In “I Brought a Petting Goat!”’s opening scene, Walter explains how sex feels to a curious Harry. He likens it to a red comet, followed by a dark abyss, concluding that it’s all about a total erasure of self. Ever since Walter’s last sexual experience with Death Sentence Suzanne, Blunt Talk has had Walter mostly sitting on the sidelines, allowing the various other character’s stories to take center stage. In doing this, Blunt Talk has built up a corral of characters, once Walter was fully formed, and the first season’s entire cast comes together in “I Brought a Petting Goat!”—which is quite an incredible feat.
It doesn’t necessarily take a lot for a show to create a cavalcade of new characters, but to have almost all of an entire season’s worth intersect and interact in one giant story, giving everyone their own plots, without feeling too packed is insane. On the 33rd anniversary of the end of the Falklands War, Walter throws a substantial party at his home. At first it seems to be a somber affair, but then his adult film director/neighbor Ronnie shows up with a petting goat, Moby is DJing and everyone is high on something.
“I Brought a Petting Goat!” is fascinating in how there’s really no actual plot to speak of, but instead Blunt Talk makes another rare television gamble, allowing the ambiance and flow of the moment to feel like it’s dictating the story. We jump from person to person, getting glimpses of new interactions as various characters we’ve met are changing their dynamics with other people, many of which make perfect sense in hindsight. Apparently, since Celia kissed her last week, Shelly has embraced her bisexuality. So when she meets Herschel, Walter’s sex and love addict sponsor, the confusion of what both of them wants sort of makes these two an interesting new couple. When Martin brings another short, blonde woman to the party, also named Rosalie, the original Rosalie almost immediately finds comfort in Dr. Weiss, whose cocaine-induced facial movements steal the show.
Harry finally hooks up with Sydney, the porn actress he almost had sex with on camera, and Brett Spiner’s Phil has sex with Sydney’s mom, his first romance in the current millennium. Sure, some of these new relationships feel like a pairing off of these characters, but it still works. Ronnie ends up intimately dancing with Walter’s son’s teacher Catherine, and Walter’s boss Bob is now dating Emanuel, the guy who brought up Walter’s circumcision on live television.
The only people advancing an old relationship are Jim and Celia, who spend the evening drinking together and sharing intimate secrets. Jim clearly likes Celia, but Celia’s actions are often more friendly towards Jim—trying to help him come out of his shell. Their evening has a very sweet, natural build to Celia drunkenly kissing Jim. It doesn’t seem like a drunken mistake, but a warm moment between two people who clearly care for each other.
But, with literally everyone pairing off—even clowns and John Hogdman—Walter spends the entire night mostly alone. He flows through the party, occasionally taking a bald man selfie, or helping pull a sword out of a sword-swallower’s throat, but never making any truly meaningful interaction with anyone, as he did with Suzanne or Gisele. He takes a nap and dreams of the Falklands War, when he saved Harry’s life. The dream is intense, but it finally shows us why this friendship has remained the most important relationship in both Walter and Harry’s lives. Everyone else has no problem hooking up, drinking and snorting the night away, but Walter can’t avoid the scars of the war that still resonate with him to this day.
Walter has really had two main goals this season: change the world for the better and find love. With only one episode left in the first season, he still hasn’t achieved either. Though he hasn’t changed the world, by bringing together all the many people he’s met this season, he has sort of improved their lives—even if it is for just one night. And while he hasn’t found love for himself quite yet, he has also pushed people who wouldn’t have usually connected together. Walter lives with the self-imposed world on his back, without realizing that he is improving the world around him. While everyone around him is having a great time because of him, he can’t help but focus on the pains of the past. Even when things are going great with everyone in his life, he can’t help but focus on the negative that got them there.
Just as an episode of television in general, “I Bought a Petting Goat!” is a ballsy proposition. Close to two dozen people were given plots, without overwhelming the installment. “I Bought a Petting Goat!” also reconfigures the relationships of almost all of its characters, and continues the trend of Blunt Talk only getting better each week.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.