Suburgatory 3.03 “Open Door Policy” Recap

by Shilo Adams / January 29, 2014

suburgatoryAfter her breakup with Ryan, Tessa is in a surprisingly good place, feeling good and looking even better. However, that surge of positivity hasn’t extended to George, who has let himself go following his own breakup with Dallas. He’s not showering or shaving as frequently, doesn’t dare stray out of his pajamas, and walks all over town in his dirty socks, but when Tessa calls him out on his deteriorating hygiene, he shrugs it off and eats the burger he got when he walked to the drive thru at 9:00 a.m.

In his socks.

Tessa tells Lisa that she wishes her dad would be more like her when it comes to handling heartbreak. What separates them, though, is that Tessa is about to come face-to-face with the source of her despair now that Ryan is scheduled for a visit home soon. Sheila assigns Lisa to sweep the attic while Fred administers the driveway sealant to ensure Ryan’s smooth arrival; she then breaks out a magnetized version of their home in order to announce sleeping arrangements for Ryan’s time home. While Ryan and Victor will bunk together like real brothers, Ryan’s girlfriend will stay with Sheila, who keeps the only key to her bedroom in her prison purse, and Fred will sleep in the Rumpus room by himself.

Over at the Altman’s, Tessa discovers her father laying on the couch and watching footage of the Chilean miner rescue of 2010, which he’s only just now getting around to watching due to being busy when it was occurring in real time. Just then, Nora, the dog groomer, comes to drop off Biederman and recommends that the dog walk more on pavement to keep his nails at a certain length, as they had proven difficult to handle for another one of the groomers. Nora expresses concern about the condition George is keeping himself in (matting, waxy buildup, possible fleas) before telling Tessa to check Biederman’s stool for worms and leaving. Thankfully, she left in time to avoid hearing George talk about his Stadium Buddy to Tessa, something that drives his daughter to calling in her paternal grandfather Emmett in a bid to get George off the couch.

Emmett arrives and admonishes George for staying in his pajamas, even to go to the movies, because he’ll never meet a woman like that. While George is very much out of the dating game anymore, his father has RSVP’d them both for a swingles event that night, George’s first time out since the breakup. Over at the Shay’s, Tessa walks in and gets a mountain of confetti thrown on her, as Sheila and Victor thought that she would be Ryan coming through the door for his first visit home. Tessa then learns that Ryan is coming, that he’s bringing a girlfriend, and that Lisa opted not to tell her, but she rejects the idea that she’s jealous, dismissing the girlfriend as a bleached blonde with big boobs and a small IQ before seeing her. Ryan does eventually show up, only for Sheila to trip before she can rain parade down on her golden boy, and totes along his girlfriend June, a brunette whose style and demeanor bears more than a passing resemblance to Tessa.

At the swingles event, George overloads himself on free shrimp rather than pay attention to the woman he’s sitting with, a stark contrast from his playboy father picking up a woman and them pawing at each other for most of the night. George won’t get on the dance floor, but the foursome take it to the hot tub at the home of one of the women where he requests a ginger ale and directions to the bathroom. Emmett gets frustrated that his son won’t take the leap and let himself have a little fun, stating that we should use what we have while we’re here on Earth, and George responds by bringing up the way that his father moved on one month after the death of his wife. George thinks that feeling bad is normal and that acting like his father does is not, but Emmett believes that life is for the living and he won’t let himself wallow in the way that George does.

As Sheila immerses herself in all things Ryan, measuring him against Victor and being a prop in their contest to see who can carry her farther, Tessa bemoans June’s existence to Lisa; specifically, she thinks that June is a poor man’s her and that Ryan missed her enough to recreate a girlfriend in her image. It turns out that June’s taste in music (Average Shelf Life), movies (Sea of Anguish II, where she met Ryan), and authors (Poe) was actually influenced by Ryan and Tessa deduces that since those things came from her, June actually loves her. She then leaves the room and runs into Ryan, who she blows off when he tries to get her to judge the pushup contest between him and Victor.

