Friday, June 6, 2014

The Crazy Ones 1x04 "Breakfast Burrito Club" (And The Process of Getting Un-Blocked)

"Breakfast Burrito Club"
Original Airdate: October 17, 2013

In September of 2012, I was suffering from one of the worst things that a writer could possibly suffer from: writer’s block. Usually my dealings with this particular demon have been rather short but I found myself struggling the entire month of September to sit down and write something – anything – that didn’t sound contrived or trite. It’s one of the strangest feelings in the world, writer’s block, because you desperately WANT to write but you find yourself unable to actually formulate thoughts or words when you sit down behind your computer screen. I was stuck in this quicksand-like trap of block and all I kept remembering was the advice that my college professor had given me years ago. When I had explained to him that my story had been going well until I hit a wall when I was writing, he looked at me with a slight smile and said: “There are no walls in writing – only secret passageways.” That quote has always stuck with me and it’s something that I latch onto whenever I encounter writer’s block (which happens infrequently, but is intense when it does strike). Speaking of being blocked, that’s actually the plot of this week’s Crazy Ones re-watch episode “Breakfast Burrito Club.” Simon Roberts may be a genius in many regards, but even the best and the brightest of all of the geniuses get blocked from time to time. This episode finds Simon stalling the creation of a pitch for a breakfast burrito because he’s blocked (and also because he prefers to un-block himself by “living,” which really means “distracting”). And who are we to judge Simon’s process, really? Everyone encounters a block at some point in time and everyone has a sort of process in order to maneuver themselves out of the grip of the block.

Sydney, however, is not a fan of her father’s un-blocking ways. She believes him to be dancing around the problem, trying to distract himself, Zach, Andrew, and Lauren rather than facing the real problem. She brings this notion back up later when she discusses with Andrew how she is from a family of addicts – they shove things down and banish them away rather than face them in the open. Sydney is so type-A in personality that she believes there is one solution to every problem. And while she tries to get everyone on the team to buckle down, her father forces them to loosen up, which causes a bit of a father-daughter conflict throughout the episode that’s resolved in a rather delightful way. Elsewhere in the episode, we learn more about Zach and Lauren’s respective love lives and something pretty shocking happens between Andrew and Sydney. But before we discuss that, let’s recap the plot, shall we?

Sydney is being forced into a vacation by her father and she’s not thrilled about it. She discusses this with Andrew, who admits that he’s never even SEEN her to take a vacation before. While most of us would jump at the chance to go to Hawaii, Sydney grimaces because it means leaving her father in charge of the office and being the perfectionist, borderline obsessive-compulsive woman that she is, Sydney knows that if something isn’t done her way, it’s not done the right way. (I totally get that because it’s how I am, too. This is also why I’m very bad at group projects.) Andrew, meanwhile, is hiding a secret from Sydney, but one that she quickly discovers: he’s back together with “Nancy Cardigan,” a woman named Nancy whom Andrew dates and Sydney dislikes and forces him to wear cardigans (“You open your mouth and I just hear ‘Cardigan, cardigan. I am wearing a cardigan.’”). Whenever he dates her, he becomes a different person – he changes himself in order to be exactly who SHE wants to be, not who he truly is.

As Sydney prepares to leave the office, Lauren approaches Simon, Zach, and Andrew in a panic – the burrito pitch they were supposed to have a week to prepare just got bumped up and they have about twenty-four hours to complete it. That settles it for Sydney: a big client means that she HAS to cancel her vacation (which is actually a lesbian retreat as she comes to realize) and stay to help with the campaign. Simon is insistent on forcing Sydney out of the office and away from work and decides that he, Zach, Andrew, and Lauren can handle the pitch on their own. Sydney begrudgingly leaves for her flight, but never fear because she will return soon enough.

Simon’s process for getting un-blocked during pitch-planning is to draw from real-life experiences. (See: distract himself in hopes that a good idea will just miraculously come to him.) It’s not a strategy that Sydney approves of because she believes him to be wasting precious time, but Zach and Andrew and Lauren approve, so they begin to discuss their lives and relationships while trying to develop a breakfast campaign. Lauren reads one of her (dark) poems, effectively horrifying the group, and Sydney manages to reappear, having delayed her flight just long enough for the group to come up with a stellar pitch. But buckling down isn’t on Simon’s agenda and this is where the father and daughter begin to clash. As we’ll see at the very end of the episode, Simon pushing Sydney out of the door onto her vacation has little to nothing to do with her overbearing and type-A personality. It has nothing to do with the fact that she views creativity differently than he does or that she has a different process than he does. It has everything to do with the fact that he loves her and wants the best for her. Sydney, meanwhile, brushes off Simon’s tactics throughout most of the episode and dismisses them as procrastination before coming to realize that this is just who her father is and how he works. She knows him better than anyone but sometimes I think it’s difficult for her to ACCEPT him and his processes when they differ so vastly from her own.

