Insecure Recap: Handle With Care

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Photo: HBO
Insecure

Insecure

Hella Shook Season 2 Episode 5
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Here’s the thing about pleasure: It often blinds you. Pleasure has a way of warping your perspective and causing you to elevate certain desires no matter how fleeting, while making you forget about the weighty consequences that follow. Trust me, I don’t think chasing and reveling in pleasure is a sin — Elizabeth Taylor is pretty much my patron saint and she was a woman who lived for pleasure in all its forms — but pleasure can make things hard to see clearly. To put it within Insecure’s context, getting dickmatized is dangerous. After “Hella Shook,” I’m worried that is what is happening to Molly and Issa in dramatically different ways.

This week’s episode wastes no time providing answers for those curious about where Issa and Daniel stand after they tentatively reconnected last week. “Hella Shook” opens with Issa arriving on Daniel’s doorstep, trying to play sexy by saying she has a package for him he needs to “handle with care.” Issa may not be good with dirty talk or being graceful, but it’s clear Daniel likes her for who she is by the way he pulls her in for a kiss. Issa delights in creating what she calls a “hoetation,” which includes Daniel and her neighbor at this point. Molly doesn’t hesitate to ask whether this bold new life is working for Issa, but ultimately, if Issa’s happy that is all that matters to Molly. (Men will come and go, but it’s this central friendship that is the heart of Insecure.) Issa is obviously enjoying Daniel, but there is an intimacy and care to how he approaches her that makes it apparent this is more than just a casual fling for him.

Even with Issa’s newfound exuberance, I have to wonder, is she really about this life? Does she know it’s okay to be alone when you’re single? I’m not sure she’s handling her “hoetation” all that well. Case in point: When she’s driving, she’s thrown off by a dick pic (which is on full display!) that she receives, which leads to a nasty car accident. Considering how Issa was carefully pumping gas to stay under ten bucks, I can’t imagine she’ll be able to get her car fixed. Don’t sext and drive, kids. From there, Issa hits up Daniel to let him know that she has to cancel their plans since she got into the accident — and he valiantly comes to her rescue. If this were the old Issa, maybe she’d just continue to assume she and Daniel were on the same wavelength about what they want out of a relationship. But to her credit, she is upfront: She tells him that she’s seeing other people and asks if they’re cool keeping things casual. He seems agreeable, but there is something about the uneasiness of his response that only adds to my belief that he’ll be asking Issa for something more serious soon.

While Issa and Daniel are enjoying their fling, there is one person who is pissed off about it: Lawrence. He finds out about Daniel and Issa thanks to scrolling through Facebook while he’s on jury duty. A picture of them talking in the background of a larger group shot catches his eye. Soon enough, Lawrence is on an emotionally charged, social-media spiral that I found a bit too real. He goes through the whole cycle: looking into your ex, looking into your ex’s new beau, and blocking your ex.

When he meets up with Tiffany’s husband, Derek, for drinks afterward, he can’t help but unload. Was Issa stepping out long before Lawrence found out about what happened with Daniel? Of course she wasn’t. She’s a bit too clumsy for such machinations and Derek says as much. But Lawrence keeps trying to contort Issa into an even worse person, now that he knows she’s moving on with Daniel. “Honestly, this ain’t all on Issa,” Derek says. He is right and goes on to say what I’ve felt for a long time: Lawrence was unemployed for two years of his relationship with Issa and contributed nothing. He was content to languish, letting Issa do the heavy emotional and financial labor. Was it okay that Issa cheated? No. But it is understandable. I haven’t been subtle about not liking Lawrence most of the time, but one thing I did like that his story in “Hella Shook” is such a role reversal. Typically, it’s women who are depicted in pop culture as the ones who overthink, obsessively look at an ex’s social media, and go a bit haywire. Insecure is so deft at subtle commentary like this.

But enough about Lawrence for now. Let’s talk about Issa’s date. Two men don’t make much of a “hoetation,” so Issa is continuing to use Tinder. She goes on what proves to be the best date I have ever witnessed with Nico, a Latino dude she winds up being rather thirsty for. It’s a breezy, fun date that Issa doesn’t ruin, although she pushes a bit too hard at one point about having the night go longer. This date provides the best moments of the episode in terms of sheer hilarity. In one of Issa’s fourth-wall-breaking moments, she says, “Fuck gin. I want horchata easy on the chata, heavy on the whore.” A few seconds later, Issa imagines ripping open Nico’s shirt and making out intensely with him right at the bar. She’s not that bold, of course, at least not yet.

While Issa is imagining Nico in a compromising position, Molly comes face-to-face with long-held beliefs at her parents’ vow-renewal ceremony, which happens at their house. It’s a lot of fun to witness the familial dynamics between Molly and her siblings during this event, and it comes into sharp relief that Molly’s parents represent the pinnacle of romantic success to her. In this light, it isn’t surprising that she brought Lionel to the vow renewal — even if it’s a bonkers decision since she only went on one date with him and this is an important family function. But Molly has always been about projecting perfection more than experiencing happiness. I agree with her brother: Who cares if Lionel is a good guy who seems perfect on paper? If she’s not into him, none of that matters. Don’t waste your time, Molly. Also, please get back into therapy. Maybe Lionel is just a way for Molly to force herself to fit a perfect image to her family, while also providing a buffer when it comes to Dro.

Considering that she grew up with Dro and his family lives down the street, Molly knew he would be here. Dro clears the air about the situation. Sort of. “You never thought of us like that?” he asks Molly. She says that being in an open relationship may work for him, but it isn’t what she sees for her life. Dro and Molly obviously have a long history. They’re friends. They care for each other. That’s why Molly seeks comfort in him, not Lionel, when she gets a bombshell that undoes her sense of self. Thanks to one of her talkative aunts and her brother giving further details, Molly finds out that her father cheated on her mother a long time ago. Learning that the one relationship she always admired isn’t utter paradise causes Molly to freak out and dramatically leave the vow renewal. Lionel is oddly passive about the whole thing, just watching as it happens. It’s Dro who consoles Molly and drives her home in her car.

I wish someone would tell Molly that perfection is impossible. Judging her own desires with the yardstick of other people’s relationships is nonsensical. I’m not saying she should get into an open relationship or tolerate cheating. (I wouldn’t!) But Molly needs to slow down and figure out her own desires, not go after what she thinks she should want. Instead of doing that, Molly does what I was worried she would do. She ends the episode having sex with Dro.

Maybe this is her vulnerability. Maybe this is something she wanted to do longer than she cares to admit. The episode ends with a closeup of Molly, her face awash in pleasure while having sex with Dro. She isn’t thinking about what comes next or how convenient it is that Dro’s wife, Candice, is curiously absent whenever he makes a move. She probably should.

Other Gossip

• I have complicated thoughts about Issa’s current work story line. Issa is just trying to make the best out of the situation, although I think it’s important she say something to Vice-Principal Gaines. Ultimately, her co-worker Frieda lacks both perspective and nuance in understanding the ways communities of color relate to each other.

• Seeing Afro-Latinos characters onscreen speaking Spanish got me teary-eyed.

• I can’t see Molly anywhere else but Los Angeles, but Chicago is an amazing city despite her issues with it! She may have spent a lot of time at her current firm, but as her co-worker advises, it is important to go where your worth is valued.

• Is it safe to say that Insecure has the best soundtrack on TV right now?

Insecure Recap: Handle With Care