Red Oaks Episode 4 “MDMA”

Cyndi Lauper once sang that money changes everything. She was wrong. Sex does.

Skye is burrowing into David’s mind. He’s jerking off to her in the shower. How many love affairs began this way? Hopefully, not many end with David’s mother walking into the bathroom to replace the towels and lecture him on proper genital maintenance to avoid jock itch. This incident underscores the desperation that David is starting to feel about getting out of his parent’s house. He confirms this to Wheeler a few minutes later. The Red Oaks reveal happens in a freeze frame of David standing naked in the shower, his erection no doubt dwindling under the shadow of his mother’s exit.

“Don’t listen to me; they’re your genitals.” —Judy Meyers to David As He Stands Naked In The Shower

Also, notice how David and Wheeler talk about Karen. She’s so nice and great but isn’t there anymore to David?

Listen to how Wheeler has taken on the challenge of getting more than twelve bucks to his name. A few minutes later, he is taking instructions from Ganz about how this new career is cocaine sales is going to work. Wheeler is the “Party King,” and that’s his code words to know his customers. As Ganz starts to instruct on resupplying, Wheeler is distracted by Misty. He is keeping his eyes on the prize, despite his wandering mind here.

Herb asks David how his old man took the news that he doesn’t want to be an accountant. Herb looks like a big Yoda when asking this as he wades in the pool, smoking a cigar and drinking bourbon. David replies in his typical nonchalant way and Herb asks him if he’s still finding himself. David can’t even commit to this.

“You know what we did back in my day to find ourselves? We killed Nazis.” —Herb to David

Barry surprises Karen with a Happy Birthday invitation to his Art Show. Karen is planning to go to dinner with David, and Barry asks her to bring him, “unless it’s past his bedtime.” This subtle undermining is an incredible strategy that Barry employs to pull Karen away from David. Fate and Gravity do the hard work though.

“You should come. It’s going to be cheese, vino, art.” —Barry to Karen inviting her to his art show

Nash asks David what his plans are for Karen’s birthday. Red Alert! He is just going to figure it out as he goes along. Nash is not having this and gives David complete instructions on how to create an unforgettable evening. He even gives David the afternoon off to prepare.

“She’ll set one foot in that door, see the bubbly on ice, the rose petals adorning the door and spontaneously ovulate. That’s what the condoms are for.” —Nash gives relationship advice to David on how to prepare for Karen’s birthday

Wheeler gets his first customer (that we see at least). He nearly wrecks the guy’s Testarossa but saves it just in time. Misty walks up to ask Wheeler out on a date…with her cousin from Ohio (Go Bucks!). Wheeler says yes when Misty says she’ll be his best friend. Note how long he drags that hug out. He’s getting paid up front on that friendship.

“I don’t understand why a grown man can’t have a ham sandwich.” —Sam Meyers in Couples Therapy

Sam and Judy are getting help for their communication issues. For Sam, it’s mostly about the food his wife is preventing him from eating. For Judy, she is looking for an identity outside of her marriage. Like David, she is desperately seeking a way to establish herself as a person. This is a serious affair that many people go through when their children grow up and prepare to move out. The therapists are a married couple themselves (shout out to Richard Masur who is wonderful as Stanley Uris in the ABC Miniseries for IT).

David is doing his best to turn his teenage bedroom into a love shack.

Sam has only heard that Judy regrets not being a hippy and having sex with strangers. The therapists stop her from jumping up and walking out, by suggesting they take MDMA together in order to find the connectedness they lost along the way.

“It breaks down the walls of anger and defensiveness and increases trust and compassion.” —Male Therapist advising Judy & Sam about taking MDMA to help their marital communications

Sam is not amused at the thought of taking drugs. He finds the whole thing sad. Why can’t Judy just be happy that she has a husband who loves her?

David is pedaling to beat the devil and Karen is waiting alone at the restaurant, watching the door. He arrives in a sweaty state and did not make reservations. It’s a two-hour wait so they are going to eat at the bar. Despite all his efforts, the night is a disaster already for Karen.

In this same restaurant, we zoom into another disaster with Wheeler. Let’s just say that he and Misty’s cousin are not well matched.

Back to David and Karen who are being assaulted by what looks like a Fraternity Rush Party. They haul their ass out of there for David’s special surprise back home which is…his parents nearly naked high on MDMA and prancing around the house like they had dreadlocks at a ‘Dead’ show. They drank all their Champagne and ate all the strawberries. Judy and Sam both practically assault Karen, who is so mortified, she practically runs from the house and nearly screams at David, she’s so disappointed and frustrated.

“I feel like a Christmas Tree only with blue lights.” —Sam on MDMA

Wheeler’s date is passed out while Steve makes everyone listen to “Sex Flu” in the parking lot of the High School. Wheeler sends Steve out on a fool’s errand so he can get some alone time with Misty. During these brief moments, Misty asks Wheeler why he didn’t go to college because he’s the smartest guy she ever met. We find out he dropped out because he rejects, “The whole group-think mentality of higher education.” Misty informs him that she is thinking of going back to school to be a Dental Hygienist and Wheeler immediately backpedals and supports her. He is becoming very sensitive to the right path he needs to walk to get into her heart. He fills her up. He gives her everything and she takes it.

Karen heads over to Barry’s Art Show where she too is filled up with compliments. Barry has literally put her in a frame and bought the painting from himself and, “paid a pretty penny for it too.” This is a great line. Karen essentially commits to a date here.

Sam and Judy wake up released from their Hunter S. Thompson experience. They don’t seem to be any closer to that empathy they were promised. David is not amused at having to sleep on the couch since his parents took his bed. On his way to work, David stops and picks some yard flowers for Karen. It’s a thoughtful gesture that quickly falls flat when Barry’s twelve long-stemmed roses are delivered just after David walks away. The way she looks at David’s flowers is very sad. Something is breaking here and the cut to credits with Sheena Easton’s “Strut” bringing us home.

During this episode, David is still in the ‘Refusal Of The Call Phase’ of the Hero’s Journey and things are turning sour quickly. Note how his actions within this position, no matter how well-intentioned, actually drive Karen away. I’m reminded of the owl invasion in Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, the more Uncle Vernon does to avoid it, the worse it becomes. Fate comes like fire to Red Oaks. Tune in next week when the Fourth of July, 1985 descends upon New Jersey and things really start heating up.


JB Minton is the author of the upcoming book A Skeleton Key To Twin Peaks. Learn more about his work here. Watch him work on Instagram and check 25YL every Wednesday for the next article in this series.


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