In this episode, we play with a trio of “one week later” and “one week earlier” title cards, but there isn’t really a Christopher Nolan–esque time or plot convergence happening, nor is that the point of the story device itself in question. This is a story about a week that can’t change very much at all, especially when we thumb around the real issue at hand.
We start with the political plotline. I’ll admit, at this point, I was hoping for a little more from Mr. Peanutbutter’s bone-wanting dark side that we saw in the first episode of the season. We might get some of that still, and maybe he’s shaken off a lot of those desires, but I’d wager that he’s slid right back into the mid-range space where he’s most comfortable. (I am deeply curious where he and Diane are going with this.) Anyway, most of the story’s plotting reflects the bullshit of horse-race politics and the way swing voters respond to the slightest provocations. Biel muses, “It’s funny how something so stupid could have this tremendous power?” to which Diane must roll her eyes. But honestly, I feel like the political plotline has struggled in recent episodes, because it’s doubled down on absurdity and didn’t bring enough of the cut-to-the-bone satire we saw in that first episode. In the end, we cut to “one week later” and Jessica Biel is resoundingly defeated by her hatred of avocado toast (there is nothing more un-Californian). Somehow, Mr. Peanutbutter looks at Diane, who was the real hero of the story, and feels happy because he actually thinks they did this together. But the sigh on her face says it all.
Meanwhile, Princess Carolyn’s been hitting the sauce and Ralph still hasn’t come back into the picture. She drunkenly calls out for Judah, which reveals how she’s ignoring the horrible pit she’s created for herself even as she buries herself deeper. But one script titled “Philbert” — a.k.a. her hypothetical kid’s name — is enough to fill her with a sense of purpose again, albeit one that displaces the issues that are roiling inside her. But she’s too drunk to really execute a plan, so Todd employs the clown dentist team (or “clentists”) to help put her drunken ass in gear. It makes as much sense as it sounds, but their goofy heist somehow works. Now, Carolyn’s gotta sell Turtletaub on it with a star attached. She rambles through names of every actor she knows, but of course, Turtletaub wants BoJack. She can’t bare the thought of working with him again, so Carolyn gets drunk for an entire week. “One week later,” she makes a last-minute call to BoJack, but he can’t talk. (We’ll learn why soon enough … )
I keep using the word “displace” in these articles and there’s a reason for it. A displacement is “an unconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind substitutes either a new aim or a new object for goals felt in their original form to be dangerous or unacceptable.” And it makes sense that we see it so much in BoJack Horseman because Hollywood is the land of displacement. It’s full of people running from their issues and trying to get some sense of lost power back by making their mark on the world. Right now, Carolyn is no different. She literally wants to to “produce Philbert,” and we don’t have to guess what that’s really about. She can either embrace her demons, or she can keep running with this Band-Aid of an idea. And so Carolyn makes a bad, bad call and forges BoJack’s name on the contract. This surely won’t have disastrous results.
The episode’s third story actually goes back to that opening tease. At first, we see Hollyhock trying to play cards with BoJack, Beatrice, and Tina, but she starts feeling woozy, almost floating in and out of consciousness. We got the first hints of Hollyhock’s eating disorder just two episodes prior, so now we’re deeply worried that she’s been starving herself. (You can even see the changes to her much-skinnier character model.) Now, Hollyhock collapses to the ground in BoJack’s bathroom, knocking over his pills. BoJack rushes her to the hospital. He’s frantically worried, but he can’t even go in to see her, as he’s not her legal guardian. Heck, he can’t even say all of Hollyhock’s last names to prove he knows her. He begins to fret more and more, but soon … well, there’s the moment where BoJack remembers all of Hollyhock’s last names. He goes on to list all the things he loves about Hollyhock, especially how she isn’t mean, and it is maybe the single most cathartic moment we’ve seen on the show. I cried right then for so many reasons. Not just because BoJack’s description of Hollyhock was true, but because we know he felt it. And this whole time we’ve known that BoJack’s cynicism is about keeping the tiniest, most-guarded flicker of his heart alive. To get just one moment where we see it — not just that he wants to feel it, but that he actually feels it — it’s everything. It is the only thing.
But like only this show knows how to do, the feeling of hope is what we get before the most painful possible reality swoops in. We finally meet Hollyhock’s eight dads and after a series of comic introductions, we learn that she was somehow high on amphetamines. They tell BoJack he will never see her again. Manic and fearing the worst, he runs back home to his bathroom, sees the spilled pills on the floor, and collapses to the ground, hyperventilating. The magnitude of this revelation leaves him at the most vulnerable and awful he has ever felt. Because there is no running from this. Nor can he displace it. He’s screwed up the one thing you can’t screw up.
“One week later.”
Before we continue, I should go back to the fact that my grandmother had Alzheimer’s. There was a middle period of the disease where she had lost all cognitive ability to speak and interact, but it was still before she lost motor function. So all Grandma did was obsessively clean the house. She seemed to like it, but really, there was just no stopping her. It only took her about four hours to do, so once she finished, she’d start the entire routine again. Every morning. Every day. It was like clockwork. As a result, we kept finding weird things crammed in the nooks and crannies of the house that were meant to be tucked away. They were never placed with a logic that made sense to us, only within the the logic of some moment in Grandma’s brain that we could never understand. But that was her routine.
Which is all set up to say that BoJack discovering that Beatrice was putting “Chub-B-Gone” amphetamines in Hollyhock’s coffee is the kind of detail that struck me in my gut. “This was her cleaning,” I said to myself. It makes sense for a woman whose base instincts for awfulness has now stretched generations. It is unforgivable, and yet obvious. BoJack rails into Beatrice, for she took away “the one thing I didn’t ruin myself. ’Cause I thought it was a good idea to give you one more chance!” And then, he puts her in the saddest retirement home imaginable. But just as she’s about to leave, he hears her say the word he’s been waiting for: “ … BoJack?”
Cut to black.
You know, I imagine a lot of people have watched this season and wondered if Beatrice is faking it. She always seemed to be riding that line, especially in how she’s conveniently forgotten only BoJack. We know she’s mean and devious enough to do something like that, but maybe the truth is it doesn’t matter. Her cruelty is her cruelty. Whether it ends up being the malevolent scheme of someone struggling with her deepest existential lonesomeness at the end of her life, or the mere happenstance of the vacuous ghost of her former self, it is all still cruelty. Whether she ultimately begs for BoJack’s forgiveness, or he pleads for her love, it doesn’t matter. This is a tragedy that’s already been written.
Best Jokes and Other Notes
• “Henrietta, don’t use a foreign language in front of the child, she’ll get ideas.”
• “Watch out, they’re attacking your face!”
• The escalating series of weird desks at Girl CROOSH.
• “I care, and I don’t even care, so imagine how little someone who doesn’t care cares.”
• “B-list?” / “Biel-list!”
• “I’m sorry you don’t find my name sufficiently comical, but this is actually a very serious matter.”
• “Um, no, Abraham Lincoln and some weird flat house are two sides of the same coin.”
• I, for one, was looking forward to our new Biel overlord.
• The actual mean-joke target: Aaron Eckhart “can disappear so good, the audience disappears with him.” A close second: “Tony Sha-who? This is what-time-is-it-right-now-dot-com! Not what-time-was-it-15-years-ago-dot-geocities-dot-com-slash-monk-fan-page.”
• The moments that made me happiest: how happy Woodchuck is to have hands again, and how he uses them for gesturing.