Emmett runs into Dallas at the grocery store while trying to decide on a host gift for his son. He’s thinking wine product, but Dallas points him toward ice cream and rejects Emmett’s offer to meet his son, citing the fact that she’s over men. Emmett then goes back to George’s where he packs his things and gets ready to hit the road, making sure to tell his son that he just wants him to be happy and that he’ll always pick up the phone when needed. He then reminds George that he loved his wife more than every woman he’s been with since combined and advises him to leave the door to romance cracked just a bit, as shutting himself off to the world will only lead him to become lonelier. As soon as Emmett leaves, Nora stops by to pick up Biederman for a walk and George opts to go with her.

When he returns, he finds Tessa on the couch with ice cream and Chilean miners and only gets her up when he lies about his Stadium Buddy bursting all over the couch.

Additional thoughts and observations:
-“Burger, please.”
-“Nobody said freedom was pretty. Have you seen Syria lately?”
-“Did you tell my dad on me?”
-“She’s like a poor man’s me.”
-So, was I not paying attention during the first two episodes or did the dog’s name change from Buckles to Biederman without warning? And the closed captioning system on my ABC affiliate has the dog’s name as Beiderman vs. Biederman on the title of the next episode, so this is a kerfuffle.
-Someone try to walk through your local drive thru at 9:00 a.m. and demand a hamburger. I’m curious if this works. Y’know, for a friend.
-Interesting that this episode was third vs. addressing the issue in the season premiere. I know the show had a lot of business to take care of when it began this season, but this just seemed like a topic that would come up before now. I wonder what caused George to backslide, because while he’s been a bit shaggy this season, he was still functional before this week. Was talking to Dalia what did him in?
-Rule of life: It’s always the people who make a point to say how over something/someone they are and how good they feel who aren’t actually over it and who feel the worst.
-I loved Sheila’s mockup of her house that she made for sleeping arrangement demonstrations. I hope it becomes a recurring character.
-For those curious, I’m assuming “swingles” = a swingin’ single portmanteau. Or Emmett took his son to a swinger’s event and this episode just got a new layer to it.
-Lindsay Shaw! Funny to see you outside of Rosewood. Geoff Pierson! Funny to see you not being oblivious to a serial killer in your police department.
-Good on the show for subverting the expectation of having Emmett pick up Dallas and bring her around George, not knowing that the two had dated.
-I’m very curious about George and the dog groomer, if only because I like storylines about people making small steps toward getting back to the places in live they used to be. I think this could be a sweet, fun little relationship for George and show him that while he’s hurting, he needs to keep himself out there in order to find someone. I will say, though, that I agree that it’s normal to take some time to yourself following a tragic event (death, breakup); it’s all about whether/when your grief/depression begins negatively impacting your life.
-Sheila face-planting on the rug was amazing. As was the Dirty Dancing homage when Ryan picked her up.
-For some reason, the pacing of this felt the first part of a really good two-part episode. It was a lot of setup and interesting emotions bubbling up to the surface and then it just kind of ended. George’s storyline, which I liked more, felt complete and concluded on a sense of hope that promises good things for the future, both for the character and the show itself, while I would have liked something more in the way of Ryan/Tessa interaction in the other storyline. But perhaps that was the point, that for all the buildup in Tessa’s mind to Ryan’s visit, there was nothing left for her to say to him, that she realized that her self-talk of how “over it” she was ended up being just that and that she didn’t realize how over things were with Ryan until she met June. Tessa’s faux confidence was just a defense mechanism that allowed her to function, so when that was taken away from her, she fell apart like her dad and ended up on the couch.
-Next week on Suburgatory: George and Dallas set about dividing the town to avoid running into one another, while Tessa wonders why Lisa is hanging out with Ryan’s girlfriend and Fred worries that Sheila is about to leave him.

Shilo Adams is a contributing editor for ScreenFad whose work has appeared on TVOvermind, TVHackr, and KSiteTV. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @shilo_adams.