The Fourth Of July didn’t use to be just another holiday in the United States of America. It once meant something more to us culturally. It was a day where we put aside our political divisions, and some of us even use to put aside our races and our religions, so that we could celebrate our best intentions as a culture. It’s interesting to start using the word culture instead of countries when we discuss our differences as we close out this second decade in the 21st Century. Countries have borders and walls and laws and corruptions that are insurmountable at the individual level. But cultures, are like rivers flowing into oceans, carrying different elements of sediment that synthesizes on the ocean floor and one day will rise again to meet the sunlight as the Earth’s matter churns over eons. Culture is ever-changing and immutable. Countries and classes are rigid and indestructible as mental constructs.
And for Red Oaks in 1985 on July 4th, there is about to be a monumental shift in the plate tectonics of power and opportunity for our friend David Meyer. This episode was directed by Hal Hartley and while there were many story editors, I’m thinking that the heavy writing was done by the incredibly talented Laura Steinel (@lstein4eva on Instagram).
Get On All Floors Like A Cat
Judy is in yoga and she is being touched in a way that her body and spirit have been longing for, touched by another woman. There is a moment between them, a future calling to Judy, beyond those horizonary boundaries she was lamenting in the therapy session during the last episode “MDMA.” She is invited by this yoga instructor to a 4th of July party that will run until the tequila is gone. She commits and while it’s just a cookout, we kind of know it’s much more than that a calendar commitment. Judy is on her own Hero’s Journey that will weave in and out of David’s life, reminding us that our culture is a tapestry of many strands.
The Red Oaks reveal happens in a cut to a black screen.
Red Oaks Gets Ready For The Party
Burgers and dogs and fireworks. Banners and towels and the Sun is just warming up. In a scene reminiscent of Slater lecturing the other stoners perched on the hood of a muscle car in Dazed and Confused, Wheeler lectures David and the valets about the Cannabis power source of the Founding Fathers thoughts and how the original Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. Getty pulls up and says he needs to talk to David.
“Park your little bicycle with Wheezer and walk with me.” —Getty Giving David A Third Chance
Getty calls Skip by name, denoting that perhaps Nash’s statement about the hierarchy of the Club does carry more weight than we previously thought. Of course, there may have been many years where Getty forgot Skip’s name too. Getty just got back from Japan and has some questionable opinions about their business culture. Getty has very specific expectations about how this celebration should go and none of the staff seem to be meeting those expectations very well. David doesn’t really want to listen to Getty berate everyone and asks him what he wants.
“Kabobs, what are we in Beirut? No. no. This is the Fourth of Fucking July. Let’s get some burgers, some hotdogs, potato salad. Things Reagan would eat.” —Getty Dressing Down a Waiter For The Food The Kitchen Staff Prepared For The Fourth Of July Celebration
Getty takes him to the wall of Men’s Tennis Champions and instructs David on the evils of Dr. Stan Feinberg. David asks, “Who’s Stan Feinberg.” Getty replies, “An asshole. Plastic Surgeon. Rarely attends club functions; he’s too good for ’em.” This really pisses Getty off, the fact that Steinberg refuses to even play club politics. It’s the same kind of insult that David fell into during the pilot, not putting the proper level of respect and prominence on the competition within the club, both the official ones like the tournament and the invisible ones that lie behind the secret handshakes of Red Oaks.
Getty wants to train an hour a day, every day with David, while getting G2 on Feinberg’s game from Nash who, as the Club tennis pro, has a bird’s eye view. This is a significant opportunity for David, worth a lot of money and Getty offers up a bonus as an incentive. David again shows his naiveté for rituals of negotiation and reveals what little self-worth he has in his own value by immediately deferring to rank, asking Getty why he isn’t going to Nash who should by all rights be the one Getty trains with since he’s the Club Pro. Getty chose David for a reason and there is no discussion.
“There’s no decision to make here. I’m not asking you. I’m booking you.” —Getty to David
Getty instructs him on how to negotiate. Never let the other guy know how much it means to you. Never mention money; leave those pedestrian details to the lawyers. David proves that given the opportunity, he is going to go after his future. He asks for the thing we know he wants—to live in The City. Getty gives it to him, but it’s still a negotiation. If Getty wins, he’s going to get to live in a studio walk-up in Greenwich Village. Pretty damn good deal and one that would be pivotal to his future as a filmmaker. A big piece of his future may have just fallen into place. Getty departs with a shoulder slap and a compliment, followed by calling David “Coach,” the best compliment David has ever received from Getty. This is the point that David starts to come out of the funk of The Refusal Of The Call to The Hero’s Journey.
Sam and Judy Go To A Barbecue
The look on Gail’s face when she sees Sam is one of the funniest moments of this season. I don’t know how Hal Hartley directed this scene but if he guided her to make that face and that revolted standing back gesture, I would trust any of this man’s comedic directions in any situation. It is telling that Sam actually came to this party, knowing no-one. Personally, I would have trouble accepting this invitation even if given by my wife.
