Looking Recap: If You’re Nasty

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Patrick (left) and Kevin. Photo: John P Johnson/HBO
Looking
Show
Looking
Episode Title
Looking for Glory
Season
2
Episode
16
Editor’s Rating
3/5

This is a comparatively jam-packed episode of Looking with an unusual amount of plot development and lots of nasty talk and insults butting up against the supposed sweetness of Patrick’s newly official relationship with Kevin. And “butting against” is the phrase for the first scene here, where Jonathan Groff and Russell Tovey offer viewers gratuitous and sunlit ass shots as Patrick and Kevin wake up in bed together (the shot of Tovey naked on his stomach looks like it was carefully framed and illuminated to within an inch of its life, which is very uncommon on this visually shadowy show).

So the Looking creators are giving up a little Queer As Folk nudity for our delectation, but of course the butt shots come in between moments when Kevin says that Patrick’s breath smells bad, and Patrick drops a bowl and cup on the floor as he attempts to serve Kevin breakfast in bed. Looking is dedicated, as always, to the awkward moments in life, and particularly the transcendent moments of personal liberation or happiness that get deflated all too quickly by some bad news or by some petty irritation.

“Do you ever wear pants?” Kevin asks Agustín, who is in the kitchen making breakfast in his underwear. “How long are you staying here again?” asks Agustín. It seems like Agustín thinks this relationship is going to implode at some point in the near future, and he is probably right about that. Patrick insists on wearing one of Kevin’s shirts, even though everyone at their office has seen Kevin in this shirt many times. “The whole point of having a boyfriend the same size as you is that you get to double your wardrobe,” Patrick says airily. Kevin insists they need to first let everyone at the office know that he has broken up with Jon and then they need to allow for a “courtesy gap” before announcing their own relationship. Kevin says that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie allowed for a courtesy gap like this. (Even if this is technically true, they still left Jennifer Aniston in the lurch as the cuckolded Debbie Reynolds of the aughts.)

In spite of Kevin’s wishes, Patrick spills all the beans about their relationship during a meeting at the office, and none of his co-workers seem to have had even an inkling about their affair, which is hard to believe. They were secretly having sex, often in the office itself, for a pretty long time, and no one ever had any suspicions? It’s not like either Kevin or Patrick is any good at hiding feelings. Surely it would have been more believable if all the co-workers already knew or at least thought something might have been up. Total ignorance of the affair on their part strains credibility, and this very naturalistic show cannot afford to strain credibility at any point.

Dom has jumped right into buying his chicken restaurant space with Doris’s money, and Agustín helps him out with a water issue after Doris bails to go to an event with her boyfriend, Malik. Agustín is having some fears about sex with Eddie. “Why am I the go-to for ‘having an AIDS meltdown’ friend?” Dom asks, and Agustín instantly says, “Because you’re old,” and when Dom looks offended, Agustín says, “And wise!” Agustín is back to being his old mean self here. “Looks like someone is going to need a new hag,” he says to Dom. “You should try Craigslist. Hags love Craigslist.”

But Agustín’s usual nastiness is nothing compared to what Patrick encounters with Kevin at a conference where they are promoting their new game app. They forgot some clips to hold signs up, so Patrick approaches a guy who is selling an app called Glorified, which lets users see all the nearest glory holes and give them ratings. “Social networking for the orally adventurous!” says the app’s founder, who is in a wheelchair. Patrick is confused by the concept of this app. “Isn’t the whole point not to know who’s on the other side of the glory hole?” he asks. “No, the whole point is to get your dick sucked or suck a dick!” says the founder, evasively. Maybe Patrick struck a nerve, because then the Glorified founder lets loose with a steady stream of insults at Patrick and Kevin and their game app. “You guys are identical, why don’t you just jerk off in the mirror if you think you’re so cute?” is his final barbed remark, at which point Patrick finally escapes.

To make things even worse, Brady and Richie stop by their table because Brady is writing a story on the conference, and so the nastiness continues unabated. Patrick tells them that he is now dating Kevin, and when Patrick tries to explain their app, which deals with gay archetypes fighting each other, Brady comes right out with, “Guess that makes you home-wrecker gay.” The meanness here is finally broken when Kevin pushes Patrick’s ears out and says, “Look at this, we could be brothers,” which is the first really charming moment that Kevin has had in many episodes.

A side note here: The more articulate outrage on social media last week over Tovey’s interview for The Guardian in which he said he was glad that his father didn’t let him go to a theater school because he might have become a “tapdancing freak” was far more dramatic and revealing of deep-seated gay conflicts than anything that has ever been presented on Looking. There were the inevitable “I don’t care what he says, he’s hot!” comments from some gay guys. There were the comments from righteous, non-gender-conforming gay guys and their supporters, who mainly reacted more in pained sorrow than anger. And there was an outpouring of support for Tovey from gay guys who want to be perceived as masculine and want to pass as straight, which is really what Tovey was talking about, and here is where it got really fascinating and pertinent to the show. Has Tovey inadvertently made Kevin so jerky and nearly menacing because he is trying to live up to a stereotyped idea of masculinity? There are no easy answers here, but this masculine/feminine schism should be talked about more often and shouldn’t be ignored. Looking sometimes does deal with this issue with Patrick, but it can afford to go bigger and bolder with it, especially now that Tovey has let this particular genie out of the bottle.

At a dance after the conference, which is a kind of prom for gay dorks, Richie looks at Patrick dancing with Kevin with a very hurt expression on his face, and we later learn that even Richie is capable of the nastiest bitchery. When the four of them go out to eat after the dance, a drunken Brady lets spill that Richie once called Patrick “a 13-year-old girl who’s afraid of her own vagina.” And then when Patrick and Kevin go up to their room, they see they’ve gotten a nasty one-star review for their game app.

Earlier in the episode, Doris had joked with Dom that he was heading straight for his first one-star review on Yelp for his restaurant, so Looking is definitely more than cognizant here of online negativity because this show has been trashed online, often randomly and idiotically, since it premiered its first trailer for its first episode. After all the nastiness he’s endured in this episode, Patrick tells Kevin that he loves him, and he says it’s the first time he’s ever said those words. “Not even to your mum?” Kevin asks. “We don’t say that in my family,” Patrick says. Touched, Kevin says he loves Patrick, too — very sincerely, it would seem. So the show is saying all you need is love? That usually isn’t quite enough, but it will have to do for now.