In Which We Retreat To The Apex Of Our Animal Self

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Hill Church

by CEILIDH BARLOW CASH

My office is on the first floor, fourth window in from the left. I have an aloe plant in the window that I watered for the first time in weeks today. I wasn’t intentionally neglecting it, I think it’s more accurate to say that I was waiting to see if it would eventually wilt and beg for water. It never seemed to change, although I think it’s fair to say that changes of that variety are often imperceptible. That is, it’s not hard to overlook the things start hurting around you if you go fast enough. And as I breeze in and out of this office, riding highs and lows (think weather fronts, pressure systems, wind and rain) I know I sometimes miss the things that aren’t moving as forcefully as I am.

The last few months have been a balancing act between “I have adequate skills and real goals” and “I would like to throw it all out the window to find an apartment in Montreal.” I’m thinking the Mile End, something with enough windows to hold a few more aloe plants, and maybe a cactus. Sometimes I’m not sure I want to be responsible for myself, but I think I could handle watering a few plants through the winter  especially the cactus, which I’m told is a lazy person’s plant. I don’t care. I would arrange them on the sill to admire as a testament to my adult self.

He lived in Montreal for a while too  graduated from the same school my best friend is now attending. I think they would approve of one another, and I would smile coyly knowing each had seen me naked, and approved of that too. That’s the trouble with me these days: I’m not sure how to reconcile the part of me that wants to curl my lip and say I win when someone lusts after me. It’s not a game, but I will play you. I’ve boiled it down (because rationalize would be too strong a word) to animal instinct. I figure I’m about eight percent animal. The kind with docile eyes and fangs that I’ll flash if you look at me the wrong way. Watch out, I bite. That’s usually the way I approach these matters  I’ll smile pretty just so long as you know that I could have your head if I wanted it. I’ve thought about sharpening my nails into claws more than once.

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Things didn’t unfold in that way with him though. It all unraveled in the most dangerous and subtle way: with immediate trust. I emerged from a drunken stupor when he first padded towards me, offering a hug and calm eyes. If I was an animal in that moment, I was wounded and sulking on my way home. There was a distinct moment of clarity when I first saw his face, then wrapped my heavy limbs around his and collapsed. He didn’t catch me (that would be too poetic) but I remember looking up to his lips as he said “I would very much like to kiss you.” Yes. Yes, I want to kiss you too. I bit my lip and nodded my head so furiously I’m not sure how he slowed me down enough to catch my mouth.

Mid-kiss, a new character swooped in, screeching and crowing about our matching hair colour, which was either a spectacle or an insult, I couldn’t tell. In those moments, as he lashed out at her and I reined him back in, I decided we were a team. A friend once told me the best way to make friends is to declare that the friendship already exists. I’m not sure it works the same way with lovers, or if I could have just told him: You’re mine. He might have believed me. I wanted him to.

I learned he was an actor. A talented one. One whose act I couldn’t outperform, and so I abandoned mine  the Bio-Medical sciences major who was too sophisticated for medical school, or the poet with a dangerous mouth. These things are all true, but they’re embellished, shiny. Not the things that really matter about me. That’s the thing with actors  they know when you’re acting, too. So I sat in the vulnerability of my particular self, thinking about the definition of serendipity. I decided it wasn’t a pretty enough word for what this felt like.

He was carefully handsome. I remember clearly the pale geography of his shoulders, dappled in the same freckles that dance across my cheeks in July. I think there’s a direct correlation between sunshine and my happiness which you can measure by counting the freckles on my face at any given time. I’m good at math it’s called a linear relationship. But it was October and my freckles, like most other things, felt like they were fading from me.

I slipped on his plaid shirt after I’d taken mine off. It was soft and rolled carefully to the elbows. It fit me well. He began picking up my things as I tossed them on the floor one by one  my scarf, my bra, my watch. I was recklessly losing all important belongings that night  including my phone, a single sock and maybe the idea that I had to protect myself with claws and teeth. Maybe I could sit still and not have to rely on them anymore. Trust, like serendipity, just isn’t a pretty enough word for it.

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The rest of the night was still and warm. We slept under hotel sheets that were insincerely soft for how much we paid for the room. He told me the names of his parents, which I was dead-set on knowing, and I told him that I was very particular about my coffee. I admitted that I wasn’t sure if I could survive in Montreal without country roads and large animals. I also admitted that I wanted to go right now because there was no right time to do something that scared the shit out of you. Go now, shoot it all.

