Not The First
Given Rita's awkwardness in the Pilot, it was hard for me to comprehend that Norman was not first guy Rita ever dated. Lo and behold, there was apparently Bob. A Bob that Norman knew nothing about and, worse yet, that Rita was still sending money to, albeit for the benefit of the a non-existent burrowing yellow-tail owl.
It doesn't take long to see the consequences of the discovery play out. Oliver makes an off-hand comment about Lester's "persistence" Monday morning in the DLO. In addition, Oliver kind of glares at Lester and company while arriving at the office during the opening credits. Apparently being on official business wasn't platonic enough for Oliver---go figure. Movie starts to look different when you put things in order, doesn't it? Even before the offhand comments and glares, though, was the obvious awkwardness that permeated the remainder of Shane and Oliver's dinner, right down to that weird comment about how hot the restaurant can get.
And who could forget Steve? Poor guy---part of me believes he really did love Shane. While I would have preferred Steve have waited the entire time since her departure to send Shane that birthday card (like I wrote it), my heart can't help but go out to him for flying out to Denver, taking her to the nicest restaurant possible, and trying to convince her to come back. I think hearing Steve's name again probably did more to unsettle Oliver than even Lester did. Steve, for all intents and purposes, would be a far more viable threat to him if anyone.
Much like new information about Bob caused Norman significant uneasiness and doubt regarding how well he really knows Rita, so a similar anxiety took hold of Oliver during his dinner with Shane.
Rita's response to Norman's self-assuring statement started the pair on a bit of a downward spiral, much like Oliver's statement that he and Shane were "just friends" derailed their outing, resulting in Shane's mention of Lester and Steve at all. But on a larger scale, the lingering presence of past love interests was a clear and present stumbling block for Norman, Shane and Oliver.
For Norman the fact Rita and Bob had any contact at all seemed to be enough to create distance between he and Rita, especially given her strong reaction to her breakup with Bob, which caused Norman to question in the first place. It didn't matter that Rita tried to reassure Norman that her feelings weren't the same for Bob as they are for Norman. All he saw was the clear and present ex factor for a time.
Dale is a similar stumbling block on Shane's end. She watches Oliver and Dale seem to gel unexpectedly well the following week, post-dinner disaster. The only difference here is that Oliver has failed to do much of anything to reassure Shane that she is the subject of his affections, causing Shane to slowly distance herself to the point of ordering lemon cake, which we'll talk more about very soon.
It's one thing to discover a relationship or an experience isn't the first your significant other has had. It's definitely quite another to be reminded of it with any kind of frequency. This is something Norman, Oliver and Shane all dealt with in this film.
Truth Be Told
Rita and Norman's moment of reconciliation took place as Rita explained how her experience with Bob taught her a valuable lesson about finding, and waiting on, the right oven. Norman appreciated learning he was worth the wait.
By comparison, Shane has consistently demonstrated that Oliver is worth the wait, from resisting Steve in D.C. to her more measured approach to dealing with Oliver in times of calm and crisis as her House Rules check-in so perfectly demonstrates. "I only dance with you," couldn't have been a more clear and revealing statement as to her feelings, unfortunately it's one Oliver's wracked mind couldn't comprehend at the time.
We all have a past, but it certainly shouldn't be the thing that decides, deters or disrupts our future. Though Rita and Norman, and Oliver and Shane, both struggled to walk in this truth for a time, in the end all four had what it took to pick up and move forward.
Pursuing More Parallels,