I’ve always said there are a lot of similarities between Aaron Sorkin and Jane Austen, and in this episode he used a classic Austen technique to make a point about relationships and why they work. Or don't work.
Without making any kind of judgement, Sorkin gives us three burgeoning relationships to look at, each conducted in a different way: Tom and Lucy, Matt and Harriet, and Danny and Jordan.
Tom and Lucy represent the pace car in this situation; they are the established norm. Guy likes girl, girl likes guy. Guy asks girl out, girl says yes. This is how we expect relationships to begin. Obviously we’ve seen the set-up that will have Tom trying to take both Lucy and Kim to the same party – the chaotic result will, I think, be caused by Tom not telling Lucy the truth about the situation.
And honesty, or the lack thereof, is at the heart of all these relationships.
Matt and Harriet are not honest. We know they are in love, and yet they seem incapable of expressing this to each other. We discover that, after kissing Harriet in The Christmas Show, Matt acted as if nothing had happened. He can’t be honest with himself, or Harriet, about his feelings for her. Harriet’s reaction to this disappointment was to take Luke to a New Years party, because she is equally incapable of being honest with Matt (or Luke!) about her own feelings.
By the end of the show, Matt is involved with an online bidding war to take Harriet to the party next week, but when Harriet asks him to go with her anyway, he says ‘no’. Neither are capable of articulating their feelings, neither are capable of the honesty needed to make a relationship work. Instead, their emotions are sublimated into bickering and sniping, simply because they can’t be truthful with each other.
At the other end of the scale we have Danny and Jordan. Danny, as we’ve already seen, is all about honesty. He’s all about honesty to the point where he crosses the line of social acceptability – witness the dumbstruck stares that greet him when he confesses to his cocaine addiction in the press conference!
Danny, we understand, marches to the beat of a different drummer. Given the position he’s achieved in such a fiercely competitive and creative field, it’s a given that he’s got a big personality. He’s focused, determined, persistent, and has a font of self belief. We know he won’t tow the line and that he doesn’t conform; he says what he thinks, and he doesn’t care if that bothers people.
In The The Christmas Show we saw Danny fall in love, very hard, in less than a week. That in itself speaks to the intensity of his feelings. Then we saw him tell Jordan how he felt, and what he was going to do about it. And this week he did exactly what he said he was going to do; he came after her. Jordan’s reaction was equally honest; she said ‘no’. Of course, Danny didn’t accept that and kept going until we got to the confrontation at the end of the episode.
I loved this scene because it is so excruciatingly honest. Jordan doesn’t pull her punches, she tells Danny exactly what she feels; he’s embarrassed her, he’s been unprofessional. And, because she’s right, he apologises. She also tells him to stop. She tells him to stop because she’s his boss and between them they have three failed marriages, a DUI, a cocaine addiction, and a child by another man. But these are all things Danny has considered already, because he mentioned most of them in his speech to her during The Christmas Show. He’s considered them and, presumably, discarded them as unimportant. So, when Jordan cites them as reasons why a relationship between them won’t work, he doesn’t accept her reasoning. He refuses to stop his pursuit of her on those grounds, and – more importantly - he refuses to pretend that he will. Even though he knows its not what Jordan wants, or expects, to hear, he still tells her the truth. How she reacts to that, we’ll find out next week.
Honesty is the foundation of every lasting relationship. Danny might have a bull-in-a-china-shop approach, but he and Jordan are unfailingly honest with each other. There’s no misdirection, no saying one thing and feeling another, no hesitation about being blunt with the truth. Matt and Harriet, by contrast, are full of witty repartee but incapable of emotional honesty with themselves or each other. And that’s why their relationship is unworkable.
In the end, I’ll take Danny’s approach over Matt’s. He might be unremittingly honest, but at least he’s honest. And for Jordan, in the world in which she works, honesty is a prized commodity. It's what drew her to Danny initially and, ultimately, it's what’s going to make their relationship work.
Can't wait for next week!
Cross-posted to: mugsy_snoopdog