Gretchen thinks this slightly older couple she’s spotted on Jimmy’s street is cool. And already we know where this is going.
There is a rule in all things pop culture that is also, I believe, a rule in life: Anything, or anyone, that seems impossibly cool upon first glance will eventually reveal itself to be not nearly as cool as you thought. It may even turn out to be — gasp! — not cool at all. Not even a teeny bit. This is basically the Chekhov’s gun of coolness, in that, by Act III, we will see the supposedly cool for the secretly ordinaries we always sensed they were inside.
But oh, Gretchen does not know this. Gretchen is wading in the depths of her clinical depression, aided not at all by Jimmy. (Don’t totally know how to feel about how Jimmy is not handling Gretchen’s situation. He didn’t really believe her completely not-believable claim on Halloween that his Sunday Funday plans did the trick, did he?) She’s been clear about her boundaries, but at the same time, there’s got to be something in between “whoa, you’re overstepping, stop trying to fix me” and whatever Jimmy’s doing here, which is closer to “walking down the street with my girlfriend while she sobs in crumpled-face silence and not even noticing her anguish.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First: the couple crush. The things that make them really envy-inducing are things Gretchen doesn’t even see, like how they teach their daughter (named Harper, which, if you’re going in a Mockingbird direction, is a better choice than Atticus) about unions and maternity leave, which is very sweet and also practical. When Gretchen spots them, they’re talking about all of the awesome things they could do and have already done — “I can get us into the Magic Castle,” “I still can’t believe you flashed Gnarls Barkley after that Fiona Apple show” — and, when their lives accidentally veer into less-awesome territory, there is self-aware acknowledgment of how “cliché” they’ve become. (Harper has an interview for the Camelot School. Too bad it’s not the Magic Castle, right?)
Gretchen does not have Jimmy’s spying mustache. She just stands in the shadows with a cigarette. Plotting.
All of her behavior, really, is so red-flag-waving that I don’t know how Jimmy doesn’t see it. Maybe he doesn’t want to see it? He’s so obsessed with his serious erotic novel, jealous of writers gone by who lived in a simpler time, when “the only distraction from writing was the encroaching tide of fascism, and the occasional syphilitic seizure.” He’s also instated a system to force him to meet his deadlines: writing a bunch of horrible letters that Gretchen gets to put in the mail if he fails to get his pages done on time. One is a love letter to Becca; another is an invitation for his family to come visit, all expenses paid.
Gretchen sort of Single White Females this family, buying Sandwiches the Dog’s love by feeding him nachos — I guess feeding him a sandwich would have been a little too real? — and maybe almost running away with Harper when the nanny asks Gretchen to hold her for just a second. I honestly had this moment of Gretchen will kidnap this kid. This show is taking a turn. That is the turn. But no, she returns to get yelled at by the nanny (seems fair) and instead dognaps Sandwiches.
Gretchen takes Sandwiches on a run. Is she not worried about being seen? Her brazenness, were it, again, not a sign that her depression is affecting her ability to make good decisions, is almost admirable. She tries on the cool wife’s life for size — “Who rescued who, right?” — and it reminds me of those fake stories Marie used to tell real-estate agents at open houses on Breaking Bad, right before she’d slip some silverware into her purse.
Fortunately, Gretchen makes it through the day without getting Sandwiches killed and, in “finding” the missing pup and returning it to its super-hip owners, Gretchen scores an invite to hang out with the couple she’s been secretly admiring: Lexi and Rob. Harper’s Camelot interview be damned; everyone gets drunk.
Lexi swears marriage is not the death of fun and, in a meta moment, says that “to be a slave to the idea of coolness is why some of your friends never grow.” Shit, I like her. But you know it’s going to be something … there is always something … what is it … what will it be …
Oh, that’s right, as soon as Lexi leaves, Rob spills his guts to Gretchen about how much he misses his old life and how lame he thinks his wife’s new car is. “One minute I’m living in this cute little studio in Beachwood … Just me and my dog and pizza and condoms.” But now there’s a mortgage! Oh no. “Lexi is always like, ‘Harper’s school!’ Fine, but, on the other hand, I don’t want to be having that conversation. I love the kid, I’m not going to say she stole my life … ”
When Gretchen and Jimmy leave, we can see and hear Lexi and Rob fighting from the street.
And, as Jimmy points out, Rob “must have spent months on literally the most boring tree house in the world.”
The worst: A 44-year-old married dude hitting on Gretchen while his wife is in the other room with Gretchen’s boyfriend.
Runners-up: People who actually say “who rescued who?” when they talk about their dogs (seriously, unless you found that puppy tied to the train tracks, you did not rescue him, you adopted him), naming the aforementioned dog “Sandwiches.”
A few good things: The tree house (I’m sure it was fine! Jimmy is so particular), the fact that dogs can apparently eat nachos and be completely fine, Jimmy’s definition of writing: “Writing is very seldom actual writing. Maybe on the outside it looks as though I’m drinking, playing darts, and eating Craisins out of a box in my pocket, but it’s all part of the process.” Me, too, guys. Same here.