Season 3, episode 14: Sex and another city

“I feel like one of those freakin hairless dogs!” – Carrie, after her first Brazilian

SEX LA main.jpgOoh, Vince Vaughn! Except it’s not really Vince Vaughn. Or rather, it is Vince Vaughn, but he’s playing a character – unlike Matthew McConaughey, who in the last episode was playing himself. Confused? You might be.

The pals are somehow still in LA, milking Carrie’s freebie for all it’s worth, and Charlotte gets so scunnered with Trey and his refusal to discuss their sexless marriage that she hops on a plane to join them.

A week in the sunshine and a reunion with an old friend threaten to transform Miranda from angry and cynical to mellow and spiritual – until, that is, she realises that said friend has an eating disorder and an anger problem. It turns out nothing in LA is quite how it seems on the surface, just like Charlotte’s picture-perfect marriage back home.

Samantha decides to fake it with a knock-off Fendi bag, but ends up being escorted off the grounds of the Playboy Mansion after a run-in with a bunny. The groups’s attendance at a party at said mansion isn’t really explained – we should probably assume Miranda and Charlotte made their usual sensible/prudish objections before being roped in – but it’s worth it for Miranda’s deadpan reaction when they stumble into a grotto pool party: “Look at that – tit soup.”

Meanwhile, the character played by Vince Vaughn dupes Carrie into thinking he’s a big shot when he’s actually just a house-sitter – a house-sitter for Carrie Fisher, no less! The real Carrie Fisher, that is! Our own Carrie is simultaneously mortified and  star-struck when Princess Leia storms in on her in flagrante, and her attempt at writer-to-writer bonding is shut down in brutal fashion. “I have a child … I really can’t do this,” she mutters.

Fashion: Carrie’s pool party outfit is so spot on that I’m almost – almost – willing to forgive the ridiculously-sleeved blouse she wears on her fruitless Fake Fendi quest. As usual, Miranda opts for a needlessly frumpy ensemble, a mere episode after expressing a desire to ramp up her sex appeal. In other scenes Carrie rocks some amazing accessories – including a gold lightning-bolt necklace (teamed with a gold boob tube and white tuxedo jacket and shorts) and an outstanding pink metallic bum bag.

Carrie’s column: When it comes to bags, men and cities, is it really what’s outside that counts?

Puns: It’s been a while.

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 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.

Season 3, episode 8: The Big time

I miss you. I can’t stop fucking stop thinking about you. There you have it” Big, to Carrie’s answering machine

sex-bigI detect a whiff of hypocrisy when it comes to Carrie’s opinion of Charlotte and Trey’s relationship. Carrie met Aidan’s parents after a mere three weeks of dating, yet scoffs at Charlotte’s suggestion that Trey might be The One given they’ve only known each other for two. However, she has to concede Charlotte’s never seemed happier.

Miranda is keen to correct Charlotte’s belief that fate brought the pair together, but I’m not sure her men-are-like-cabs theory really contradicts it. I agree with her that when a man makes a conscious decision to find a wife it’s pretty much a matter of the woman being in the right place at the right time, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility of fate giving a helping hand, surely?

I’m also not sure why Samantha’s so offended when her new neighbour Len makes a move. Is he really so much older than her usual suitors? Didn’t she date a geriatric a while back? Anyway, the age-related paranoia that follows is a false alarm, so she won’t be needing vaginal lubrication suppositories any time soon. Thank goodness.

Steve sees a baby, so decides he wants a baby. Miranda tells him he’s being an idiot, but later reflects that “maybe I’m just sabotaging the relationship so I don’t have to have a baby with him and actually be happy. Maybe the problem is me.” The problem is not you, Miranda. Steve sees a puppy, so decides he wants a puppy. Miranda says fine because she doesn’t want to be “Mean Mommy”. It doesn’t go well, and Miranda tells Steve she’s tried her best but he’s dumped. Oh, but here comes Carrie’s voiceover to say: “It was then that Miranda realised something. All this time she’d thought the problem was her. It wasn’t. It was them.” Nope, again. The problem is Steve. Awful, childish, whiny, sometimes downright cruel Steve. In more important news, well done to Miranda on making partner at her firm!

Oh, and Big is sniffing around Carrie like a dog trying to track down his favourite lamppost. He’s now telling her exactly what she wanted to hear … a year ago.

Carrie’s column: Is timing everything?

Fashion: Charlotte doesn’t commit notable fashion faux-pas all that often, but teaming a yellow, pink and green dress with a lilac pashmina is madness.

Puns: Does this count?
Charlotte: Ugh! Vagina weights!
Samantha: Honey, my vagina waits for no man.

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 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”.

Series 3, episode 4: Boy, girl, boy, girl…

“I don’t know if I can move forward, but I really don’t want to lose you”
– Miranda, to Steve

sex boy girl.png
I’m not sure if the phrase “bi erasure” had been coined by the time this episode first aired, but it’s probably the most jarring so far in terms of sexual attitudes.

Carrie starts dating a bisexual guy, Sean, and the resulting conversation at brunch is an eye-opener. Despite being an actual sex columnist, Carrie finds it weird that he was “so open about it”, Miranda weighs in that “of course it’s a problem” and Samantha declares that the younger generation are “all about sexual experimentation”, as if to suggest it must be a phase.

Apparently all of the bisexual men and women in college ended up with men, which explains why there are no men left for our heroines. “I’m not even sure bisexuality exists,” adds Carrie for good measure. “I think it’s just a layover on the way to Gaytown.” Yikes! It’s not wonder that Charlotte wants everyone to “pick a side, and stay there”, but the others really show their vintage here.

Among the other features that date the episode are: everyone having their mind blown by a “drag kings” exhibition, Carrie saying her and Big were “apparently not Y2K compatible” and, um, a reference to Pokemon. Remember them? Oh wait…

Regular readers with know that I am not a huge fan of Steve. But his actions in this episode take the biscuit. Miranda arrives home from work to find him reclining on her sofa, watching basketball on the TV. It’s important to note that Steve and Miranda do not live together.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” she says.

He replies: “I’ve still got your key from when I fed your cat.”

WHAT? NOT COOL, STEVE. NOT COOL AT ALL.

He then quickly diverts her attention with a promise of Chinese food, then proceeds to police her use of her own television. I think it’s important to bear in mind that Steve lives in a complete shithole. No wonder Miranda freaks out when he tries to encroach further still on her turf.

She does hint at the home invasion when departing from brunch, but Carrie literally tugs at her sleeve and jokingly-not-jokingly whines “What about my problem?” rather than listening.

The episode confusingly conflates gender, gender stereotypes and sexuality – and ultimately opts for a cop-out. Carrie technically doesn’t break it off with Sean because he’s bisexual, but because he, Alanis Morissette and the rest of his multi-sexual young friends are weird and play Spin the Bottle at their house parties.

One more observation: for someone who recently told us she never registered to vote, Carrie sure does make a lot of digs about the then New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Pah.

sex boy girl fashion.jpgCarrie’s column: Has the opposite sex become obsolete?

Fashion: There are some stylish looks on show at Charlotte’s exhibition launch.

I did not approve of Miranda’s floor-length purple satin nightie.

Charlotte made a very handsome guy when drag king photographer worked his magic.

sex boy charl.jpg