Emily wakes in her apartment to the sweet, sweet sounds of her crush and his gorgeous, kind girlfriend having sex one floor below her. She moans “again” in her misery and I must raise an obvious issue here: If we are to believe that sound travels so much between these apartments, why did Emily never hear Gabriel and Camille having sex until now? (This would have been easy to resolve! “Oh, Camille has been away on business for a month and just got back” or some such thing.) As your resident Normal People recapper, I am here to advocate for sexual verisimilitude.
Over breakfast, Mindy explains to Emily why she canNOT go back to China even as her rich dad, the zipper king, is trying to bribe her to come home by offering her a Bentley and a mansion. First of all, she doesn’t want to take over the zipper kingdom and “start dressing like Angela Merkel.” (Would she have to do that, though? Maybe she could dress like Shiv Roy.) But the real reason is that Mindy went on Chinese Popstar — a.k.a. American Idol — and choked in front of billions of people. She even became a meme. Mortifying! Pop careers are built on less auspicious foundations every day, but Mindy fled China and swore off singing in public. Emily insists that Mindy has another chance: “You get more than one shot,” she says, which tracks because Emily gets 1,000 chances at everything. “In China, you don’t get more than one kid,” Mindy reminds her. Having heard Mindy sing exactly zero times, Emily is convinced her friend needs to pursue her art professionally.
Emily arrives at the office in all-black attire as instructed by Julian, because they’re meeting Pierre Cadault the Very Important Designer and they don’t want Emily to humiliate them. (Sylvie, unimpressed: “That’s not black. That’s off-black.”) Again, much as I love Sylvie and root for her every success, this whole situation feels like an entirely avoidable crisis: If it’s SO high stakes and you cannot afford any mistakes, just don’t bring Emily to the meeting!
For reasons unclear, this meeting between a French marketing agency and a French fashion designer is conducted entirely in English. Emily babbles herself into a hole. Pierre spots her gold Eiffel Tower bag chain — A gold. Eiffel. Tower. Bag chain! EMILY NO — and he is so horrified by the unrepentant tackiness that he calls her a “ringarde,” which apparently means “basic bitch,” and sprints out of the room. It’s devastating.
Emily polls her Instagram followers on the relative basic-ness of her bag charm, but anyone who follows Emily on Instagram is not going to be a good judge of these matters. As she sits alone with a glass of wine and eyes a confusing couple before her — mother/son? Lovers? — a cute guy sitting nearby picks up a vibe and starts flirting with her. They wager a bottle of wine on the real relationship situation before them and he starts to tell her the story of the cafe. It’s right on that line of being annoying/mansplain-y and just like, actually telling her some background she doesn’t know about the city, so it does not immediately scan as a problem, but once we get to know him better I’m sure this conversation will, in hindsight, appear to be littered with red flags. (“When two things are next to each other, you are forced to compare them” is the level of insight we are getting from this professor of semiotics.)
The whole thing is worthwhile because finally Emily gets to have that post-break-up sex she deserves, and now it’s Gabriel and Camille’s turn to hear HER all night long. Good for you, Emily. (But was she even wearing that La Perla lingerie? Is it just collecting dust in a drawer somewhere?)
In the morning, he’s going through the books in her apartment because he can’t have sex with a woman with no books — a John Waters rule and I respect it — but she explains the whole “it was too expensive to ship them” and “I’m reading on my Kindle now” which you KNOW a guy like that is going to think is worse than having no books at all. I have to say this is high-quality morning-after flirting (he needs to go through her book list “so I can make love to you again with a clear conscience”) and he doesn’t bother to shower because he can’t bear to “wash you off yet” and NOT because Emily’s shower, as far as we know, is still in disrepair.
I find it hard to believe Emily didn’t already know that the French word for orgasm means “little death.” I feel like that’s sort of popular knowledge, no? Pretty mainstream intel. But when Camille tells her it’s quite a revelation.
Emily bops over to the office in a very basic outfit to defend her non-basicness. She reports to Julian that she had sex with a professor. He tells her, “That’s worse than basic. That’s boring.” Sylvie told Emily to come to work late just so Emily would miss a Fourtier (fancy watch brand) meeting. She is on “a luxury brand quarantine” and has been DISMISSED. Hearing Sylvie shout “Make sure she knows what a quarantine is!” really brings me back.