“We can’t stay long. Here, I bought you some tuna salad.” —Sam to Gail
Richard Kind just sets the next scene on fire, like he was Abbott and Costello when he questions another lesbian at the party about her name. The first time I really got the comedy in this scene, I cried until my eyes watered and I still laugh every time I watch it. Sam really is a man who is completely unaware of what’s happening around him and all the jokes are on him even though he’s the one saying them.
Lunch Is Served
The grills are fired up and the members are killing the amazing food coming out of the steam! Karen is painting the faces of the little children and Wheeler has comfortably accepted the mantle of The Party King, warning the chef about the quality of the cocaine. He walks into a supply closet and catches Steve and a waiter in flagrante delicto. Wheeler is rocked and his loyalty to Misty in instant conflict with his desire to do the right thing by Guy Code.
David is facing his own moral dilemma about how to break it to Nash that Getty chose him to train him for the tournament. Nash is obviously upset when he hears the news but ultimately wishes David well.
“It’ll be a cold day in hell when Getty beats Feinberg. Clumsy Sheka foot faults more than my nana farts.” —Nash to David
Nash immediately cashes in on the whole, “owing me a favor,” dynamic by recruiting David to cover his shifts so that he can lead an illegal poker game. When David asks Nash what he should say when people come looking for him, Nash gives probably the greatest excuse delivery in the history of situation comedy. “Tell them I have diarrhea.”
Sam Makes A Friend
Sam meets Ricky, a leather wearing US Veteran who served two tours in Vietnam. They bond immediately over their Military service and both express disgust at a buff young man wearing a sailor cap and US flag short bikini shorts. Sam and Ricky will become fast friends and this relationship will be very important to Sam as Red Oaks unfolds.
“In my day, you showed a little respect for the stars and stripes.” —Sam to Ricky
Karen Can’t Keep Her Eyes Off Barry
The writers and director give us a gift here, to see these stolen glances which normally would fade into the ether. We have an omniscient view into Karen turning away from her juvenile relationship with David as she moves towards something far more mature. Barry waters her spirit with his camera as he mouths, “I see you,” to her. She is uncomfortable with these emotions rushing through her but she is clearly starting to see Barry too.
David is collecting balls on the court when who runs up but Skye Getty, ready for her lesson, even though she hates tennis. This is a big statement of interest. Skye is acting boldly out of character and the results could be explosive. She is constantly testing everyone around her and David is no exception.
“I hate Gone With The Wind too, but I’ll watch it if nothing else is on.” —Skye to David Questioning Her About Hating Tennis
David’s face, as he takes this in, is priceless in looking dumbfounded.
“If you cheat, it will cost you a hand, as in I’ll cut off your hand with a blade made of fine Egyptian steel.” —Nash Laying Out The Rules Of His Poker Game
The poker game kicks off with a toast to independence.
Skye is actually pretty good at tennis, even though she doesn’t like it. One wonders if she stays interested in anything that comes easily to her. Her father made her take lessons when she was little and that also likely has something to do with her feelings about tennis. The song “Strange World (FM Attack Remix)” by Flamingo Drive just puts this moment in a frame of fire for us. Watch these two star-crossed Jersey kids crash into each other from across the net on their Nation’s birthday. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
Is His Name Skip?
Skip overhears the racist banter of two club members walking by his cart. Not only do they let slip that Nash has an illegal poker game but that he is indeed Turkish, not Indian, an inside joke by the writers commenting on the situation of rewriting the character’s origin due to Enis Esmar’s brilliance of creating Nash as a staple tenet of Red Oaks culture. Skip tears away at the speed of 12 Miles Per Hour to warn Getty of Nash’s insolence.
Wheeler barely answers to his new name, lost in his own drama of whether to tell Misty about Steve’s betrayal. How could anyone throw Misty away like this? It’s so offensive to Wheeler that the decision eventually makes itself for him.
Skye loses at tennis more gracefully than her father, but she’s still ultra competitive and any loss stings. David gives her very good advice on how to improve her grip and contact. He lays hands on her to instruct her form but when he does Skye looks back at him, completely disarmed by his nearness, by the skin on skin contact even though it’s only their hands and wrists touching. They are so very close right now. The world shifts and everything stirs for them both at this moment. She breaks the moment by telling him he’s a good teacher and a gentleman, commenting that most guys would try to cop a feel of her at this point, begging the question, “What kind of men has Skye Getty been sharing her time and her bed with?” Well, men like Martin for one example. Again, they are interrupted by Getty, who remarks that he thought Skye hated tennis. She replies, “It’s growing on me.” Who thinks she’s not talking about tennis anymore? and neither is her father? Getty asks where Nash is, and David’s diarrhea excuse is quickly batted away. David finally settles for a half-truth, he doesn’t know where Nash is even though he does know what he’s doing. That wasn’t the question, after all.
