Dave Recap: The Belly of the Beast


The Storm
Season 3 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 5 stars


The Storm
Season 3 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Copyright 2023, FX Networks. All rights reserved.. CR: FX

As much as this season of Dave is structured around its protagonist’s search for love, I often find myself less interested in Dave’s love life than the other stuff: his family, his friends, his fans. Accordingly, “The Storm” is my favorite episode of season three so far. It’s basically the Platonic ideal of a Dave episode: funny, creepy, and sneakily thoughtful, telling a story specific to Dave while utilizing the whole ensemble.

It begins at a Lil Dicky show in Mississippi, where a young woman named Meg (Melanie Ehrlich) is first in line. Meg is a classic stan, like a less creepy (but just as passionate) version of the fan from “Texas” who made a Lil Dicky head out of concrete. So when her idol picks her to join him on stage, it’s a dream come true — and not even being called a “fat whore” by his most toxic male fans can faze her. “It’s a Lil Dicky show, right?” she says, brushing off Dave’s sincere apology backstage. “I get it.” It’s a telling remark.

Dave is eager to make it up to Meg, so he invites her to their Memphis show, even allowing her to join them on the tour bus since she doesn’t have a car. But not long after they arrive to pick her up at her remote ranch house, a Category 3 hurricane moves in and the roads are closed, stranding Dave and his posse (minus Ally) with Meg’s family for the rest of the episode.

This is another opportunity for Dave to comment on and play with stereotypes about the South, and sure, it’s not totally free of cliché. As soon as you hear that Meg’s Wi-Fi password is “ILIVEFORHIM,” you can start to see where this is going: Meg belongs to a very conservative Christian family, which will inevitably clash with Dave’s tour family of godless heathens. There’s tension in the air here from the beginning, with the parents suspicious of Dave’s intentions and skeptical of the larger group, including Vaka (Natasha Alam), the latest in GaTa’s seemingly endless series of sexual partners. To us, it all feels like the setup for a Get Out situation, and it’s starting to feel like that for them, too.

“The Storm” feints in the horror direction, mostly with some anxiety-inducing quick cutting and the score, all pulsing bass and eerie strings. Every family member is creepy in their own way: Meg’s father is cold, her mother stern, and her Bible-quoting brother, Aaron (Alexander Poncio), looks like he could break Dave in half even without that chainsaw. A creepy little girl and a creepy grandma complete the picture, with the latter providing the episode’s most outrageous moment when she exposes herself and gets pleasured by the family dog. (By comparison, her repeatedly mistaking Mike for “Richard” is small potatoes.)

But what’s most upsetting to Dave isn’t the numerous red flags piling up. He can’t stop thinking about what Meg told him before her parents came home: What she loves most in the world is dancing, but her parents think it’s un-Christian. They made her take down the TikTok account where she’d upload videos of herself dancing in her bedroom. To Dave, there is perhaps no greater injustice than stifling someone’s creativity, so he makes it his mission to change Meg’s parents’ minds.

It’s clear early on how Dave will get in his own way: by pushing Meg’s parents too far and letting her down. But unlike in some Dave episodes (especially “Harrison Ave” from this season), Dave’s misguided persistence is coming from the right place this time. It’s cringey to watch him directly confront Meg’s parents at the dinner table, arguing that there’s nothing evil about sexuality and drawing attention to your body through dance. He’s right, but it isn’t a productive argument because everyone is set in their beliefs: Dancing creates lust and leads to temptation, and the addictive cycle of pleasure makes you lose your soul, and that’s just that. Where Dave really fucks up is in speaking for Meg, claiming she doesn’t even believe in Christianity and the standards they live by. She’s right to tell him off.

With Dave set straight, the episode pivots to deal with the subplot that has been developing primarily in the background of this episode (and this season overall): GaTa’s sex addiction. It comes to the forefront after Vaka storms out (ha) and he calls up someone else to keep him company. But as soon as Vaka sees Graciela, she attacks, leading to a scuffle that ends in Mike and Dave yelling at GaTa.