The next morning was loud as we tumbled into breakfast alongside ten other hungover twenty-somethings. They’d picked the venue: a classic diner with linoleum tables and ketchup on the table, even at breakfast. I sat between him and a boy with a ponytail who looked startlingly similar to my best friend. It felt like a family affair: ten siblings arguing, negotiating and outlining the merits and pitfalls of eggs benny versus breakfast poutine for a hangover. I ordered French toast. When I discovered he was left-handed I nearly dropped my fork on the table. It was a strange quirk, that every boy I categorically decided I loved was left-handed. If the prevalence of left-handedness is high, I don’t want to know  I like to consider it a rare trait associated with boys who can handle me.

So far I’ve left out that he was in a band. The lead singer of a band who was in town for one night on their tour  which was for charity, I might add. So yes, I may have been a groupie that morning, but I definitely wasn’t the only one. And even so, I didn’t feel like an addendum to his trip. I didn’t feel as though he had sat beside a new girl at breakfast all week.  I felt like I had walked on stage right on cue, as if he and I were expecting each other.

The reality that it was late-October and I was only wearing a thin (albeit fabulously stylish) leather jacket crept up as we left the diner. I’m Canadian, but I am not designed for the cold. The rest of the band wanted to examine the massive church on top of the hill, which they thought was the only interesting thing in this town (they’re wrong, but that’s beside the point). So I left. I could have lingered, but I wanted to leave just as elegantly as I had entered. Lingering is never elegant. He kissed me goodbye, looked at me earnestly and I walked away.

I scampered back to my bed, hazy from the hangover and hoping more sleep would ease his storyline into mine. I wanted to stay very still, not risk another move that would rearrange the potential we’d pushed together in the past twelve hours. I wasn’t sure what it would be, but I didn’t want it to disappear. I’m not very good at staying still though, and I found myself smiling as I washed my hands that night  his phone number on one palm and his email address on the other. He wrote in purple ink. I don’t know if I was smiling because his handwriting was there, or because it wouldn’t be tomorrow. Some things can go away so easily, so unnoticeably. I doubted he would be one of those things.

He hasn’t reappeared in my life since. I bite at my fingertips occasionally to see if I can taste him anymore. I can’t. It hurt for a while, the silence between us that felt void, unexplained and inflating. Not all silences are like that. It still feels absurd that he could waltz into and out of my life so effortlessly, when everything else I do is so deliberate. I’m the kind of girl who intentionally doesn’t water my aloe plant for three weeks to see what happens. Maybe he’s that kind of guy  maybe he’s doing the same thing to me. Maybe he doesn’t even notice that I’m wilting, I’m such a small a plant sitting in the windowsill of his office. Except I doubt he has an office, or that he spends his afternoons staring out the window  first floor, fourth one in from the left  lusting after the sunshine. But I swear I’m not a plant  I’m eight percent animal. And all eight percent of my animal self is still thinking about his flesh between my teeth.

Ceilidh Barlow Cash is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Guelph, Ontario. She tumbls here

Photographs by Amardeep S

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“Clotheslines” – Andrea Gibson & Gregory Alan Isakov (mp3)

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In Which Neither Could Realistically Imagine Being The Other

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The Closing of the American Door

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg
FX

If the hardest thing you have to do is tell a cute Korean guy you’re about to have his baby, I feel sorry for you. Stan invites himself over for dinner pretty regularly, although I am relatively sure he already met Pastor Tim. If the hardest thing you have to do is meet Pastor Tim, you are probably actually getting over your divorce. If you are over your divorce, I don’t feel sorry for you. If Pastor Tim lays another guilt trip on another woman, I will never feel sorry for him again. Pastor Tim invites himself over for dinner pretty regularly. His wife loves lamb.

When you’re inviting yourself somewhere, on The Americans, you appear reticent for a moment but no more. You are sad for the briefest of sensations until you find another feeling to replace grief. Very few men feel guilty for sex they do not remember, but Don Ho is one of those men.

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Patty took her own life. She invited herself lots of places, and she always sold as many cosmetics as she could. RIP Patty, I really hope she doesn’t run into Young-Hee at the grocery store and have to stab her with a rutabaga. I wonder what happened to the family of that African-American contractor. I hope someone paid for her funeral. It is nice that Patty was able to afford a decent coffin. It is not too much to ask, if you are going through the indignity of putting someone you love beneath the ground.

