The following contains spoilers for Somebody Somewhere S1E6, “Life Could Be a Dream” (written by Patricia Breen and directed by Robert Cohen)
Holly’s absence has hung over Somebody Somewhere since the beginning, though I’m not sure how much I’ve mentioned her. In a sense, the series could be said to be about Sam (and others) coming to terms with her sister’s death, but much like in real life, that’s mixed together with a lot of other things.
Sam (Bridget Everett) was floundering even when Holly was alive. She never played her demo tape for her, even though Holly gave her the money for it and Sam knew how much she wanted to hear it. Holly believed in her, but Sam has yet to believe in herself. “Life Could Be a Dream” perhaps sees her starting to do so, as the preceding moments of Somebody Somewhere, show us Sam as she quits her job at the testing center to pursue her own “Sam Plan” instead.
She laughs at the lyrics she’d written in a notebook when she was younger (we don’t know when exactly), before coming to a page marked as a song for Holly. It’s all scribbled out, so we’ll never know what it said, but the symbol is clear enough, both to us and to Sam. It’s unfinished business—unresolved even if one party to it is dead—thus she heads to the graveyard to play her music for her sister.
That doesn’t work, at first because the CD skips, but also because Sam gets distracted by the fact that Holly’s headstone has never been installed. She’s trying to talk to a plastic stick in the ground, and as weird as it feels to talk to a grave under any circumstances, this does not help. And it’s an affront. Holly deserved better than this.
It’s MJ’s fault of course—MJ (Jane Brody) who we learned previously in S1E6 had never even mentioned her deceased daughter to the doctor at the rehab center. She can’t talk about Holly, she tells Sam, but again her problems predate the loss of her child, as it’s clear she’s been hiding at the bottom of a bottle for a long time.
This is how it goes, though. Our problems don’t start with some definite event (as things are often portrayed in stories), they spiral out with tendrils that connect and get lost in indeterminacy. You can’t say why MJ is an alcoholic, or why anyone is, not because there aren’t reasons but because there is not a reason. Life is never that simple.
Behind Tricia’s demeanor, we can also see her pain, and hints of the reasons why she is who she is, however indirectly. S1E6 sees her forcing Charity (Heidi Johanningmeier) out of their business by threatening to tell her husband Coop (Josh Bywater) about the affair with Rick (Danny McCarthy) if she doesn’t agree. But the truly hilarious thing Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison) did came before that. I’m talking about that pillow with profanity on it which I’ll refrain from quoting here. That insult took effort!
The humor of Somebody Somewhere is perhaps subtle, though I can’t help but feel like there’s a better word to describe it I’m not landing on. It might just be that it feels so down to earth, as when Joel (Jeff Hiller) expresses too loudly how he doesn’t like any of his other coworkers, or in the ensuing awkwardness as he sits at a cafeteria table alone, or in his interaction with Michael (Jon Hudson Odom), who apparently broke up with him for “moving too fast” though we have to almost read between the lines to get that. I guess that message Joel left him during the tornado in “Tee-Tee Pa-Pah” wasn’t such a good idea.
Or maybe it was because they don’t belong together, just as it’s good for Sam to quit her job even though she has no immediate prospects, and it’s Monica (Annie Munch) talking about her being there long-term that brings the decision home for her.
This is what Somebody Somewhere is about—trying to get your life together when you’re always already in the middle of it. It’s not easy, as the weight of the past can feel like an anchor, even when what you are is stuck.
But as Fred (Murray Hill) says to Ed (Mike Hagerty), you can only start from where you are.