Sitcoms aren’t typically interested in online dating. It’s a tricky plotline that risks disrupting a show’s rhythm. After all, who wants to watch characters stare at screens of their own? “I Love You” is the exception. Lady Dynamite’s OkCupid-centric episode is humorous without feeling overbearing or distracting
Maria, a.k.a. BladeHardOrDie12, set up a dating profile that feature no activities she actually enjoys, but a lot of ones she doesn’t, like hiking, speedboating, and rock climbing. In reality, she’s “90 percent slug,” as Dagmar notes, and certainly not a proficient roller-skater. Nevertheless, a wobbly Maria rolls agrees to an “action date” with Chad (Adam Pally).
Maria vows to tell SecretAgentChad4 that she’s doesn’t want to join him at that Tough Mudder in Santa Barbara, but before she can admit that she doesn’t like action sports, Chad says he loves her, and instructs her to say it back into his head-mounted GoPro. She twitches and hesitates before obliging.
Dagmar tells Maria she’s only feeling down on Chad because she doesn’t think she’s worthy of love. Maria regales Dagmar with several increasingly surreal versions of an anecdote in which Chad, angry about his poor performance in a batting cage, threatens everyone from Maria to an adorable dog to adorable talking dogs that found the cure for cancer. “His rage was indiscriminate,” she says. “It was like a veil was lifted and a monster was there.”
Past Maria has a different concern: selling the house she just bought and didn’t really want. With pushy help from real-estate agent Karen Grisham, Maria talks up for potential buyers about how she’s selling the house because she’s moving to Buckingham Palace with her husband.
Soon enough, Maria is hitting it off with one of the potential buyers, Graham (Dean Cain). According to the vision drawer that features all the things she wants in a man, Graham is her perfect match: He sports her dream cologne, wears a shirt she likes, and reads Jack London.
When Graham comes by the house again, Maria hits on him in her own strange way. There’s sexy talk about a low-flow toilet and then she rolls around on her stucco floor. Between this gag and the roller-blading at the top of the episode, Bamford’s physical comedy really shines in “I Love You.”
Graham wants to buy the house, but the deal doesn’t go through. Turns out he has a low credit score … and also doesn’t know what a credit score is. Instead, Maria invites Graham to move in with her. The same move later causes her anxiety, as we see her fully clothed in her shower, screaming into a sponge.
Maria wants to get better at establishing boundaries. That’s why she’s planning to finally break up with Chad over dinner. There’s only one problem: He never shows up, leaving her to sip elaborate non-alcoholic drinks alone all night. It’s worth nothing that they’re non-alcoholic because Maria can’t drink while she’s on her psychiatric medications — yet another moment that proves Lady Dynamite can tackle the mundane ways that mental illness affects Maria’s life, in addition to the moments that commandeer the plot.
Indignant after being stood up, Maria marches over to Chad’s place. She finds his family inside weeping, but no Chad in sight. His relatives recognize her from Chad’s GoPro footage, apparently the only thing — including Chad — that survived a tragic kiln fire. It takes Maria an embarrassingly long time to realize that Chad is dead, and when she does, she makes quite the awkward exit from his house.
“Death: the ultimate boundary,” Maria says, taking us to Duluth in the best voice-over transition yet. She and Susan’s death-obsessed husband, Paul (Mike Fotis), are enjoying each other’s company drawing pictures. If the drawing of him hanging himself is any indication, there’s a good chance Paul is depressed. He isn’t even happy about how the drawing turned out. The rope is too long, he says. “I fucked it up like I fuck up everything.”
Maria encourages him to keep making art as an outlet for his feelings. He does so in secret, however, because Susan forbids him from being creative. She also talks to him like he’s a dim-witted dog.
Susan knows what Paul is up to behind her back, and tells Maria’s mother, who in turn warns Maria to back off Paul. After her parents head to the bedroom to try out some new Cirque du Soleil-inspired sex moves, Susan steps out from behind the fridge — “No one can hear me coming in my new Moon Boots,” — and surprise-serves Maria an invoice for all the time she’s spent drawing with Paul.
Maria holds firm that drawing is important resource for Paul as he grapples with depression, when Susan drops a bleak bomb on her: “Everybody’s depressed, Maria. It’s called being an adult.”
Being an adult means going to the occasional funeral, and Maria attends Chad’s while he’s busy “vapin’ with the man upstairs,” according to the program. It turns out that Chad, who took part in an impossible number of community service groups, died while making pottery for orphans.
To her surprise, Maria gets called up to speak. She praises Chad’s accomplishments before thinking aloud that, had he lived, she may have had babies with him if she weren’t already 45. Maria also says she’s ashamed she couldn’t love Chad back. She was the monster all along.
That inappropriate commentary leads to side-eye from Chad’s widow as she stands up to say her piece. His widow apparently had nothing to worry about, though, because Maria learns from Chad’s colleague that his interest in her wasn’t romantic; it was pure business. He worked for CAA, an agency that recruits sports stars, and he was hoping to sign Maria to a contract.
Maria is officially off the hook from loosening up her boundaries and letting love in. Although her romance-related plotlines are entertaining on their own, the sheer number of them has started to feel exhausting. There are so many platonic relationships in the show that should be satisfying to see fleshed out, including the ones with Maria’s parents, Susan, Bruce, Dagmar, and Larissa. Those scenes are some of the strongest, but so far, they’re few and far between. Cutting back on the long list of men Maria cycles through would allow more room for different types of stories, giving Lady Dynamite the boost it needs to jump from enjoyable to memorable.