Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Crazy Ones 1x07 "Sydney, Australia" (I Barely Knew You)

"Sydney, Australia"
Original Airdate: November 7, 2013

A quite popular saying that I’ve heard often uttered by the people in my life is this: “You never know this side of heaven what impact you’ll have on others.” The reason that this sentence is uttered is for encouragement – it’s a statement that reminds us that our little actions have consequences and often those consequences are good; we may never truly know, in this life, what a smile in the hallway or a text message or a random of act of kindness could do for someone’s life. We could be the literal difference between life and death for someone and there’s a good chance we’ll never really know that. The benefit of this sort of living is that it encourages us to make the most of every opportunity. But we’re human beings, too. We have bad days and ignore people around us. Occasionally we snap or appear standoffish and it’s unconscious. We don’t often recognize the fact that our words and actions have lasting consequences. In “Sydney, Australia,” Sydney Roberts learns this firsthand when she re-acquaints herself with a former co-worker (and her current adoring fan/stalker) Danny Chase, played by the hilarious and talented Josh Groban. Elsewhere in the episode, Simon, Zach, and Andrew attempt to make a pitch to Australia in order to encourage and promote tourism to their country. It doesn’t go very well, but that’s also primarily because Simon hates Australia more than Joey hates sharing food.

Sydney and I are a lot alike – she’s driven, a perfectionist, dedicated and… well, occasionally because of that, she appears a bit standoffish or unapproachable. But Sydney is also kind-hearted, thoughtful, intelligent, and devoted. The problem lies in something that I often noted during my Community reviews: sometimes your greatest strength is often your weakness. Humility can become meekness; attention to detail can become nitpickiness; ego can become pride, etc. Sydney’s driven nature is a benefit to Lewis, Roberts + Roberts. Without Sydney’s level-headed, rational decision-making, her father would run amuck with ideas and wild pitches. He needs her to ground him and she needs him to loosen her up. The problem is that we never know that our greatest strength is also a weakness until we see it reflected in our relationships with other people. When a magazine calls Sydney “aloof and standoffish,” she takes those words to heart and begins to believe that there is something inherently wrong with her. And while Simon attempts to convince her otherwise, Sydney recognizes that her behavior toward Danny Chase could very well be classified as “standoffish.”

Danny and Sydney used to work together at an ad agency years ago, where he wrote jingles. After he got fired, Sydney was the only person to comfort him and tell him that there was more to life than jingle-writing; she inspired him to write from his heart. The writing from Danny’s heart creeps Sydney out a bit (and endlessly amuses Lauren, Zach, and Andrew) when he dedicates a song to her and sends her a basket of goodies after seeing her article in Ad Age. The group warns Sydney that she has a stalker on her hands – Zach and Lauren know firsthand, the former because he’s had stalkers and the latter because she’s been one – and the woman’s first response is not to blow Danny off. She’s not aloof and standoffish, though she may occasionally appear that way. No, Sydney is compassionate and has a heart so she tries to finagle her way out of a potential date with Danny. She doesn’t entirely shut him down though, giving him room to continue entering her life. Sydney, in this moment, has a heart. She could have easily shut Danny down and coldly told him how uninterested she was. But Sydney has had her heart broken before and couldn’t bear to disappoint another person (one of the flaws of her perfectionist nature).

Elsewhere in the episode, Simon reflects on his reasoning for hating Australia with Zach and Andrew. As it turns out, Australia was where Simon was when he hit rock bottom in his drug and alcohol addiction. It’s a place that stirs up a lot of bad memories for him, but he’s encouraged by Sydney to land them as a client. He begrudgingly agrees to his daughter’s demands and decides to pitch a smart, creative ad for the two men in charge of hiring the firm in Australia. After the men decide that the advertising pitch is TOO smart (they want it to be dumbed down for the masses), Simon, Andrew, and Zach embark on a journey to dumb Australia down as much as possible. I thought that the guys’ story together was pretty delightful: it’s clear that both Zach and Andrew idolize Simon to different extents and the fact that they got the opportunity to collaborate on some pretty insane pitches was fantastic.

