The Other Two
At its core, this week’s episode is about one thing, and that’s dry hand jobs — mostly metaphorical, but occasionally literal. Paramour plotlines for each of the Dreams siblings bring Brooke and Cary ever closer to their eventual goals, but with a side of soul-crushing desperation; like the act that ends the episode, they get the job done, but aren’t wholly satisfied given what it took to get there.
The cold open establishes the tone immediately as Cary walks in on his roommate masturbating while looking for his headphones. Equal parts tempted and disgusted, Cary nervously carries on a full conversation with Matt while he continues to jerk off. To add to his shame, Cary rejects what could be described as, at best, an ambiguous invitation to head to work — performing in a play that’s as far away from Broadway as you can possibly get. The part itself only compounds his humiliation, as its sole requirement as far as we can see is that he lie still on a couch while people act around him. Sure, technically this makes him a working actor, but is pretending to be asleep the fulfillment he’s looking for? Is watching the object of his affection masturbate the relationship he’s craving? Cary is constantly living on someone else’s terms: The monologue that was his reason for taking the part remains unseen, and the sexual gratification he seeks from his roommate never comes to fruition.
When the family arrives at their new digs post-play, Brooke and Cary are genuinely blown away by the grandeur of the apartment. Their temporary home belongs to another one of Streeter’s clients, Justin Theroux, in an inspired choice. The cold, impersonal interior is perfect for his persona, but doesn’t quite mesh with Pat’s suburban Ohio sensibilities. Despite her attempts to personalize and warm up the home, her Etsy needlepoint pillow and “Bee Happy” wooden sign only further remove her from Chase’s new life. Her best bet in this new world is to go along for the ride, which on some level, she already knows, pivoting to a “year of YES.”
Exploring the house, Cary and Brooke break off for a minute of real talk before the cavalry arrives. Cary takes a leap and texts Matt, asking him out for drinks, and Brooke tries to warn him about the dangerous road he’s headed down. None of it does any good by the time Streeter arrives with Shuli Kucerac (a delightful Wanda Sykes) in tow, ready to execute Chase’s next PR move: a relationship with Yendani, another singing internet child-star with 8 million followers and daisy-print overalls. The purpose of the relationship is to promote both of their forthcoming albums (both on the label) and raise Chase’s profile. The entire arrangement has echoes of stories we’ve heard over the years from child stars: having their first kisses on-camera, surrounded by a crew of adults orchestrating their every move; industry-orchestrated relationships (lest we forget Noah Cyrus and Lil Xan) designed to lend credibility to label-mates. Yendani and Chase’s relationship is fake and arranged, but it’s also his first one, and therefore will leave a lasting mark despite not being real.
There’s one obstacle to their relationship, however, and that’s the maintenance of Yendani’s brand. In order to ensure that nothing tarnishes her carefully constructed image, Shuli has compiled a binder of all of her potentially problematic findings on the Dreams family. After Pat and Cary confess to harmless yet deeply personal and pathetic discretions, it’s revealed that the only problem is Brooke. Among the problematic things Brooke has done: tweeted the word “retarded” 56 times, dressed as Terri Schiavo for Halloween (“I went as Terry Schiavo from before and then I just HAPPENED to pass out at the party”), and put “slamming that puss” in the memo of every Venmo payment to her brother.
After every one of her accounts and problematic photos is deleted, the whole squad — sans Cary, who has another performance that night — Facetimes with Yedani about the schedule for their relationship rollout. Here, Brooke tells a story, prompted by a mention of Summer Jam, about once having waited until the man she left the event with fell asleep before she kissed him. Yedani accurately points out that this constitutes sexual assault, and the team starts to break down until Brooke reveals there is no evidence of the event and there were no witnesses. Although that satisfies Chase’s amoral team, the moral compass somewhere deep, deep down in Brooke finally makes an appearance. Horrified at her own actions, she becomes dead set on repentance.
Much like last week’s third-act turn with Brooke, this plotline gets into thorny territory that weakens the episode. Brooke’s actions are tantamount to assault, but the “victim,” her ex-boyfriend Lance, doesn’t see it that way. Not only does he clarify that it wasn’t assault because he would have consented, he calls it “classic Brooke,” an assessment that sends her spiraling into an identity crisis. Her self-doubt is doubled when she hears about the improvements in Lance’s life since their breakup, something that ultimately pushes her to accept the job as Chase’s assistant and the invitation to stay with Pat and Chase in Justin’s abode.
When she arrives back at the house, she stumbles upon Pat sleeping next to the indoor pool (the house has three saunas but only one bedroom). They share a tender moment beside the pool that gives Brooke some much-needed humanity and once again flexes the show’s emotional muscles. Brooke’s genuine concern for Chase’s emotional health is perhaps her most redeeming quality, and the show shines when it allows her to bring reality into the circus surrounding him.
Cary isn’t faring much better, as he performs for an audience of one: his friend Curtis from work, with whom he pleads from the stage to leave so he can meet up with Matt, who is finally available on last-minute notice for drinks. After sabotaging his own play to meet up with Matt, he realizes too late that it’s not a date but a bro’s night out with some of Matt’s friends at a bar that has Skee-Ball. Just when Cary has completely lost hope, talking himself down in the bathroom mirror, Matt enters and kisses him passionately, implying there’ll be more to come back at the house.
Unfortunately for Cary, Matt gleefully invites his friends to tag along for an after-party. This is the last straw for our protagonist, as he flings himself down the stairwell in a desperate attempt to control some aspect of the night’s agenda. It works to some extent, despite the unintended facial injuries, causing the bros to leave and Matt to rush to his side, eager to nurse him back to health.
And thus we’ve arrived at the literal handjob. Lying on the couch with his face injured from the fall and his ego injured from the progression of the night, Cary is propositioned by Matt to take care of his erection. He rejects any kissing, and shows no interest in reciprocation — the act is wholly perfunctory. Despite finally transcending into an undeniably sexual relationship with his crush, the act leaves Cary feeling degraded and lonelier than ever — the only possible way to feel after such an act.
The Other Two Cents
• Brooke stealing from Starbucks fascinates me. What is she stealing!? How does she do it!
• Yendani receives an offer to date Millie Bobby Brown, effectively ending her relationship with Chase. Fear not, Chase is pivoting to wearing glasses.
• Some of my favorite things in Justin Theroux’s home: taxidermy armadillo, motorcycle toilet (the throttle is the flush!), candelabras.
• “She doesn’t have a last name. Well, she does, but it’s Irish so we dropped it.”
• Justin’s in-house church has a neon t in lieu of a cross at the helm, “because Justin believes in himself so much.”
• “People always tell me I’m a classic white feminist.”
• “You need to see a therapist.” “I already do. She’s my barista, but she really helps.”
• Streeter’s ready to go full Andy-King-at-Fyre-Fest to save Chase’s reputation.
• The foundation of Chase and Yendani’s relationship is their mutual love of ice cream. Unshakable.
• Streeter’s best idea yet is to trademark “let’s cut to the Chase.”