Four episodes in and Good Trouble is really starting to let some of its supporting characters have lives of their own. It’s still Mariana and Callie’s show, but there is a feeling that this could be an honest-to-goodness ensemble drama at some point in the future. I’m already invested in Malika’s family story, but now I would also very much like to see Malika’s first few days at the Coterie when Alice saved her from living in her car. And Alice! Sweet Alice! I’m already preparing myself for the day she stands up to oblivious Sumi. Let’s hope it happens soon, because when you’re having meltdowns over hygienic paper products, you know you’re losing it.
The supporting character who gets the most room to shine in “Playing the Game” is Davia. You guys, Good Trouble gives its plus-size character an actual sex scene. It isn’t as steamy as the scenes the show gives Callie and Gael (what is, really?), but it is refreshing nonetheless. Davia is nothing but confident and sexy throughout AND it has nothing to do with her weight. It does, unfortunately, have everything to do with the fact that her hometown friend-with-benefits is in town making her feel things, and even more so, the fact that this hometown friend-with-benefits is married, and Davia is well aware of it. This Jeff dude might be totally into Davia, but the relationship is toxic. He tells her he would love to see more of her, but when she suggests she leave her less than fulfilling, extremely stressful Teach For America job, he suggests giving it more of a chance. No, she shouldn’t move back home. Oh, Davia. Break free of this disaster!
Elsewhere, Mariana’s boss Alex is now not only a misogynist and all-around dick, he’s also racist! He makes fun of Raj by putting on an Indian accent from time to time. Raj just laughs through it, and that really frustrates Mariana. So it’s the perfect time for Speckulate to ask Mariana to sit for a photo for the website and give an on-camera interview about how great the culture is at the company. It doesn’t take Mariana long to see that the company has picked the few people of color and women for this project, and she remembers how she was duped into thinking Speckulate was a diverse, tolerant start-up in her interview. Needless to say, Mariana is not into this. She wants to use her interview as a moment to drop some truth bombs on these people. Let them know how hard it is to be a woman and Latina in this office. She wants her Norma Rae moment.
Ultimately, Mariana chickens out. When she hears that Mariana is planning on telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, Casey is like, so help me God. This has happened before, apparently, and she will not watch another promising Latina engineer get mysteriously let go after complaining about the bro-holes at Speckulate. It won’t change the company culture, it will only hurt Mariana. It’s not right, and it’s definitely not okay, but it is the truth, says Casey. Still, Mariana marches into her on-camera interview with every intention of telling it like it is — she’s an Adams Foster, after all — but when it comes time, she can’t do it. She does not tell it like it is. She is no Norma Rae.
Can we talk for a second about the device Good Trouble uses in which a character says exactly what she means in the moment, only to reveal that it was fantasy and in reality, the character is saying something much more subdued and expected? They used it in the pilot episode, but haven’t again until this episode — in which it happens three separate times (including Mariana’s interview). It’s supposed to give us a look into how the character is really feeling, but at this point I’m not sold on it. The device is distracting and redundant. We already know that Mariana wants to speak the truth and Alice wants to tell Sumi off — we don’t need a fantasy moment to convey that. It feels like a gimmick, and Good Trouble is better than gimmicks.
Let it be rinsed out and marked as a failed experiment, much like the time Mariana dyed her hair blonde to fit in with her dance team back in high school, a story which she tells Raj when they’re having a heart-to-heart post-interview. (He understands — he frosted his tips once! Be still my heart!) She’s disappointed in herself for not speaking the truth and asks Raj why he lets Alex make fun of him. Raj wants to be successful here, and the way to do that is to fit in as much as possible. As disheartening as the whole Speckulate situation is, something very interesting comes out of interview day: Mariana and Raj are becoming true friends. She even invites him to hang out — without Alex and Sam. Oh you guys, poor Raj shows up to that hangout believing it to be a date but is sorely mistaken — Mariana simply invited him to meet up with her, Davia, and Bryan. Raj is so sad! Raj is crushing hard! I am very much here for a slow-burn Mariana and Raj romance!
While hearts are breaking over at Speckulate, Callie and her fellow clerks are stuck playing “Twenty Questions: Legal Edition” during a “fun” barbecue at Judge Wilson’s house. If you were wondering how to make Twenty Questions even more boring, look no further. If one of the clerks guesses the case or legal figure Wilson has chosen, that clerk will be allowed to steal any case she or he wants from another clerk. In short: Callie better win this or she’s losing the Jamal Thompson case. In a little twist, Wilson’s wife, Libby, tells Callie the answer because she wants this “game” to end and she likes Callie the best out of the three clerks (no duh). But if you think Callie’s going to cheat, you don’t know Callie.
It’s a good thing she doesn’t, because Wilson knows about the whole thing. So when he sees her take the loss rather than use the info she has, he rewards her by making sure no one wins the game — even though Ben guesses correctly. The “good times” end once the clerks stump Wilson with their own Twenty Questions and he is an incredibly sore loser. He basically kicks the kids out of his house and leaves them to ponder the fate of their jobs together at a bar. At least they’re all hanging out and being nice to each other? Is that the silver lining to pissing off your boss who is a federal judge?
Callie knows she doesn’t have to worry too much about how Wilson will be treating her post-BBQ because, thanks to her kryptonite (having to keep track of her phone), she ends up back at Wilson’s house, where she runs into his college-aged son. His college-aged son who is supposedly away at for a Semester at Sea program. And the kid is wearing an ankle monitor. Much to her credit, she only tells Ben and Rebecca that she saw the son and Wilson was not happy about it — she doesn’t divulge the ankle-monitor info. Just like Callie Adams Foster to get mixed up in another family’s drama. You have your own drama, girl. You don’t need to borrow any.
Speaking of Callie’s drama, Ben confronts her about her reaction to Malika in court, but Callie lies (very easily!) and says she just recognized her from the protests outside the courthouse. Ben doesn’t buy it. He especially doesn’t buy it when he walks Callie home from the bar (she denies him the nightcap he asks for because there are still good things in this world) and sees Malika walk into the same building. Looks like Callie has some explaining to do.
• I’m really enjoying Mariana and Davia’s friendship. Mariana confronts Davia about sleeping with a married man and they have a big ol’ fight. When they finally see each other again, they knowingly smile at each other and that’s that — no one’s mad anymore. I like them for each other!
• More crying in a bathroom stall! This time it’s Alice after Sumi asks to talk about bridesmaid dresses amongst a very long list of other wedding-related things. Crying in the bathroom is real and I’m glad it’s getting its day in the sun.
• Rebecca sings in a quartet. This information isn’t important, but she announces it at the BBQ with such pride and joy, it must be mentioned.
• Davia complaining about her friends back home all being married: “ … a few are even the good kind of pregnant. On purpose.”
• Mariana is whipping out her credit card as if her life depended on it. Veuve Clicquot at the club? Yeah, that’s all going to catch up with her soon.
• Alice has a big announcement: She will no longer be providing free toilet paper for the Coterie. Okay, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is a huge moment for the people-pleasing Alice. Baby steps!