Playing House Reminds Us All That Formalwear With An Undone Bowtie Is A Can't-Miss Look For Men
We need to talk about That Moment between Mark and Emma in the season's penultimate episode.
Two short weeks ago, when I used this space to debate the question of whether Dan or Mark is the better partner for Emma right now, I didn't really think that the show was going to try to answer the question so soon. After all, Dan and Emma had only been dating for a very short time, and Mark just broke up with his wife ten minutes ago. What I hadn't anticipated was that a formal event was in these characters' futures: if I'd known one of the Pros For Mark in that earlier post could have been "Mark is a total fox in a tux," there really would have been no question at all, much as there isn't for Emma. Whatever other problems she may have, as far as we know poor vision is not among them.
The occasion is Pinebrook's Officer Of The Year banquet, which Emma has been hired to plan (solving one of the shows' ongoing mysteries by letting us all know she does have some means of financial support). Mark will, of course, be attending, and as Maggie helps him pick out his attire, he invites her to join him as a friend. Emma initially tenses up at the idea when Maggie mentions it, until she hears about an Andie MacDowell lookalike who works as a technician in the department and has expressed an interest in Mark, at which point she gives Maggie her blessing for their platonic date. What Emma doesn't realize is how instrumental Maggie has already been in making Emma's night a success (and her life a lot more complicated), by steering Mark away from the more "creative" formalwear options he's considered -- probably as a joke, but one can never be entirely sure.
So Emma really should be getting ready to kiss Maggie's dancing shoes as soon as Mark makes his appearance.
It's not just that Mark's dressed up in a way that's kind of a shock given his recent decision to wear a literal garbage bag around town. It's that he's dressed up and he owns.
Look out, Idris Elba: the people have a new write-in choice to play James Bond!
The sexiness only ratchets up from there, as Emma learns that Mark isn't just attending the Officer Of The Year banquet, he is the Officer Of The Year, an actual hero who saved a citizen's life in an ice rescue, and who volunteers with special needs children in his spare time. No wonder she has to go collect herself in the bathroom.
Not quite. Emma's having romantic feelings about Mark, and though she tries to chalk them up to the tuxedo, Maggie knows better: "Weren't you having these feelings when he was wearing a garbage bag? Weren't you feeling these same feelings when you were seventeen and you saw him for the first time?" Speaking as someone who's been having the feeling of wanting to, as Emma puts it, "that I wanna be into it, and onto it, and beside it" since I first saw Keegan-Michael Key, I'm going to answer Maggie's rhetorical question with a yes.
All of this brings us to That Moment, because whether Mark is aware that the only thing hotter than a man all done up in formalwear is a man who's been dancing so hard...
...that he's had to loosen his bowtie, that is a true fact, and when he comes outside to find Emma, he is WORKING IT.
If you didn't immediately think back to this Ocean's 11 moment...
...you either aren't into dudes or you don't get TNT. There's some banter about Mark's medal, but as soon as he offers to let Emma try it on, everything's different.
Neither can deny that this is a moment that's supposed to lead into a kiss, and neither can pretend that's not what they both want. "But you have a boyfriend," says Mark, "and you're not that kind of girl. And I'm not that kind of guy." And yet...
Mark: But, uh, if I was that kind of guy--
Mark: I would put my hand on the small of your back--
Emma: ...Uh huh?
Mark: And then I would brush the, uh, hair out of your face.
Emma: And then I would tilt my face--
Mark: Up towards my--
Mark: But we're not-- We're not those people.
Mark: And the last time-- I don't know, I don't know that I can do that again.
Emma: [Nods again]
Even if Mark didn't get his whole sentence out (thanks a pantload, Bruce -- oh wait, I guess I should let MAGGIE tell you that), there's no mistaking the look in his eyes; hell, I want to apologize and prove to him I've gotten past all our high-school stuff. But he's right that Emma isn't that kind of girl, which is why, off half a declaration and a look that could melt steel, she goes straight from the party to Dan's and does the right thing by breaking up with him (a conversation that happens offscreen, presumably because Dan could tell what was imminent from the adoring gaze Emma gave Mark on the dance floor).
Bruce and Maggie may have decided that their reunion tour was more of a surprise club gig, but That Moment, in that loosened bowtie, seems sufficient to have convinced Mark and Emma to start something up again for real. I just hope Emma has some goggles to keep Birdbones from pecking her eyes out over it.