly ridiculous hairstyle, but I do remember this half-up, half-down horror being a recognised trend circa 1999. Never forget.

Puns: Not a sausage.