Technically, this episode is about Emily’s birthday, but I choose to believe it was, in fact, a present to moi. My most burning question? Answered! My prayer for some meaningful plot continuity? Obliged! My plea that Emily’s actions actually have consequences? Gratified! (At least for now.) Our show is getting so dangerously self-aware that even Emily freely admits, at her own birthday party, that the nicest thing she can say about herself is “I’ve made a lot of mistakes” and the most important thing she can thank her friends and colleagues for is “putting up with me.” I feel seen by all of this, not to mention ecstatic.
Emily has returned to Paris and a package from Skokie, Illinois. (Interesting choice of suburbs, considering I feel like the one thing everybody knows about Skokie is that the Nazis wanted to march through it, though they ultimately wound up demonstrating in Chicago. Free-speech victory or chilling harbinger of a right-wing rise to come? It’s anyone’s guess!) We get a clue as to Emily’s age when she says “It’s a nothing year,” so we know: not 30, not 21. I write in my notes, “Umm okay but HOW OLD IS SHE will this episode reach its conclusion without answering this question, an elaborate but also honestly hilarious troll???” I also write: “Wait, did Emily go for a run in a lace-up open-front corset?”
To plot her birthday dinner, Emily changes for work into a pink-and-green-plaid newsie-style hat, a cropped black cardigan with pale-pink furry trim (a different pink from the hat, it feels worth noting), and then these rainbow-striped culottes I initially mistook for a skirt that are, again, not in the same color family as either of the other garments.
Emily bumps into Gabriel and invites him to her birthday party, because she is a dummy and a psychopath. She admits that Mathieu left their vacation because he overheard Emily’s conversation with Gabriel, but she hastens to add that she shouldn’t have been dating him in the first place, because he was a client. Gabriel leaves and Mindy arrives to ask why the hell did you invite Gabriel. Thank you, Mindy. Emily says she will invite Camille too and use this birthday dinner to get them back together because, as I’ve said many times over the course of this series, we cannot rule out the possibility that Emily experienced serious head trauma at some point in her life — perhaps just before we met her? I fear Emily will be like, “It’ll be more romantic if it’s a surprise!”, but thank GOD she’s not that deranged and she does, in fact, give Camille a heads up about the Gabriel invitation.
At work, Sylvie gives Emily the bullet points on her fabulous life: She’s been married a long time, she and her husband don’t live together, and they have no kids. Sylvie is an icon. Emily is now wearing off-white fingerless biker gloves. She invites the entire office to her birthday dinner. I thought we literally just saw that Julien was her nemesis and I was looking forward to some substantive workplace conflict, but nope! This is not the part of the episode where Emily’s actions have consequences, sorry to say. At least Julien tells Emily that she actually lost the Pierre Cadault account through her own actions, not because of any theft on his part.
Emily leaves work in the middle of the day (?) so Camille can take her to the hammam, which is an extremely cool gift; I like that the series is showing us some of the Moroccan influence and presence in Paris. Emily still has those stiff curls that look like molded plastic. She wears a robe among all the topless chic French women. As I was recently wondering if Camille had any friends, I’m happy to discover that she does, and one of them hilariously explains to Emily that she was “just asking if you are the brother-fucker.” Camille introduces Emily as “one of the good ones” to really get us ready for Emily’s inevitable downfall.
They have a little gossip session where we confirm (1) French girls think American men are “big, hairy, and easy” and (2) that Camille’s crew is used to Camille and Gabriel breaking up and getting back together. I’m surprised none of them is team “ugh, whatever, just forget this guy who was willing to end your relationship without even having a conversation with you about it so he could move to Normandy, which isn’t even that far away.” Emily very conspicuously leaps into the chat to say Gabriel is not seeing anyone else. Camille starts talking about how the only “someone else” in Gabriel’s life is his restaurant, especially his omelette pan. It is sacred to him, and it has his initials on it. Won’t be long before she spots it, but I can’t believe Emily doesn’t try to return it or stash it somewhere! Amateur! Deserves to get busted!
When they leave, Emily’s plastic hair looks identical to how it looked before she spent, like, a full hour shvitzing in the steam room. They spot Mathieu at the only café in Paris (everyone in the cast is always within a three-block radius of each other at all times), and Emily tells Camille that she and Mathieu are no more because she learned to never mix work and dating again. I mean, yes, but also, is that really why this didn’t work out? So Camille waits until Emily leaves, then goes up to Mathieu and is like, what’s your deal, why’d you stand up Emily? Interesting meddling in adult relationships going on here! Mathieu says Emily was having an affair, which is kind of a strong word for what happened from Mathieu’s point of view, considering he and Emily had … kissed … twice? And I’m pretty sure all their dates were also business dinners? But Camille thinks she has stumbled on a juicy secret (and like, she’s not wrong, but … oof).
