Frances knows she’s in a relationship with a man who is married to someone he loves and does not want to leave. A tale as old as Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally. And though Frances has been telling herself that she does not really mind this — and possibly the only reason she’s allowed herself to be emotionally vulnerable with Nick is his irrefutable unavailability — she is only human and very young and having sex with him, so … she minds! OF COURSE SHE MINDS. The fact that she ever thought she would not mind … sigh.
It’s time for Melissa’s book launch, which means it’s time for Frances to be dressed in a way that conveys that she is Much Younger Than Melissa (low space buns in her hair, dress in a schoolgirl plaid) even though I maintain that a real person in Frances’ situation would overcorrect and try to look more sophisticated than she really is. Frances is miserable from the moment she arrives when she sees Nick and Melissa doing that thing where they are married (rude!) and affectionate (the AUDACITY) in front of other people. Nick gazes admiringly at his wife as she gives a short reading, and Frances spirals SO fast it’s almost like this show is suddenly a comedy. Like she just immediately turns to Bobbi and blurts out, okay, so in a burning building, Nick would obviously save Melissa??!! Instead of ME. Right? RIGHT?!?!? (I’m barely paraphrasing.)
Even though accidental compliments are coming Frances’ way — the couple from the trip saying Nick still has “that Croatian glow about you,” which Frances could attribute to the joy her influence brings him — Frances is absolutely losing it. When she sees Nick put his arm around Melissa, she starts toying with Bobbi’s hair — which Bobbi swiftly rejects, smacking Frances’ hand away and snapping, “Don’t fucking use me, Frances,” and you guys know I’m generally not pro-Bobbi outbursts, but this was 100% called for. For someone who is allegedly cold and emotionless, Frances is sure running hot and emotional today! She flees the party for the flat, where later on, Bobbi returns with the cute bartender. Frances responds to this cavalcade of offense by downloading Tinder, which is really something she should’ve done a long time ago.
The next day, Frances (wearing all black, grieving her former happiness) writes an apology email to Bobbi, though she deletes what she probably thinks is the most embarrassing line: “I just didn’t expect to feel that way when I saw them together.” Nick sends Frances a text with “the song I was talking about.” But Frances cannot dwell on this musical selection: she has a DATE.
I actually laughed out loud when I saw the date, a Nick lookalike who is just age-appropriate and available and actually expressive about his interest in Frances, so of course she will hate him for no reason. She finds fault in his every effort — his taste in poetry is fascist, apparently — and looks so aggressively bored at everything he says I cannot believe he goes with her for a beer at a second location. She kisses him out of nowhere and invites herself back to his place, which he seems happy about, and they have sex and she sneaks out after he falls asleep.
Bobbi says that she accepts Frances’ apology though the vibe between them later, with Phillip looking on, would suggest they are not exactly on good terms. They reveal each other’s sexual secrets — Frances and the Tinder date, Bobbi and the bartender — until Bobbi escalates with “Frances has a secret boyfriend.” Realizing she’s crossed a relationship rubicon, Bobbi says she was joking, but Frances just goes all-in and reveals that she’s been sleeping with Nick. Bobbi tries to cover for Frances (“Oh, don’t be a moralist, Phillip”), but Phillip just keeps stepping in it with not inaccurate questions and observations, though I’m not sure it’s really his place to say things like “I didn’t think you’d let someone take advantage of you like that.”
After Phillip leaves, Frances asks Bobbi, in another fit of insecurity, if she is actually being taken advantage of. Bobbi says that ultimately Nick is responsible for his own marriage, though “lately I feel like I’m watching you disappear.” What’s interesting is that Conversations with Friends came out riiiiight before #MeToo, and I feel like that whole power-dynamics-aren’t-ever-even-between-adults-and-very-young-adults thing would’ve made the reception to this book a bit more charged.
Frances gets home to a voice note from Nick, who says he’s missed her and wants her to come over. However, she is so not in a headspace for this date. She mopes while he cooks, saying passive-aggressive shit about how he was “busy with [his] wife” (during Melissa’s book launch … what was he SUPPOSED to do? I mean, I’m not Team Nick but good lord) and trying to provoke him with her tales from Tinder. Of course she is hoping that he will respond to the news of her date by saying he minds that she has sex with other people, but instead he’s like, you can do whatever you want, which only enrages her further. When they finally get upstairs, they undress in as mechanical a manner as possible. No kissing. And Nick just gets back up to say, “You can’t just take it out on me whenever you feel bad … Does the fact that I’m married mean that you can treat me however you want?”
Nick accuses Frances of just wanting to see him fight with Melissa and that’s the real reason she’s so eager for him to tell Melissa about the affair. “The problem isn’t that you’re married,” Frances says on her way out. “The problem is that I’m in love with you and you obviously don’t feel the same. Fuck you.” DOOR SLAM. I mean, IS that obvious??? Would that these “friends” were able to actually have “conversations” (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll stop). Great performance by Alison Oliver here. She gives very good crying-down-the-street. On the train ride home, she listens to the song Nick sent her. Press your thumb down on that bruise, girl.
When she gets home, the flat is empty. She gets up and RUNS to the computer. She’s writing again! Like, really writing! Have we seen her at it like this since the series started? She stays up all night knocking out a new piece. Also, she’s wearing a very cute sweater. I like that thick knit. It’s already too hot here to think about clothes like that, but I’ll keep the tab open in my brain for the fall. We hear Frances read the first line of it — a document she titles “The Dance,” I can only hope it’s a reference to one of the great messy-relationship bands of our time — to herself, and contrary to what one might think given the inciting incident for this writing-fest, the subject of the story is a “her.”