So remember when Victor said that he didn’t care what anyone thought about his sexuality? Well, much like the court of public opinion when a celebrity decides to come out, Victor’s schoolmates now can’t help but give their two cents about his identity. “It’s like coming out gave everyone else an excuse to share their opinion … or to get my opinion about things I know nothing about,” Victor writes to Simon. “I never thought coming out would be an invitation for strangers to talk to me … or that the people I used to talk to would suddenly feel like strangers.”
And this tactlessness doesn’t just apply to the perfect strangers who insist on asking him for skin-care tips and who go out of their way to declare themselves allies of the LGBTQ+ community. It also applies to Victor’s own basketball teammates. When his eccentric and people-pleasing coach (Andy Richter) calls him into his office on the first day of practice, Victor discovers that some of his teammates have already filed complaints about him changing and showering with the rest of the team. “I’ve been changing with these guys for over a year now,” he says to Benji, Felix, and Lake later that day during their lunch break. “Do they think that now that I’m out, I’m going to turn into some kind of sexual predator?” (A lot of the focus this season will be on the development of Victor’s relationships with his family and friends, but I’m glad to see that the writers have not overlooked the difficulties that he will face as an openly gay star athlete.)
When Victor confronts Andrew at lunch, Andrew — who knows who filed the complaint and insists that it wasn’t him — urges Victor to “show up tonight and dominate” so that their teammates can “realize how ignorant and stupid they’re being, and everything will just go back to normal.” Andrew, who also happens to be the captain of the basketball team, volunteers to run drills with Victor at the start of practice, and for the most part, the training session goes off without a hitch. But when they get back in the locker room, Victor’s teammates give him the cold shoulder, leaving him feeling more deflated than before. While the execution of this story line is rather predictable, I think it would have been extremely unrealistic for the players to warm up to Victor after only one practice. The one thing that I have noticed from the first three episodes is that the writers have chosen to avoid using any really strong language, such as homophobic slurs, for the sake of shock value, which has always been a slippery slope for other teen shows that deal with this kind of subject matter. Everyone knows that locker-room talk is no joke and can be far worse in real life, but I am selfishly glad that Victor has not been subject to that kind of mistreatment thus far. (By the end of the episode, Victor tells his dad, Armando, that he has quit the basketball team altogether, so it will be extremely interesting to see him try to rediscover his place at Creekwood.)
When he meets up with Benji at Brasstown later that night, Victor expects Benji to be just as furious as he is, but Benji admits that, while he is still upset for his boyfriend, he’s not entirely surprised as he went through a similar experience with an ignorant lab partner after he came out. “On top of everything, you play sports, which is not exactly the most evolved group you could be a part of … You should be around people who want you to be you, end of story,” Benji tells Victor before receiving an unexpected (and slightly alarming) text from his ex, Derek (Lukas Gage), about Victor’s ex, Mia.
In an attempt to impress Tyler, the college freshman that she had met the other night, Mia decided to attend an outdoor college party and invited Lake and Felix to join her. But after finding herself alone at the party, Mia, who seems to have hit a new emotional low, decided to get wasted — so much so that Victor has to be her unwitting knight in shining armor and drive her home. The two end up having their first real conversation in months in Mia’s room, where Victor apologizes profusely for hurting her. “You know what really sucks? I feel like I’m not allowed to be mad at you, because coming out is the most important thing you’ve ever done. And I am glad you did it, because I want you to be happy … because I love you. I just wish you doing the most important thing you’ve ever done didn’t make me feel like shit. I wish I didn’t lose my best friend,” Mia says before Victor reassures her that (a) she never lost him, and (b) he loves her too. (Michael Cimino continues to deliver a quiet but heartbreaking performance as the titular character, but in this episode, it’s Rachel Hilson who stands out with this speech.)
While Lake and Felix were planning to attend the college party, their plans quickly change when Felix reveals that he has begun a new essay-writing business — not to buy DJ equipment (of all things) but to pay the bills since his mother is still depressed and unemployed. Lake offers to help him with the rest of his workload, insisting that they’re a team now. “I’m not a me anymore; I’m a we,” Lake says in a rare moment where she seems to prioritize her loved ones over her social life. (For me, one of the biggest shortcomings of the first season was the inability to fully break free of overused teen archetypes. It’s been a welcome sight to see Felix and Lake get some real depth this season besides being the nerdy sidekick of the titular character and the social-media obsessed best friend of the popular girl.)
Meanwhile, Armando decides to attend his first PFLAG meeting, which is a support group for parents, families, and allies of people in the LGBTQ+ community, and it just so happens that his local chapter is run by Jack Spier (Josh Duhamel), Simon’s dad. The two meet up for a drink later that night, where they are unaware of the connection that their sons share but have a chat that is both moving and amusing. In addition to discovering that being pansexual doesn’t mean that you’re in love with bread — yeah, I laughed at that line too — Armando has come to the realization that he wants to save his relationship with Victor, but he’s scared of saying something wrong every time he opens his mouth. “Not every conversation with him has to be about his sexuality,” Jack tells him. “Once you start talking, once he realizes that you’re still a soft place for him to land, you’ll be surprised where the conversation might go.”
• After her long-overdue conversation with Victor, Mia decides to come clean to Victor about being a junior in high school and not a freshman in college. Tyler, who just turned 18 last month, reassures her that he still wants to hang out with her, which leaves Mia feeling pleasantly surprised.
• After confiding in Lake about his financial struggles, Felix shows up late one night and repays Pilar the $200 that he borrowed to cover his overdue rent. Pilar, who is clearly crushing on Felix, can’t help but act all fake-cheery when Felix jokes that “you don’t have to spend all that time listening to me yammer about my crazy mom.” This show seems to thrive on love triangles, but there is something intriguing — and slightly unexpected — about Pilar suddenly taking a liking to Felix.