If nothing else, “Andy” successfully manages to use a pair of storytelling devices that rarely come off well onscreen: Texting and Andy Dick.
I kid, sort of, but if you had told me going into Love that Andy Dick would play a part in some of the show’s best scenes, well, I’d wonder if you’d just ingested some bad sassafras. And while Love has consistently used texting to strong effect — something a lot of TV shows and movies have trouble doing — the medium plays a central role in the narrative of this episode. The fact that “Andy” uses both texting and Andy Dick in a way that feels surprisingly truthful and modern must be recognized and celebrated.
Here’s the thing about texting: It applies a certain level of remove to our social interactions, allowing far more emotional distance and misinterpretation than face-to-face or phone interactions do. It gives people a chance to make easy lies, blow others off, and pretend a message was never received — all ideal for a narrative that explores miscommunication, which makes it a perfect device for “Andy.”
Gus and Mickey make plans for their first date over the phone, and despite Mickey’s insistence on keeping things very non-definitive in terms of time and label — it’s “a midnight-ish hang” — it’s a solid enough plan that Gus approaches the next day with newfound confidence. (That is, he wears contacts and jogs before work.) But as the day progresses, and the date becomes less and less of a reality, Gus and Mickey’s texts exacerbate the problem through a combination of linguistic vagaries and technical snafus. Texting is the medium of the non-committal, and Gus and Mickey’s tenuous relationship is at a point where they both need to commit, at least to the idea of it. Gus is certainly all-in, preening around the Witchita set in his “Confident Gus” guise, but Mickey is struggling with the idea of a new relationship adventure. And so, she backslides into a much different type of adventure with Andy, one that threatens to tank her relationship with Gus for good.
Blame Dr. Greg for shaking Mickey’s confidence with his too-on-the-nose assessment of her failings as a potential mate. Mickey probably should have seen this coming when she unloaded her real personal issues with a “fake” call into Heart Work (as the 48-year-old, never-married “Mindy”), but we can chalk that bad decision up to a bit of momentary raw nerves. Of course, just like the last time he unloaded on Mickey, Dr. Greg is sort of right. Mickey does need to address her, ahem, “impulse-control issues” before she can enter a new relationship. The fact that she knows that, deep down, is why she’s so nervous about the date.
Cue the backpedaling. Mickey calls Gus to wriggle out of their plans, but when he asks if anything’s wrong, she clams up and hangs up before bursting into tears about the implications of his concern. It’s too much for a phone call, too much at this delicate stage of a relationship, and so they retreat behind the veil of texting, where things quickly go awry thanks to the involvement of a couple of meddlers.
While props must be given to Witchita teen cast member Jackson for breaking the ice with a well-timed “I’m hard af” sent to Mickey from Gus’ phone, Andy Dick’s eponymous character is the chaos-agent who really sends things ass-up. Okay, some credit also goes to Mickey’s friend “Doobie” (played by Stephen “tWitch” Boss, of Magic Mike XXL and So You Think You Can Dance fame), who invites her out to a bar with him, Shauna and Len from “Party In The Hills,” and Dick’s manic interloper. Andy ends up glomming on to Mickey (“You gorgeous Nazi princess”), drawing her into an ill-advised trip through the reception-free tunnels of the Los Angeles subway system.
Gus can barely stave off the panic when Mickey disappears from his text window — he even swaps his contacts out for his usual glasses and returns his cool Indiana Jones jacket to wardrobe, losing his two “Confident Gus” signifiers. But while he is spiraling (“haha i don’t blame u for ignoring me”), Mickey is riding the subway with the living, screaming embodiment of Dr. Greg’s earlier rant.
The casting of Dick in this role is pretty inspired, as Andy the character draws on well-known aspects of Dick’s life, particularly his very public struggles with sobriety. The Andy we see terrorizing the food truck outside Bar 323 and yelling at subway riders is very much in the vein of the typical “Andy Dick” character: Loud, abrasive, unhinged. But on the flip side, Andy and Mickey’s comedown from their high, in which they bemoan their bad choices and the difficulty of sobriety, is also informed by Dick’s real-life struggles with “impulse-control issues.” This is a really tricky line to walk without coming off maudlin or overly self-aware, but Jacobs and Dick have great chemistry here, and Dick in particular does spectacular work keeping his character grounded. As with Mickey, we hope that Andy gets it together after this latest adventure, but it’s far from certain that either of them will — and Andy seems to recognize that reality.
After emerging from the subway tunnel and receiving Gus’ barrage of panic-texts, Mickey attempts to maintain the text barrier with a “u up?” Worn down from a long night shoot, and perhaps a little emboldened by the interest paid to him by Witchita guest actress Heidi (Briga Heelan), Gus mans up and calls Mickey, forcing some real communication. Or, if not quite that, at least a solid plan to set a proper date at a proper time. (4 p.m., why not?) Texting is not the best medium for these two; Gus is too paranoid, Mickey is too gun-shy, and texting too easily enables both tendencies.
Despite the high volume at which the character Andy operates, “Andy” the episode is wrestling with some fairly nuanced ideas about how we communicate with others and lie to ourselves. This episode is probably the most tonally accomplished of the season’s 10 episodes, and while a lot of that comes from Dave King’s script, the decision to have director Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas) helm “Andy” is another big component of its success. A key figure in the so-called “mumblecore” movement, Swanberg has a way with framing stories that are not only about how people communicate with each other, but the unstated reasons why they communicate that way, which plays nicely into the themes we’re dealing with here (and, really, in Love as a whole). Swanberg also lends some nice visual flourishes to an episode that plays like a short film in a lot of ways: The way Dr. Greg’s face looms in the glass in front of Mickey as he berates her; the way Gus sheds his “Confident Gus” signifiers once Mickey goes underground; the visual joke of having two actors dressed as Cinderella and Prince Charming in the background while Gus reassures Heidi that she’s not getting written off the show.
Speaking of Heidi: Pay attention to her. One of the great things about Love is how intentional everything feels. If the introduction of another pretty blonde whom Gus gets to “rescue” feels a little pointed, well, there’s a reason for that. Confident Gus may just live to strut another day.