Welcome back to High Fidelity, a very funny and warmly loving show about a young woman who lies to her friends and family about how totally super okay she is as she slides ever closer to what increasingly looks like a full-on mental health crisis! As interesting and entertaining as it is to revisit and reassess Rob’s memories of her Top Five Heartbreaks, the toll that it’s taking on her in the present is dire.
Rob wakes up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, determined to get the scoop from her four remaining exes, and though Kat Monroe is next up chronologically, she spots Simon in line at a fancy new coffee shop and pops in there to ask him for his take on why she’s so doomed to be abandoned. Simon’s response to this badly timed, selfish request — Rob is disrupting his meet-cute with the very adorable barista preparing his coffee with a dash of oat milk, for the love of Mike! — is so lovingly matter-of-fact that it made me cry.
Simon leads by reminding Rob that they broke up because he’s gay, and he remains her friend because he loves her: “I still make you mixtapes. I say I like your outfit, even when I don’t at all. I let you pop pimples on my back whenever you want! This is how we acted and I treated you when we were in a relationship, and this is what I continue to do now. We’re still together, okay? I never left. You get it?” Behold, the baseline kindness and gentle masculinity we need more of! Between this interaction and his strong coaching of Cherise as she works on recruiting a band, I’m ready to watch an entire series of Simon just going around affirming everyone he loves.
Rob says she gets it, but her choices tell a different story. Catching up with Justin after his weekly set at a divey comedy place in the West Village, she can see what a mess he is and decides not to bother with pressing him on the root causes of their breakup. Which is good, because as Justin reminds her, it was Rob who dumped him, not the other way around. So of the three relationships she’s pursued information about, three offer no substantive answers to her questions, no discernible pattern other than that they ended, which is what happens to most romantic partnerships. You try them on until you find the investment piece that fits just right!
Speaking of investment pieces, we get to see Kat Monroe try on a slew of pricey options during her catch-up call with Rob: Black michelin man puffer coat! Bright orange floral silk number! Sky blue biker jacket! A gold sequined full-length coat with puffed sleeves!
Kat is as insufferable as ever, but the parade of outerwear leavens the scene, which results in her inviting Rob over to continue to catch up, as long as she’s not trying to rehash the past.
As she prepares for her evening out, Rob reflects that Kat always made her feel both like she wasn’t enough, and also that she was special. Mac was the first person who made her feel both special and enough. We can tell she’s rattled and wants to make a modestly glamorous impression, because she’s put on a gorgeous bold red lip. Unfortunately the rattled part of her mind is more powerful at the moment, because she succumbs to Carlos’ gentle razzing by self-consciously wiping it off even though it looked great.
Poor Rob’s equilibrium is entirely upset at Kat’s place, where she’s not just having a little get-together, she’s hosting an Instagram influencer gathering for a South Korean fizzy drink. Kat appears to have bought most of the coats and jackets she was trying on earlier, and presses the fancy black puffer on Rob, who then gets dragooned into taking photos for one of the attendees.
The one pleasant interaction of the entire evening involves another guest telling Rob that it’s really badass to own a record store, since it’s “a typically male-dominated space.” Unfortunately, we don’t go out on this high note — the series’ first acknowledgement that Rob might have unique experiences as a Black woman who owns a record store — because now it’s time for Kat to deliver an offhandedly devastating mini-dissertation on why she broke up with Rob: “Caitlin was less hard work, a little bit sunnier, sparkier, a little bit more sure of herself, and you just always seemed like in search of yourself, looking for constant purpose and validation. You could also be a bit obsessive, like a little too in touch with your feelings.” Harsh, but fair, honestly, as this entire exercise amply demonstrates.
As she recaps the evening for Cherise and Simon, for one shining moment it seems like Rob will stop messing with her exes, but Rob really isn’t one to quit while she’s ahead, so off she goes to talk to Mac about why their breakup went down as it did.
This scene, the one the last two episodes have been building towards, is so well done. Zoë Kravitz and Kingsley Ben-Adir are fencing here, and it’s mostly a friendly interaction between two well-matched competitors. They start out good-naturedly testing each other’s defenses with some breezy, knowing banter, turning into heartfelt seriousness and then skirting the edge of a genuine argument as Mac sighs that “you don’t listen, you never listened.” He gives her a perfect opening to ask her big question about their breakup, but instead she asks about Lily and learns that she and Mac are engaged. That’s a rapier through the heart right there. Rob leaves, shattered, and no more informed about the end of their relationship.
As David Bowie’s “It Ain’t Easy” — a lament about how hard it is to change your life when faced with the reality of how much work it takes — fills her living room, Rob concludes that she’ll always be alone. After spotting the old lady smoking alone across the street again, Rob sighs in abject misery, imagining her life as a TV show where she and her anonymous neighbor would “team up, fight the loneliness together with cats and cigarettes and reruns of Murder, She Wrote.” We close out with an overhead shot of Rob in bed, in the fetal position in bed. Oooof.
1) Song of the Episode: the Beastie Boys’ “I Don’t Know,” a deep cut off of Hello, Nasty about how hard it is to find true peace of mind. I hereby withdraw my lightly ageist snark from “Top Five Heartbreaks”; the show is making a strong case for Rob as a dyed-in-the-wool Beasties fan.
2) Cherise’s summary of her dream band’s sound — “think Brian Eno producing Beyoncé fronting Soul Coughing” — is something I want to hear every day and I will not rest until I find it.
3) Lily Watch continues apace: We still haven’t seen her. It’s weird!