Looking Recap: Love and Marriage

Photo: HBO/John P Johnson
Episode Title
Looking for Plus-One
Editor’s Rating

“So this is the show … this is what you’re … putting out there?” asks Patrick, looking over some of Agustín’s photos, some of which feature his boyfriend Frank having sex with rent boy CJ. Agustín is planning to exhibit these sex photos in a group art show. The guys are all drinking beers and wrapped up in blankets that look like ponchos, and Dom is seriously high. Miserable and insecure, Agustín immediately lashes out at Patrick for questioning whether or not the photos should be put on display. “You’re not freaked out about your mom meeting Richie?” he asks, and Patrick says that Agustín has promised to stop talking against Richie.

For a split second, Agustín stops talking and looks vulnerable and lost, but then he gets right back into his snide, protective mode. Considering that this show has only three main characters, it might behoove the creators to give Agustín more than a split second of vulnerability in the future. In real life, most of us would cut this guy loose for a while, but they can’t do that with a main character, so we’re stuck with him. And if we’re stuck with him, we need to see more facets of him, because he doesn’t seem to have any redeeming features at this point.

Patrick does a Skype chat with his mom as he gets ready for his sister’s wedding, and she is a blond lady with a slightly snobby voice, and so I had one of those moments where you go, “Wait, is that Julia Duffy?” Because there aren’t many other actresses who have so cornered the market on vocal snobbery. And yes, Patrick’s mother is indeed played by Julia Duffy, who hasn’t changed all that much physically or vocally from her Newhart days. Sometimes casting like this can be used as shorthand, so that our associations with a performer can do most of the heavy lifting without much expository dialogue. Right away, since Patrick’s mother is played by Julia Duffy, we can be fairly certain that she is not going to be all that happy about Patrick bringing Richie to the wedding, especially when we hear her saying on Skype that she is glad that Patrick is bringing his “friend,” an old-fashioned euphemism that is meant to be polite.

Richie looks absolutely adorable all shaved and groomed and nervous in his suit, but he was so nervous that he spilled a little coffee on his shirt, and so Patrick insists on giving him another one. “You say ‘totally’ a lot when you get nervous,” Richie tells Patrick, who answers, “I do?” And Richie sighs, “Totally.” Richie seems to be at the point where he loves Patrick enough to overlook his flaws, but he sometimes seems to be wondering if the “totally” nervous Patrick is really worth putting up with. We might be wondering the same thing as we watch Patrick freak out over a parking ticket and then freak out some more when he can’t get a phone his mom asked for.

“It’s the beginning of a Portuguese culinary revolution!” says Lynn on his cell phone, giving the hard sell for Dom’s one-night-only restaurant opening, which he is paying for. The venue they have chosen needs a lot of work, and Dom starts freaking out just like Patrick, who has reached a panicked height in his car as Richie tries to tie his bow tie. It gets so bad that Richie finally has to ask Patrick to pull over. When he suggests smoking a joint to calm down, Patrick gets all offended, and Richie bows out of the wedding. Similarly, when Dom continues to freak out as they prepare the restaurant for the opening, even Lynn reaches the limit of his patience and he also bows out. This parallel between the two plotlines feels a little too neat.

Patrick goes to the wedding solo, and lo and behold, Kevin and his boyfriend John are there, like bad pennies. In contrast to Richie’s smooth, hopeful face in this episode, Kevin is sporting some serious scruff, and Agustín has let his beard grow to mountain-man length, so it’s tempting to view the characters here through the prism of their facial hair, from good (Richie) to bad (Kevin) to worst (Agustín). Kevin ties Patrick’s tie and shoots him full-on flirty looks, but Patrick and most sensible viewers have fully switched their allegiance to Richie at this point. It’s hard to forget Kevin’s nasty remark in the last episode when Richie said he cut hair and Kevin said, “For a living?”

Agustín tells Frank that he has decided not to show the photos, and he also tells him that he paid CJ to have sex with them, and Frank is very unhappy about all of that. Meanwhile, Patrick’s sister Megan drags John over to Kevin at the reception and chirps, “I’m making John propose to you, mainly because I’ve never been to a gay wedding, and that needs to happen yesterday!” Let me just take a moment here with this line and the blithe way Megan says it. It really hit a nerve in me because I have been hearing clueless variations on it now for a couple of years. Whatever you think of weddings and the institution of marriage, being invited into that institution as a would-be hip way of jazzing it up is not flattering. It’s condescending. We don’t all need to spend thousands of dollars for dry chicken for our aunts and uncles to declare our love in front of everyone we know. If you have always been excluded from the majority, I think it is only right to think long and hard about that exclusion and what it meant and what it still means. There are no easy answers here. But I’d like to suggest that to reject something for good reasons when you have been rejected for bad reasons can be a very satisfying, productive, and enriching thing.

Frank breaks up with Agustín, leaving him in the lurch in a very pretty shot of them as isolated figures in the corner of the frame (this is one of the best shot of all the episodes). During his wedding toast, Patrick’s father remembers Megan dressing Patrick up as the Little Mermaid when they were kids, and Patrick just bravely smiles. He has a conversation with his mother and tells her all about how she wouldn’t have liked Richie. “He’s Mexican,” Patrick says, and his mother replies, “All right.” I love the way that Duffy says that “all right” in classic Duffy snob fashion, in a tone that glides downward as if to say, “I can handle that, I suppose … what else?”

Turns out Duffy’s mom is eating a pot marshmallow rice crispy, and again, this too neatly matches up with Richie offering Patrick a joint. Kevin drunkenly kisses Patrick in the john, and Patrick very sensibly pushes him off. And then Patrick sits with his father, who says, “Forty grand for this. You’re not going to want one of these, are you?” Which, all right, is sort of sweet. So maybe I do want to get married, too. And maybe Patrick does. But maybe not. Let’s not be afraid to stick with maybe not.