Intel was flying around, most conveyed by Stan Beeman, the worst FBI agent of his time. He exposed Martha’s father, his friend the KGB agent (all his friends are Russian), Agent Gaad, his wife, Nina, Chris Amador, Ronald Reagan, Oliver North and the man who presses his excrebable suits. It is always best practice to keep a list of those who lives you plan to destroy; it is what separates us from the animals.

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Maybe I’m naive, but I assumed that Patty was going to force Don Seong to settle down with her. They would fall in love, and have children very similar to the ones he already has, except half-Asian. Eventually she would hector him into taking her on vacation to Thailand, where he would die suddenly from stabbing himself on a stained glass window. Only then would she truly be happy in her love relationship.

Standards for Elizabeth are actually far lower. She makes all the dinners, she informs Pastor Tim, who has about as much to say for himself as Paige. Elizabeth’s daughter has a one track mind that revolves around driving the car, whereas Pastor Tim is always either apologizing or being apologized to. Torn between these two simpletons, Elizabeth cannot decide which person into which it is best to evolve.

She has a chance to go to Est and become thoughtful and unskilled at anything except dealing with her own emotional baggage. That seemed relatively complicated and difficult. Moreover, she has never fully understood Phillip’s compassion and laughed when he tried to explain it. It is astonishing but quite realistic that neither could ever imagine being the other.

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When we empathize too strongly with our partners, it hurts ourselves. Seeing the world through their eyes is impossible, so the sensation we acquire remains a false truth. It is present in the anguish we hear on that last telephone message, of a woman trying to understand what the man she loves is going through when he refuses to tell her directly. A glimpse into a shadow life.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

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“I’ve Been Waiting” – Rachael Sage (mp3)

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In Which There Remains No Easy Way To Tell You This

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Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hey,

My sister Asri used to live nearby me in Upper Manhattan. We saw a lot of each other because of this and became very close. She recently moved to New Jersey because of her boyfriend and new child and I haven’t seen as much of her. She constantly complains about this, expecting me to be the one to always travel. Well, it’s not a short trip and not a fun trip either, and expecting me to be out there more than twice a month simply isn’t reasonable. How can I make Asri see the problem with her expectation?

Theodore M.

Dear Theo,

In such situations, it is best to just go ahead and tell a white lie. Claim there is a problem with your knee, nose, or ring finger. Unfortunately, our family members can sometimes catch us in a lie and when you do see you sister, she may sense that a physical ailment is not present.

Still do not be honest with her, because, really, where has that ever gotten you? No, you must find a new, better lie. One which can never be questioned and holds up under the most intense possible scrutiny. When you figure things out, write us so we can use it as well.

What’s a fun trip? To the drugstore? Bali?

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Hey,

I have been seeing a woman who I will call Ellen for about two months. We have never talked at all about being exclusive, which I know is probably my fault. She never mentions going out with other guys, although I guess why would she? I am still seeing someone else, though, and I sense that if I tell her about it, it might not go very well. What’s the best course of action in my situation?

Michael M.

Dear Mikey,

If she wanted to know, she would already know. She doesn’t want to know. Perhaps she is hopeful that she is with someone who sees her as a candidatef or a monogamous relationship. She actually might be a lot more accepting of your situation than you believe. Maybe the two of them would hit it off. Think about how much they would have in common: they both enjoy the ethereal thrill of your company, the way your clothes smell before and after a wash, and share a similar, mediocre taste in men.

“Thunder Clatter” – Wild Cub (mp3)

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In Which Seth Rogen And Evan Goldberg Enter The American South

God Magic

by ETHAN PETERSON

Preacher
creators Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg & Sam Caitlin
AMC

dgfhdfghfgdhfghIt sounds like the setup for a twisted joke. Two Jews make a television show about Jesus Christ. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, when they are not driving the people in neighboring offices to insanity through the odiferous smell of their pot smoking, did not exactly pick up the Bible before making Preacher. If they did, it certainly was not the New Testament.

The graphic novel Preacher was about as knowledgeable about America as Seth Rogen is about the Gospel of Matthew. Preacher was one of many works by European writers attempting to depict what was happening in the country in the world producing most of the world’s visual media. By caricaturing America in the same way America did to them, writers like Ennis, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman levelled the playing field.

