I’m trying to remember, during these pandemic-y times, that none of us really has any idea what anybody else is going through, so sometimes when someone is behaving in a way that seems insane or cruel or just generally unreasonable, it could be because they just got some hard news or think they have a fever or are otherwise Going Through It. It is in this generous spirit that I have to remember we met Emily Cooper only some indeterminate short period ago (this show doesn’t exactly do “clearly delineating the passage of time”), and we don’t know what her deal was before then. Could’ve involved anything, like maybe blunt head trauma! This would go a bit of a ways toward explaining why this adult struggles to count to six, or five, every single time she goes to her apartment.
Yet again, she knocks on Gabriel’s door. He offers her a glass of water so she can make it up that last flight, and when she apologizes for banging too much on his door, he tells her she can “bang anytime.” I for one am very excited for her to cheat on her Human Plot Device: The Chicago Boyfriend, a beige cardboard cutout in a necktie. And in fact one of the themes of this episode is that monogamy is overrated and/or practiced in a puritanical way by us Americans and that we could bust all our marriages open and flirt with cute prospects in front of our mistresses, not too far from our wives.
Emily suddenly has 1,435 followers. Given what we’ve seen of her content, that seems … suspect. She is trying to explain her ethos to the Über-boss, Sylvie, and the Über-boss is not about it. We’ve got ourselves a classic divide here between luxury-exclusivity-mystery and accessibility-inclusivity-transparency. I mean, now that Rihanna is doing makeup tutorials for Fenty on her Instagram, it feels like this conversation has been had, and the latter has won. But, unlike Emily, I am not in Paris, so I am not the expert here. Emily says the reason she’s right is that she’s the one who represents the potential customer in this situation, whereas the Über-boss does not. “I’m an outsider,” she says, and again I question the wisdom of casting Lily Collins — not exactly an outsider, in fact or appearance! — in this role.
There is a fancy launch party for the fancy perfume that revealed Madeline’s pregnancy, and Emily gets to go. She is “not into fashion” but somehow has on hand a sort of Audrey-cosplay black taffeta strapless dress. Naturally, she is housing passed hors d’oeuvre (she probably shouted “SNACKS” into her Rosetta Stone app to determine what these are called), and Sylvie reprimands her for eating. French people don’t eat, and American people are disgusting, never forget it!
Emily doesn’t know what it means that Antoine, the guy from the perfume company, has “the best nose in Paris.” Like, come ON, that’s not even a French expression! This is what I was saying before re: blunt head trauma. Emily blabs about statistics and horrifies everyone with her insistence on discussing work at a party. Has Emily ever been to a party? One wonders.
The Best Nose in Paris obviously wants to have sex with her and flirts with her by talking about how perfume is like lingerie and how wearing it makes you feel sexy, which is a peculiar insight from a man who presumably has never worn lingerie. He tells Emily she needs to find a nice French boyfriend. “That’s the best way to learn the language,” he says. “In bed.” Then he leans in and smells her — just like a full-on Edward Cullen inhale, not at all weird, very normal — and literally tells her she smells like “expensive sex.” Not to out myself as maybe someone who doesn’t know sex stuff, because of course I totally do, I’m very cool, but is expensive sex like … a good smell? Better than sex you don’t have to pay for?
Back at the office, where she struts in with a different impractical handbag than she used the day before, Emily learns of her new assignment: a product to help menopausal women combat vaginal dryness. It’s a WAP account! Though I think the Über-boss is doing this to be a dick, it actually does make perfect sense given Emily’s background in geriatrics and pharmaceuticals. Sylvie also tells Emily she was being too friendly to the Best Nose in Paris, Antoine, who is MARRIED to a very good friend of hers. She pulls a classic Regina, e.g., So you agree, you think he’s really attractive? Then another coworker, Julien, follows up that little conversation with a bit of a bombshell: The Über-boss is the Best Nose’s MISTRESS.
Emily cannot handle this intel alone, so she texts Mindy for a dinner date. Mindy explains, “You never flirt with another woman in front of your mistress. It’s worse than flirting with another woman in front of your wife.” Everyone has lovers, because it’s FRANCE, baby!!! Emily, trapped in the cult of monogamy to which all Chicagoans are apparently devoted, does NOT understand. This entire conversation just makes me think of/yearn for this perfect John Early–Kate Berlant video.
