Casual Recap: Am I Not Likable?

Michaela Watkins as Valerie. Hulu
Episode Title
Trivial Pursuit
Editor’s Rating

In "Trivial Pursuit," no one is above playing games to go after what they want. Valerie uses Instagram to get herself invited to a dinner party, while Alex tries to prove his chops as a homeschool teacher by taking Laura on a field trip to bar trivia night.

The episode open with Alex making waffles and playing Cindy Lauper's "All Through the Night," so we know he's getting serious. He even calls Laura out on her unwarranted angst, incidentally addressing the reason characters on Casual are often so unlikable: She is straight, white, rich, and thankless. He then takes this opportunity to selfishly introduce his own lesson plan, despite the fact that Valerie did not approve the new curriculum. It begins with "Mid-American Post-Punk" before meandering to "Bow Hunting."

Valerie is grappling with problems of her own. A giant couch was left in her office's hallway, forcing her to climb over it whenever she goes to bathroom. The situation is an absurd one, reminiscent of the low ceilings in Being John Malkovich. Moreover, she's bothered by the thought that she doesn't have friends, which prompts Leia to make her an Instagram account. Insisting that someone named "Karen Dennis" is her oldest friend, she follows her on Instagram.   

Meanwhile, Alex's homeschooling goes exactly as expected: Laura distracts herself with her phone, already resigned to working some dystopian job in "quality control at the sex robot factory." Alex receives an ominous piece of mail regarding Snooger but doesn't open it, avoiding responsibility at all costs.

It turns out that Karen Dennis exists, and she follows Valerie back. Thrilled, Valerie takes this as a sign of interest, and calls her immediately. What follows is a strained and uncomfortable conversation that ends with a pity-invite to drinks. Valerie arrives early and waits in her car, staring out her window while listening to "Time After Time" and indulging her loneliness. Halfway through her martini at the bar, she checks Instagram and realizes she isn't early — the dinner party is happening behind her back.

At the house, Leon steps in as the show's only functional adult and forces Alex to confront his problems with Snooger. Alex has never really seemed to care about the compant, which is why it's hard to believe his shocked when he finds out they're "breaking up" with him. For the final lesson of the day, the three of them head to a bar, where Alex quickly forgets that Laura is only 16. Probably because of her endless supply of caustic one-liners.  

An anxious Valerie makes her way over to the party, but seeing the whole gang together makes her feel more isolated than ever. Once Drew shows up, Valerie recognizes how out of place she truly is, but it's too late to back out now. Instead, she just keeps talking about her hair while downing martinis.

At trivia night, Alex disapproves of the younger crowd and romanticizes the old days, which apparently consisted of bearded men and shuffleboard. "Sorry their irony is ruining your irony," Laura quips, right on cue. Luckily, Leon comes to the rescue with beer and trivia answers. This is the first time we find out more about Leon's life story, allowing the character to finally gain some depth. With that, he's no longer the show's only moralistic character — he's even willing to ditch trivia if it means seeing the inside of a dorm room.  

Valerie's party crashing gets infinitely worse when she challenges Diane, the new-and-improved Valerie stand-in who also happens to sponsor an orphan in Cambodia. After Diane strikes back by reminding Valerie (and the rest of the table) of her parenting mistakes, she slinks back to the bar, alone and miserable, only to be joined by Drew. "Am I not likable?" she asks. Good on her for this moment of self-reflection, but looking for validation from your cheating ex will never end well. He lays out all her faults without holding back. They're finally able to laugh at his bad Jodie Foster impression, humanizing Valerie and giving us hope she'll one day find a way to be happy.  

Still stuck at the bar, Laura gives up on trivia, but Alex refuses to go home. Laura was willing to embrace homeschool when it meant having class only two days a week, but it's clear that Alex is using her education to avoid his Snooger problems. Laura speaks candidly, acting more as an adult than as a kid. When they return home, we witness this role reversal yet again. Laura finds Valerie asleep in her clothes, and in a caring, almost maternal way, she closes her laptop. Valerie looks to Laura for comfort, asking if she's replaceable, but her daughter assures her that nothing has changed.

We end with Alex and Laura once again at breakfast. He apologizes for the bar night and agrees to stick to the core curriculum. But instead of resuming class, Laura has a new idea: She wants to join a co-op with other kids her age. Surrounded by dysfunctional adults, Laura makes a mature, rational choice for normalcy. This is healthy for her, but it also means that Alex will finally have to face those Snooger contracts and make a decision about his shares in the company.

Valerie finally tackles the hallway couch by … well, attacking it. Mid-demolition, she gets distracted when she finally meets Jennifer, who almost magically pops up behind the couch and apologizes for it. More important, she encourages Valerie to speak honestly. After feeling so alienated at dinner, Valerie is relieved she is able to be unrelentingly open. Far from being taken aback, Jennifer offers to treat her to lunch. In that moment, Valerie sees that she hasn't lost her old friends — she's outgrown them. That couch is no longer an obstacle in her path, but a stepping stone.