Well, how about that? Turns out that having Mickey and Gus wander around aimlessly together is the best thing Love can do for itself. Maybe this is Netflix’s secret weapon — much like Master of None’s terrific episode “Nashville,” Love’s “A Day” creates a fully realized portrait of what it feels like to start a relationship. It’s exciting and sexy; it’s terrifying; it’s exciting that it is so terrifying and it’s terrifying how sexy it is. As emotionally disengaged as I felt from the first three episodes of this season, I’m starting to remember what made Love so good in season one. But maybe that’s just the new-romance glow. Maybe it’s a trick of the light.
Gus and Mickey wake up in bed together and have sex, followed by the grand millennial tradition of postcoital phone-checking. Gus asks Mickey for her wifi password and she puts it in for him. Mickey and Gus want to spend the day together, but Mickey says she has to go to a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting, so she lends Gus a T-shirt and invites him to wait for her outside the meeting. Waiting for someone for a long period of time so you can hang out with them, by the way, is the ultimate early-stage-relationship infatuation move.
Mickey gets the name and phone number of a fellow S.L.A.A. member, Jorie. (It’s “short for Marjorie.”) Mickey gets advice from Jorie about whether or not spending the day with Gus is a good idea, and Jorie reminds her that S.L.A.A. is all about learning how to be in a healthy relationship. She encourages Mickey to go for it. “Fuck timing,” she says.
Mickey and Gus go for brunch. On the way, they talk about Mickey’s first job as the assistant to a publicist for The Hills. Gus’s lack of knowledge on the subject further endears him to her. They then have a conversation I’ve only recently become familiar with since moving to California: “Los Angeles is due for a big earthquake soon — let’s freak ourselves out about it.” You know, that one.
The conversations between Mickey and Gus flow easily. He shows off his ability to name the studio that produced any movie from the 1990s as they wait for a table at Home. (Sorry, but I continue to be thrilled and amazed when I recognize a place on this show.) Gus doesn’t correct the hostess on her incorrect pronunciation of his last name. They talk about their families: Gus grew up middle-class, one of four. Mickey was more affluent and only had one brother, Bob. (Mickey and Bob? Why were these parents naming their babies after old-timey dockworkers?) Bob lives in Tucson with two kids. Mickey can’t even remember both of their names. Gus has a close relationship to his sister, but has a rivalry with his younger brother, Andrew.
Gus pays for brunch and Mickey promises to get him next time. They aren’t sick of each other, so they decide to see a movie at the Highland, where Mickey is horrified to see her ex, Dustin. (He’s played by Rich Sommer, a.k.a. Mad Men’s Harry Crane.) When the lights come up, Mickey teases Gus for crying during the movie. For the second time that day, Gus references a potentially contentious relationship with his father.
Gus goes to the bathroom while Dustin talks to Mickey in the lobby. Dustin apologizes for his past behavior. When he asks if she’s there with her boyfriend, she says he’s “just a guy.” Gus comes out of the bathroom just in time to see Dustin and Mickey acting friendly. The ensuing interaction is suitably awkward, and as they leave the theater, Mickey tells Gus all the reasons why what happened with Dustin won’t happen with him — perhaps more to reassure herself than him.
Mickey asks why Gus always has a beach towel in his backseat, and he says it’s in hopes of someday going to the beach — he’s never been. Mickey convinces him to go right at that exact moment, and they take off in his car.
They walk hand-in-hand around Venice. She tells him it’s the best day she’s had in a long time. He confesses that it is going so well, he’s nervous that something bad will happen. Mickey asks Gus what the worst thing he’s ever done is. He tells her that when he was in college, he got wasted and took a shit in his hand on a dare. Mickey tells him he’s an amateur and he can’t play the game with her. At the beach, Mickey refuses to put her feet in the water, and Gus guilts her into it.
Back at Mickey’s place, they have sex. The scene is long and without dialogue — just warmth and new-love giddiness. It’s infectious.
Mickey sees Gus out, and he asks when he can see her. She promises him that she always wants to hear from him and that she’s not going to disappear. “I like you,” she says, and he responds in kind. She closes the door, and Gus immediately texts her.
Okay, as much as I don’t think either of these people should necessarily be in a relationship right now, and as much as they’re likely bound for disaster … I’d be remiss not to judge “A Day” on its own merits. The episode features endearing characters, moments that effectively challenge them, and it finds unexpected ways to further even the most meandering of plots. It was entertaining through and through — an admittedly low bar to clear, but the more mumblecore a show is, the harder that is to pull off. “A Day” pulls it off.