The graphic novel Preacher isn’t really offensive in its rampant violence, which seems basically tame now, or its view of Christianity, which is more a silly appreciation than actual critique. Preacher‘s broader caricatures are harsh parodies of people in the American south, all easy targets.

Not being native to Texas, writer Garth Ennis ran out of jokes about the region and Preacher turned into a pretty serious story about what a man does when he loses faith and how he acts when he regains it, if he ever does. Of course it does not really matter if you pray to God if he does not really exist. In the world of Preacher, he does, but he is not the only one of his kind. Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is the protagonist and titular character, whose interaction with an angel-demon hybrid gives him the power of command.

Cooper is a tiny man, but this only adds to his considerable charm, since he has to find a way to impress us as a person without using his physique or literal momentum. The first fight scene in Preacher occurs after Jesse encourages a local woman to file a complaint against her husband. It turns out the abuse of the wife is at her own request (!), and instead of apologizing, Jesse breaks the man’s arm and beats up his friends. This outcome adds to the general sense that the main characters in Preacher may not exactly be the most God-fearing folks.

Take Jesse’s ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga). I remember her being so much more likable in the comic, where she wasn’t explaining what a sterling examplar of womanhood she is all the time. In the pilot episode of Preacher, she builds a bazooka with a couple of children out of soup cans. It’s completely unclear why this should make her sympathetic; in fact she would be the most monstrous character on this show if it were not for Jesse’s vampire friend Cassidy.

The long Cassidy sections were the worst part of the comic, and yet their utter lack of narrative seriousness was a welcome relief from Garth Ennis’ at times dreary tone. We learn Cassidy is undead very early on. This revelation would have been far better somewhere down the line — it means nothing when Preacher begins, and it has been approximated so many times in the last twenty years.

I figured Rogen and Goldberg would focus on what Preacher actually does do well, which is a stylized form of violence which at times and in certain lights resembles prayer. It takes real skill to make action so seamless it comes across in a delightful space between accuracy of purpose and choreography, and that is missing in AMC’s Preacher. Rogen and Goldberg’s take on Preacher remains entertaining because the subject matter and setting are still quite unique, but so far the killing takes a serious backseat to the large, slowish characterization. It is a welcome upending — more Sydney Pollack than Quentin Tarantino.

The most chaotic moments of Preacher have Rogen and Goldberg overmatched, since they do not know where to put the camera and it feels like they are recreating fights they’ve seen before. They have replaced that stylized violence with an actual understanding of these characters. Despite their inadequacies, you can really feel the world of Preacher is something they have thought about more deeply than Ennis ever did, and it is wonderful to see the world of the graphic novel find more stable roots in the drama of more realistic human lives.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording. He last wrote in these pages about Julian Fellowes’ Doctor Thorne.

“What Do You Want With My Heart” – These United States (mp3)

“One You Believe” – These United States (mp3)


In Which We Climbed The Red Keep So Many Nights

Bran Is 40

by DICK CHENEY

It’s been a hard year so far. It hasn’t been as hard for me as it was for Bran Stark. First of all they didn’t have the money to get Sean Bean to play his father again. Sean Bean is under contract with TNT so he couldn’t come back and play a younger version of himself. Instead it was a guy who looked a lot more like the actor playing Ned Stark in Braavos, who I have to admit was suspiciously accurate in his portrayal and could he be the real N.E.D.? Second of all, Bran is aging at a rate of ten years per episode like Robin Williams in Jack.

Bran’s stupidity and love for the dream world allowed him to learn a somewhat pertinent lesson about the Children of the Forest. Those magical creatures may have erred in turning some blonde guy into a White Walker. Given that these weird female children knew the principal weakness of the demons they developed to destroy the wildings, I don’t know much of a threat these cold ones really are. Just burn them. It’s easy.

Hodor’s time travel moment was cute, but it is even better I don’t have to hear his stupid grunting anymore. Apparently the white walkers got as far as that door and decided not pursue Meera and Bran. It was very nice of Summer the direwolf to go down fighting, which I believe means there is only one direwolf left. These important budget reductions give us all the CGI money HBO needs when you add it to the cash they saved by firing their head of programming.