Maybe it’ll lose its power eventually, but GaTa getting real about his emotions is always reliably moving, especially knowing much of his backstory parallels the real-life man. This instance is surprising in the moment but makes sense when you think back to the frequency of GaTa’s sexual references recently. Crying as he admits how much he can’t take being alone for even a night, Gata mentions that his last steady girlfriend left him and had an abortion. More crucially, his biological mom chose drugs over him, something that affects him to this day. “Why should I love a woman?” he asks. “My mom didn’t love me my whole life.”

Throughout all of this, Meg’s mother (Dendrie Taylor) is there as a surprising source of comfort, assuring GaTa that God will never abandon him and praying while she holds his hand. It’s a sign of what should’ve been apparent to Dave from the beginning: People are complicated, and they can surprise you. Does this family hold some mortifying views, and are Meg’s parents wrong to take away what she loves? Of course. But are they capable of kindness and empathy sometimes, and is there an undeniable comfort in religion? Also yes. Besides, Meg may be under her parents’ thumb, but you never get the sense that she’s truly unhappy with this life she has. She loves her family and has faith to keep her steady, even during experiences most people would struggle to handle.

Meg acknowledges this the next morning when she tells Dave she doesn’t need him to save her; she’s already saved. I really like the give-and-take that happens here: Meg teaches Dave a valuable lesson, but Dave’s perspective means a lot to her, too, and despite his numerous faux pas, he does have real advice to offer. “Only when I started doing exactly what I love to do in life did I feel any semblance of spirit,” he says. His circumstances differed from Meg’s, but people told him not to pursue rapping, and he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t ignore them.

Because her parents are still watching, Meg can only say good-bye to Dave with a “mind hug” — one of the most genuinely adorable TV moments I’ve seen in a while. And then, lest we fear the scene was getting gooey, we get that perfect ending joke: Aaron approaches Dave to let him know that he listened to his music and he actually loves it because “it’s just fucking cool to hear someone who’s proud to be white.” Every artist has good fans and bad fans, and with a persona like Lil Dicky, there’s an even bigger risk of being misunderstood. Aaron is a stand-in for the worst and most toxic of Lil Dicky’s audience, both in the series and in real life — the same type of person who booed Meg in the opening scene.

Except the reveal isn’t the true ending. This is an episode about both Dave’s best fans and his worst fans, but the focus is on Meg, the first and last character we see onscreen. As the tour bus pulls away, director Shannon Murphy pans over to end on a shot of Meg dancing again in her bedroom for TikTok, bursting with joy in every twist and turn of her body. This is a show called Dave, and “The Storm” is as much about the artist as it is about the fan. But in these final moments, it’s she who gets the spotlight. Maybe one day she’ll be a superstar, or maybe not, but that’s not the point. In this moment, she’s a young woman alone in Mississippi, staring into a camera and letting everything else go, and that’s enough.

Dick Jokes

• This episode wouldn’t work without Melanie Ehrlich, who really helps the whole thing feel genuine and not cloying.

• Dendrie Taylor was such a highlight of the first season of American Vandal, where she played Dylan’s mom, so I was happy to see her here. My recent revisit of that show made me think she deserved more attention for her performance, and here she possesses a similarly powerful warmth that comes out when you don’t expect it.

• It’s not a proper subplot, but I like the bit of shading that Emma gets with her reactions to this home, being a lapsed Christian herself. “I used to know all of this shit,” she marvels.

• “This is my friend GaTa, short for Alligator, and Vaka, which is not short for anything. She’s just trans-Siberian.”

• Andrew Santino still has some of the funniest line deliveries in this cast. I couldn’t stop laughing at the way he pipes in with “He’s tan” after Dave mentions Elz in the other room.

• “There are some outdated principles being adhered to in this household.”

• Dave, you should probably know to stop talking once you hear the phrase “at least with slavery” come from your mouth.

• “Is it Christian music?” “If you count Jewish as Christian.”

Dave Recap: The Belly of the Beast