Sheila is finding her aerobics and political wife groove in an episode that feels as self-assured as Tyler behind the video camera.
- 💃🏻The balance between aerobics and political storylines.
- 💃🏻Using The Go-Go's song choice for the montage/aerobics video music.
- 💃🏻Tyler continues to excel in his directing role.
- 💃🏻Sheila is no longer in the dark.
- 💃🏻The knowing winks about Betamax are no longer cute.
- 💃🏻Even with Sheila's explanation it is hard to grasp what she sees in Danny.
This post contains spoilers for Physical "Let's Get It on Tape.”
Read our latest review here.
Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne) might be five years away from high-end production values bathed in pink light, but her dream toward becoming an aerobics queen is becoming a reality in “Let’s Get It on Tape.” Telling the stories of her husband Danny’s (Rory Scovel) political campaign in tandem with this new venture has been hit and miss so far that has been dragged down by the election race. However, the payoff in this week’s episode involving the stolen video camera points to why creator Annie Weisman didn’t choose to simply focus on the ‘80s fitness craze.
Several themes (such as capitalism, the wellness industry, and empowerment) are jostling for attention in Physical, which has overwhelmed earlier episodes, and means characters like Danny and his boarish campaign manager Jerry (Geoffrey Arend) suck up the oxygen to a stifling level. Of course, Sheila’s home environment is a catalyst that pushes her toward this new obsession, and Jerry’s arrival is vital in getting her out of the house more often. The only problem is it also makes the viewer want to skip these scenes in favor of the leotard-heavy moments. Similar to how Sheila is finding her footing, so is the series. Utilizing Tyler (Lou Taylor Pucci) as the overlap between the two worlds (via his video director role) is a smart choice I didn’t foresee when he was first introduced. He might seem half-baked and distracted most of the time, but he is surprisingly intuitive and incredibly capable as a visionary filmmaker.
Tyler is on double director duty in “Let’s Get It on Tape,” and the video camera Sheila took from Greta’s (Dierdre Friel) house is getting its own workout. Image is a fundamental part of this series, seen through a political and lifestyle lens that dictates both projects simultaneously. Danny has already bristled at the idea of a media consultant (Jerry’s idea) and is equally resistant when Sheila suggests he wears a suit for his campaign film because it eschews his progressive ideals. However, because he has been painted as a hippie they need to distance him from the bohemian aesthetic that will turn off voters. Sheila finds some common ground with Jerry this week with these suggestions and she is only reluctant to embrace the idea of a media consultant due to the non-existent cash. So far she has managed to keep her carefully collated bookkeeping hidden by snatching the notebook away or giving her husband a blowjob in the bathroom, but Jerry somehow gets his hands on it by the end of the episode. He clearly misreads her system as he thinks there is more than enough to pay for a better ad slot, much to Sheila’s distress at the end of the episode. “Knee, punch, kick,” intones her inner voice — it is going to be hard to keep up the financial ruse for much longer.
“My wife is a stone-cold fox. I mean, genius,” is how Danny responds to her idea about keeping this a grassroots campaign, and he really struggles to see her value still (beyond the obvious). Later when Jerry makes fun of her “jazz dancing” and gives her crap about her priorities, Danny doesn’t defend his wife’s honor and instead chooses to get stoned with his pal instead. Jerry is also being incredibly leery toward Simone (Ashley Liao) and Sheila at least calls him out on his overly touchy vibe — some solidarity does exist under this roof. During workout rehearsals, Bunny (Della Saba) finally asks the burning question as to what Sheila sees in Danny. Up to this point, it has mostly been resignation and resentment, but finally, she offers a glimpse of his allure. “He’s the most brilliant man I’ve ever known,” is her response and I am still skeptical. Or rather, I think Sheila’s nostalgia for their time at Berkeley is the fuel she requires to keep her in this marriage. Bunny explains that she is doing this video for Tyler and so far he has proved himself as a supportive partner who isn’t only preoccupied with himself.
