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'Satisfaction' recap: The man behind the mask

Season 1 | Episode 3 | “…Through Competition” | Aired July 31, 2014

You know the pivotal scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Toto pulls back the curtain and Dorothy and her gang discover that the wonderful wizard is really just a small, unassuming old man? Even though the great, powerful, intimidating image they had of the wizard was frightening, the truth they found behind that curtain was a bit disappointing. Much like the wizard’s curtain, episode 3 of Satisfaction finds Neil Truman learning that the metaphorical masks we wear are sometimes better left on.

But before we get to all the masks (metaphorical and literal), let’s clear something up. Or, let’s wonder why something did not get cleared up. When we last left Neil, he’d just received a photo text of Simon driving his car from a confused Anika, who thought her dad’s car was in the shop. CLIFFHANGER! How’s Neil going to lie his way out of this one? many of us wondered, and if you’re like me, couldn’t wait to see how this week’s episode would open. Sure, the fact that it opened with Simon undressing did make me forget the cliffhanger for a brief moment (or two, when I rewound it and watched it again), and Neil barging into the tanning salon where Simon was browning his bits and confronting him about seeing Anika did address the situation briefly, but it wasn’t quite the satisfying resolution it could have been. #AreYouSatisfied? Umm, not really.

But back to Simon’s naked bits. After a scuffle with Neil (while naked), Simon easily discloses many of the things Grace has told him over the past six months—Neil is “checked out of the marriage,” Neil is “emotionally unavailable,” she wishes Neil would “support her dreams”—but then he just as suddenly decides to clam up and plead “client privilege.” Sorry, dude, those gut punches will have to do. Since Neil really wants to hear more of Simon and Grace’s pillow talk (sucker for pain, I suppose, although why he believes the things Simon is telling him is beyond me), he tells him he’ll call off the IRS investigation if Simon will tell him everything. Dealio. The boys almost look pleased with their truce. Wonder if this is the beginning of a very twisted friendship?

Later, the two meet at a coffee shop because Neil has to break the news that the IRS is indeed planning to audit Simon and make an example of him. The convo begins with Neil trying to help Simon prepare for his audit, and ends with a discussion about what women want—more specifically, what Grace wants. “You won’t listen to your wife because you’re afraid of what you’ll hear.” Uh, duh.

All this talk about truth follows Neil to the office. Charles Lipton’s wife shows up in Neil’s office and tells Neil that the accounting discrepancies he discovered in her husband’s finances are actually due to the million dollars a month that she’s secretly been transferring into her personal account for years. Mrs. Lipton tells Neil that not only is her husband’s money her money, but she knows all about his other women, and she plans to continue siphoning the money every month. Neil is astounded by her deceitfulness and not only refuses, but tells Mrs. Lipton he plans to tell her husband because he promised him he’d always be honest with him. Geeze. He’s beginning to be quite the hypocrite with all this concern about the truth, isn’t he? Neil’s asshole boss instructs him to do what Mrs. Lipton says and continue transferring the money into her account: “We’re in charge of his finances, not his marriage.”

Grace, meanwhile, is clashing with Alex (Alyshia Ochse), the new project manager for the office space she’s designed. Alex is a fresh-faced newbie who immediately marks up (read: changes) Grace’s designs and gives her passive-aggressive compliments. After a blow-up where Grace insults her new boss’s lack of experience by pointing out how young she is (which we know is a big red button of Grace’s), she immediately asks Alex out for a drink by way of apology. While they’re out at a very loud nightclub full of very young people, Alex spots Simon lurking across the room. It’s unclear if he’s trolling new clients or trolling Grace, but whatever the reason, he immediately approaches Grace and wants to talk. Alex is instantly smitten (she’s not blind) and turns on the charm, which Simon ignores. When Alex steps away, Grace is furious at Simon and refuses to talk to him or listen. “I pay you. End of story.” Simon seems hurt and scorned, and retaliates by cozying up to Alex. What do we think, folks? Is Grace more than just a client to Simon?

Think about that while we join Neil at a party. A masked party. A masked party that Adriana invited him to. Actually, let’s just take a break to enjoy Neil in this mask for a minute.

Neilinmask

Ready to move on? Good. I’ll catch you up with a few quick deets:

  • Adriana invites Neil to a party by leaving him a box with a mask on his desk.
  • Neil goes to Adriana’s house to refuse the invitation and to tell her not to leave things at his office (I guess calling or texting is too much trouble).
  • Adriana tells Neil the party is a networking opportunity—“The truth is, you’re already wearing a mask. I’m just trying to help you take it off.”

When Grace is out clubbing with Alex and Simon, Neil has a moment of clarity in the pool (ahh! the metaphorical pool!) and suddenly finds himself masked up and (almost) charming the literal pants off a bunch of women with his networking abilities. Seriously, the masked man is smooth, sexy and very confident. The masked ladies love it. Adriana does not.

Adriana: What are you doing?
Neil: I thought that was what you wanted.
Adriana: You’re here because of who you are, not because of who you think I want you to be.
Neil: I wanted to show you I know what I’m doing.
Adriana: But you don’t. That’s what’s so special about you. Just because you’re wearing a mask doesn’t mean you should be someone you’re not.

Um, seriously, Neil. I’m totally fiiiinnnne with your mask.

Back at his office, Neil meets with Charles Lipton and is prepared to disclose the millionaire’s wife’s secret, but Charles doesn’t want to know. He tells Neil that not every partnership requires that you tell the other everything. As long as you’re happy? That’s truth enough. You can almost see Neil’s mind exploding. FIND THAT MASK.

This kind of epiphany can only lead to one place: the Zen garden. As Neil discusses the metaphorical masks with his favorite Zen master-slash-therapist (ZM: “You’re talking to someone who speaks in metaphor”), he realizes he’s more than a father and professional and husband—all the things he’s been showing the world. And now he realizes that Grace is as well, but confesses that he hasn’t talked to her about it because he’s afraid of what he might hear (guess Simon has been getting through to him after all). As Neil continues his revelations, we see Grace at home stepping into the pool—THE CLEANSING POOL OF TRUTH. While Neil is telling the Zen master about how he now sees that he’s been holding Grace back from her dreams, and that she’s so much more than what she seems, Grace is imagining Simon kissing her in the magical pool.

Zen master: We all have two sides.
Neil: But if we both take off our masks, we might not even recognize each other.
Zen master: Maybe you should leave them on for now.

Like I said at the beginning, the wizard seemed far more wonderful when his curtain was kept closed.

*In other news*

Anika is a bit overwhelmed at her newfound popularity. Her aunt decides to act as her “popularity mentor” by hosting a party for Anika and the cool kids, and has Anika play her talent show song in its entirety. Sadly, we once again only get to hear a bit of it. Petition for its release on iTunes, anyone?

At one point, Neil does try to listen and be supportive of Grace and her feelings. Her reaction? “You’d better go before my husband comes home.”

What did you think of round three? Sound off about the cliffhanger that sent us off the cliff, Simon’s bits, Neil’s mask or whatever else left you satisfied … or unsatisfied.

Satisfaction airs Thursdays at 10/9C on USA.

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