“Are you close with your family?” Fleabag’s new therapist asks at the start of their first session as Fleabag’s thoughts briefly drift to when she clocked Martin in the face. “We get on with it,” she responds, as accurate an answer as any. Fleabag can pursue healthy habits, run a thriving business, and even abstain from sex, her vice of choice. But when it comes to her family, she’s powerless. There’s nothing to do but get on with it.
The punching incident has at least won back Claire, who is simultaneously annoyed and deeply gratified by Fleabag’s bravery. But it also means Fleabag is now officially at war with Martin, who, despite Claire’s protestations, is planning to press charges against Fleabag for assault. It’s hard to believe that attempting to get Claire’s sister jailed isn’t reason enough for Claire to dump Martin’s ass. But she does show some hidden resolve, secretly retaining a lawyer to give Fleabag a fair shake in court. Things get weirder from there, thanks to some unmistakable sexual tension between the lawyer (hilariously, accurately credited as “Hot Misogynist”) and Claire. Fleabag’s still fuzzy on whether the lawyer’s an old flame or Claire has taken the leap to cheating. Either way, he seems dead set on seducing Fleabag as well.
If that wasn’t sufficiently stressful, Fleabag’s entire family, save Claire, still thinks she’s the one who had the miscarriage. (“You took it, and now everyone thinks you have it, so have it,” Claire tells Fleabag matter-of-factly.) Godmother’s been giving Fleabag the third degree, barely cloaked as concern, about the lost “pregnancy.” But if Fleabag uses the truth to shut her up or to get one over on Martin, she and Claire will be back on the rocks. For Fleabag, whose whole life is a Chatty Wednesday, it’s a genuine challenge.
No wonder Fleabag is all too willing to let The Priest lead her into temptation. Still under the mistaken impression that Fleabag has had a miscarriage, he’s eager to offer spiritual counsel. She reminds him she’s a militant atheist, but as she does, a suggestive religious painting she’s been ogling drops off the wall, hinting that a higher power may feel otherwise.
Deep down, Fleabag knows she’s a recovering sex addict. But getting off on a bit of Thorn Birds frisson seems harmless. Nothing can really happen, right? Except that she actually likes The Priest, who’s got a great sense of humor and a shared propensity for running his mouth. (“I told them some heroic bullshit,” he says, when Fleabag asks how he explained his dinner-party injury to parishioners. “Gives me some edge.”)
Even worse, it seems as if the interest might be mutual, from The Priest’s little arm touches to his eagerness to turn a private teatime into G&T time. It’s not long before Fleabag is furiously Googling the rule book on clerical celibacy, wondering if she can actually pull off a seduction.
Hence the therapist, played in a delightful crossover by Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve’s morally compromised superspy. Her tart delivery has been a perfect match for Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s sharp dialogue from the start, and the pair’s oddball session is the episode’s highlight. Waller-Bridge has written herself some death-defying fourth-wall breaks, and she navigates them with breathtaking aplomb, even taking a moment to wink at her own contrivances. (Asked if she has any friends, she shoots a weary glance at the camera as she responds, “I see them a lot … they’re always there.”)
If anything, Fleabag is a little too willing to riff on her struggles: her mother’s death, her father’s emotional constipation, her sex addiction. Shaw’s counselor is the one person impervious to her crackling wit, and she serves Fleabag’s jokes about the “screaming void in her empty heart” right back to her as truth. Fleabag insists she’s conflicted about her lust for The Priest, but the therapist knows better. “You already know what you’re going to do,” she tells her.
Cut to Fleabag volunteering at the church fair, chortling in secret delight as she cozies up to The Priest. But the triumph is, once again, short-lived. First, she runs into her ex, Frank, toting a new baby she knew nothing about. Around the next corner lies Martin, who tries to goad Fleabag into apologizing for the assault, hoping to bolster his legal case. For once, she doesn’t crack, but Martin’s not giving up. With his unerring nose for Fleabag’s frailties, he instantly susses out her yen for The Priest.
Fleabag tries to bite back with a sharp-tongued rebuke, prematurely congratulating herself for her genius before she falters by dubbing Martin a “weakie.” (Clueless American that I am, I had to look that one up.) Infuriatingly, Martin once again gets to walk away with the arrogant upper hand.
But before he does, we finally get to meet his son Jake for the first time. He’s as awful with personal boundaries as advertised, but he does have the redeeming quality of loathing his shitty dad. As they depart, he whispers to Fleabag that she should “tell [Claire] to leave him.”
Fleabag’s only hope of getting Claire to leave Martin is this grab bag of imperfect male allies: an obnoxious lawyer who wants to fuck her, and a weird teen who also wants to fuck her. No wonder The Priest’s gentle, steadfast attention feels like deliverance. The two of them may be swapping only Bible verses for now, but in the ongoing war of Fleabag vs. the patriarchy, I wouldn’t put my money down on the patriarchy just yet.