Photo: Lifetime

Sick Of It All

Liam's birthday, Dean's homecoming -- what's the fakest thing in last night's True Tori?

This week on True Tori, our hero met with class-mom friends for coffee; consulted her therapist about what to do with Dean, then was joined by Dean for recovery-speak and suicidal ideations; and threw a birthday party for son Liam.

If I sound flip about that second thing, it's because nothing about Dean's expression of no longer wanting to live -- not his voicing of it, not Tori's reaction to it, not the so-called peek behind the curtain we got as to how the production ought to proceed once he'd "accidentally" spilled those beans -- struck me as dangerous. I also have to wonder how calculated that revelation was, on his part or Tori's. I don't think the show is as completely manufactured from whole cloth as Jezebel does, and even if it is, as I said last week, the Tori/Dean Family Band Solution is their business, and while I'd rather see the kids left out of it, doing this shit publicly is…what they do.

But it doesn't mean it's real, so I ranked the beats of last night's True Tori from least to most egregiously ersatz.

Tori responds to Dean's "I love you" with a fart face

It's interesting, because I think these two like each other, at least. Dean is probably an honors graduate of the Mr. Martha Raye School Of Spousekeeper Appendages, but marriages have been built on less, and worse. That said, if Tori's feeling anything capital-F real on camera, it's annoyance that Dean forced a mid-air rebranding. That stinkface was leeee-git.

Soy lattes and sympathy with the other moms

Some second-take-iness from a couple of the women, but overall fairly sincere. The moments that clanked probably did so because they actually do like her and want to be closer friends with her, but they're not as used to ignoring a camera as she is.

Tori's friend Andy presses her to open up

This motif -- Tori "hasn't processed," Tori hasn't let herself break down -- is one the producers should consider retiring, because it draws attention to the possibility that she's hoarding emotional responses until the cameras go on.

Dean's "self-loathing" makes Tori "shut down"

Their joint therapy started out authentic and relatable -- the little pillow fort he built on Dr. Wexler's couch -- but soon devolved into the kind of therapy-speak people often attach to instead of actually thinking about and sitting with their problems and their selfish behavior. "I'm so full of self-loathing to begin with" doesn't strike me as consciously self-serving, but anyone who's eye-rolled through an "apology" that consists of blame-shifting to a withholding mommy understands what I mean when I say I don't quite buy it.

Ditto Tori's "shutting down" because she feels she can't get angry at Dean when he's in this much pain. It's maybe partly true; what's also true is that 1) her brand is not to scary-bitch out on him, so while her friends may sincerely believe she needs to grow a backbone and not play the victim, The Victim is more sympathetic, and 2) I don't know how much she does feel about Dean's infidelity separate from its jeopardizing their business model. More on that later in the list, but when she said earlier in the episode that "[the affair] is what I always thought would happen," there's a kernel of truth there -- and it's both sad (because she probably really doesn't expect better from people in her life) and very cynical (because she may have factored that, and the marketable drama it would cause, into her decision to pursue a relationship with him).

Liam at the party store

Tough call on that one; I mean, I definitely think that sulk was fake, but it felt like he pitched a fake fit, versus an adult prompting him to act up. Tori seemed genuinely irritated. I would have ranked it lower if Liam hadn't first-grade-pageanted "paparazzi are dumb" on the way to the car. Paparazzi were called, kid, and I doubt you'd even notice them at this point.

"We never talked about sleeping arrangements."

Plus-one, please. Story editors have been up your ass since February about that, come on.

Dean confesses to feeling/having felt suicidal

He may have felt that; he may still feel that; he may be confusing "I want to wake up in six months and have this pain be gone" with "I don't care if I wake up," which isn't the same. It's not his relative depression that landed falsely to me, but the hoop-de-hoy about stopping filming and consulting the producer down the hall in the medical complex about "what it means professionally for" Dean to have admitted to considering suicide. The producer patiently explains, as he was no doubt coached to do "just in case," that they have to check with Legal, they have to send Dean to an outside psychiatrist to make sure he's stable, et cetera.

And he is, and it's cleared, and they continue, but the decision to leave it in is highly manipulative, and Tori's effortless switch into even-keeled producer mode saps it of any emotional legitimacy.

Dr. Wexler

Clearly reading from a script: "What does it feel like to know that he cheated on you?" She's rehearsed, but not enough to not come off rehearsed, and most of the questions and suggestions seem designed to keep Tori and Dean in therapy and the meter running -- despite the fact that she's allegedly treated Tori, and them as a couple, for some time now, which isn't exactly a five-star Yelp review of her efficacy as a counselor.

Finn covered in green cake frosting

I haven't seen a toddler that art-directionally covered in schmutz since Mr. Mom. You could see icing-paddle tracks in the kid's hair. Even faker is Tori's relief that Dean has arrived in time to finish Liam's Minecraft cake (PAs did it) and bathe the children (nannies did that). You can tell they don't clean up these messes on the reg because nobody makes a move to wipe even a little of the cake crap off the baby until the scene is finished. Civilian parents have a nightmare vision of the toddler couch-diving while coated in colored sugar, and take care of it toot sweet.

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