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Too Close to Home S1, Ep 5: A Surprise Visit Recap & Review

Last week on “Too Close to Home,” it’s been a long road trip from D.C. to Happy, Alabama for Anna and Victor. Gay Victor has stepped up to aid the vulnerable Anna but does he know what he’s in for when he arrives at small-town Happy, Alabama?  His friends have warned Victor that things are not as cosmopolitan in Alabama as they are at the tony Washington metro addresses where he’s been living with his boyfriend Dax.  There’s stereotyping going on here, but we’ll soon see how things turn out. For that matter, Anna is in for as much of a culture shock as anyone.  On the one side she has her kindly, warm, wise sister Bonnie.  On the other side, she has her wildly out-of-control dope addicted sister Shelby who is guaranteed to give Anna a hard time. Shelby steals things, things like kilos of cocaine, and some very nasty people are trying to get them back. Oh, and the ‘nice’ sister is having a thing with Anna’s old boyfriend Brody.

In this week’s episode, Brody is anxiously awaiting Bonnie’s visit.  She’s going to be late, and with good reason. A burly stranger has assaulted her. The attack was a warning to J.B, Bonnie’s former boyfriend. The thug threatens to finish the job unless someone returns the kilos of coke J.B. was supposed to deliver. When Bonnie next sees Brody, the question arises as to whether the relationship between the two can survive. Bonnie thinks Brody still loves Annie. Brody thinks Bonnie really loves J.B. The fact is that she’s putting him off because she’s trying to keep him from being hurt.

It seems sometimes like episodes of the series were rushed into production. The direction is jumpy and the dialogue is often too drawn out and badly timed. The actors sometimes seem to be struggling to give meaning to the lines. On the other hand, I like thequirky story line – which keeps moving from one near disaster to another.

One disaster waiting to happen is Victor’s visit to Happy, Alabama. It’s predictable that there will be a culture clash when he tells Annie he’s attracted to the lively music in a honkey-tonk – a country bar where the men are all men and so are most of the women. It’s half-comedy and half-serious when Victor makes his way there after dropping Annie off at the family trailer park.

Having nothing to do except go to his lonely hotel room, Victor decides to go to the bar for a beer. Victor is at the motel when he hears music coming from the honkey-tonk nearby.   “Can I get a drink, please?” he asks the bartender, who takes the question too literally: “It’s a bar,” says surly Tony. (You had to be there. ) When Victor orders a martini, bartender Tony calls to barmaid Lily: “This one (guy) wants the fruity drink.” Did you get the double entendre?

The fun continues even as Victor is hit on by Shelby who learns he’s not interested unless she’s got a penis. Shelby’s not the kind of girl easily shocked. She and Victor kind of hit it off together, getting their dance on and having some laughs. Then a worried Dax calls from D.C.  Victor goes out on the honkey-tonk porch to talk quietly where, in his mildly inebriated state, he encounters some good ole country boys. Victor is just trying to be friendly and funny in a metrosexual way when he flirts with one of the country boys.  This is where he takes the predictable beat down. Dax can hear it all and agonizes about it on the phone.

Annie meanwhile has to make her entry into the old trailer park homestead. No one answers the door at her mother’s house so she goes next door where she meets Rebel and Matt. But it’s not a warm welcome she receives from an angry ‘Rebel.’ Rebel has reason to be angry. She’s been abandoned by her mother – and here we get some shocking backstory. Guess who her mother is — Annie.   Rebel resents that Annie has gone off to Washington and its hi-falutin’ life styles, never sending any money or other indications of care.

Another ongoing mystery that surfaced in previous episodes is the condition of the woman who lives next trailer down. She’s the mother of Bonnie, Shelby, and Annie and the grandmother of the teens Matt and Rebel. The resentful Rebel manipulates Annie into taking grandma’s meals to her. It’s a duty no one likes. We don’t know why exactly, except that the place is a putrid affair that makes the teens gag when they must bring her food.

So we’ve heard a lot of grandma Jolene but this is the first time we’ve seen her. When Annie brings food to her mom, she’s in a state of shock and panic. “I was big when you left here but I got bigger when I hurt my knee.” Trisha Rae Stahl plays Jolene, a woman who might appear in a National Enquirer article about someone who can’t fit out the doorway of her home. It’s a strong performance  from Stahl as she berates daughter Annie for ‘screwing the president.’  “I thought that the whore gene skipped you, but I was wrong,” says Jolene.

Actually, Jolene says a lot of things that are similarly uplifting – it’s sort of campy and gothic and horror-film specific all at the same time.