If Love hadn’t already laid claim to the broadest series title imaginable, it could easily have been titled Nice and not lost any of its sardonic edge. “Niceness” plays a central role in Gus and Mickey’s relationship, more so than anything that could be construed as “love.” And in “Closing Title Song,” we see what happens when people stop being nice and start being … well, a different kind of nice.
“I thought that was the benefit of sleeping with a nice guy, that he was nice to you,” Mickey groans to Shauna over their dubiously hygienic mani-pedis. (No lotion, please. Shauna doesn’t like the way it feels.) Mickey’s stuck in low-key-panic mode because she’s not feeling the love, as it were, following her less-than-magical first date with Gus. And she should be, considering her brusque dismissal of his (very nice) invitation to come to his movie-theme-song party and hang out with his friends: “It sounds stupid!” That may be true — Gus and his friends are self-aware enough to realize that this isn’t “the hottest ticket in town” — but combined with her behavior the previous night, Mickey’s dismissal isn’t just less-than-nice. It’s downright mean.
And she knows it, which is why she freaks out after not hearing from Gus after only a few hours. And, frankly, it’s probably why Gus hasn’t texted her. He certainly seems like the sort who would normally send off a barrage of “I had a nice time ;)” post-coitus emails, but Mickey’s behavior before, during, and after sex was not exactly encouraging. Gus is far too nice to actually write her off, though, which means the party invitation technically stands. So Mickey attempts to exploit that loophole with a plan: She’ll show up late, when everyone else is leaving, so that she can sleep over and presumably undo the damage with more sex.
But Mickey isn’t counting on the unexpected intrusion of another sort of niceness — the most potent, insidious form of niceness in existence. I’m talking, of course, about Canadian niceness. (It’s because of their health-care system. It relieves so much stress, they can focus on being pleasant all the time.) Heidi, a Toronto native, is so exuberantly friendly that it puts Gus’s South Dakota-bred politeness to shame, and he seems thrown by the enthusiasm she shows toward him and his party. He invites her to join out of a mixture of pity and panic, with just a dash of curiosity over this gorgeous actress who’s inexplicably interested in him. Well, inexplicable to him: Heidi talks about about how hard it is to meet people in L.A. and how freakin’ nice Gus is, which strongly echoes Mickey’s reasoning for going out with him — only with a bit less despair in the mix.
Though Gus’ own niceness blinds him to Heidi’s very obvious interest, Kevin knows what’s up, and he casts aspersions on Gus’s fraternizing with Witchita’s newest regular cast member. Kevin is, of course, right — he is the black guy who shows up to give white guys perfect advice, after all — but Gus is still treating his friendship with Heidi as platonic when she shows up, boobs out, to his party later that night.
Compare the way Heidi enters a party full of people she doesn’t know to the way Gus entered Shauna’s housewarming in “Party In The Hills.” Gus showed up on time, and thus way too early, because he’s a punctual rule-follower. Heidi, however, is canny enough to know not to show up first to a party where she only knows one person — which means she’s also canny enough to know that showing up late means everyone will have to focus on her when she walks in. And while Gus’s niceness manifested itself in offering to clean off patio furniture, mostly just so he could get out of the way, Heidi immediately makes herself the center of attention by barreling into the Carlito’s fray. (Oops, wrong rhyme scheme.) They’re both “fun at a party,” but Gus operated in survival mode at Shauna’s, while Heidi came to Gus’s with a plan — or a script, if you will — and she is determined to see it through.
In other words, she’s an actress. She has been since she was four years old, and it oozes from every single one of her invisible pores. There’s a performative quality to Heidi’s niceness that betrays a lifetime spent trying to get cast, trying to get people to like her so that they’ll work with her. That’s why, at Gus’s party, she appears to be trying to get “cast” as his romantic partner: She compliments his friends and treats them to Thai food; she shows extreme enthusiasm for his dorky hobby (you just know she’d have all sorts of nice things to say about magic); she lurks in his bedroom at the end of the night so she can catch him alone. And when that last approach works, she gives him the loud, porn-star performance she assumes he wants: “This is witch sex! I’m gonna put a spell on your dick!”
(Let’s pause here for a moment to appreciate what fine work Briga Heelan is doing in Love. She imbues Heidi with a heightened, nearly off-putting strain of niceness. It’s a tricky to make a character both naturally likable and vaguely unsettling, and she’s killing it.)
That final image of Heidi and Gus’s “witch sex” really cements the idea that Heidi is primarily concerned with the approval of others. Gus is clearly thrown by her, um, performance, but she’s giving it anyway, because that’s what she’s been told men appreciate. Mickey feints at the same type of behavior as Heidi, down to showing up late and lurking in Gus’s bedroom, but neither move has the effect she hoped it would. Heidi’s easy rapport with both Gus and his friends — who are less-than-enamored by Mickey — throws Mickey way off her game, and forces her to admit to herself what we already know: She’s just not nice enough for someone like Gus. The irony of it all? She has this realization thanks to Heidi, someone who might actually be too nice for someone like Gus. Or at least the wrong kind of nice.
So Mickey bails, leaving Heidi to cast her dick-spell on Gus while she Facebook stalks her would-be “nice guy.” The sheer number of photos of Gus with his many friends — there are a bunch in his bedroom as well — underlines Mickey’s inability to foster the same sort of relationships as him. She’s unable to make others feel cared for and appreciated. She can’t even convincingly fake it, like Heidi can. Whether it’s real or a put-on, niceness requires valuing the opinions and feelings of others ahead of your own, which is all but impossible to do when you’re busy wrestling your own demons. Niceness is nice and all, but it’s not the cure for what’s ailing Mickey.