The penultimate episode of Sex Education season two is a complicated one to evaluate. It’s annoying that what feels like the central conflict of the episode — the “anonymous” release of Jean’s notes — feels like a straight rip-off of the burn book sequence from Mean Girls (orchestrated by a villain with a lot less nuance and wisdom than Regina George). However, it also features two storylines that represent the show at its very best, delivering both heart and humor with simple and honest character moments. The hope when watching any TV show or film is that it’ll make you feel something. And episode seven of this show about horny teens made me tear up multiple times.
Things begin in the aftermath of Otis’s party and the related fallout, with most of Otis’s attention focused on the fact that the girl in his bed turns out to be Ruby, who is definitely sure that the two of them had sex the night before — but not sure that they properly used protection.
So after school the two of them set out on a quest to get Ruby the morning-after pill, which leads to Otis learning that while Ruby might play the dramatic queen bee, her life isn’t as simple as we might assume — for one thing, her father has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s how she explains her choice to hook up with Otis: “When I’m sad, I make out with nerdy boys,” she tells him. “It was 100 percent intentional.” But there’s something pure about the way in which that one secret ends up helping the two of them connect; Ruby and Otis might not be a love story, but they end the episode as friends.
At the same time, Moordale School is in turmoil thanks to the halls getting papered with copies of Jean’s notes from her sex therapty sessions with both students and staff —something Headmaster Groff did deliberately to get Jean ousted from her position at the school (which does in fact happen). The fact that a grown man would do something that is both petty and also actively destructive to the well-being of the student body he is theoretically charged with protecting and nurturing makes this plot choice downright infuriating. And again, Regina George did it first.
However, it sets off a chain of events that, while feeling a bit contrived, does lead to some truly beautiful moments. When Miss Sands’ interest in dirty talk leads to a mysterious culprit going around the school scrawling graffiti about her in the girls’ locker room, she drags six potential suspects into detention, and decides to make them complete an impossible task: define what unites them all as females of the species.
Thus, Maeve, Ola, Lily, Viv, Olivia, and Aimee all find themselves trying to figure out their common bond, which proves impossible until they basically realize that they’ve all been terrorized by men at one point in their lives. Aimee opens the initial floodgates here, and after several episodes of watching her suppress her recent experience, it’s a powerful thing to see her finally talk about what happened and why it still haunts her.
Turns out that all six young women have had some sort of horrific experience thanks to an abusive man, and so when Miss Sands returns to detention (having snuck off for a quick round of dirty talk and dirtier sex with Mr. Hendricks), they’re able to tell her what they have in common: “Other than nonconsensual penises, not much.”
Then, Ola invites the other girls to join her at Adam’s special smashing space, and they go to town on an abandoned car, Aimee in particular getting a real chance to express her inner rage. But they’re all angry, in a way so many women can recognize. #YesAllWomen, in fact.
There are two big bits of badness before the end of the episode: first, Jean, having learned about Otis’s sex clinic business from Malek, confronts her son, and when he denies it, she delivers the withering line “you look just like your father when you lie.” Also, thanks to a spying Isaac, Maeve learns that her mother has been fired from her alleged office job, and has to deliver an ultimatum: if Erin lies to her again, she’s gone.
However, there’s a happy (if impromptu) development for two characters, as Lily decides abruptly that she is interested in Ola after all, and the two of them kiss. And, the next morning, when Aimee tentatively makes her way to the bus stop, the other five girls are waiting for her. “It’s just a stupid bus,” Maeve tells her, and surrounded by her squad, Aimee finally gets back on board.
It feels important to note that all the best moments of what might be the best episode of the season so far have to do with platonic relationships, not romantic. But while Sex Education might be horny, it has enough rom-com DNA to suggest that the season finale could take some abrupt twists.
All the Good Things and the Bad Things That May Be
• If you were curious, after Lily mentioned it, about whether or not Chatroulette is still a thing people do — turns out it is! (When I gave it a quick spin, I didn’t end up talking to anyone, likely because my trusty recap-writing hoodie isn’t the most alluring apparel.)
• Speaking of apparel, while Ruby might have just been trying to be polite to Jean, she does say something very true: Jean’s pantsuits rule.
• The tenderness of Jackson trying to make amends with his mothers, especially his non-biological mum, is sweet to behold, and more importantly Jackson has managed to extricate himself from pursuing a dream that he no longer wants.
• Music-wise, most of the time this show is pretty good about either drawing upon deep cuts or finding innovative ways to use notable tracks. But, um, is it legal for another film or TV show to use Sufjan Stevens’ “Mystery of Love” after Call Me By Your Name turned it into weaponized emotional devastation? I would argue that the answer is no.
• It’s hard to know what to make of Adam’s storyline in this episode, in which he does good work at his job, even teaching the store dog how to sit, but then fails to lock things up properly and thus apparently loses said job the next day.
• But it is cute when Otis stops by the store with a warning that if Adam hurts Eric again, Otis will “mess [him] up.” Otis and Eric remain this show’s best couple.