Last week on “Too Close to Home,” the young and naïve White House intern, Anna Belle Hayes is hounded out of Washington by a sensation-driven press. The president had an apparent heart attack while having sex with the young intern. Even Anna’s close associates on the White House hospitality and social service staff are shunning her. No one wants to be touched by the scandal. Only one man steps forward to help Anna escape the media onslaught. Victor defies his boyfriend Dax in offering to slip the press and drive Anna back to Happy, Alabama. It’s presumed she’ll be safe there.
In this week’s episode, Victor and Anna have a long road trip ahead of them. It’s a long haul from D.C. to Happy, Alabama. Shall we say the culture is a little different too? But the road trip offers plenty of time to get acquainted, that’s for sure.
Victor is a sincere good-hearted soul who seems to be acting in good faith in helping Anna. She’s a bit mistrustful at first, but you know how easily a long road trip can break you down. Anna succumbs to Victor’s line of questioning. Then we get to some background of her affair with the sleazy president.
She describes her seduction by the president, a serial groper . Anna’s ashamed that she didn’t resist. The idea of being attractive to the most powerful man in the western world was too much for her. And that’s the thing you wouldn’t believe except that it happened before in real life America. Anna soon found herself bent over a desk in the Oval Office.
“Did he force himself on you?” Victor asks.
“No, I wanted it,” she says.
And they drive on, and on, throughout the entire episode with the audience in the back seat eavesdropping. At the end of the episode, they’re still not in Happy but they know each other very well. Victor has learned Anna’s secrets while sharing some of his own.
Victor’s back story is perhaps one you’ve heard before, but actor Charles Justo manages to get through it in a believable way. He prefers “straight men,” was once an ‘escort,’ had a truck stop encounter with a tall handsome guy who got violent and refused to pay for services rendered. The guy bashed his head in and, while in the hospital, he meets stable upscale boyfriend Dax who rescued him from prostitution.
TMI, much? There’s method behind the madness and you can’t help but like the Victor character even if you are a homophobe. If only the script editors had excised lines like: “Thanks for sharing” and “Thanks for caring.” And maybe Victor should have put pedal to the metal and sped down Interstate 95 at about110 mph. That would have relieved the occasional tedium.
After listening to Anna’s story, Victor conjectures that someone may have wanted to harm the president. “Presidents don’t have heart attacks,” he says, suggesting Anna was manipulated into the position of being a handy scapegoat. Motive? The president’s wife did vow to destroy Anna. Hmmm. But wouldn’t that be too easy?
The title of the episode is “Have You Heard.” But with the media frenzy and the blasting of the story on national TV, the only one who hasn’t heard of the president’s heart attack is sister Bonnie. Sheriff Mobley stops in to tell her but Bonnie is in denial. It couldn’t have been that sweet determined girl from a mobile home park in Alabama who was sleeping with the president.
More and more it seems that the diner where Bonnie works is a magnet for trouble. One of the thugs who intended to buy J.B.’s trailer load of cocaine is scoping her out. The burly thug has obvious bad intentions – the cocaine was meant for him and his crew.
As if Bonnie doesn’t have enough trouble already, Brody calls her at the diner to tell her that he’s made a phone call to Anna. This gives Bonnie second thoughts, feeling she may be playing second fiddle to her sister, Brody’s first great love. Brody tries his best to be reassuring but Bonnie’s angst is evident. What’s a poor girl to do?
Also making an appearance at the diner’s closing time is even bigger trouble with Shelby, the sister everyone wishes they didn’t have. Shelby’s heard that Anna is headed back to Happy and wants to gloat over her fall from grace. As usual, she’s higher than the Goodyear Blimp on game day, and picks a fight before storming off into the night. Shelby’s hot, but she’s out of control, a mess, an unguided missile.
She’s ditched J.B. and shacked up in a motel with Rick when J.B. launches on both of them. It seems that every scene Shelby is in is shot with red filters—in case you don’t get the drift. Shelby’s R-rated moments are often better than the dialogue but the acting makes up for any shortfalls.
This show seems to be in a genre of its own– with tendencies toward southern gothic soap opera and an updated façade. Small part actors like the one who plays the bartender character Tony give you the small southern town grit experience even if you haven’t frequented country saloons. You get the feeling that Victor, a character who has a ‘significant’ and stable boyfriend, and who describes himself as bi rather than gay, is going to be in for a shock when the duo finally does arrive in Happy.
Too Close to Home doesn’t have to be totally realistic to be fun. Certainly, there is a certain amount of stereotyping of the small southern town. But Happy , Alabama is a place where wide variety of disparate characters can thrown together for a volatile mix.