What to Watch Verdict
Finally, we are given a reason to believe in Danny as Sheila does, but the episode suffers outside of the Los Angeles scenes.
💃🏻 Sheila and Danny finally make sense.
💃🏻 Mary Holland and Al Madrigal are excellent as the Rubins' terrible friends.
💃🏻 Finding out more about Sheila's past.
💃🏻 "Atomic" by Blondie is always a killer soundtrack choice.
💃🏻 The artwork Tyler has made for the aerobics video.
💃🏻 The scenes away from LA are too disjointed.
💃🏻 John Breem doesn't feel like a real person.
This post contains spoilers for Physical "Let's Take This Show on the Road.”
Read our latest review here.
Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne) is keeping a lot of secrets on Physical, from the empty savings account to the aerobics job she is excelling at. Okay, she is only keeping the latter from her husband Danny (Rory Scovel), but the money situation is a major issue and one that will come to light sooner rather than later. Plus, the reason for this deficit is tied to something she has told no one about, which is the topic that makes her inner monologue yell the loudest. The Apple TV+ series from Anna Weisman is a tough watch because the depiction of an eating disorder is presented with brutal self-loathing. This fixation on image (both her own and everyone around her) alienates Sheila to the viewer, but it is also what makes the series a revelation — it is also why watching episodes weekly feels less intense. “Let’s Take This Show on the Road” deals with some of these factors head-on and the part of the episode that takes place in Los Angeles is the dramedy at its strongest.
“We’re LA haters,” is a statement that reflects how both Danny and Jerry (Geoffrey Arend) feel about the nearby city that Sheila is proposing they visit. However, only $12 is in their savings account and desperate times call for desperate phone calls. Sheila intercepts a call from the TV station regarding the campaign ad spot because the check has bounced and they will have to pull it off the air. This is another secret to add to the growing list and in a bid to raise some quick cash, she phones her frenemy Tayna (Mary Holland) to ask for a huge favor. In the first episode, Tanya and her husband Jack (Al Madrigal) are subjected to some of Sheila’s most pointed attacks. Not that they hear a single word because this dialogue is just for us (and Sheila) and instead, it is a steady stream of fake smiles and passive-aggressive remarks. Jack’s success with his hollow self-help book is one of the reasons Sheila can barely contain her eye rolls, however, she could do with some rich folks dipping their hand in their pockets for Danny, which is how this road trip occurs.
In the pilot, interactions like this are off-putting, but by this point in the series we are used to Sheila’s acerbic observations and she has tempered the self-loathing of late. Aerobics has been her savior and Danny’s campaign has also given the pair a way to escape a marriage rut. Having Jerry as a permanent house guest is less than ideal, but after her experience at Tanya and Jack’s, I think it is safe to say Sheila might prefer the “hippie turd” to her other friends from college. This is the kind of friendship that is predicated on outdoing each other and everything that comes out of Tanya’s mouth prompts Sheila’s inner-monologue to fire off missives about her smug anecdotes. The guided tour of their LA home lacks any self-awareness, which includes the lack of fencing and the subsequent 76-foot drop — perhaps not the best idea when a baby is on the way. Who needs manmade security when there are mountain lions at the bottom of the ravine? When he explains its features, Jack sounds like he is parroting the brochure while Tanya name drops Joni Mitchell.
“How pretentious you’ve both become,” Sheila says on the inside after uttering how breath-taking the place is. Yes, she is a hypocrite but while her behavior toward her friends in the pilot was a turn-off, now these pointed remarks are landing. At first, her sex-shaming thoughts about Tanya seem a bit much — “Good lord, what won’t she put in her mouth?” — that is exasperated by her appetite, but the animalistic performance Tanya puts on in the bedroom within earshot makes Shelia sympathetic. Her pregnant friend claims the third trimester has turned her into a wild ball of desire but this over-the-top display in the later hours is part of the competitive dynamic. This only increases at the party the following day, and finally, I get what Sheila sees in Danny.