During a park date with Mindy, Emily demands Mindy sing and swears no one is listening and Mindy does great and a crowd forms. Are you surprised by this turn of events? Bold choice to do “La Vie en Rose” so soon after everybody saw A Star Is Born. I feel like Emily really missed an opportunity to record it and post it on Instagram and help her friend recover from her internet shame by going viral for something good.
Just as Emily and the professor are heading out for their second date, they bump into Gabriel and Camille. Camille is a compulsive “you should join us!’–er, which is almost worse than being an asshole. (Reminds me of this excellent scene from Broad City.) No one can say no so now everyone is trapped on a doomed double date. Naturally on the date the real personality of the professor is revealed — rude, condescending, all-around douche-y and not in a “that’s just the French word for shower” kind of way — but somehow Emily still is attracted to him enough to have sex with him again.
Emily tries to win back Sylvie’s affection by buying tickets for opening night at the ballet — Pierre designed the costumes — and Sylvie rips them up. I don’t know why Emily thinks this is the sort of thing Sylvie would like or respect, when clearly what Sylvie values is work done well. Obviously she’s not going to be interested in spending her free time with her disappointing underling! So Emily takes the professor instead.
She gets extremely dressed up in a sort of Black Swan cosplay, which includes a sparkly circle headband that is almost a halo? Gabriel sees her on her way out and just lets her know “I’m sorry, but I think he’s a snob. An asshole masquerading as an intellectual.” Which is true, but Gabriel is an asshole masquerading as a nice guy, which is worse. Like, okay, guy-with-a-girlfriend telling girl-you-have-a-crush-on that the guy who IS available and is pursuing her “doesn’t deserve you.” That is a total dick move. I just feel like the show wants us to be rooting for these two, and I guess I am, insofar as I don’t really like Emily either.
The professor, who isn’t even wearing a tie, sees Emily dressed to the nines at the ballet and literally asks her, “Is this a joke? Swan Lake is for tourists.” Emily realizes that he’s just some insecure prick who loves to hate everything, and he straight-up says that this claim is “the last refuge of the simple-minded” and THEN he tries to salvage that by saying, “simple but beautiful.” I want to be mad at this, but honestly, given her behavior and workplace conduct etc. etc. etc. thus far, “simple but beautiful” is… not an unfair assessment of her character. SORRY. She gives him the finger and goes to the basic ballet without him.
I find it hard to believe that Pierre would be so easily accessible at the ballet, but Emily finds him in his private box and confesses that YES, she IS a basic bitch with a bag charm! She was obsessed with Gossip Girl and got it to be like Serena. Basics worship designers, she tells him. “Without basic bitches like me, you wouldn’t be fashionable.” See my previous recap re: the rules of the Emily in Paris universe and figures of authority, for having moved through his initial dislike of her, Pierre is contractually obligated to be intrigued by her and on the path to begrudgingly respecting her.
Pierre responds to this soliloquy by saying, “I can’t believe it was Dan. We watch the entire series to find out it was Dan.” Honestly, that’s a great response, thank you Pierre.
Does it shock you to learn that by the time Emily gets to work the next day, Pierre has called Sylvie to say he wants to meet — and not only that, “He insisted Gossip Girl be there. I assume that’s you.” The best part of this is that when Sylvie, correctly, tells Emily to tone it down, and Emily’s all “you do you and I’ll do me,” Sylvie responds by coolly threatening to send her back to Chicago.
• Mindy: “French men never get tired of having sex. It’s like docking them in a lightning port.”
• More wisdom from Mindy: In Paris, “no one judges you for doing nothing!”
• Mindy again, explaining to Emily that the Metro smells like PBO: “Pussy B.O.” This is of course because French men HATE to shower after sex! They will not do it! They must carry the scent of sex with them always and everywhere!
• True story, I did laugh out loud when Julian said, “America sounds like a prison.”
Cliché rating: Rolling your own cigarettes with a chef who thinks this neighborhood is Disneyland compared with what it used to be.