Well, that was awkwaaaard-lito’s way.
The compelling thing about the introduction of Heidi into Gus and Mickey’s dynamic is that she isn’t necessarily presented as a better alternative to Mickey. Sure, Mickey certainly sees her that way: A taller, boobier, nicer option for the man who suddenly can’t seem to look her in the eye anymore. But as we see during Gus and Heidi’s morning-after interaction and mid-day blow-job, he’s no more comfortable with Heidi than he is with Mickey.
This is the part of Love that could have gone seriously off the rails, with two beautiful but damaged women throwing themselves at a guy who might not deserve them. (Your mileage may vary, but I’m strongly of the opinion that Gus is not meant to be the catch Mickey and Heidi see him as.) That’s a story that doesn’t need to be told for the umpteenth time. But Love is really digging into what happens when people try to force relationships into existence, the way cultural ideas of romance warp our perceptions of what it means to fall in love with someone. Gus and Mickey don’t belong together, nor do Gus and Heidi, but both women are determined to cram Gus into the not-Gus-shaped hole in their lives. Sure, he can be a twerp, but his position in “The Table Room” is not an enviable one, and he stands to lose a lot more than a potential mate after the events of the last 48 hours.
However, that shouldn’t distract us from the fact that Mickey straight-up loses it in this episode. Her crazy is getting all over everyone in her life, including poor Bertie. (Honestly, Mickey, you can torment that dweeb Gus all you want, but girl, you do not deserve Bertie and her fruit-of-the-forest pies.) As far as I can tell, Mickey is still sober at this point, but that hasn’t kept her from bingeing — this time on Gus, or at least her idea of Gus. She spends the entire night looking at his Facebook photos and watching him deliver a wedding toast that underlines the very idea Love has been upending: “People really are meant to for each other, and it is possible to find true love.”
That may very well be true for some people, but it’s almost certainly not true for Gus and Mickey. At this point, Mickey’s attraction to him is based primarily in loneliness, panic, and an nascent desire to be “fixed,” even though she’s still coming to terms with the ways in which she’s broken. This manifests itself in obsessive behavior that’s apparently not new: When Mickey calls Shauna at 4 a.m. to fret about messing things up at Gus’ party, an understandably unsympathetic Shauna tells her, “This sounds a lot like the shit you did with Leo.”
If that’s indeed true — Mickey swears it’s not, but she’s not exactly a reliable witness here — pity poor Leo. Mickey approaches her mission to rekindle the “magic” between her and Gus with the aura of one possessed, and ropes Bertie into a “spontaneous” studio tour at Mar Vista, where Gus works. Although Bertie initially buys into Mickey’s illusion of a “friends day,” the façade drops once it’s revealed they’re visiting the Witchita set. It’s sort of heartbreaking to watch Bertie realize the degree to which Mickey has been manipulating her under the guise of friendship … but it’s also rousing to watch Bertie tell off her would-be friend, then set off in search of some rom-com-centric merchandise. Bertie may be lonely at times, but she’s not co-dependent. She’s able to extract herself from that toxic partnership with Mickey — which leaves her open for what seems like a much healthier relationship with Gus’s friend/ham critic Randy. (Well, emotionally healthy: The pair’s fast-food binge after Gus’s party likely did some arterial damage.)
But Bertie’s day isn’t the only one ruined by Mickey’s antics. Despite his awkward morning with Heidi, Gus is having a pretty great day at work before Mickey shows up, even if he’s overestimating his own success just a tad. See, Wyatt pitched an idea from Gus’s spec script that Susan digs, which means she has to buy Gus’s script — something she doesn’t relish, and which also means one less script for the regular Witchita writers. It’s a neat little bureaucratic twist that undercuts Gus’s swaggering pride; he fancies himself on the writer track, but his spec was apparently garbage — garbage with four-inch margins! — and Susan is only buying the concept to cover her ass. Gus is too naïve to realize that, though, so he’s flying high when he stumbles on Mickey waiting for him in the schoolroom trailer with Arya. (Who was apparently available for this scene, but not the table-read scene later on. Child actors, right?)
The Mickey whom Gus encounters in the trailer isn’t the Mickey he’s used to seeing. She’s weirdly manic and overly friendly, glomming onto Gus and physically insinuating their relationship in front of Arya. (“Are you guys a couple?” she asks. “We’re a … coupla somethings!” is the best Gus can manage.) We can sort of sympathize with Mickey’s behavior, given the emotional spiral we’ve seen her through, but to Gus, she’s just acting, well, crazy.
This is the point at which Gus needs to pull a Bertie and shut it down with Mickey. His feeble insistence that she shouldn’t be there is no match for a Mickey on a mission, however, and he leaves the door open for her to humiliate him on one of the most important days of his professional career. (Or, really, it could be another regular day and Susan and the writers are just humoring him, but Gus doesn’t know that.)
Mickey and Gus’ screaming fight in front of the Witchita cast and crew is mortifying for all involved, including us viewers. The barbs they throw at each other are even more pointed because we know the insecurities and self-delusion behind them: Mickey is upset that Gus is being “mean” to her, and accuses him of being fake, whereas she’s “not pretending to be anything.” (Oh, Mickey …) And Gus is upset Mickey isn’t the “cool girl” he thought she was, that she turned clingy like every other girl. (Oh, Gus …) The real K.O. comes when Gus lets the last vestiges of his niceness fall away and delivers the ultimate verbal blow: “Just because you’re okay with fucking up your life doesn’t mean you can fuck up mine.”
Mickey’s still too incensed to let that comment register as anything more than Gus being “mean,” but it really gets to the heart of what’s keeping their relationship from clicking. Both have their own shit to handle, and having one another in their lives prevents them from handling that shit. The disastrous intersection of his work and romantic lives — and Susan’s stern reprimand — is enough to drive this point home for Gus, who takes his first definitive step to extract himself from Mickey’s chaotic orbit.
If this were the season finale, that closing image of Gus deleting Mickey’s number would be totally in line with the story Love has been telling — the story of a romance that was never meant to be. But it would also leave the blame for their implosion too squarely on Mickey’s shoulders, and undermine the work this series has done to show they’re both flawed people. Mickey’s demons are a lot closer to the surface than Gus’s, and the events of “The Table Read” capitalize on that fact. But Gus is not just the victim of a cool girl gone crazy. He bought into the false notion of their “opposites attract” story as much as she did. With one episode left, it seems clear that neither Mickey nor Gus is capable of directing that story toward a happy ending on their own. Will Love find a way?