Enlightened Recap: Monkey Men

Photo: HBO

Near the end of this episode, Amy is in Tyler’s car, talking about herself again. “Are you looking for something that’s missing?” she asks herself out loud, wondering why she’d gone over to Levi’s house in the middle of the night at the beginning of the episode. She’s trying to explain to Tyler that she rejected his unexpected and awkward late-night advances at Cogentiva the day before partly because she’s still not over her ex. But then, in a pivotal line, she asks, “Why does something always have to be missing?”

Something is technically not present — romantic love — but is it really “missing”? In this episode, Amy challenges herself to stop thinking of voids, to appreciate what does exist, to appreciate it so much that there is no real room for anything else. She had been doing this anyway. What set her temporarily off course was a prescient bad dream about searching for Levi in her mother’s house during a party attended by almost everyone she knows. After the dream, she calls Levi and goes over to his house, she’s “always welcome” there, but all they do is cuddle. Perhaps that’s the end of that. But then the next day, talking to Krista about setting up Dougie with someone, to get Dougie off her back, Krista suggests that it’s Amy who needs to be set up. Amy is miffed. “Don’t you want some love in your life?” Krista asks. “Don’t I have love in my life?” Amy responds. “I don’t know, do you?”

Amy starts thinking about love again, but only vaguely. “Is there any love for me anymore?” she asks herself. “Where would I find it?  Men can be such monkeys. Most of them are so ridiculous … What happens when the thing that used to attract you now repels you? Where do I go from here?”

The focus this week is still on others. Dougie has become the project of the week, but not without Tyler’s help, since Tyler tells Amy that Dougie really needs to get laid, that he “talks a big game” but is lonely like everybody else, and that if she tries to set him up with Harper, the cute blonde from the yoga that never happened the week before, maybe he’ll forgive Amy for being late every day and never doing any work. Amy gets to work getting Harper’s contact information from Krista.

So Amy is still making her per-episode visits to Krista’s office. This is fascinating, since personally I think I would have given up on Krista long ago, especially after she railed against Amy at the end of the baby shower to which Amy was not actually invited to in the fifth episode. Yes, it was insane for Amy to use Krista’s baby shower as a soapbox to promote her appropriately titled and still nonexistent Abbaddon women’s employee group, WAA. But Krista is always teetering on the edge of calling Amy crazy, forsaking Amy to crazy-land, when “crazy” is the laziest thing you can call anyone. It’s a kind of unfeeling thesaurus-grab for a whole host of predicaments that shouldn’t be named but actually defined. But Amy, it goes without saying, is sticking by her people, and with them, and is trying to make things work with the people she’s got. This is noble, so far, and Krista and Amy’s ship righted last week when Amy thanked Krista for being so forthright (“honest”) at the baby shower, which had something to do with why Krista then showed up to the yoga class. 

Once armed with Harper’s extension, Amy approaches Dougie, who seems suddenly very happy, like his whole day, perhaps week, has totally turned around. We did learn at the beginning of the episode that Dougie has been promoted and is now VP of Cogentiva, but this makes him more nervous than happy. In his glass office, he tells Amy that he’s having a thing at a club called Bank and maybe Amy can get Harper to come to that.

Here this is a sort of disconnect for Amy, who feels momentarily specially invited when really she is just the middleman (pimp?) between Harper and Dougie, but also for us, who have been sheltered inside this show for the past seven weeks. The idea of Amy going with Dougie and everybody to a club called Bank sounds kind of awesome. We (we’re going too) are going to have a great time! We deserve it! Nothing exciting has happened to us in weeks! We need a night out. That it’s called Bank is awesome. We will get wasted. It’s like the producers are throwing us a bone, even though Amy is probably not, in the end, all that psyched about going to Bank. Especially when Dougie begins to editorialize about the promise of Harper. “She’s got an insane body,” he says in his ribald way, to which Amy responds, “She seemed nice.” “She’s flexible,” he says.

 The show’s treatment of the Bank scene is consummate: cynical, of course, and gross. There’s this kind of garish rainbow backlighting streaking across the bar of Bank, showcasing the place’s altitudinally out of control display of liquor. This is exactly the type of place that a depressed group of employees never goes and then suddenly goes. Amy has crimped her hair for the occasion and is wearing a cute sparkly dress. This is a place where there are flat-screen TVs broadcasting the action happening on the dance floor. Soon — and we saw this coming, yes? — Dougie is grinding not with Harper, who actually likes him back, and therefore is instantly unappealing, but with Amy. But it’s not just that Harper likes Dougie back that has put him off; it’s the comfort of the co-worker that’s put him on to Amy. Despite the actual level of alienation among Cogentiva employees, suddenly, on the dance floor of Bank, Dougie, his hair oddly blown-out tonight, feels that he has a thing with Amy. Something about a new context, and about the music and the ton of alcohol. Dougie is not unreasonable to think this way, but then he starts fondling Amy. We see it happening on the flat-screen TVs, a light Lynchian moment, and everything is ruined, just like everything is always ruined on this show, but productively.

For now, the Dougie project, despite its gross conclusion, is an effective way of shifting the focus away from the voids and lacks. The distractions, as usual, seem to involve damage control — setting up Dougie, apologizing to Tyler, trying to save Harper from Dougie — and the only reason Amy doesn’t end up sleeping with Levi the night of Bank is because he’s already got a woman coming over. But Amy feels kind of blessed by this: a concrete reason not to stay over at Levi’s, a fixed event to pull her out of the fog, to keep her asking why “something always has to be missing,” because asking it once is not enough.

Enlightened Recap: Monkey Men