“Nobody with a Middle Eastern gut gets diarrhea.” —Getty Refusing David’s Excuse For Nash
Wheeler discusses his Guy Code dilemma with David, who tells him, “Screw the guy code. Lefevre’s a dick.” Wheeler has a point that everyone would then know he’s a snitch and that would affect his Party King persona. David hits a joint here for the first time that we’ve seen. Wheeler is also worried that Misty would quit her job out of pain. Also, Wheeler admits that he’s a coward that doesn’t want to get his ass kicked by Steve.
“Would you want to see Karen every day even though you found out that she’d just fingered some dude?”–Wheeler To David–
Wheeler stands at a crossroads as he says, “Fuck it,” his love for Misty winning out over his fear and his social duty to all guys everywhere. Steve—standing up for all guys everywhere—goes on the offensive, running after Wheeler, tackling him and pushing him into the pool. We find out here that Wheeler can’t swim, which is a problem that finds a solution when Misty pushes Steve aside and rescues Wheeler, even giving him some bonus mouth to mouth resuscitation. Misty tells Steve to call an ambulance, giving Wheeler the opportunity to tell her that Steve is cheating on her. She runs away, furious. Wheeler apologizes but has made his true loyalty very plainly known.
Judy Breaks a Dish
Judy and Gail have an intimate exchange in the kitchen after Judy breaks a dish. Judy is shocked at these feelings coming out of her and runs out of the room to the patio, demanding Sam that they leave. Sam doesn’t want to go, as he’s having a great conversation with his new friend Ricky. He acquiesces by saying, “Alright, I’ll get the salad bowl.” He and Ricky shake hands over their new friendship.
Must Be Why He’s Called, “Timeless”
Karen finds Barry who is drinking on the clock. But he doesn’t believe in clocks. Karen asks Barry about his offer to help her with her modeling portfolio.
“Screw local. You need to be thinking regional.” —Barry To Karen About Her New Modeling Career
They now have a professional relationship with…possibility.
High Card Wins
Nash beats Herb’s Full House with a Royal Flush. It’s his lucky day and he cleared about three grand from this pot. And just as Nash exclaims, “Oh my goodness, I am fucking untouchable today,” the garage door starts rising, revealing Getty and Skip. The game is over. Except that it’s not. Getty is not just teaching lessons to David; he has one for Nash as well. Getty is more offended that he wasn’t invited. Remember that Nash was offended that Getty chose David over him for coaching and that petty act of rebellion is going to have a consequence, but it also reveals a trap for Getty, whose pity for these underlings will be his undoing and his salvation.
Getty sits down at the table after everyone has scrambled away, leaving he and Nash alone in the garage. Getty picks up the deck and offers it to Nash to cut. One card versus one card for the entire pot. High card wins. Nash clearly does not want to do this but is going to take his lumps. Nash pulls a Jack. Getty pulls his card. Queen. “That’s a tough break,” Getty tells him. Nash, bitter now, asks him, “Why don’t you want me to coach you?” Getty turns around amused and tells him he likes him and that, “I just, I like my chances with the kid.” Nash takes this in while Getty turns around and says, “Galexa.” That’s the name of his friends stock if you recall from episode 3 “The Wedding,” the stock which is about to soar through the roof when it’s revealed the pill grows hair all over. This is a gift from Getty to Nash, a gift of pity and a seed of Getty’s own destruction and rebirth.
David and Karen have a moment together on the stairs after their workdays have ended. They agree to go find a place to sit on the fairway and wait for the sun to go down and the fireworks to start.
Misty slaps the shit out of Steve who is incredibly chatting up the girl he was just fingering in the closet, the hubris of the man knowing no boundaries.
Sam is letting off fireworks in the backyard and being scolded by Judy about being too close to the house. He waves her away. After all, the man has been through a war. This is a great scene of blue-collar settling, that Sam and Judy are relegated to watching the Red Oaks fireworks from their backyards like peasants listening to the music playing outside the gates of the castle. Judy is caught by the exposed bikinied body of a passing young girl who carries a sparkler like she is lighting the way to a very different future if only Judy would take a few steps and start following her.
Sitting next to Karen, David smacks mosquitos away as the fireworks ramp up to their climax. Getty tells Faye he is thinking about getting a place in the Hamptons, no doubt spending that Galexa money already. Faye comments that he hates the Hamptons (but we remember that Skye hates tennis too). He comments about that investment being a place he could reconnect with his daughter who feels lost to him.
Cut to Skye in one of the most important scenes of Season One. She simmers in the nakedness she feels inside, a raw fire fueled by that nuclear furnace of a heart is breaking free from the layers of despondence and acrimony, from the numbness that life has dealt her. David has woken something inside her and when their eyes meet, the earth shakes not just from the fireworks. This is a moment of love and lust that breaks free from the boundaries of time and media, from story and narration. This is everyone’s love story right now, yours and mine. And let us rejoice in the smouldering exchange of eyesight these two young lovers pass across the universe at one another, a million little babies conceived as they wrestle with each other’s flesh in the muscle of their minds. Skin on skin. The explosions cast light over the birth of their love.
Happy Fourth of July New Jersey, 1985. David Meyers is back on the path of The Hero’s Journey.
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.