Turns out Mindy is here because her dad, the zipper king of China, wanted her to go to business school, but she dropped out and got cut off. Yes, she’s a nanny, but she has her freedom, which is what matters the most. Good on you, Mindy!
We are at the café near Emily’s apartment, where Emily — of COURSE — wants her steak done more. That’s not American; it’s just tasteless, Emily! Then, without having taken a single bite, she has the audacity to say, “Maybe I’ll educate the chef a little bit about customer service,” and I again wonder if the premise of this show is that she’s an asshole who thinks she’s delightful. Hot Gabriel from downstairs emerges because he is the chef, and the steak he made is predictably wonderful, and for reasons (the show needs him to like her), he finds her impertinence charming and not, as any rational person would, off-putting and annoying.
In big letters, the screen informs us BOYFRIEND ARRIVES IN PARIS TOMORROW. Emily has earned 2,029 followers for dopey selfies captioned, “Paris is for cheese lovers.” Human Plot Device: The Chicago Boyfriend doesn’t even get on a plane to dispatch his plot-spinning duties. He dumps Emily over the phone after dating her for three years because, he says — I’m sorry, I canfuckingnot — “I thought, What am I gonna do there all day?” He is distraught at the prospect of … spending a week in Paris … every night with his girlfriend … like, can this child not take himself to a museum? Then he really spirals: “I’m SORRY if I don’t fit into our SPREADSHEET, but I like our life in CHICAGO.” Oh my God, buddy. He wants her to come home!? This girlfriend, to whom he is only “engaged to be engaged,” who through absolutely no effort and merit of her own somehow fluked into this killer job and promotion and experience?? Reception cuts out again — unclear why, they are both in major metropolitan areas and aboveground — and I scream as he says to her, with symbolism so heavy it’s probably what made the call drop, “I think I lost you.” In my notes, I write, go fuck your neighbor before he gets to know you and realizes how annoying you are!!
Emily wakes the next morning to a downpour. She’s supposed to look like she has been crying all night, but really it just looks like she’s wearing pink eyeshadow, sort of Euphoria-style. She has 5,700 followers for a picture of the rain captioned, “Paris is weeping.” She takes her sorrow to work, where she writes about “the irony of menopause” and Googles things like “vaginas on strike” because she is, I guess, osmotically absorbing French culture and getting excited about work stoppages. Here, she learns something I have to assume she is the first and only person in the history of romance languages to uncover: Vagina is masculine in French: vagin. She STORMS into Sylvie’s office to, one assumes, file a complaint about this obscene slight. “I’ll never learn the language or understand anything here,” Emily says, after trying for … 15 minutes? I feel like she’s been here two weeks.
Emily metaphorically marches with the suffragettes and boldly Instagrams a picture of this product with the caption “The vagina is not masculine.” I will say that this part tracks, because that kind of empty, theoretically political but practically meaningless gesture is 100 percent the kind of thing that would go viral. It appears this show is committed to making a Macron reference in every episode, because Brigitte Macron comments on the post, “ABSOLUTELY!,” thus earning Emily her first workplace gold star, which is to say, she gets invited to sit at the café table with all the cool, older grown-ups.
This is the part of the recap where I list the most egregious, eye-roll-inducing, come-ON-now clichés and then award each episode a special cliché rating.
• Have to give the medal this time to Emily raving on the phone to Human Plot Device: The Chicago Boyfriend about why Paris is so great. It’s full of PASSION and ROMANCE and SEX. Incredible to be learning, through this educational program, that no one in America has ever had sex or been in love.
• “It’s Paris. Everyone is serious about dinner.”
• Honestly, all of Mindy’s counsel re: open marriages, as if the notion of nonmonogamy is exclusively French. “The French are romantics, but they’re also realists.” Thank you, Mindy.
• Emily only wants a well-done steak. Girl, you’re not in Trump country anymore. And even in America we drag him for that, and rightly so!
• “Paris is the most exciting city in the world.” Okay, okay, we get it, you like Paris.
Cliché rating: Skipping the rare steak to smoke two cigarettes for lunch with your mistress.