Simon asks for stories about burritos and Zach – glowing – talks about a girl he’s been dating and her story about a breakfast burrito. After he finishes, he realizes exactly what has happened and the group tails him out of the kitchen to confront him: Zach was GUSHING. And Zach never gushes. The girl he’s dating is actually special and important and he’s kind of enamored with her. So the group pries and Sydney’s frustration mounts, declaring that she has a route that will work best: the creativity binder. Everyone groans at the thought of structured creativity, until Simon re-takes the reins during the pitch-planning. Sydney and Andrew begin to quarrel, you see, over his new-old girlfriend Nancy and how he willingly becomes someone he isn’t (claiming he doesn’t own a television and doesn’t love The Real Housewives of Atlanta) just to be with someone. Once Simon learns about this, he insists that the reason they are all blocked is because of Andrew. His cardigan is a physical representation of this and in order to break free of the block, they need to burn that sweater – not just metaphorically, but physically, so that Andrew will be free and they all will be, too. Against Sydney’s protesting, the group sets fire to the cardigan in a trash can… which then initiates the overhead sprinklers and everyone gets soaked and runs out of the room.

Sydney is even more upset with her father’s procrastination antics as he’s now set them all back. But Simon makes no apologies – this is his process. It’s weird and it’s wacky but it WORKS. So Sydney and Andrew change out of their wet clothes and have a little heart-to-heart about each of their behaviors. When Andrew notices a blazer within Sydney’s suitcase, he’s curious. As it turns out, Sydney’s greatest Hawaii fantasy is that she’ll meet a hot-shot executive and deliver the pitch of her life to him. Andrew rightfully notices how sad this sounds and Sydney counters with the fact that Andrew is whipped by a girl who he has to change everything about himself in order to be with. And Andrew, Sydney asserts, is a sweet guy who deserves to be with someone who accepts and loves him just as he is, without making him change facets about his personality in the process. It’s a genuine, sweet moment because Sydney means what she says – she cares a lot about Andrew and wants him to be happy, which means not changing to please someone. And Andrew cares about Sydney, wanting her to be happy. This means that he wants her to live her life and not be consumed with work.

All of this honesty and talk about feelings and emotions leads Andrew to read the situation as romantic and he kisses Sydney before the woman pulls away, evidently very confused and insistent that they’re “buddies” and she was just trying to be nice. (That scene reads like Jeff and Annie trying to convince Asian Annie that their relationship is platonic.) I will lament the cancellation of The Crazy Ones for a number of reasons, and one of those is definitely that we never got the opportunity to see Andrew/Sydney blossom or progress in a second season. Still, Andrew and Sydney clearly have feelings for each other in this scene and it’s difficult for them to try to navigate those waters, as we will see in later episodes, because they’re SO close to begin with as friends. After the embarrassment of the kiss, Andrew wants to discuss it but Sydney vows to never speak of it again (there is some lovely comparison to how Andrew’s family handles emotion and how Sydney’s family does).

With Sydney and Andrew now in dry clothing, they approach Zach and Lauren who explain that Simon left them a note – he’s disappeared to go try and un-block himself. Sydney, of course, knows exactly where he is: he’s acting as a fry cook at a little diner and the woman explains that before her father got into advertising, he used to work at the diner and goes there whenever he’s stuck on a project. When Sydney approaches him, he admits that he doesn’t have an idea. It’s a rare moment of weakness and vulnerability for Simon Roberts, a man we’ve seen tackle every possible obstacle that befalls him. Sydney has always admired her father for his creativity and his genius, but Simon has always admired his daughter for her loyalty, dedication, and persistence. So he admits to her that perhaps his tactics weren’t the best idea for the team and maybe he shouldn’t have sent her off to a vacation in Hawaii. But the moment that Simon discloses his reasoning is the moment we begin to completely understand that he is a loving father.

You see, Simon looks around the diner at Andrew on the phone with Nancy and Lauren reading a poem about her ex-girlfriend (yes, girlfriend) Charlie, and Zach on a date with his girlfriend and admits that all he wants for Sydney is for her to be happy and that it pains him because she’s the only one among the young team who doesn’t seem to have a personal life. Her work is her life and Simon knows that his daughter deserves much more than to live a lonely life like that. THAT is why he is a wonderful father – not because he’s done everything right and not because he is completely and totally sane and not even because he loves Sydney. No, Simon Roberts is a wonderful father because he wants nothing more in life than to see his daughter happy. And he’ll do whatever it takes to see her that way.

And now, some added bonuses:
  • The “cheat on your breakfast” idea that the gang came up with was actually a pretty good one!
  • James Wolk was a gem throughout the episode. I need him to have his own sitcom now, please.
  • Lauren’s poetry and everyone reacting to it should win this show an Emmy.
  • “Your circle is flawless. Do it again!”
  • “Only insane people and gypsies wear cardigans.”
  • “How can you hate someone you don’t know?” “Don’t know Hitler, don’t like him.”
  • The cardigan-burning scene is one of the best this show has ever done, comedically.
  • “You’re whipped by a girl who hates gluten but likes everything else that sucks.” This may be one of my favorite lines in the entire series.
  • THE KISS. Oh, Andrew/Sydney. I will miss you two crazy kids.
  • “That’s funny because neither of you seem good enough for the other.” James Wolk was adorable in this episode, but MVP goes to Amanda Setton for the delivery of her poetry and pretty much every line she had.
  • “I don’t think we should label her. She’s probably more advanced than us.”
Thanks for reading, everyone! I’m on vacation next Thursday night which means we are on a one-week hiatus. BUT when we return on June 19th, we will be re-watching one of my favorite episodes, “Hugging the Now.” Until then, folks! :)


Post a Comment