I was enthusiastically looking forward to the drowning of Euron Greyjoy. I don’t know why the interminable saga of the Iron Islands ever became important at the expense of houses with interesting stories and purposes, but wrapping up the entire saga in one episode was basically a mercy killing.

The dragon queen’s tearful dispatching of Iain Glen to cure the gross rash he has on his arm was well done. They should honestly just pause the show here and give us a spin-off season of Iain Glen traipsing through Valyria and meeting another Targaryen, twisted by his environment into something resembling a scientist. As in all of my GoT fanfictions (don’t tell GRRM), there are intense sex scenes where someone is always like, “Forget the throne, being inside you is all that’s crucial at this juncture,” to which their wintercourse partner inevitably responds, “Don’t talk that way about the throne.”

It was funny how Arya was gleefully laughing when watching the reenactment of a man who loved her father gored by a boar, but as soon as her own family entered the diegesis, the frown emerged. I’d say all things considered, this drama hewed closely to the truth, although I will always be seriously let down that Sansa didn’t fall in love with Tyrion. In retrospect, there was no reason that should not have happened. Think of the fanfic!

Sansa clutched the dwarf’s trembling paw in her hand and held it to her bosom. He tasted of whiskey and chamomile, an overpowering combination that simultaneously repulsed and aroused her like nothing else. “Where do whores go?” she whispered to him. “Come on, what?” he replied, flossing her teeth with some string and eating what fell out. Tyrion could think of nothing better than to be this massive ginger’s baby bird.

That’s just my opening salvo for the characters. Eventually the story would have featured Sansa biting a chunk out of Shae’s leg and whimpering like a direwolf when challenged by her tiny husband. People, certain people, would have really enjoyed my approach to this period in the history of Westeros. I would not have included yet another scene where we fully detail when and where Varys’ balls were removed. I felt the previous eight hundred renditions of this piece of backstory were probably enough.

I’d suspect with no romantic prospects on the horizon the dragon queen might start having some intimate feelings for her own personal high priestess. As I said last week, the pure, unadulterated impact of fictional romances has become a way of all around living for me. That’s why the interplay between Eric the Red and Brienne has spawned an entire novelette I call Climbing the Blonde Keep.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

“Sandy” – Nancy Wilson (mp3)


In Which We View All Of The Flowers And Herbs

In the Garden

by MARK ARTURO

You were the painted face, the considered night, three black stallions on a march. I was the peeled-back rind of something discarded, repurposed as a hat. You had seven weeks to answer one simple phone call. You did not fail at the task, but it could not be said you completed it, either. A cage can have openings, more than one, invisible to the eye but complete in themselves. You were the winding clock, I was each movement of the hand, and that is what I miss.

Your sister Leslie had this tiny boat she used to go out on as a girl, long before the cancer. I still get Christmas cards from her. There is a diligence in certain people which feels like tracing a finger against that long, white wall. Those individuals break themselves against incontinence, instructing us that nothing is ever really unbearable. I want to imagine a better person than myself.

by isabelle tremblay

Leslie featured the gifted dress, paeans to songbirds so unexpected beaks shut in response, an animal smell, not unpleasant but still worrisome. You had the clean scent, the arched neck, the light sweat misting on an exchange. I had the bottle.

In our purpose, there is an accounting of deed and voice. You talked too much, on the phone, at night. You made me feel apoplectic with your nonsense worries. Not angry at you, or me, but the corruption of the world. Sweetness always reverses itself. That is why I never take it seriously when someone believes that I am cold.

You rolled the magic die, ending the game too early or not soon enough. I was the wizened epoch, managed as a tragedy and destined for repose. Leslie was the ancient crutch; her daughter is the swirling phantom. No more adjectives left now. Only people, and their nightengale eyes.

Here’s what I can do: wrap the old engine, shiny and clean of grease, in a red plastic container to hide it from thieves. Glove the sky and hold tighter than you believed you could when you found something you wanted, or loved. The only firm grip is that of God, she said, but I did not believe her words: only acts.

Calm is an additive, something you put into it. From here, isometric, symmetrical.

by isabelle tremblay

Here’s where we can go: Portugal, or further down on the penisula. To your mother’s house. I’d honestly love to see her garden. Over to the campus, where you waited with coffee all those hours. Tibet and Mali, whistling over a new ocean. Stand outside the house, wondering if the human beings inside of it are nice, or if they turned. Ireland. Bermuda. The tall hill in that photograph of you.

