There are still some, ahem, kinks to be worked out in their new game, so Kevin has Patrick in the office on a Sunday. Kevin seems genuinely worried that the game is lackluster and keeps wondering if they should postpone their presentation, but Patrick reassures him, and the two of them take the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy some shameless flirting. As luck would have it, the Folsom Street Fair is going on right outside their window, and they just can’t help leaving their work for a moment to take a look and test the waters with each other.
“Are you into all this leather, whip, chain paraphernalia?” Kevin asks, staring at Patrick in a very sexily inappropriate way. Patrick says no, but he offers that he “has a soft spot for the old men who masturbate in the assless chaps.” Patrick has moved the conversation away from overt sexual talk and onto a covertly sexy humanistic plane, and he makes sure to accent this appealing switch with excited and adorable body language, tilting his head and letting himself be looked at by Kevin.
Kevin leans in a bit and asks if Patrick might have a pair of assless chaps in his wardrobe. “Maybe I do and maybe … I … do,” Patrick replies. In this moment of playful hesitation, the creators of Looking finally let Groff unleash his full Jonathan Groff—ness: angelic-faced, slightly naughty, and breathlessly but never sickeningly sweet. The chemistry between Patrick and Kevin (and Groff and Russell Tovey) is off the charts here, and it seems appropriate that the sexiest scene so far on Looking is this teasing, electrically charged conversation between two fully clothed men stealing glances out a window at debauchery down below. The anticipation of sex and love between these two guys is far more erotic than the outright sex scene between Dom and the musical-theater twink in the second episode, and they even manage to be so hot together while repeating the very unsexy and redundant term assless chaps. And let it be said: There is something very fresh and very new about two young and out gay actors playing a scene like this together and striking sparks off each other.
Kevin tells Patrick that he’s been with his boyfriend for two years. The boyfriend lives in Seattle. “You have to find someone who understands what you do,” Kevin says, implying that his boyfriend does not do that for him, whereas Patrick works in the same field and has the same interests and they have enormous chemistry with each other, so … but this train of thought is broken when the boyfriend calls Kevin to say he’s at the airport. He had a job interview in San Francisco and was expecting Kevin to pick him up, but Kevin has forgotten all about that, or misunderstood, and now the boyfriend is angry. Kevin apologetically leaves and Patrick promises to stay and work on the game. Even Patrick’s habitual throat-clearing has become slightly sexy and expectant at this point.
Agustín calls Patrick and tells him to come down to Folsom and hang out. “Patrick, get your ass down here so I can spank it!” says Doris, and that’s an offer not to be refused. They go into a shop to get Patrick some leather, and he has to be coaxed first into wearing a leather vest and then into taking his shirt off underneath it. “You think I should scotch guard it in case I get ejaculated on?” Patrick asks Doris. Dom, who surely knows his way around a spanking booth, is not at Folsom with his friends because he wants to chat with Lynn (Scott Bakula), the florist he met in the steam bath.
Agustín teases Patrick about his infatuation with his boss, who has “those ears you want to pull when you face-fuck him!” They move toward the Rent Boy booth and Agustín re-introduces himself to CJ (T.J. Linnard), who charges $220 an hour to guys who want to look at him naked or fuck him or just want to watch TV while he jerks them off and verbally abuses them. Patrick keeps tugging on his vest to cover himself, and his nervousness is not off-putting here, as it has been in other episodes, but extremely enticing. He’s not trying too hard in this episode, and it turns out that Patrick’s nerves have their charming side when he isn’t putting too much pressure on himself. We don’t get to see much of Folsom, unfortunately, but maybe some images are beyond even HBO, even the potentially delightful image of Doris spanking Patrick.
Lynn listens to Dom outline an idea for his own restaurant. “So, this isn’t a date?” Lynn asks, and Dom gets uncomfortable, but then Lynn reassures him and says, “I was just messing with you.” Bakula plays this scene very close to the vest, so that it’s hard to tell if Lynn is genuinely hurt when Dom just wants to talk business, and this is a sharp choice on his part. A gay man of Lynn’s generation would be a long-practiced expert at protecting himself by hiding his true feelings whenever he felt it was necessary.
CJ feeds some bratwurst to vegetarian Agustín, who offers to pay his fee in order to work with him on a vague artistic project. The unaccustomed meat gives Agustín the runs, and there are long lines for the Porta Potties, so Patrick and his crew have to run to his office. The set-up here is obvious: We know that Kevin is going to come back at some point and catch Patrick and his leather-clad friends at the office. And on many other shows, Kevin would come back at the worst possible time, which is when Agustín is calling Patrick out for flirting with Kevin, who is his boss and also unavailable for now. But Looking doesn’t play that game. Kevin does come back, as we expect him to, and it’s slightly awkward for everyone, but not too much so. Sometimes in life, disaster is averted. That’s not the most dramatic option, but it’s refreshing to see that reflected on this show, which is never afraid to go down the road that feels like life and not like a TV show.
“Can we get fried chicken?” Kevin asks Patrick, as they keep working on their game. “I’m not allowed it,” he says. “John refuses flat-out.” He then admits that he isn’t allowed any food that is fried (which is hell for an Englishman!). Kevin is sending Patrick all the signals that he wants out of his relationship, but Patrick doesn’t take that bait. He leaves and meets his friends out at a bar and encounters Richie again. He bravely goes up to Richie and talks to him, and he doesn’t try too hard and he doesn’t apologize too hard; he is very open and humble and sincere. Richie responds to that, and they dance together. It’s not as if his thing for Kevin is going away any time soon, but Patrick makes the smart decision for now. And this makes him more likable than he has ever been before and the true protagonist of this careful, shy, and likable show.