At the start of “The Cause the Cure,” the tenth episode of I May Destroy You, a little girl excitedly greets her dad’s arrival. Her little brother pretends to be asleep on the couch, ignoring the visitor, but the little girl, a young Arabella, happily accepts both him and the bag of McDonald’s French fries he brought with him. Just as quickly as he walked in through the doors, however, he’s out again, leaving Arabella to eat the fries on her own. Despite a warning from her mom to slow down, she inhales their salty, crunchy goodness by the handful. Then, of course, she gets sick.
After we make this brief visit to Arabella’s past, the three musketeers of Arabella, Terry, and Kwame start their days with their minds on different issues. Kwame works out while fielding flirty messages, Terry talks herself through her upcoming audition, and Arabella gets a call from her dad, whom she promises to see later at her mother’s home. It’s her mother’s birthday, something Terry seems slightly more excited about than Arabella does. Hanging out with a nervous Terry and her roommate Ben for a while longer, Arabella declares she’s taking a break from writing, on her therapist’s orders. Terry pushes back, pointing out that instead of taking a break, Arabella has been repeatedly visiting Ego Death, the bar where she was raped. Arabella ignores Terry’s objections and tries to vape, though there’s no oil left in her cartridge.
After dropping Terry off at her audition, Arabella reconnects with Simon to return his jacket. However uneasily, they clear the air, and Simon lets her know he no longer has his old job and he has ended things with his last girlfriend. In their catch-up, he accidentally lets slip that someone else gave him the okay to leave Arabella at the bar, and he was relieved that she had finally come clean — except this is the first time Arabella has heard about Terry’s secret.
Cooking with her family later, Arabella pitches in, chopping vegetables while her brother handles rice duties (while on his phone) and her mom preps the chicken. When Terry calls, Arabella uncharacteristically ignores her, choosing instead to talk with her brother. Their conversation is interrupted by the doorbell, and Arabella runs excitedly to open it, thinking it’s her dad. Her brother, Nick (Tobi King Bakare), again stays on the couch. This time, it’s Aunt Lenora (Dada Ashi) stopping by, and finally Arabella’s mom, Grace (Michelle Greenidge), emerges, dressed up and with her hair and makeup done. She thanks Lenora and quickly excuses her to leave. Arabella looks confused, and her brother teases her about not remembering why her mother would do that to Lenora. In the past, Arabella always had faith in her father’s return, while Nick had his doubts, and he has kept his distance into adulthood; at the same time, there seems to be distance between Arabella and her mother, as the two barely exchange words before her birthday. Finally, the man of the hour, Kojo (Yinka Awoni), arrives, joining a tense table where everyone has been awaiting him. Pleasant family conversation quickly turns into Kojo criticizing Nick and pointing out that Arabella may have been the reason his house was robbed back in the day. The memory of that event overwhelms Arabella, and she retreats to her room.
Now back in their school days, teen Arabella and Terry walk to her father’s old home. Arabella plans to change into cooler clothes so she and Terry can hang out with guys. She explains to Terry that her parents live apart but aren’t separated. But when Arabella sneaks in through the window, she runs into Aunt Lenora wearing one of her father’s shirts. A woman’s underwear rests on a radiator. Arabella runs out, almost passing her father on his way in after he told her earlier that he would be out until midnight. She had buried the awkward memory until her dad’s musings exhumed it. Back in the present day, Arabella’s mother sits with her in her old childhood bedroom. She tells her she had known about Lenora for some time, but it doesn’t bother her and that all she cares about are her kids. Arabella embraces her mom and says she has something to tell her about what happened to her back in January.
Later, Arabella returns for her nightly watch at the Ego Death bar. Terry joins her, asking how the dinner went, and Arabella answers and brings up that she saw Simon to give him back his jacket. Tears line both of their eyes. This is the moment Terry never wanted to share. Instead, Arabella thanks her for being a good friend for the past year and recites their friendship’s motto: “Your birth is my birth, your death is my death.” They toast with their wineglasses and the past is forgiven.
Throughout the episode, meanwhile, Kwame has been having his own personal saga in traveling to see different hookups. The show visually emphasizes how interchangeable these experiences feel by rotating the cast of men Kwame sees on the bus and shares a room with. He grows so accustomed to the typical Grindr date that when one guy doesn’t want sex (at least not yet) and makes him dinner instead, Kwame gets ready to leave, flustered by the rejection. His date asks if he would like something else, not of a sexual nature. Kwame asks for a hug, giving in to an emotional connection instead of the physical one he expected.
In a subtle way, “The Cause the Cure” becomes a story about forgiveness and being open to change. Kwame’s return to his routine love life gets a shake-up in the face of a kind stranger, a plateful of home-cooked food, and a hug. In a sense, Arabella has always had a forgiving heart, at least when it comes to those closest to her. She didn’t hold on to any misgivings about her dad from when she was a little girl. Now, at her mother’s birthday party, when she remembers the truth about his relationship with Lenora, she still embraces him as an adult and returns to the table to finish dinner. Arabella has cleared the tension between her and Simon and relieved a guilty Terry from a moment of misjudgment. Will she be able to forgive herself next?