Season 1 | Episode 1 | Pilot | Aired July 17, 2014
The Rolling Stones tried and tried and tried and tried, but they just couldn’t get it. And as the premiere of USA’s Satisfaction proves, it doesn’t look like Neil Truman’s (Matt Passmore) search for it is successful either. Grab a snack and settle in, folks—this episode (and recap) is a doozie.
The inaugural episode starts with Neil telling us that he has what every man in America wants: an 80-inch 3-D plasma screen TV. OK, fine, he also has a gorgeous wife, a lovely 16-year-old daughter, an impressive house and a successful career, and while after 18 years of marriage he still finds wife Grace (Stephanie Szostak) “a knockout,” he admits that with their busy schedules (he works 12-hour days at an investment firm), they really don’t have time to connect. He tells us he’s lucky, but that he can’t shake the feeling that something is missing (sing it with me now, “‘Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try …”).
In his quest to “feel more, not less,” Neil consults a book on Zen spirituality and begins to try to uncover the mystery of personal fulfillment. Later at the office, after being praised by his boss and told he needs to go to New York to close a deal with an admittedly shady company, Neil suddenly seems to find his inner Buddha and tells his boss—in front of a boardroom of coworkers—that he hates his job, that they don’t contribute anything meaningful to the world except hoarding money, and oh, yeah, that his boss is an asshole. Satisfying? Absolutely. Surprisingly, the asshole-boss-man just chuckles, thinks Neil is pulling one over on him, and tells him to get to New York.
“’Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try …”
At home, Neil’s daughter Anika (Michelle DeShon) is rehearsing for her school’s talent show, which Neil has to beg out of due to the New York trip (Anika isn’t surprised). Neither is Grace when, after giving her husband a new tie in the same color he’s currently wearing (because she’d noticed that morning that it “made him look sexy”) is met with nothing more than a puzzled look and a quick nod of thanks before he walks away to take a swim. Apparently Neil isn’t the only one trying and trying and trying and trying.
Not only is it freezing outside, but the pool is filthy: clogged and littered with leaves and sticks. In Neil’s mind, he’s imagining it to be a sunny day and the pool to be crystal-clear as he plunges off the diving board. After a halfhearted attempt to clean the pool, he quickly gives up. METAPHOR ALERT! THE POOL IS NEIL’S LIFE! At least, that’s what I’m going with. Neil tells Grace they need to fire the pool guy. (But who is the pool guy, really? Hmmm?)
The next day, Neil finally breaks free of his frustrations (literally). When his flight to New York is delayed on the runway for over five hours, and after several rude encounters with the impatient flight attendant, Neil finds himself sweaty, thirsty and at the end of his rope. With visions of his coworkers, that asshole boss, his disappointed family and that damn clean pool clouding his head, he snaps. Overcome with sudden clarity and courage, Neil realizes that “I was the one who built this prison I was in” and rushes to the front of the plane, makes a very impassioned announcement over the PA system, pulls the lock on the door, inflates the slide and frees all the passengers. (Kids, as awesome as it was, don’t try this at home.)
Landing himself on the no-fly list as well as in hot water with his asshole boss (who wants Neil to make a public apology after discovering the rant is now on YouTube), Neil responds by picking up a baseball and throwing a strike into the 80-inch plasma flatscreen on the conference room wall, loosening his tie and triumphantly walking out of the office. Satisfaction guaranteed. Or not.
After calling Grace and discovering that she is staging a model home, Neil rushes to the house she’s at to share his good news. The man has found his Zen! The man also finds his wife, pressed up against a wall with her skirt around her waist and a dark-haired man, uh, satisfying her.
“’Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try …”
Before we get all judgy on Grace, we’re taken back six months, to when she was interviewing for a job and was basically told that her life was too normal. Seems Grace got pregnant in college right after getting a Fulbright scholarship to study art in Paris, and had to pass on the opportunity. Now, 16 years later, her lack of professional experience is standing in the way of the career she knows she’s good enough for, but all she seems qualified to do is stage model homes for open houses (which will provide fabulous tryst locations in the future, so the job does have its perks).
After a conversation with her sister about the state of her “fine” marriage to Neil, in which she discloses that their sex life is dismal (“sex doesn’t become that important after a certain point”), Grace is feeling like she wants to be anything but normal. Forcing her book club to ditch their wine-fueled, boring discussion one night after a disagreement with Neil over his long hours, Grace takes the girls to a hoppin’ nightclub where she gets drunk and lets loose on the dance floor. (Aaand I’ve now proven how long it’s been since I’ve been to one myself by the use of the term “hoppin’ nightclub.” Moving on.) Her erratic dance moves, which are an obvious display of a wife with pent-up frustrations (and of one who hasn’t been out dancing since about 1992), catch the eye of a dark-haired, handsome stranger named Simon (Blair Redford), who approaches her and introduces himself. Hello.
Grace immediately tells Simon she’s married (good girl) and somehow also immediately ends up in a bar fight with Simon’s date (bad girl). Never having been in a bar fight, Grace is thrilled at this new, albeit brief, excitement in her life and tells Neil, when he shows up in a panic, that she feels like herself. Oh, and that maybe they could go home and fool around? Neil tells her she’s drunk and that he needs to take her home. Booo, 18 years of marriage. Boooo.
When Grace awakens the next morning to find a note from Neil telling her he’s working late—again—she rides her (beside the point, but adorable) bike straight to Simon’s house (he’d put his address in her phone at the club). And that, folks, is how a married woman ends up pressed against a wall in a model home with her skirt around her waist six months later.
