Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mid-Season Checkpoint: Life Unexpected's "Teams"...

Can I be on Team Baze for my boyfriend and Team Ryan for my dad?

Allow me to explain...

Baze is fun-loving, goofy, and incredibly charming. One smile from him can have you forget anything that might be upsetting you or stressing you out-- even if that thing happens to be him at any given moment. But I have to admit that most of that charm stems from the actor in his faded tee-shirts, Kristoffer Polaha. The character himself-- the man-child who screws up more times than even he can count-- could easily be on the wrong side of annoying and get under my skin in the not-so-good way if he were somehow thrust into my life.

What's so great about Baze, though, is that he's not as one-note as he easily could have been. He may screw up, but he truly does learn from his mistakes. And he's not devoid of feelings-- even of feeling like he needs to grow up a bit and be more responsible. He couldn't just jump into another casual one-night stand the way he apparently was so notorious for doing because he was starting to recognize and acknowledge feelings for someone else. He also is loyal and protective in his own way: he lied about the true nature of his relationship with Cate because she wanted to keep it quiet, and he didn't want to rock the boat with her.

Perhaps Cate even summed Baze up best herself when they were sitting in the police department and she said, with envy dripping in her voice, that there was something magnetic about him that just attracted people to him and made them like him.

The thing with Baze, though, is that Cate always kept him far away for what she assumed was good reason. She claims it is because he infuriates her, but that is a pretty superficial reason to keep someone at bay. She doesn't dig deep enough to consider such intense emotion a burst of passion that she otherwise does not allow into her life and perhaps from which she could greatly benefit. She prefers to live "playing it safe" (insert flat hand drawing an imaginary horizontal line in the air here) to the peaks, valleys, and spikes that time, let alone a relationship, with Baze brings.

Ryan, on the other hand, is a natural-born father figure. He is constantly shooting stern, disapproving looks every which way (even toward Cate), and he always offers a good tidbit of advice. Most notably he explained to Cate that "trying to understand" is something you do when you love someone. Thanks, Pops! In a less capable actor's hands, that statement might have come off sounding condescending or as filled with venom as Bug's reaction toward Lux that she is "damaged." But Kerr Smith is just as smart an actor as Polaha and manages to make his character insanely likable, if a bit of a glutton for punishment.

Ryan desperately wants to be in love and be that family man that he knows himself to be. In a way, he is a bit like Ted Moseby (How I Met Your Mother), though thankfully Ryan is not pretentious. The problem is that he is still trying to convince himself that Cate is the one to do all of that with despite her standoffish behavior.

Quite frankly, I can't figure out how Cate and Ryan got together in the first place. The show has hinted at how she was once a fun party girl, and I guess being trapped in a small recording booth for a few hours every morning is just a breeding ground for sexual tensions anyway. But those things don't mean automatic chemistry. We have always seen and therefore known Cate as so high-strung and tense that I can't imagine that's an attitude that just got flipped on when she found out her daughter was around. Maybe it's due to my own personal beliefs that we are who we are, and we can't hide who we really are (successfully) for too long, but I feel like Ryan has had to have known that side of her pretty early on (especially being stuck in such close quarters!). Maybe relationships that feature two uptight people can work (look at Wasps; some of them are probably genuinely happy...) but right now it just seems more convenient, more like they're both trying to force it to work because it would be easier, than because it's really right.

And none of this is meant to be a judgment on Cate. I know Cate; I get Cate; I am Cate. There is a lot to be said for our young experiences shaping our intimacy issues for years to come, and obviously what she went through in high school has scarred her more than she'd like to admit. Cate's the one who's a little bit damaged, and she admitted it herself, so that should just mean she needs to figure out herself and her own mess before really committing to someone else.

And if being on these characters' teams means rooting for them to succeed and find love and true happiness, than maybe I should just go with the one who needs the most work and be on Team Cate!

Cate doesn't seem to be in love with Ryan the way she even verbalizes to Lux that she is. Actions speak so much louder than words anyway, and thus far her actions have been to make fun of him when he proposed, cheat on him, and then blatantly lie about her true relationship with Baze. At the end of last night's episode, when she finally put on her ring and set a date for the wedding, she appeared to do so to prove that she was capable of it rather than because she really wanted to. She denies so much and claims so many other half-truths that perhaps she is truly confused as to who she "really" is and what she wants. But right now that doesn't appear to be Ryan.

But maybe that's just the way Shiri Appleby is choosing to play Cate. I spent a good amount of time last night transcribing some of the Ryan/Cate scenes to read the words on the page and see if I had a different reaction to their relationship, and I realized that with different emphasis there was a chance I could believe Cate really is in love with Ryan. Right now I believe she cares about him, but they read much more as a platonic (maybe even hinging on brother-sister) relationship than anyone about to embark on a honeymoon-- literal or otherwise.

I know series creator Liz Tigelaar has stated that Ryan is with whom Cate should be. She has even made a more recent, slightly ominous comment that "by now" (probably meaning by the end of the first season finale) everyone is on Team Ryan..."probably even Baze." What did you do in the second half of the season, Liz??? And I'm hoping that something in the next half of the season manages to sway me, to at least see things from her point of view. Because right now I still don't quite buy it!

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