Jimmy rises at six in the morning with a renewed sense of purpose. He stretches! He completes a crossword puzzle and a word jumble! He gulps down a raw egg like some kind of Gaston! (And immediately spits it out, like some kind of LeFou.) He power-walks. He returns to Gretchen with what appears to be breakfast in bed for two but, in fact, is for him alone. (This does not stop Gretchen from consuming it.) What’s with the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Jimmy? “Today, I build my tree house!”
In this episode, Gretchen and Jimmy realize they have something a little toxic in common: the judgmental, critical voices of their parents echoing in their heads. And while Jimmy will (eventually) realize that he can free himself from that relentless barrage of British disappointment by doubling down on his writing, Gretchen seems to be more in the thrall of her mother’s hypercompetitive, high-intensity parenting than she could have expected. Will this self-awareness break our main squeeze apart? In what originally scans as a laugh line, Gretchen points out to Jimmy that they’re both growing so much — her by learning mindfulness (ugh), him by changing careers to tree-house-building — and asks, “Before we change too much, want to knock one out?”
On the one hand, this scene is a real gift, introducing the concept of eating breakfast in bed while receiving oral sex into all of our good-times arsenals. For this, if nothing else, I feel like You’re the Worst is basically philanthropy, gifting all of us this genius idea that combines two of the best things in the world. On the other hand, the idea that Jimmy and Gretchen are only really compatible when they’re in this half-formed, juvenile state — that if one of them gets their shit together, they’ll leave the other in the dust — is something Jimmy returns to at the end of the episode, when he looks at Gretchen like he isn’t sure she belongs in his house, or his life.
I love watching Jimmy build his tree house, even though you just know from the precarious height and moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption that he will wind up stuck in the tree for a considerable length of time. (I am feeling like a lot of these gags this season are especially predictable, like last week’s romp in the woods, Lindsay’s unlikely dominance at baby class, and Jimmy’s dad’s funeral.) Jimmy ordered himself a hard hat for this activity, because of course he did. He drinks while using power tools, which is BOLD. But he also uses a level, which is so practical. Jimmy Shive-Overly: a man of multitudes.
When he is done building the tree house — or, more accurately, the platform — he accidentally knocks over the ladder and finds himself stranded. He tries to just Zen-out in the branches like Katniss in the arena, but those sex-crazed incestuous siblings from his novel won’t leave him alone. Though he tries to silence them, Jimmy hears their voices just the same: “Simon, you brilliant horny bastard.”
Gretchen spends the day accompanying Lindsay on the journey that’s been in the works for quite some time: her abortion. Gretchen explains that she’s just figured out “that things your parents did as a kid can affect you as an adult.” (Lindsay: “You mean like time travel?”) Gretchen thought her mom was “scary, but dope. Turns out, she wasn’t dope at all.” I remember Gretchen of earlier seasons being troubled and self-absorbed, but also clever, savvy, and sneaky-smart. Why is she so dumb all of a sudden? I think all adults are aware that your parents influence who you are. Lindsay being shocked is totally in character. Gretchen, though? It feels like YTW has lost track of her a bit, or is sacrificing what her character would actually do to get a few more jokes in.
Anyway, Gretchen laments that she’s “eating for two for the last time” and then it’s off to “get this abobo.” She and Gretchen have clearly done this routine before. But Lindsay gets distracted on her way in the door by an antiabortion activist masquerading as a concerned citizen, who notices that Lindsay is waffling a bit. (Paul sent her a few thoughtful text messages, which, in Lindsay Land, means maybe they should have a baby.) Gretchen intervenes, though it turns out she didn’t have to; the woman actually believes there are “extenuating circumstances” in which abortion is kosher: “rape, incest, and … whatever this is.”
In a callback to a joke from earlier in the season — “What kind of family is only two people?” “Gilmore Girls” — Lindsay asks Gretchen to name one family that’s just one person, and she replies, “Suddenly Susan.” (It’s funny that Lindsay and Becca spend so much time together — like, way more time than average adult siblings — and yet Lindsay still doesn’t think of her sister as part of her real family.)
Gretchen comes home to watch Wheel. She has to remind herself to breathe. Girl has a long way to go. But Jimmy, who looked down on his life from his tree-platform, returns to his living room to tell Gretchen that, having seen “life from an outside perspective,” he doesn’t recognize anything anymore. “I don’t know whether I made any of the right decisions. Everything could be wrong.”
It’s a huge revelation. I’m not entirely sure I buy that it’s the kind of epiphany he would have from drunkenly building a tree house and looking through his window from the outside. What is he seeing in Gretchen that he didn’t see before? Her inability to be, as she claims she is, “hella mindful”?
The one person who really seems to be getting his life on track is Edgar, which introduces an interesting, awkward dynamic with Dorothy. I feel for this girl! She has been supportive of Edgar from the get-go, patient as he wrestled with his PTSD treatments, in his corner while his best friends were being assholes. And she has been hustling so hard to make it in comedy, dealing with the indignity of arriving at a commercial audition to play a cute yoga girl but having to switch gears to “overworked mom” and earning cash on the side by cleaning closets. So when Edgar accidentally lands a comedy-writing job — on Waze, the GPS app, which is totally safe because it’ll only air at red lights and in traffic! — and she has to act like she’s happy for him and not bothered at all by how easily he stumbled into something she has been struggling for this whole time … well, oof. Her silent crying wrecked me.
My favorite element of this episode is the slow and steady takedown of mindfulness, starting with Gretchen trying and failing to complete an Über-boring mindfulness meditation (she opts to bust out a vibrator instead; seems like a way more awesome way to clear your mind, though maybe a parking lot outside an abortion clinic is an awkward place to do it) and culminating in Gretchen’s realization that the person she knows who is the most mindful is … Lindsay. Lindsay’s narration of exactly what she’s thinking in every moment is perfection, the concept of “living in the present” taken to its illogical extreme. “Chew, chew, chew, little fart, waitress is coming over, here she is, talking to me, my turn to talk, neck mole, boobs, bye waitress, I miss her, Gretchen’s still here, hi, Gretchen, baby ears, eww, a hangnail, pie again.” MINDFULNESS IS JUST BEING A BABY. Thank you, YTW, for articulating that sentiment so beautifully.
The worst: Gretchen’s mother issues. They seem even worse than Jimmy’s daddy issues.
Runners-up: Lindsay and Paul’s marriage, mindfulness, Dorothy’s emotional state in the wake of Edgar’s sudden success, the whole concept of Waze as a streaming television platform, commercial auditions, Jimmy’s tree house (… it’s just a floor).
A few good things: Breakfast and head in bed (What should we call this? Please leave suggestions in the comments.), Jimmy’s consistent naming habits (“Madame Hammer”), how Paul undoes the romance in his own romantic text messages (“Technically, there is no ‘over’ the moon as there is no fixed direction in space.”).