Sheila reaches a turning point in “Let’s Get This Party Started”, as Danny proves himself more useless than ever.
This recap of Physical season 1, episode 4, “Let’s Get This Party Started”, contains spoilers.
The only thing consistent about addictions and disorders is inconsistency. The bad times don’t last; they feel all-encompassing and inescapable when they’re happening, but eventually, they give way to moments of hope. Those, though, don’t last long either. You wake up deciding each day will be different, better, and for one reason or another — let’s say your high husband brings a beach party to the home where your daughter is sleeping — you’re taking two steps backward, past the one you thought was progress. Physical episode 4, “Let’s Get This Party Started”, emulates that up-and-down rhythm, that feeling of dominoes being stacked in a neat, winding line, and a painted fingernail always flicking them into a collapsing cascade.
But it ends, crucially, with a turning point. If the first three episodes of Apple TV+’s dramedy were about establishing why Sheila is so drawn to the idea of aerobics and her thus-far imagined success and authority in the field, this one is about her realizing that she’s ready to make her fantasy real. We’ve already seen in flashforward snippets that she accomplishes this, but the idealized version of her we see in those sequences never quite matched the put-upon housewife whose idiot husband can’t make his own coffee and whose frenemy instructor is ripping her off. In the closing moments of “Let’s Get This Party Started”, we see a more driven and ruthless version of Sheila who we can believe will build an aerobics empire — the question, really, is what and whom she builds it atop of.
There are glimmers of Sheila’s emancipation in the first few moments of Physical episode 4. The previous episode ended with her having left in the night, leaving Danny alone, and she seems to be getting more comfortable with that idea. She leaves Danny to it in the morning to go and coach Greta, who isn’t exactly upbeat about the whole thing. It’s interesting that while Sheila recognizes her own self-loathing psychoses in Greta, she doesn’t sympathize with her. In fact, she’s as disgusted by Greta as her internal monologue reveals she is by herself. In response to Greta flaking on the session, she steals one of Ernie’s expensive high-end video cameras, assuming he won’t notice, and happily accepts his invite to the grunion run at the Shore Club in order for her and Danny to drum up local support for his campaign. I’m not sure that “Let’s Get This Party Started” qualifies as a villain origin story, but it isn’t as far away from that as you might think.
Danny, meanwhile, believes that Jerry Goldman, a sexist, womanizing hippie and Danny’s new campaign manager, will be the secret to his campaign’s success without him having to press flesh at the Shore Club. Jerry has designs on pressing flesh of another kind, which he presumes will be the lynchpin of the campaign — essentially, duping women into getting their husbands to pledge support. “The hair of the p***y can pull a freight train,” explains Jerry, in a ghastly but funny line that can’t help but make one happy that Danny doesn’t actually have the savings to pay him.
Thus, while Danny and Jerry cavort at the beach, getting high and chilling with local girls whom they eventually invite back to Danny’s house, Sheila does some actual campaigning at the Shore Club, where both she and Ernie realize she’s very good at it. Impressed, he offers to match whatever she raises, which turns out to be a couple grand — not bad for a night’s work. It’s a moment of personal success for her, not just financial success for Danny, but it’s undermined when she returns home and finds all the random women in her house. It was sad to see how easily Danny manipulated and charmed her, feeding her all the compliments that she never pays herself in her internal monologue, and his offer to tidy up his own mess was the least he could do. Of course, it amounted to nothing, since the next morning he’s already tapping a spoon against his coffee mug, nagging for a refill.
Sheila, understandably, has enough. And when she has enough she binges. She takes bags full of fast food to a motel room and begins to strip down for her usual binge and purge routine, but she catches a glimpse of herself in the reflection of the switched-off television, which gives her pause. Here’s that turning point of Physical season 1, episode 4, the one I mentioned earlier. Sheila doesn’t eat that junk food. She doesn’t puke it all back up in the bathroom. Instead, she decides that she’s ready — to turn a corner, to embrace who she really can be. And, of course, to make a fortune.