Making visible the hours in the arbor. Holding a small object rather than a long, thin point. Stars in her throat, face against the ground. The sea of the formerly inconceivable. A key frame redrawn on paper.

This is the last attempt, until the next one. You were all the condensation. Leslie was the morning rush, her daughter the ancient tome. I made a few things with my hands just to show you they could still work. I won’t touch anyone with them again until you say they do.

Mark Arturo is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

Painting by Isabelle Tremblay.

“Used to Love You” – Yuna ft. Jhene Aiko (mp3)


 

In Which We Plan To Never Leave This Brave Country

Lie Detector

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

“We never know for sure if people are telling us the truth,” Elizabeth bleats to her daughter. This new, soft version of Keri Russell’s character is a disappointment on every level. Her superior officer, a stolid, haunchy man named Arkady, orders men in Thailand to try to turn Agent Gaad to the KGB. He runs from them and cuts himself on a large piece of glass. After he bleeds out, his murderers apologize to him. On The Americans, there is already a retreat from something certain into something uncertain, a tendency that marked the entirety of our war with this other nation.

People are absolutely desperate to tell the truth about their lives. This inclination was present in all its forms on last night’s episode of The Megyn File. Host and erstwhile attorney Megyn Kelly spent the entirety of the hour-long episode reviewing her interview with presidential candidate Donald Trump. She asked a panel of experts how they thought she handled the interview, whether he came across as likable in the interview. One panelist gushed, “The interview was great for you, Megyn, and of course great for Trump.” After that segment, she brought on a panel of women to analyze Trump’s taste in fashion and polls that showed Republican women viewing him more favorably.

Megyn’s truth is a slim truth, but I guess it was all she had? It seemed like maybe a lot more was going on in the world than a conversation she had days earlier, but who knows. I mean it’s not like there was any other news.

Our own personal experience perennial triumphs over anything happening in the world at large. To view things through any other lens is an experience only given to the very old, who are already deep in the process of absconding from their bodies. Agent Gaad and his wife were probably the best couple I have ever seen, which meant their obsolescence was doomed from the start. In order to survive any significant change in our lives, we must alter ourselves completely.

RIP Agent Gaad. You will be missed, not by me since you were the among the worst intelligence operatives of your time, but certainly by that large pockmarked fellow who was so loyal to you even when he had no reason to be. Stan Beeman’s parenting skills are about as strong as the containment of his privileged knowledge. It will be fun watching Matthew Beeman start to volunteer at Paige’s youth church in hopes of banging it to her one day. Giving women coffee in your sad, empty house is no way to get laid, Matthew.

It is nice to know that we will be getting follow-up on the Martha story. Say what you want about Martha (and I said plenty, most of which was expressing an untenable emotionality by screaming Claaaaark! at the top of my lungs during pretend orgasms), but she kept things close to the vest. She didn’t ask Clark Westerberg a bunch of unimportant questions all the time.

“We will tell you as much as we can,” Elizabeth explains to Paige when she starts criticizing her parents for making Pastor Tim disappear in Ethiopia. Paige seems to not only accept this state of affairs, but return the sentiment to her handlers as something of a moral principle in its own right.

It’s good for Pastor Tim to know that his trips to Africa aren’t just some careless jaunts. If I hear about one more person who “loves to travel,” I will legitimately throw up. Whenever you actually hear about the tales of such people, their journeys involve surmounting some ancient structure in a third world country and taking pictures of themselves while people starve nearby. “At least he’s feeding people,” Elizabeth concedes when she speaks of Pastor Tim’s important bravery. In that sense, Alice’s reaction was completely inappropriate: when your husband is doing dangerous work, you either fully understand the risks or you would have gone crazy on Day One.

It was really the uncertainty that was killing Alice. Not just of whether her foolish husband was dead or alive — the larger indeterminacy at play. At any point in time there is so much we cannot be aware of. Days pass and all the while Agent Gaad has already bled out in Bangkok. Other men and women go about their lives. A plane sails over the ocean one minute; in mere seconds it has vanished. Either you grow closer to each other, or move further apart. There are mere moments before Elizabeth decides to ruin or not ruin the life of a Korean family in the suburbs of the District of Columbia. A word either way moves mountains. Acceptance of this state of affairs is the only way of living.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

“Hold On” – Richard Ashcroft (mp3)