Tyler’s work in the adult film industry has put him ahead of the curve when it comes to state-of-the-art technology that is making this kind of content more accessible. The parallels between 21st-century social media influencers and those embarking on these kinds of ventures in the early ‘80s are clear, and Tyler’s expertise makes him an asset. Jerry makes a comment about Betamax, which is another nod to the superior-tech that lost out to VHS, and it is maybe one knowing reference too many. Otherwise, the video thread is the strongest of the season so far that allows Sheila to excel and flounder simultaneously. After beating herself up after the awkward beach shoot, getting the extra space in the mall (that is intended for the campaign) leads to a successful recording session with Bunny. Set to The Go-Go’s anthemic “We Got the Beat,” the soundtrack is one of the consistent highlights — “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran also features this week. The shopping montage (complete with multiple credit slips) coupled with the shooting of the campaign and aerobics videos also points to the strengths of the series.
Doing their moves in unison, Bunny and Sheila look the part in front of the red backdrop, wearing coordinated (but not matching) leotards. Tyler and Bunny are thrilled with the results and eagerly await Sheila’s assessment before calling it a success. Unlike the previous version, she is equally ecstatic (“We fucking nailed it! This thing is sick!” is Tyler’s emphatic reaction) and immediately wants to cut some copies. “I can’t degrade you girls like that,” is Tyler’s response about using rudimentary methods to mass-produce so he will look to more expensive technology (or his “independent” movie contacts) for the long term but for now Sheila can take a few. She is keen because a business opportunity has opened itself up at Greta’s makeup “Colour Party.” When Sheila is invited to this event her inner voice quips “I would rather die in a house fire,” and yet she can’t help but accept with a fake smile plastered across her face.
While Sheila conceals her insecurities, Greta is incapable of putting a lid on hers and calls her friend over after a chemical facial peel has an adverse effect. “My face was my one good thing,” Greta says before Sheila manages to temper the situation and reassures her that this is part of the process for better skin. Earlier in the episode, there is tension between the pair after Sheila ran out on dinner and was caught in a lie in the previous episode. While she doesn’t reveal the actual truth, she does let her in on the aerobics tape secret and the (empowering) reason behind it. At the makeup event, the guest speaker basically tells Greta that she has been wearing the wrong shades — both her clothing and makeup — and rather than uplifting her, she makes her feel worse than she already did. Sheila steps up, but rather than defending her friend, she uses this as a business opportunity to sell her beauty 'on the inside and out' theory. It proves incredibly savvy, as she not only sells out the copies she has but also has some on backorder.
It is masked as empowerment but rather than offering a vision of female solidarity and support, the relationship between Sheila and Greta is full of contradictions. Greta has spilled her soul whether it is her doubts about her marriage or her self-loathing, whereas Sheila’s guard is raised no matter who she talks to. When Greta confronts her about taking Ernie’s (Ian Gomez) camera, Sheila doesn’t try to bullshit her friend and instead admits to taking it. Greta is at a loss because she fired her nanny because of this theft — her outrage is tempered a little because she cannot remember how many children Miriam actually has — and this seems like it could be the end of this friendship. Despite not feeling like it is her story to tell, she gives Greta the head-shaving tape and warns her that the contents are not what she thinks they will be.
So far, Sheila has probably been her most honest with Greta (despite the layers of lies) and the tape might deepen their bond — though it is hard to predict what impact it will have on her marriage. But until Sheila truly sheds her superficial skin, there is no hope for the longevity of this friendship. It is also notable that Sheila is a tad more likely to be her real self around Bunny, Tyler, and Greta whereas her husband is seeing a carefully curated version akin to what we reveal on social media.
Often, TV shows want to portray some prickliness but sand off the unpleasant characteristics, but Physical is not giving viewers the easy version of female solidarity, and it might be better for doing this. Hearing Sheila berates Greta in her head is still part of the series I bristle at and makes it hard for us to always be on Sheila’s side. However, Weisman is certainly sticking to her guns and ensures this critique of the wellness industry and the false pleasantries hits hard.
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