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This Close: The Way We Were

"At a distance, it looks like they're glowing. Then, up close, you realize it's just sweat."

In which I go from "Oh god, a flashback episode" to "Oh my god, a flashback episode!" In this pivotal episode of This Close, we finally learn the truth about Michael and Ryan, and we learn how Danny's troubles began.

What's at the core of any relationship? Communication. When it comes to a relationship between a hearing and a Deaf person, communication often governs how the relationship plays out. And unfortunately, while you can rail about society and rights and legal permissions, when you're inside a relationship it's often like you're inside a foreign country, with its own rules, which are being made up as you go along. This episode goes back about two years to give Kate and Michael's present-day choices context and richness.

Kate and Danny in the present showed some strain, especially about language use. This episode goes back in time to help show how their relationship began, and they're the perfect example of what I've said above. Danny gives every sign of truly being in love with Kate. He's one of those cute, doofy straight guys who become lawyers, you know? I'd probably date him. Unfortunately, he reaches a limit to his development as someone who uses sign language early on – and this creates cracks in his relationship with Kate, even as he learns that he loves her. He uses those cracks to his benefit. When he finds out about his job being in danger, he uses spoken English and excludes Kate from the conversation. When he finds out he's lost his job, he has a head-down conversation with Ryan at the pool. Kate is a young, mentally active woman who needs the kind of stimulation conversations with Michael provide. Danny just can't get to that level. Not everyone is great at learning other languages, and sign languages, including American Sign Language (ASL) have an added layer of difficulty in that you have to completely switch modalities. Tone of voice translates into facial expression, and more. It can take a lot of work. If you're taking classes, that's one thing. If you've just fallen in love, well... that kind of work can either make or break a relationship.

It's funny how Michael teases that Danny wants to have sex with Ryan early on. Danny clearly sees Ryan as a successful role model, who's a few years further down the line to success than Danny. He's got the body, the car, and the house - with enough money to get Sugar Daddy status. There's another level to Kate and Danny's relationship which is more subtle - that Danny clearly believes that without all the accoutrements, Kate isn't going to love him. I think Kate would be offended by that; she's the type of person who loves fiercely, no matter what, and if Danny had said anything about his job, Kate would have totally been there. Hashtag Team Kate. But if Danny's operating on that assumption, of course he's not going to speak to Kate - and given the communication situation, of course Kate is going to wonder if it's her.

We finally find out what happened with Ryan and Michael. I was close, but no cigar. Ryan was in a committed closed relationship with Michael - but it turned out he cheated on that relationship, without letting Michael know, with his ex. This part of the show, I thought, was really well-written. It's clear that from the beginning Ryan's interest in open relationships was a problem for Michael. Michael and Kate had a sort-of unfinished discussion about it. Did Ryan make a huge mistake? Yeeeee-eees, but I half wonder if that mistake wasn't really about communication, too. Ryan spent a lot of time talking verbally to other guests at Michael's own birthday party, which didn't seem to have any gay Deaf people (where the heck is Ben Genovese?) and didn't have Kate, Michael's own best friend. So think about it: Michael spent his birthday essentially alone. Compound cheating with the communication black hole that both Kate and Michael experience in this episode, and you have a really painful moment, well acted by Josh Feldman.

This episode resolves so many questions from previous episodes, but does it really set the stage for going forward? With all this, my current bet: Kate breaks up with Danny, but Ryan finds a way to get back into Michael's heart.

Seen in the Scene

When Kate and Danny are about to have sex in Danny's new home when Danny's boss Paul, played by Marlon Young, starts getting hot and heavy with his girlfriend Courtney - and Danny has to translate the kinky sex talk I complely LOLed.

Read in the Caps

Michael: (at his birthday party) It's like Gaychella over here.

Danny: Hey, where are you going?
Kate: I'm not leaving him here in this house with that fucker.
Danny: Are you kidding me? Whoa, whoa, whoa. We don't even know the whole story yet.
Kate: I don't need to. It's Michael.


This is the best This Close episode yet. Five out of five shimmery gaychella pool scenes.

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