BoJack Horseman Recap: The Truth Will Out

BoJack Horseman

Sunk Cost and All That
Season 6 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

BoJack Horseman

Sunk Cost and All That
Season 6 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

For years, BoJack Horseman has dangled the possibility that BoJack’s worst actions might come back to haunt him. Now that they finally have, we also know how BoJack reacts to that reckoning: a sweaty, desperate, panicked fit of denial. “They can’t know. I didn’t even do anything,” says BoJack when he wakes up in his office after fainting following an unexpected phone call from Charlotte.

The rest of the episode is essentially a very pragmatic excavation of BoJack’s darkest moments, as Diane, Princess Carolyn, and Todd attempt to figure out exactly which unsavory incident from BoJack’s past the reporters are trying to pin down. And to do that, he needs to tell them everything.

The result is an episode that BoJack Horseman could only do this late in its run: Packed with references to the show’s full history, and built on relationships that have exponentially grown in depth and complexity over the show’s six seasons. The painful process starts with BoJack confessing the prom night story, which works as a kind of Rorschach test for how the rest of his misdeeds are going to land on everybody — including the audience, who also need to decide how to feel about BoJack following his turnaround in the first half of season six. (Seriously, this conversation sounds a lot like Reddit debates BoJack Horseman fans have had about this incident.)

And appropriately enough, the debate is a kind of spectrum. Princess Carolyn essentially shrugs the whole thing off, saying BoJack didn’t even do anything — and if he had, it would have been legal anyway. Meanwhile, Todd and Diane are disturbed at how the vastly more experienced BoJack took advantage of a teenager.

These are questions BoJack Horseman really wants each individual audience member to think about. But if you’ll excuse some open editorializing: Todd and Diane are right. What Princess Carolyn says is literally true — Charlotte did interrupt BoJack and Penny before anything could happen. But we also know it’s bullshit. We’ve seen the long-term trauma of BoJack’s actions manifest in the lives of Penny and Pete Repeat, who have spoken openly about how that prom night damaged and confused them for years after. (And that’s not even counting the ripple effect for someone like Hollyhock, whose relationship with BoJack has been forever altered by Pete’s story.)

And prom night is just the tip of the iceberg. With his friends’ help, BoJack fills out several whiteboards of the worst incidents from his life — most of which we saw happen over the course of the series, from goofy antics like stealing the Hollywood “D” to horrible stuff like abandoning Herb Kazzaz.

How much has BoJack honestly acknowledged and atoned for his past? It’s worth noting that both Todd and Diane pick up the marker, walk to the whiteboards, and add several times other times BoJack treated them horribly, which BoJack either forgot or neglected to include. And Todd bails on the project fairly early — noting, correctly, that this panicky BoJack trying to weasel out of responsibility sounds a lot like “the old BoJack” Todd cut ties with years ago.

In the end, the solution to the “What horrible thing did BoJack do?” mystery comes directly from the reporters, who call Diane fishing for stories about BoJack and Sarah Lynn. BoJack finally confesses the whole truth: He gave Sarah Lynn the heroin she OD’ed on, he was with her when she died, and he fled the scene and came back to “discover” her body so he would look less guilty. Princess Carolyn, ever the spin doctor, starts working on a strategy for BoJack to get ahead of the story and paint himself in the best possible light. More heartbreakingly, Diane — who has always done her best to make BoJack appeal to his better angels — admits that there was a part of her that suspected all along.

When the reporters finally call BoJack for comment, Princess Carolyn’s strategy wins out. He publicly and firmly denies everything he just confessed to his closest friends. Diane leaves, disappointed in BoJack yet again. Princess Carolyn stays, like she always has, and delivers a tender, tragic speech about how BoJack has emerged as the love of her life, with too much sunk cost to bail on him now.

Burt shortly before Diane leaves, BoJack is called out by his students, still celebrating their acting showcase, to deliver a little speech. And as BoJack musters up the energy to pretend everything is fine, the scene lingers in the other room. Instead, we stay on the silent Diane and Princess Carolyn — for more than a minute, and without a cut — as they listen to BoJack doing his best to cap off what he believes will be the last night of his new, happy life.

Even with the relatively simple animation of BoJack Horseman, this sequence is layered with a lot of emotional density and complexity, and I ended up rewinding it four times as I tried to process every microscopic beat of what Diane and Princess Carolyn were feeling: disappointment, disillusionment, and fear mixed with their genuine love for BoJack, and their earnest desire to see him rewarded for confronting his demons by remaining on this new and happy path.

The answer, I suspect, will mirror how much of the audience is feeling at this point. If you’ve watched BoJack Horseman for six seasons, you can’t help but have both sympathy and affection for BoJack, and it’s hard not to root for his redemption. But at the same time: If you’ve watched BoJack Horseman for six seasons, you’ve seen more than enough evidence that BoJack has done some truly heinous, unforgivable things — and has, in large part, skirted the consequences for it. You can care about someone like Princess Carolyn does, and do everything in your power to protect them from harm, because you love them. Or you can care about someone like Diane does, and expect them to be better than themselves, because you love them.

And as the episode ends, BoJack seems to land somewhere in the middle. He takes a different message from Princess Carolyn’s heartfelt speech: To be worthy of her 25 years of mostly unrequited love, he needs to be better. He tells Princess Carolyn he’ll take responsibility for everything: “So you can tell your daughter you helped me do the right thing.”

Horsin’ around:

While BoJack has Diane and Princess Carolyn playing the angel and devil on his shoulders, Mr. Peanutbutter is across the country, opening a new small plates/lazy Susan restaurant alongside Pickles and Joey Pogo. I’ve never been a fan of Mr. Peanutbutter and Pickles’s relationship, so I’m relieved that Pickles sleeps with, and ultimately decides to go on tour with, Joey Pogo. (And despite what they both pretend, she and Mr. Peanutbutter will clearly not be getting married whenever she returns.)

Especially for a relationship I had zero investment in, I was surprised at how moved I was by the sweet, generous lie Mr. Peanutbutter tells Pickles to ease her guilt as she walks out the door, which was also the guiding philosophy of the restaurant they started together: “Everyone gets what they want, and no one had to compromise.”

Pickles’s one-sentence appraisal of Mr. Peanutbutter: “Confident, refreshingly optimistic, and wryly sweet with an ironic self-aware edge that reads to some as inauthentic but I recognize as archly sincere.”

And there’s apparently a lot of love in the air at Elefino, because Maximillian Banks finally confesses his love for Paige Sinclair, prompting her to run off to her oft-called, never-seen fiancé Baxter Bellamy.

Mr. Peanutbutter, closing an incredibly minor plot hole from that one time Sarah Lynn stole Diane’s signature jacket: “[Diane] was able to find one shortly thereafter that looked exactly the same.”

A happy customer at Elefino: It’s “exactly like dim sum — but with white people food, so it’s more accessible.”

BoJack’s list of bad stories is a helpful recap of the series itself, from stealing the Hollywood “D” to swiping muffins from a Navy Seal.

Diane’s creativity extends to her bizarrely specific reason for getting off the phone with Paige: Her finger was caught in a bagel guillotine.

BoJack’s list of bad stories also includes “pretended to date Natalie Portman,” so he and Moby have something in common.

BoJack Horseman’s disturbingly accurate impression of a bullshit-ty, carefully worded non-apology: “My relationship with Sarah Lynn was complicated, as relationships between addicts often are. However, certain aspects of the story are inaccurate or exaggerated. This story has started an important conversation, and I look forward to continuing to work on my own progress.”

Sad dog!

BoJack Horseman Recap: The Truth Will Out