Okay, well, we’re all crying now. Are you happy, Good Trouble? The latest episode, “Shame,” ends with a teary Dennis pile-on that is moving both within the context of the show — he finally tells everyone about Jacob and the grief he has been dealing with — and for a viewer who has lived through the isolation of the pandemic. Group hugs just hit harder these days, don’t they? People … lovingly holding each other? What a world!
So, yes, Dennis opens up to his found family, something he has been scared to do for so long, only to be met with the biggest outpouring of love and support. The running theme of this episode is people being scared or nervous about how their friends will receive their truth, only to be pleasantly surprised. Basically: Trust that your friends will have your back. Sure, in the real world, things don’t always work that way, but watching character after character find acceptance after being vulnerable makes for a warm and fuzzy hour of television.
Take Malika, for example. She’s reeling a bit from her breakup with Isaac, and she tells her therapist that she ruins everything. His reaction to her coming out as poly and having feelings for Dyonte has made her feel ashamed of the whole thing. Her therapist, however, reminds her that she shouldn’t feel ashamed for saying who she is and what she needs and that a lot of times shame is rooted in experiences from childhood. Of course, we know that there is a major incident from Malika’s childhood that has shaped her — she decided to call Child Protective Services on her mother, and it ended up putting her and her brother Dom in foster care — and it’s another time in her life she has felt like she ruined things. So maybe that therapist is on to something.
At lunch with her father, she can’t help but bring up her feelings of shame and regret. You know, like, some super easy-breezy lunch topics. If anyone understands those feelings, it’s him, he tells her. His time in prison and then not going back to take care of his family after he was released? Yeah, he knows those feelings well. He also assures Malika that she has nothing to be ashamed of — she was a kid, and it was his job as a parent to take care of her, and he failed. He keeps a picture of Malika and Dom as kids in his wallet to remind him of who he is trying to be, that he’s always working toward being a better man. The waiter was probably like, Don’t even tip me, I should be tipping you for letting that lovely two-hander play out at my table.
The conversation with her dad really turns things around for Malika. She had been dreading drinks with her friends Tolu and Kendy because they warned her to really think about the consequences of telling Isaac about wanting to be polyamorous. No one wants to voluntarily walk into an “I told you so” situation, you know? But Malika has a new outlook on everything. So, yes, Malika will go to those drinks. And you know what? Her friends are nothing but encouraging and supportive. It’s all “I’m so proud of you” and “you stood up for your needs” and “you’re a catch and a half” out of those two. Tolu and Kendy are in her corner, now and forever. Well, sort of. They also are supportive of the giant yantra tattoo Malika got across her chest to remind her of who she is trying to be (her dad just kept that picture in his wallet, but okay, take it up a notch, I guess). Malika is so excited about it, but honestly there should be a rule that you’re not allowed to get any tattoos or piercings or haircuts for one month following a breakup. That’s just common sense.
Regardless, Malika’s going to be just fine. Meanwhile, her “if you’re a bird, I’m a bird” pal Alice has a few more obstacles in regard to figuring out her problems. You’ll remember that last week, Ruby showed up to inform Alice that her walkout worked (thanks to an assist from Margaret Cho), and that Scott, the head of the diversity workshop, will no longer be there. They want Alice to rejoin the program. That all sounds great, but Alice is a little pissed. Not at the network or Scott, really, but at her fellow comedians, who hung her out to dry. They were all supposed to take a stand together, but when it came down to it, Alice stood alone. And then none of them even checked up up on her.
Ruby persuades her to give it another shot, and when Alice shows up expecting the worst from her fellow comedians, she’s happy to discover she underestimated them. They give her a round of applause, and each one of them is honest about being selfish or cowardly — they all are ashamed of how they acted (with the exception of Lindsay, which is hilarious). Where is the Game of Thrones Shame Nun when you need her? (Just kidding; she’s busy over on Ted Lasso, so her absence is acceptable.)