Neil is almost physically sick by witnessing his wife’s betrayal, but manages to choke down his bile to jump into his Audi and chase Simon’s car down the street. What transpires isn’t really what you’d expect. And I’m not just talking about the fact that Simon is wearing what appears to be a Members Only jacket. For a detailed account of this pivotal, clever scene, you really should watch this clip. If not, here’s my three-word-at-a-time paraphrasing synopsis, with Neil’s voice in bold and Simon’s in italics. Enjoy.
Neil catches Simon
Simon punches Neil
Who are you?
I’m Grace’s husband!
Did you see?
Uh, sure did.
Duuuude. (Draw it out and it counts as three words.)
Affair? How long?
She pays me.
YOU’RE A HOOKER?
I prefer “escort.”
I don’t understand.
Wives get lonely.
Sign of times.
Grace happily married!
She told me!
Don’t freak out!
Neil freakin’ out.
Marriage advice from a
hooker escort who’s been satisfying your wife for six months? I guess satisfaction might be a little bit overrated.
When Neil arrives home and tosses the Members Only jacket into the dumpster (Simon had handed it to him after tossing Neil into a large puddle), he notices the (metaphor alert!) dirty pool. When he tries to pick up the pool vacuum to fix it, it sprays him in the face.
“‘Cause I try, and I—” Oh, enough already. You get it, right?
Later that night, Neil surprises Anika and Grace at the school talent show, where Anika performs an original—and completely fabulous—song that shines a spotlight not only on herself and a couple of naughty teachers, but on the Trumans’ disconnect with their daughter as well. (Hey, USA Network, when can I buy it on iTunes?)
Are you still with me? Good, because here’s where the action really starts (pun intended). Back at home, Neil hears a cell phone ringing and discovers the discarded Members Only jacket in the dumpster contains Simon’s cell phone. Neil answers it with a tentative “hello” to hear a woman tell “Simon” that she’s already at the restaurant where they agreed to meet. Huh. What to do, what to do? “Simon” (NEIL) thinks about it for about half a second before telling Grace he has an emergency at the office. He’s seated at the bar beside the lady caller before she’s finished swallowing her first drink.
After Neil flusters his way through an awkward opening conversation, he starts to ask questions about why she’s there, and why she’d need to seek outside help to get, um, satisfied. The woman tells him that she’s been married a long time, and while she loves her husband, he’s never around (“Words a mirror says” for 500, Alex). She continues, “I just want to feel wanted. No one has wanted me in so long.” That’s all it takes for guilt-ridden Neil to be the one to satisfy her, uh, curiosity.
The next morning, after receiving an envelope full of cash from a very satisfied customer, Neil goes to a Zen master to try to make sense of what’s been going on. As the master gives him a flower that he’s supposed to use to figure out the meaning of his life,
his Simon’s cell phone rings. A woman wants to pay him five grand to have sex with him for the weekend. Neil splits from the temple with a smile on his face, leaving the flower of meaning—and a few condoms from his pocket—on the floor.
That night, Neil arrives at the home of Adriana (Katherine LaNasa), who immediately takes charge of the date, very literally sizing him up and taking charge.
Adrianna (grabbing his crotch): Size 11 shoe?
Neil: Eleven and a half.
Adriana, obviously a very wealthy and connected woman, leads Neil into a closet full of expensive suits, and after he’s dressed to her satisfaction, takes him to a fundraiser at an art gallery. After a few flubs, Neil finds his groove as the consummate escort and impresses Adriana with his charm and social finesse, not to mention his mad skills with his size 11 (and a half), uh, foot.
The next morning, Adriana tells Neil that she runs a business that caters to “very rich, very picky” women and asks Neil to come work for her. Apparently the date had been a “test drive.” When Neil declines, Madam Adriana tells him that when he’s ready to make a change, she’ll be waiting. “SO WILL I, NEIL!” I yell at my screen.
Back at home, Neil is surprised to find Grace sitting at the table with his old boss, the asshole, who rewards Neil for his recklessness of late and offers him a partnership. Neil refuses, and when the asshole reminds him of the money, Neil tells him he doesn’t care about the money anymore. We don’t get to hear the rest of the conversation, but we see it end with the two of them shaking hands. Your guesses as to the details are welcome in the comments.
Later, Grace and Neil walk by the (metaphor alert!) suddenly clean pool. Grace wants to know why Neil didn’t tell her about the job. They have a little heart-to-heart that ends with a tight embrace and Neil telling his wife that he should never take the things she does for him for granted. Awww. Seems satisfying for both of them.
A day or so later, Neil pulls up to a reserved parking spot in his company’s garage, and as he walks back into the job-suck, Simon appears and confronts Neil about sleeping with his clients. Ruh-roh. Turns out he’s been unable to access his client list, and dude is pissed.
Simon: It’s my livelihood, man. What’re you trying to do to me?
Neil: Same thing you did to my wife.
That had to be satisfying.
Simon threatens Neil with telling Grace everything, and Neil shoots right back with the threat of going to the IRS and reporting Simon’s income and the way it was earned. Neil is on a roll.
The episode ends with Neil plunging into the clean pool, except for one lone leaf floating by on the surface (uh-oh), and Grace and Anika thrilled to have some much-needed family time poolside. The family is giddy with togetherness, and as Grace leaves to make lunch—flaunting her insane bikini body to an appreciative husband—Neil’s phone begins to buzz. Anika complains that it’s probably work, but it’s the other phone, and as Neil looks at the caller ID and sees his wife’s name and smiling face and looks inside to see Grace on the phone, it’s clear that the pool might not be cleaned to his satisfaction after all.
Whew. Who’s still with me? Were you satisfied with the premiere? What do you think of Grace and Neil’s choices? Why did Neil agree to go back to work? Why did Grace call Simon at the end? And honestly, how awesome was Anika’s talent-show song?
Satisfaction airs Thursday nights at 10/9C on USA.