“Country Life,” the fourth episode of Family Tree was in a word: boring. Losing all the momentum Family Tree had amassed after last week, the story begins with Tom trying to connect with a distant cousin, Al Chadwick, who lives in California. Tom leaves an awkward message on Al’s voice-mail, all the while his friend, Pete, makes a few jokes and plays a video game on his smart phone. The scene tries to be funny and awkward as Pete tells Tom he has to extract semen from alpaca, but it’s not. It falls flat and feels somewhat forced.
Next, Tom, Bea, their father and mother-in-law all head in Bea’s little car up to visit more Chadwick’s in Derbyshire. This time they’re off to meet Graham and Ronnie Chadwick who are living the country life. While Tom gets played by Ronnie, almost castrating a lamb (one of the unpleasant realities of country life), Tom’s father, Keith, finds a connection with Graham. Keith and Graham are first cousins, and both, as it turns out, love the television show Move Along Please. Of course, this is short lived, as the two find another topic to disagree upon and silence ensues until dinner. There, Tom brandishes the question: what happened between William and Brian Chadwick? The red-headed Graham reveals that William and Brian had different fathers. In a previous episode, we learned that William’s father, Harry, had been apart of a two man horse act. Harry was the rear, and his friend, Sid, was the front. Sid front-ended Harry’s wife and a crimson haired Chadwick was born. The dinner ends with a great line by Monk, but it’s too little too late for “Country Life:” an episode that left me hoping Tom’s apparent trek to California will inject needed life into the story-line.
There are bridge episodes and then there are episodes which go apparently no where. “Country Life” falls in the latter category for me. Sure, there was some important information uncovered, setting up Tom’s likely departure for California. There is nothing for him in England. No girl, no job, no sense of self. But, this could have been done last episode, leaving “Country Life” happily on the cutting room floor.
Digging deeper, one interesting question came out of “Country Life.” Why when we are lost in our own lives do we look afar for answers? Tom sees visiting Al in California as a delightful escape. And of course it would be. Heck, I want to go to California right now. Yet, wherever you go, there you are. Perhaps the process of inner discovery sometimes needs a kick start, different surroundings to awaken you to what you have. How about another cliché: change is as good as a rest. And change is good for the story-line too. Family Tree has been hit and miss, episode by episode. Good –weak, really good – really weak. It’s like a reversal of Star Trek movies (not including the J.J. Abrams reboots). I hope, for the sake of this reviewer, Family Tree continues with that streak, at least for one more episode.