Unfortunately, the good vibes and high spirits are quickly doused when Scott walks back in. You see, he took a diversity seminar yesterday afternoon, so now he’s not racist, and it’s totally cool and fine that he’s back leading this workshop. It is complete and utter bullshit, and everyone knows it. This time around, all of the comedians look to Alice for leadership; whatever she thinks they should do, they’ll back her up. After some pressure from Ruby to give Scott a second chance, Alice tells the group the same. This is their big shot, after all. This whole thing is definitely going to get messier before it gets better.
The winner for Feeling Most Shameful, however, is Gael. We get flashbacks to him as a child in confession, and he begins to realize that growing up in the Catholic Church pretty much primed him for feeling shitty and judged about everything he does. It’s why when he has to sit the Coterie crew down to tell them Isabella is pregnant, he balks at first. We get a glimpse of his fears — each of his friends telling him he’s idiotic or irresponsible — and we watch him spiral as he convinces himself that that’s how it’s going to go down. He’s so worked up about it that when he turn to confide in Davia, she can barely get a word in (a very hard thing to do!) before Gael goes off on her for being judgmental — and all she was trying to do was be supportive.
Eventually, Gael considers the way he grew up (remember that therapist told us shame comes from our childhoods!!) and realizes that he has nothing to be ashamed of here. And so he calls a second Coterie meeting, this time with Isabella, and tells everyone why she’s really staying in his loft. Come on, you knew everyone would be great about the whole thing. They’re all there for Gael and for Isabella. They’re also all pretty pumped to have a Coterie Baby, which, let’s be clear, should not be a thing. No children should be allowed in that building, let alone grow up in a loft that may or may not have locks on the doors and is three feet from a pool, okay?
It’s after this celebration that Dennis decides to finally unload on his friends. While everything I said at the top of this recap about this being a really moving and emotional moment remains true, like, could Dennis talking about the tragedy of his child dying happen at a more horrific moment? These poor future parents! They are scared enough! They don’t seem to mind, though, and the group hug mostly makes up for it. Doesn’t it always?
• Good Trouble has been known to surprise with where it takes some of its storylines, but having Mariana take a job as Kathleen Gale’s receptionist as a way for her to get a break from the soul-crushing tech world is truly inspired. I 100 percent believe she would just walk into an empty office and start answering phones, and I love the promise of future Mariana-Kathleen scenes. It is going to annoy Callie so much!
• Callie’s takedown of Tony and Roman — who have moved on from the “Impulse Buy” nickname to “Teacher’s Pet” — although not as effective as she wanted it to be, really got me going. It was especially impactful having Mariana standing right next to her as she delivered it, knowing how much bullshit Mariana quietly took from the men in her former office. Callie has no time for insecure boys!
• Now that Mariana is dealing with the fact that she betrayed her own friends, she is a bit more forgiving to her ex-roommate for how close she got to Raj behind Mariana’s back. She forgives Isabella. I mean, I certainly still don’t trust the girl, but Mariana is evolving, so this tracks. Hopefully she won’t live to regret it!!
• Oooh baby, there is still some real heat between Davia and Dennis. Of course, at the beginning of the episode, that heat is anger heat, because the two have it out about Gael in front of everyone, but it eventually mellows back down to regular ol’ sexual-tension heat. After her encounter with Gael in which he calls her out for being judgmental, especially to Dennis, Davia goes to Dennis and tells him that although she’s still working through the pain of how he treated her, she doesn’t want to be angry anymore. She cares about him and so forgives him. Can’t wait till these two are smashing faces again as nature intended.
• Aw, Davia was hurt thinking that Gael had been using her as a friend placeholder until Dennis got back, but Gael tells her no way — they’re besties. It’s so sweet!
• Do yourself a favor and go back and watch Malika’s facial expressions throughout Dennis and Davia’s initial fight in this episode. They are perfect every step of the way.
• “Why are mom and dad fighting?” I CANNOT wait until the rest of the Coterie finds out about the Dennis and Davia saga that’s been going on under their noses.