I love Frances’s abject panic at being Skyped. In this episode, we finally confirm what I have been dying to know, which is that this IS a period piece, and we are currently in 2018, so we were not accustomed yet to spontaneous FaceTimes and regular Zooms. It’s hard to say what is important about this conversation except that they are both more vulnerable than ever — admitting they think about each other, are attracted to each other, and miss each other — and still not really comfortable enough to share the real shit (Frances keeps her medical emergency and pregnancy scare to herself). She also points out that Nick could visit her when he gets back. So whatever feelings she was having when they were last together (“Are we bad people?”) are not powerful enough to stop her from wanting to keep doing what they’re doing. At least not yet.
Bobbi and Frances play it cool about the trip among their college friends. For once in her life, Bobbi is quite discreet, high on the intimacy of actually knowing what’s going on with Frances. (Though I wonder if Bobbi’s tight-lipped vibe isn’t a sign to all their friends that something is up, given her usual demeanor.) Bobbi’s parents are divorcing in what she describes as an “operatic sort of way,” and what do you know, Frances still hasn’t found someone (not that she’s tried at all?) to fill that spare room, so Bobbi is moving in.
That night they are all giggly and warm and drunk (“Is a penis not absurd?” “That’s kind of its charm” killed me). Bobbi says it’s totally fine for Nick to come over to the apartment. They go out dancing. Bobbi is trying very hard to be on board, but I think we can all tell from how happy everyone is now that things are going to come crashing down soon.
In the cool morning light, Frances talks to Nick on the phone. They talk a bit about his parents. His dad is very right-wing. She teasingly calls Nick “aggressively heterosexual; you even have a mistress.” Later, he shows up at her door. She has her cat-that-caught-the-canary smile on again and is more forward and confident than we’ve ever seen her. I assume this is a combination of distance from Nick (heart grows fonder), distance from Melissa (guilt fades out), and support from Bobbi (whose opinion matters more to Frances than Frances will ever admit). This is the first time they can have sex without worrying at all that they will be walked in on by some disapproving third party — because at his place, who knows? Melissa could’ve come home early sometime! As ever, these are very well-shot scenes. A+ for the hands-in-hair choreography alone.
Frances texts Nick while she’s out with her friends — she and Bobbi decide to throw a housewarming party — and leaves for another tryst with him back at the apartment. She is smiling so wide, and I am SO worried about what’s going to happen next … the story will not allow her to bask in this bliss forever. Nick calls what they’re doing a “relationship,” which warms Frances’s icy, emotionless heart.
All is swell until, while browsing in a bookstore with Bobbi, Frances runs into Melissa. They all get coffee (Frances can’t get out of it, though clearly, she is desperate to), and Melissa talks about Nick’s vastly improved mood: more relaxed than he’s been in a long time and even in such good form since returning from vacation. The awful feeling that what Frances is doing with Nick does not exist in a parallel universe where no one is affected by their actions rises up in her body like bile; once Melissa says Nick can join them, Frances bolts for “class.”
That evening, Bobbi cracks first — she’s not harsh about it, but she does say that “it didn’t feel good to be dishonest.” Frances admits she has no idea what to do, and then we immediately cut to a post-coital snuggle with Nick, so … I guess she does know what she’s going to do (continue having sex with Nick).
While Nick goes to the bathroom, Frances pulls his coat around her naked body. It is a nice coat. And it also reminds me that so much of Nick’s allure is just the fact of his age and experience and these little lifestyle markers of financial security, like having a nice coat (though Frances, a self-identified communist, would be ashamed to cop to this). She still has him on this pedestal in her mind, telling him that she cannot imagine him doing mortal, ordinary things like “trying on clothes” and “wondering if you look good in something.” He assures her that he does. They admit that they both know they come off “cold and not very fun.” Well, self-awareness is the first step.
On another date, in a car staring out at the sea, Frances and Nick have the inevitable conversation about what exactly they’re going to do now. I think Frances’s line, “I don’t want you to leave me now. I would miss dominating you in conversation,” hits better in the book where we are reading all their texts and emails; in the show, do you get the sense that Frances is regularly “dominating” Nick in conversation? That is … not really the verb I would use. But anyway. Nick proposes that he tell Melissa what they’re doing. It’s not totally clear what Nick wants from that admission beyond permission to keep doing what he’s doing; Frances articulates his unsaid thing, which is that Nick does not want to leave his wife. What if Melissa says they can’t keep seeing each other? Nick says it’s a risk, but so is sneaking around. Frances gives him her blessing to do what he likes.
After the housewarming party (which looks fun!), Frances tells Bobbi that Nick is planning to tell Melissa but not until after her book launch. Bobbi, who has been on much better behavior since the last episode, kindly says that this must mean Nick is serious about Frances, who is seriously falling in love with Nick.