“Sydney, You’re So Fine” is getting stuck in everyone’s heads at Lewis, Roberts + Roberts and it’s getting stuck in Sydney’s as well. Unfortunately for her, after trying to skillfully dodge Danny by avoiding his phone calls, the man shows up at the advertising agency and asks Sydney to lunch. Remember what I noted before? Sydney isn’t a cruel person, nor is she an aggressive person, but she IS a tightly-wound person. Do you know what happens when you continually pluck at someone who is tightly wound? Inevitably, they snap. And when they snap, they immediately take out all of that aggression and frustration and energy on the first available person. Danny just so happens to be the person that induced Sydney’s frustration and she tells him that she didn’t enjoy his song; in fact, she thinks that he is crazy. They barely knew one another when they worked together and his song? It was creepy. Lauren winces nearby as she watches the exchange. Clearly dejected, Danny departs and Sydney feels remorse for what she’s done. Sydney Roberts spends a lot of the time in the episode wondering if she’s a decent person. I think the fact that she wonders this confirms the fact that she is, indeed, a good person. (Bad people don’t sit around and whether or not they’re good now do they?) Good people have bad days and bad moments and occasionally say bad things, but that doesn’t negate their entire personality. While “Sydney, Australia” is my favorite episode of The Crazy Ones because of its hilarious dialogue and wit, guest star Josh Groban, and delightful music, I also really love that this episode makes us question whether or not Sydney IS a standoffish person.

In a last-ditch effort to save themselves and pitch Australia, Simon begins to rattle off ideas and describe how the country is like no place else in the world… oh, and the three men accidentally begin to sing “Sydney, You’re So Fine.” The Australians love that idea and there’s only one minor problem: they have to get the rights from Danny Chase whose heart was just crushed by Sydney. So the team goes to Danny’s concert that night in order to persuade him to give them the rights and Danny grows cold toward Sydney – he reminds her of what she said to him and how she treated him, even though all HE did was treat her with kindness and try to thank her for the impact she made in his life all those years ago. And so, Danny debuts a new song called “I Barely Knew You” which is a break-up anthem aimed directly at Sydney. (FYI, Josh Groban sounds very much like Josh Groban in that song and I appreciate it a lot.)

Simon confronts Danny after the show and Danny sees through his manipulation – all Simon wants are the rights to use “Sydney, You’re So Fine.” Simon admits to this but then begins to talk about Sydney’s personality and why she acted the way that she did. What I loved so much about The Crazy Ones as a series was that it reminded us that Simon and Sydney were two polar opposites: she was grounded and he was a free spirit; he was a loose cannon and she was tightly wound. But what it always managed to do in its depiction of their father/daughter relationship was remind us how devoted they were to each other. Simon may not have always agreed with his daughter or her actions, but he UNDERSTOOD her. He believed, too, I think that the poor example of fatherhood he showed her directly impacted her personality. She constructed walls to shut people out because she was used to being hurt. And as Simon explains this to Danny, the younger man begins to understand slightly. After a discussion of artistry and how Sydney’s rejection actually helped inspire a better song, Danny agrees to give over the rights.

But there’s still one thing nagging at Sydney, even as the rest of the Lewis, Roberts + Roberts gang celebrates: she’s baffled by the notion that she was a part of the most important moment in someone’s life and to her, she barely remembers it. That moment isn’t even a blip on the radar of HER life and… that’s just such an interesting idea to toy with, is it not? We all make decisions and choices daily and what if the moment you say or do something for another person is a moment that they remember forever, but one which fades into the recesses of your own memory? Sydney’s worried that she’s perceived as calloused because Danny and Ad Age vocalized it. What follows is a beautiful moment of honesty between Simon and Sydney as the former recalls how compassionate and loving he was to her. Much like Sydney didn’t remember her impact on Danny, she also didn’t remember the impact that she had on her father. After a wild night of partying, Simon blacked out and slept on Sydney’s couch. The following morning, Simon awoke to a card and a slice of cake with a candle in it on the table. The card wasn’t judgmental, though Sydney had every right to be upset with her father. Simon remembers that moment vividly because after that point in time, he never drank again. It was Sydney’s compassion that saved him – a moment she doesn’t even vividly remember.

That’s the inherent beauty of our lives, really. Lives are made up of strings of moments and words and actions and our choices shape us, but they also shape other people. A smile or a text message or a random act of kindness that you may forget within six months or a year could be that ONE moment in someone else’s life that they remember forever.

And now, some added bonuses:
  • Josh Groban is flawless in this episode. Did I mention that already? Because he is.
  • “They gave us Naomi Watts.” “They also gave us The Wiggles.”
  • “Aloof and standoffish are synonyms. You don’t need both.”
  • No joke, “Sydney, You’re So Fine” was stuck in my head for a solid month after this episode initially aired.
  • “If I could bitch-slap a country.”
  • “Guys, guys, the important thing to remember here is that it’s mostly not my fault.”
  • “Sydney is like the guy who broke Adele’s heart.”
  • “New Zealand, you’re so full of sheep. Ba ba ba. New Zealand, so much sheep. BAAAAA.”
Thank you all for reading this week’s review. Grab your baseball gear because I’ll be back next week with “Sixteen-Inch Softball”! Until then, folks. :)


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