Love Recap: Stunted Growth


While You Were Sleeping
Season 2 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****
Gillian Jacobs as Mickey, Paul Rust as Gus. Photo: Suzanne Hanover / Netflix

Of all the cardinal sins for a Judd Apatow–produced Netflix series starring two likable comedic actors, I think this might be the worst: Is Love … boring?

Or, if we’re giving it the benefit of the doubt, maybe Love just isn’t a show that’s meant for binge-watching. It’s not compelling as much as it is meandering, and although that type of storytelling has its time and place, that time is Sundays and that place is HBO and — wait, I’m just confusing this show with Girls again. This is now the third binge series I’ve recapped, and it is, out of the three, the least bleak but possibly the least fun to watch. One Mississippi was brutal, but at least it was a story I’d never seen before. As for BoJack Horseman … well, BoJack is BoJack. It’s pitch black, but it’s impossible to look away.

What I’m trying to say is that this is the second episode — out of three so far — where Love’s primary emotional arc is whether or not a text message will be sent. That’s simply not a narrative device with enough momentum to fuel an episode, but let’s start from the beginning. “While You Were Sleeping” picks up where the last one let off: Gus and Mickey have just finished having parking-lot car sex, after which he gets back into his car and drives away, telling himself, “You’re an asshole.” It’s nice to see Gus get something right.

At work, Gus learns that he’s not allowed on set for the filming of the episode that got him a “story by” credit — remember that? It’s the one where Heidi’s character dies. However, Arya tells the producer that she’d feel more comfortable with Gus on set while she does her stunt, and the producer caves. Cool move, Arya. Gus runs into Heidi on set and they have an awkward interaction before the big death-scene stunt. (The joke that one of the stunt actors has done all of Tobey Maguire’s stunts except for the Spiderman movies is fantastic.)

Meanwhile, Mickey considers sending Gus a text to say that sex in the car was a mistake — but first she decides to stick up for her co-worker Truman who’s on the chopping block. She leaves the office and shows up at Truman’s apartment and finds him curled up, depressed on the couch. His intense, boxer girlfriend Lily stole his car. Mickey offers to help Truman get his car back, so they go over to Lily’s apartment while she’s out at the gym. Truman tells Mickey that they have an arrangement where his girlfriend can sleep with other people but he can’t, and Mickey tells him to break up with her the minute she gets home.

Back on the Witchita set, the stunt actor falls before the safety cushion inflates and is seriously hurt. Gus tries to convince himself and the other writers that it will be okay — after all, if it’s not, it’s kind of his fault. But Gus turns around and blames one of the other writers for having set the scene on a steeple instead of a quarry or something. Arya seems unaffected from the whole ordeal.

After toying with texting Gus again, Mickey finds Truman’s car keys and leaves. Truman quickly joins her in the parking lot and they speed away from his girlfriend, who runs out after them. Mickey tries to intervene, but it turns out Truman lied about everything: She didn’t steal his car, she doesn’t sleep with other guys, and he’s actually been cheating on her.

The Witchita set shuts down for the day and Heidi realizes that she’s going to have to watch her character get killed off another day. She tells Gus it’s basically like watching herself die. She tells Gus to stay away because he brings a toxic energy with him. Gus finds Susan smoking weed and she confesses that the show is seriously over-budget. She’s too stoned and tells Gus to drive her home.

Back at the office, Truman apologizes to Mickey for the craziness, but as someone who’s a bit of a mess herself, she lets him off the hook.

Gus pulls up to Susan’s incredible house, and she asks him what he tells people it’s like to work with her. After he gives a measured response about how she’s tough but fair, Susan asks Gus why he doesn’t come inside and have sex with her. Just one time, no strings. Gus demurs — he’s involved with someone else, he says. Susan tells him it was just a joke, and Gus is left to walk home alone.

Mickey deletes the text she was considering sending to Gus, and then asks Bertie if she thinks it was bad that they had sex in her car. Mickey thinks that it’s fine for her to go ahead with Gus, since a year without sex or love is too difficult of a goal anyway. Bertie clearly disapproves, but Mickey wants to do what she wants to do.

Elsewhere, Gus’s movie-song jam band is working on a (really pretty good) theme song for While You Were Sleeping.

If you’re unclear what any of this means for Love’s larger narrative, you’re in the same boat as I am. I suppose there’s something to be learned for Mickey, that she’s not as messed up as she could be. And there is certainly some kind of emotional moment in Gus taking himself off the market. But it all feels more like a collection of scenes that will hopefully add up to something significant, rather than a step forward for a story that actually feels significant.

Love Recap: Stunted Growth