Then we see Emily checking the flurry of social-media notifications and well-wishes from her friends around the globe. And this is where we see — practically hidden, in a “look away for a second and you miss it” moment, that someone has dared to congratulate Emily on her 29 years of life!
EMILY IS TWENTY-NINE!! OH MON DIEU! WE HAVE CONFIRMATION! IT IS CANON!!
Perhaps I, like fair Emily, am just an unrepentant narcissist, but I refuse to believe that the concept of building an entire episode around Emily’s birthday — but only once actually referring to her age, and only in a very fleeting glimpse of a social-media post — was not a direct response to this piece of investigative journalism. That’s what I call impact, baby!
Let’s stay on this positive note: Emily’s birthday outfit at work is very cute. Playful jacket, great colors on her, actually realistic flat sandals. (I’m not a stickler for that sort of thing, but it’s just nice to mix it up and not have our modern girl teetering on stilettos across the cobblestones in every single frame of this series.) In order to humiliate her, Madeline has sent frozen deep-dish pizzas that Julien immediately chucks in the trash. Luc treats Emily to a birthday jaunt to the Père Lachaise Cemetery to visit Balzac’s grave. Luc thinks people are always overlooking Balzac to go visit Oscar Wilde or Gertrude Stein, but Luc is a devoted man. He always comes here on his birthday. “To think about life is to think about death.” I have no notes; this is actually a cool and just-weird-enough birthday idea from him.
Even though you’d think Gabriel would be extremely busy running his restaurant that is undergoing a renovation/relaunch/whatever and has all these new investors to impress, he is magically available to take Emily to the market because her groceries are pathetic. Emily, who “wants Gabriel and Camille to get back together,” is doing a lot of flirting. They get caught in a storm. Finally something gets that awful curl-blob out of her hair! Gabriel explains they’re in a coup de foudre, which could mean “lightning storm” or “love at first sight.” How French! One more platonic gesture (he pushes her hair! Behind her ear!!! That is basically third base for Emily!!!!), and she bolts. Which is a good decision that, unfortunately for Emily, comes far too late in this whole entanglement to make much difference.
While Emily continues to make a mess of all her personal relationships, Sylvie salvages a professional disaster by sweet-talking Pierre into the Rimowa luggage. There’s also a little side plot where Pierre summons and hazes Julien, which doesn’t really add much or have anything to do with anything we care about, so I will not dwell on it here. Time for dinner!
Emily’s dress. Oh my God. It is … several giant floppy magenta bows. Like the worst ’80s bridesmaid’s dress you’ve ever seen, multiplied. Is it so bad it’s good again? I don’t think so, but I share Tom and Lorenzo’s aversion for bows on grown women. At least her hair has improved? Sylvie is here and I am stunned she doesn’t have anywhere better to be. Her birthday gift is a gorgeous cigarette case. “But you know that I don’t smoke,” Emily says. “Well, it’s never too late to start,” says Sylvie.
Camille and Gabriel have a little “conversation” (sloppy plot exposition through dialogue, telling each other things they both obviously would already know and would never need to say out loud). I find the whole thing confusing because — didn’t he not break up with her? But also he did? And she is just letting that slide to have this chat about how she’s sorry she has a temper?! WHAT. Emily watches this (implausible, borderline insane) reunion through gritted teeth and swears this is exactly what she wanted. Mindy, in a dress the color of a highlighter, knows better.
Fast-forward to the end of dinner, and Camille jets upstairs to grab the Champagne, where, of course! She spots the omelette pan (which she has already seen before and did note looked “just like Gabriel’s”) and sees Gabriel’s initials. She returns to the table to find everyone swooning over the cake Gabriel made for Emily, and Gabriel just removing some chocolate frosting from Emily’s lips with his thumb, as platonic male-female friend-neighbors are wont to do.
Emily’s toast, as I mentioned earlier, is 100 percent about how she is an insufferable person to be around (but, as she thinks, in a cute way? I love that no one really laughs all that convincingly at her efforts to spin her bad personality into a charming one). And then Camille gets up to make a toast of her own: “She pretended to be my friend while she had an affair with my boyfriend.” She has some words for Gabriel, too: “And to my boyfriend, who fucked my fake friend.” And then she smashes the glass on the ground. L’chaim, girl. Sylvie offers Emily a cigarette: phenomenal. Emily stupidly chases Camille only to be confronted, yet again, with the irrefutable allegation that she had sex with Gabriel and lied about it.
I’m so excited for Emily to actually have an enemy. For this show to maybe … actually … have stakes?!? If Camille forgives her in the next episode, I will start smoking.