Ah, solitude. As a self-selected state, it can be blissful. When forced on us, it can be crushingly lonely. In the end, Rob wonders, what’s the difference? For a smart cookie, she sure can be foolish. Let’s see how it plays out, shall we? But first: a red alert! We’re going to meet Lily in this episode! This is not a drill!
Rob and Clyde are spending more time together, and their rapport is great: strong, easy, with flowing banter, and nearly undetectable levels of bullshit. What’s not to like? Rob sums up the problem pretty neatly: “He listens to Phish. I just can’t.” Clyde makes light of his pain with an amusing quip about his whiteness and his good-natured taking of his lumps on this score makes it easier to receive his gentle criticism about the imbalance in their relationship. Rob rarely, if ever, initiates spending time together, and he’d like her to hit him up a bit more frequently. Fair!
When Rob does do so, though, it’s as selfish as the time she cold-called him to drive her to the Upper West Side to see about the incredible record collection. After bumping into both Mac and his fiancée Lily at Cam’s “Last Hurrah” (his very bad idea of an impromptu Woe Is Me, I’m Having a Baby Shower), Rob decides she needs to call in reinforcements. Cherise is busy offering wisdom and maybe jamming with Peachy and Shane, who are looking for a new vocalist and loved Cherise’s flyer. Simon has bailed, stating flatly that he “would literally rather listen to Creed” than attend the low-key bacchanal of the straights. That leaves Clyde, who bounds in, all smiles, fresh from the climbing gym. He may well not turn out to be Mr. Right, but he sure is game.
For her part, Rob is trying, too. She knows she needs real alternatives to her increasingly violent fantasies about beating down Lily. She sees that Lily is a decent person. Considerate, even! Aware of the awkwardness of the situation and earnestly trying to mitigate it through faintly tryhard friendliness and the liberal application of booze, and since everyone in this quartet is a drinker, who could ask for more than that?
Clyde’s self-deprecating story about how he started volunteering to teach rock climbing classes to kids from the neighborhood who otherwise wouldn’t have climbing gym access is probably more revealing than he intended for a first-ever conversation with Mac and Lily, but he doesn’t know the significance or the stakes of their interaction, because Rob hasn’t told him any of it.
It turns out he’s very thirsty for approval, and Mac provides it, saying he’d like to volunteer, too. When this predictably devolves into a good-natured and somewhat flirty fake fight about the time Mac “volunteered” at the New York City marathon, Lily and Clyde can see the chemistry, and it’s palpably uncomfortable.
Several rounds later, Cam and his buddy Hammer pull Clyde into their game of Hammer Shots (aptly described by Clyde as never not doing shots), which inevitably leads to Cam letting drop that Rob and Mac used to be engaged. He thinks Rob dodged a bullet there, but this is new, unwelcome information for Clyde.
The situation does not improve when Cam and Hammer return from the bathroom after doing some coke (because this is suddenly 1985 all of a sudden?). Rob would like Cam to cool it, but he grows belligerent and says some cruel things about her relationship track record in the way only a big brother who knows he’s avoiding dealing with his own problems can. Even coming from a drunk guy who’s just added blow to his existential crisis, hearing something like “Every relationship that you touch turns to shit … quick math, maybe you’re the problem!” would sting pretty badly.
With Cam’s words ringing in her ears, Rob joins Clyde outside for a breather, which turns to the awkward conversation they have to have about how everyone but Clyde knew that Rob and Mac had been engaged. That conversation could have been much worse, and Rob acknowledges as much. Some flirty banter about Clyde being her only and favorite fake boyfriend leads to kissing, which Rob breaks off, dithering about her feelings. This wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t feel entirely of a piece with Rob’s insistence that everyone be half-in-love with her and constantly available to her, while she wriggles free of any reciprocal obligations if they seem too annoying or uncomfortable to deal with. For his part, Clyde would love to be in a relationship with Rob, and isn’t interested in continuing to play their current game of messiness.
The sound of a glass breaking inside draws Rob and Clyde back into the bar, where a still very crossfaded Cam is picking his second fight of the night with a fellow bar patron who’s a little too hipstery (a rich objection for Cam to make. This man takes pride in wearing a fedora as his signature look). Despite Rob and Clyde’s best efforts at de-escalation, neither Cam nor the sloe gin fizz-drinker will back down and Cam collapses after taking a badly judged swing. Somehow Clyde winds up socking Mr. Hipster, running off in disgust after realizing what he’s done.
Finally, Nikki appears. Throughout the episode, I’d been thinking that she didn’t know Cam’s whereabouts and was perhaps waiting worriedly at home, trying not to panic-call Rob, but now I think she was on the enormous text chain announcing Cam’s Last Hurrah and had wisely decided to stay away until her husband ran out of baby anxiety gas for the evening. Cam talks about how badly he doesn’t want to lose the guy he was pre-parenthood, and Nikki is sympathetic. After all, she doesn’t want to lose the guy she’s been, either. Would you believe this thought has never occurred to Cam? Wow! Nikki wisely ignores this little epiphany of Cam’s, and gently points out that they’re both going to have to grow up just a tad as they navigate what it means to be a parent. She’s got a point there.
The episode closes on Rob, sitting alone on the curb outside The Allied, an apology from Cam ringing in her ears as she considers that maybe she deserved some of his criticism, after all.
1) Song of the Episode: “Dry The Rain”, by the Beta Band, of blessed memory. I was waiting for a sonic callback to the movie soundtrack, and this one is perfect. Even the teens agree, this song is dope!
2) Speaking of the teens, Peachy and Shane’s sincere enthusiasm for Cherise’s flyer is this episode’s purest delight. Shane’s stage-whispered delivery of “Aretha mixed with Ann Wilson?!” is the kind of energy we should all aspire to embrace in 2020.