When Jack stands up and essentially starts spouting the “power of personal narrative” philosophy behind his book, the hollowness is pronounced. The San Diego candidate can’t stand in silence and while he might be many things, at least he is attempting to make a change through civic action. “You’re worse than Reagan,” Danny quips, much to the chagrin of his friend. Danny is accused of making everything political, and Jack is the face of all liberals who claim they want to make a difference but flee as soon as it gets dangerous or the hard work kicks in. Danny is far from perfect and is also sanctimonious, but at least he is doing something beyond looking for a way to make a quick buck. Part of his response is ego-driven, but Danny is finally looking beyond himself this week as he also praises his wife's instincts. It is about time Physical showed rather than told us why they got married in the first place.
Another old friend of Sheila’s makes a joke about her only marrying Danny to piss off her parents, and this is a popular opinion regarding this matrimony. Before they leave Jerry to housesit, he pointedly brings up whether she will go see her mom and dad while on this trip before she reminds him that she doesn’t speak to them anymore. These various hints are building to something, and with each episode, Sheila’s layers are peeled back. Belinda (Jordan Scovel) is a friend from her pre-college days, and this is another case of Tanya disguising a pointed act as kindness. Her appearance dredges up some deep-rooted feelings and Belinda claims she is the one who taught Sheila how to throw up before ballet class when they were younger. This is the first time eating disorders are explicitly discussed and Belinda talks about how a psychologist helped her understand the root of this is to do with control. Sheila’s smile is dialed all the way up and Rose Byrne’s ability to show the fear that her big secret is about to come out while attempting to look fine is a feat.
Up to this point, she has kept it together despite being surrounded by triggers, coupled with Tanya not letting her ask people directly for funds — “passing a hat around seems like kind of a drag.” As the walls come in around her, she escapes to the car where she starts pounding candy bars. “Atomic” by Blondie begins to plays as Sheila screams at herself to “STOP” and the moment she starts driving we know she is headed to a fast-food drive-thru. However, in a surprising twist, Sheila does break the cycle and instead, the episode ends with her ringing the doorbell of her parents’ opulent home. While it seems like her choice of husband is why she fell out with her family, this is an intriguing turn, particularly after Belinda mentions how good Sheila was at ballet and that she mysteriously quit. The pieces are falling into place and this series is at its best when telling Sheila’s story.
Aerobics is pushed to the background this week, but Sheila does use her newfound exercise addiction as a flex with her old friends. Before heading out of town, she stops by the studio to tell Tyler (Lou Pucci Taylor) that she doesn’t have the money for the video order yet — it is going to cost at least $2000 — and Bunny (Della Saba) is suspicious. Tyler goes with the flow and gets himself into a spot of financial bother after ingesting a rather potent edible. Before he messes up, he does hit a home run with the excellent Bunny and Sheila artwork he has mocked up, and Sheila is giddy about the cool image. There is a lot going on in “Let’s Take This Show on the Road,” and of the non-LA scenes, it is Tyler’s storyline that is the strongest — the same cannot be said for the rest.
Take John Breem (Paul Sparks) who aggressively cuts into his birthday cake before sternly asking who wants a piece (kudos to the kid who raises his hand with no qualms). There is a parallel issue of control, but we have spent so little time with this ideological rival that it comes across as disjointed. He lives a cookie-cutter life with his perfect family, however, the fact his father died at the same age he just turned is something he cannot shake. His wife does everything perfectly (including writing thank you cards that he can sign), and yet he is cold to the woman he supposedly loves.
During the final sequence as Danny and Sheila come up against challenges in LA, Breem stares into the family swimming pool. He claimed earlier that everything he is feeling is outward stress, but something is eating him on the inside and he dives into the pool fully clothed. This is not a man who is only concerned with the forthcoming election, although we know so little about him and these scenes are a distraction. Ditto the Greta (Dierdre Friel) thread, which I am intrigued about (after all she doesn’t seem that weirded out by Ernie’s kink) but it might have made more sense this week to juggle less. Unlike John Breem, she is someone we have come to know and this is why this storyline deserves more space to breathe. Greta is trying to regain control in her marriage and Sheila is far from the only person keeping secrets. Even when parts of an episode don't click into place, Physical is a fascinating watch and a show that could become as addictive as the exercise craze.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.
Thank you for signing up to Whattowatch. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.