Difficult People Recap: The Porn Identity

James Urbaniak as Arthur, Julie Klausner as Julie.
James Urbaniak as Arthur, Julie Klausner as Julie. Photo: Hulu
Difficult People

Difficult People

Blade Stallion Season 2 Episode 4
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Julie and Billy are trying to get work done at a coffee shop that’s been overrun by ironic retro board gamers. Sundry topics come up for discussion in the span of a minute: the lack of “free personal space” in the city; Jared from Subway (“What do you think haunts him more, his old giant jeans or his actions?”); the hotness of men who tend to their personal ablutions in public-library restrooms; Yiddish poetry as career path comma viability of; the notion of a gay version of Gremlins (not discussed: the fact that Gremlins 2: The New Batch already evinces a camp sensibility YES IT DOES TOO FIGHT ME); and how only the thinnest of gossamer veils separates a game of Twister from a “cuddle party.” On this last subject, Julie slaps a dude’s beverage out of his hand … aaaand title card.

Arthur walks into the apartment realizing he forgot his (wait for it) squash equipment (there it is) to find Julie watching porn in bed and getting her Onan on. And on and on. He pauses in the doorway, WASPily awkward, and departs so they can both return to their disparate forms of recreation that demand a good forearm.

Billy sulks in the backseat of his brother’s (Fred Armisen, back again) minivan. We are efficiently reminded that Fred’s family keeps kosher (“We’ve got kasha varnishkes, Hydrox cookies …”) as his daughters get out at a gas station to pee. Billy’s sister-in-law Rachel (played with astringent brio by the great Jackie Hoffman) directs a fusillade of abuse toward Billy’s brother, amid a tossed-off Hasenpfeffer Incorporated joke that many of you goddamn toddlers will not comprehend, so watch this. It’s called cultural literacy. Get some.

The upshot: Billy offers the café to host his sister-in-law’s Yiddish poetry class — and unthinkingly suggests to his brother that he stand up to his wife.

Julie visits Arthur’s office to give him his squash equipment, which he left in the apartment after catching her in flagrante de-dildo. On her way out, she spies an empty office, a.k.a. free personal space. She is intrigued.

At the café, Julie catches Billy up on the post-vibrator bad vibes between her and Arthur. This leads to a blithely frank dialogue about online porn preferences that, were it cut-and-pasted into a script of CSI: Cyber, would require Patricia Arquette to use her Sanctimonious Disgust Voice™. Julie likes stuff that horrifies and offends her when she’s done with it; Billy’s partial to fake gay-audition porn with lines like, “Well, the girl never showed up, but my buddy Trevor’s here, soooo …” Matthew likes cartoon porn, and Nate announces he had a brief porn career himself, under the nom de schtupp Blade Stallion.

Julie and Billy are working in the empty office, figuring out how to avoid running into Arthur, when Julie gets a call from Marilyn. Reluctantly, Julie agrees to talk to a patient of Marilyn’s — a recent college grad who’s looking to break into This Business We Call Show.

Billy is just beginning to settle in for an evening of porn involving cabbies and their fares (Taxicab Cum-sessions? Ass Cab? Taxi Medall-Youngs? These are free, people.) when he is interrupted by his brother, who’s been kicked out by Rachel.

At Julie and Billy’s increasingly well-appointed fake office, the presence of Marilyn’s patient’s kid inspires musings on the state of late night. (“Isn’t it funny how Jimmy Fallon has turned The Tonight Show into a children’s party?”) They convince her to become their unpaid intern, only to begin paying her in show business’ true currency: outsize demands and hurled invective. (“I want MENU OPTIONS, Inez … There’s gonna be proteins, nuts, grains and dried fruits. LEGUMES, INEZ.”)

Julie and Marilyn are at the Museum of Sex, and Marilyn scoffs at the whole notion of marital aids. (“Any idiot knows the only marital aid that really works is keeping an open dialogue with your partner.”) Marilyn’s got a good bit of business to do here where she doesn’t listen to Julie while lecturing her about the importance of listening, and then we’re back to Julie and Arthur in bed.

Julie wants Arthur to understand that there’s a “time and a place for porn, and a time and place for loving, get-to-the-point intercourse with the person who makes omelets for you.” Julie shows Arthur the porn she likes, a “brutal gang-bang video” that sounds like what you’d imagine a Hieronymus Bosch painting sounds like. Arthur shows Julie his staid girlie-magazine collection, which he keeps inside a backgammon set hidden in his sweater drawer. (Yes, this is my favorite joke of this episode.) Unsurprisingly, he’s got a thing for redheads in their thirties with “big naturals.” Julie is disgusted by this arrant normalcy.

Billy and Julie conspire to get Marilyn to intercede between his brother and his wife, which is followed by this week’s Difficult People montage. It’s a sex montage. Technically, it’s a “Julie and Arthur have sex while Billy crashes at the fake office because his brother is freak dancing in his socks at Billy’s apartment” montage. At the conclusion of which, we learn that the fake office in question belongs to official PBS mascot and Bangs Club for Men client Ken Burns.

Things are better between Arthur and Julie, too. They agree that “privacy is good, secrets are bad,” and that they will keep their respective porn lives separate.

Billy gets his brother to admit that he left Rachel because he wanted Billy to think he was cool. “Gary. I am NEVER going to think you’re cool. Never. EVER. So … you can just let that go.” They agree that Gary will come with Billy to Rachel’s Yiddish poetry reading.

Also in attendance: Marilyn, who attempts to talk to Rachel, as soon as she can figure out which one of the women in the assembled crowd she is. (Julie: “She’s the one whose resting face is somewhere between a withering scowl and a suffering grimace.” Marilyn, after a beat: “I’m gonna need you to be a lot more specific.”)

It doesn’t go well, at first. They get into a brief Upper West Side Shouting Match (“EXCUSE me. Excuse ME. EXCUSE me. Excuse ME.”) until Marilyn learns that Gary didn’t even send Rachel flowers for her continuing-ed class graduation. She turns her ire on Gary, who is contrite. She reluctantly agrees: “He stupid, but I’m not gonna do any better, look at me.”

Turns out Inez the Unpaid Intern has already sold her Devil Wears Prada–esque novel. It’s called The Ginger and the Queen. Also turns out, Gary and Rachel owe much of their marital happiness to Blade Stallion’s oeuvre. And to finish things off, Marilyn seizes the Yiddish poetry mic to sing an unaccompanied rendition of “Send in the Clowns.”

Difficult People Recap: The Porn Identity