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'Rectify' recap: It does wonders for wonder

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “Donald the Normal” | Aired July 10, 2014

Rectify is an exercise in exquisite deliberation. Every breath, every moment is a practice in aesthetic articulation—so it is a beautiful detour this week when Daniel rests from his burden of dread to be somebody else in a different place, if only for a day.

Last week, we left Daniel speeding away from something in his mother’s car, and this week we find him going toward something else as he stares out the window of the bus bound for Atlanta. As the music trills mischievously, Daniel looks around at the other passengers, and there is a sense of the whimsy to the trip. Stepping down off the bus, opening his paper map, Daniel’s senses are assaulted as he encounters the crowded, bustling street, a police siren, a homeless person, even a man dressed as a gorilla. But there is a fun sense of adventure that permeates the scene, and for once, we aren’t holding our breath for Daniel, waiting for the world to implode in on him.

paintingDaniel finds his way to a museum and befriends a woman, Peggy, while staring at a painting. As Daniel and Peggy stare at this painting, she asks what he thinks, and he seems shocked by this. True to Daniel, he endears her with his philosophical, thoughtful response. Daniel and Peggy stare at the painting and discuss wonder versus expectation. According to Peggy, “Our brain doesn’t protect us from great expectations,” and we should wonder more and expect less.

Daniel, in a constant state of wonder at the changing world, impresses Peggy, and she invites him to sit with her ladies’ group while they eat lunch. He lies about his name and his background, and in doing so, frees himself from the heavy weight of his circumstances. Once he becomes Donald the Normal, he is free to discuss books and art and music without Daniel the Murderer poisoning their impressions of him. He amazes them when he admits to having memorized Tobias Wolfe’s short story “Bullet to the Brain,” a story about bending time to Rectify_204_02_1000x594cope with its passage. Seeming to them every bit the bookstore owner–scholar he pretends to be, he gives himself away in a small way, by pronouncing “panini” wrong.

While I watched this scene with Daniel Being Donald, I realized this is his first interaction with anyone he hasn’t known his whole life. Since his release, he hasn’t really encountered anyone who doesn’t know everything about him. I found myself holding my breath, once again, my nerves wracked for Daniel, wondering how he will react to this gaggle of ladies clucking and fussing over him. Peggy could sense there is something else about him, and asks him if he is OK. Daniel, ever cryptic, replies that it’s “perhaps for a longer conversation one day.”

On the final leg of Daniel’s trip, he stops by Kerwin’s house to meet his mother and brother. Kerwin’s mother is so happy to see Daniel, having heard so much about him from Kerwin. As they talk and memorialize Kerwin, his mother turns sad, remarking several times how glad Daniel’s mother must be to have him home. You can hear the sadness and regret in her voice when she tells her other son, “She can hug him whenever she wants.” It seems this is a replay of a conversation they’ve had several times, and Kerwin’s brother reminds her, “Daniel is not like Kerwin—he didn’t do nothing.”

This rattles Daniel, and a sad silence hangs between them. When Daniel excuses himself to catch his bus home, he tells Kerwin’s grateful mother what a good man Kerwin was and that “he was my friend, and I miss him every day.” For a moment you can see Daniel’s load resettle on his shoulders, and the whimsy and wonder he experienced as Donald evaporates.

Daniel, deflated and emotional, stops to eat at a diner and is approached by a couple who recognize him. I hold my breath during these sorts of moments, worried about Daniel’s interactions with the world. The man asks to take a picture with Daniel, and if he can send it to him on Facebook or Instagram—but both of these are completely foreign to Daniel. The man treats Daniel like an animal at a zoo and recounts an anecdote about how common it is for him to run into “oddballs” like Daniel. It’s hurtful to Daniel, and he is rude to the man, dismissing his stupid story, trying to send him on his way. The man gets angry at Daniel’s unfriendliness and shouts at him, “I think they let the wrong guy out.”

This further upsets him, and when Daniel gets home, he sets about to demolish the kitchen—even though Janet told him they couldn’t remodel right now. He empties and pries and hammers and snatches, and you get the sense that Daniel needs to purge more than the ugly linoleum.

07_shot_7-1401_FIN01Amantha, unlike Daniel, isn’t really moving toward or away from anything. She feels stuck. Last week, her mother suggested that she move back to Atlanta without Daniel. In this episode, she sulks over that conversation, reluctantly  packing up her apartment. As she heads to Thrifty Town for packing supplies, she gets another call from her mother suggesting she stay, frustrating her even more. As Amantha goes to leave, she takes an application for an open job at Thrifty Town and immediately begins contemplating the depressing life in a small town.

In her interview, we learn that she quit college two semesters in, even though she liked it a lot. She worked at the gas company for 11 years even though she was bored. She didn’t really make any friends, except Daniel’s lawyer. She is beginning to see the effects of a life lived solely for someone else, and she feels completely without purpose. Amantha is a character who will make you pull your own heart out and hand it rectify_204_01_1000x594right over to her.

Tawney, on the other hand, is struggling to be close to Teddy, and can’t seem to keep her relationship from spinning out of control. Teddy is openly hostile to her and then berates her, asking why everything has “to be so GODDAMN polite in this relationship?” He has a point, though; they relate to each other like strangers, and I’m not sure we’ve witnessed them have a real conversation, ever.

They spend a boozy afternoon with another couple, and Teddy drunkenly tries to get close to Tawney, but she rejects him, in a really polite way. He doesn’t back away, and she tells him she’s scared. Teddy, always in comparison to Daniel, can’t believe she would be afraid of him and not Daniel.

SDC027_REC_PR_14_shot_14-2334-flat-smTeddy is upset, tortured, by the circumstances of his life, and visits Sheriff Daggett to deliver a confession of sorts. He tells Daggett what Daniel did to him, but made him promise not to tell anyone else. He just wanted Daggett to know what Daniel was capable of, he claims, and Daggett admits he thinks he knows what Daniel is capable of, based on the scene in the woods 20 years ago. Obviously both Teddy and Daggett think Daniel is guilty.

What do you think about Daniel’s future? Can he have a normal life? Do you think Amantha can be happy in Paulie? Are Teddy and Tawney doomed? Do you believe his apology?

Rectify, rated TV-14, airs Thursdays at 9/8C on SundanceTV.

For more of my thoughts and opinions about the shows I watch, visit Honest Reviews Corner and TV Megasite.


TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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