Sarah Michelle Gellar Considers the Upside of a Dead Twin
Episode 1-01 / Originally Aired 9/13/11
Assuming the identity of my dead twin is something I’ve been wanting to cross off my list of “10 Things to Make Myself More Interesting at Parties” for years now, along with winning the Olympics, getting kidnapped, and mastering close-up hand magic.
So far my twin brother, Dax, has been unwilling to cooperate by dying on his own, though his is definitely a life I would actively kill for. While Dax won the “Existence Jackpot,” I won the consolation Lee Press-On Nails and five-piece tea service. Strapping and masculine, Dax falls ass-backwards into money and flashes credit cards with colors I didn’t even know existed. The bathroom faucet never inadvertently sprays the front of his pants right before an important meeting. His business card is the one always picked out of the jar. His career as a successful hand-model allows him nine months of the year off, during which he helps build houses for Jimmy Carter.
Forget what you hear on Dr. Oz, everyone knows there’s always a “more successful twin.”
On Ringer, Sarah Michelle Gellar gets the unique opportunity to play both the “Marcia” Twin and the “Jan” Twin. First, we are introduced to Gellar as Bridget, a former stripper admitting to all her destructive demons at a local 12-step meeting. I love TV 12-step meetings. First of all, just enough people always show up to form a perfect half-circle within which our protagonist is seated right in the center, sketching in her back story for viewers in the convenient disguise of a “share.” Plus, someone always remembers to bring the refreshments, so our protagonist can later have an even more candid conversation with a trusted sponsor over styrofoam cups and Circus Animals. But the best thing about TV 12-steps is that all the other recovering addicts come direct from central casting, so there aren’t any of those distracting shaky hands, compulsive smokers or people sporting ill-fitting t-shirts that say things like “I’m Not with Stupid Anymore!” or “I Fart on the First Date.” I asked Dax what he thought of this scene in Ringer and he said he had no opinion since he’d only been to one 12-step meeting in his entire life when he thought he might be addicted to sex but discovered he was just really, really good at it.
Anyway, Bridget’s life is pretty much in the shithouse. To make matters worse, she is also the star witness in the upcoming murder trial of a powerful mob boss who wants her dead. Worried that protective custody isn’t enough to keep her safe, Bridget clocks the agent assigned to guard her, snakes his gun, and runs off to New York to make a Step 9 amends with her estranged and decidedly uptown twin sister, Siobhan.
Within minutes of her arrival, Bridget hits the “Dead Twin Tri-Fecta” when the following three events occur in rapid succession: 1.) Siobhan reveals to Bridget that she’s told no one in her life she has a twin 2.) Bridget and Siobhan take a speedboat out to the middle of the ocean where no one else is around, and 3.) Bridget falls asleep and wakes to find her sister has tossed herself into the sea in an apparent suicide, leaving behind only her gigantic wedding ring, an empty pill bottle and a fabulous Park Avenue apartment complete with wall-size self-portrait and a drawer full of Hermès scarves. What’s an alcoholic less-successful twin sister with a failed career in exotic dancing and a bloodthirsty mob boss chasing her to do?
You guessed it! Bridget wraps her hair into a posh, uptight bun and assumes Siobhan’s identity. Well, first she spends thirty seconds radioing for help and doing a little ocean corpse poking, and then she assumes Siobhan’s identity. It was nice of her to at least make the effort before writing off her sibling entirely. I know if I could so easily assume Dax’s life and all the perks that go with it – the pre-paid magazine subscriptions, the stainless steel appliances, the flawless knuckle construction – I’d probably tie a few dead cats around his neck and pitch him into The Atlantic myself.
Thanks to the extensively detailed appointment book Siobhan left behind, Bridget finds it spectacularly simple to become Siobhan, and she smartly observes the number one rule of identity assumption by giving oh-so non-committal answers to questions that could lead to suspicion if answered out of character:
“What do you think?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Have you lost weight?”
“Fries, fruit, or salad?”
“Pork and beans, if you please.”
Of course, Bridget-as-Siobhan has more to deal with than just maintaining consistency with her side orders. There’s an emotionally distant husband (Ioan Gruffudd), a snotty sexpot of a stepdaughter newly banished from boarding school (Zoey Deutch), a sassy martini-drinking best friend (Tara Summers), and said best friend’s husband (Kristoffer Polaha) who Bridget discovers Siobhan was secretly boinking. Toss in a federal agent (Nestor Carbonell) in hot pursuit of his star witness and Bridget’s discovery that her sister was newly pregnant when she disappeared, and suddenly a life of stripping and running from a mob boss sounds like a spa day on Christmas.
Oh, I almost forgot… it seems someone wants to kill Siobhan too. What bad luck for Bridget! If she had just paid more attention in that 12-step meeting, she would have tried harder to just be happier with what she already had. Unfortunately, there’s very little room for “higher powers” on The CW. Nevertheless, Bridget should have kept coming back. It works.
Ringer was smart to quickly race through the rather contrived circumstances that form its initial premise and quickly get to the fun of immersing Bridget into a life neither she nor we have any clue about navigating. And then of course, there was an interesting, if not completely surprising twist in the last few seconds of the episode I’ll withhold for anyone who’s going to catch up on-line. You might see it coming a mile away, but you won’t be able to deny the story possibilities it opens up. And any pilot episode that leaves you wondering what might come next has more than done its job.
Of course, none of this does anything to change the fact that Dax is still alive and I’m still the inferior twin. Things could have turned out differently for me, if only he’d agreed to be my partner on The Amazing Race, but I guess I see his point. What hand model in his right mind would risk pulling a gigantic cement puzzle piece all the way across the Sahara Desert? So, for the time being, I’ll have to live vicariously through Ringer. And every time I flip through a magazine and stumble across a Tag Heuer wristwatch ad, I’ll think of Sarah Michelle Gellar and sigh for what might have been.