It’s the milestone episode that every teen show seems to have, but one that very few are able to handle tactfully without reverting to tired clichés: the “losing your virginity” episode.
With their relationship growing hotter and heavier by the minute, Victor and Benji both want to take things to the next level, but they just have one problem: they can’t find a moment of privacy anywhere. Not in the back room of Brasstown, not in Benji’s room, and definitely not in the janitor’s closet at Creekwood, where they unwittingly bump into Felix and Lake, who are struggling to find some privacy of their own. As a one-size-fits-all solution, Benji suggests that they all go up to his family’s secluded (and spacious) cabin near Lake Lanier on the weekend, where they can swim, hike, and well … do the deed for the first time. They eventually end up inviting Mia and Tyler — who have spent their free time talking about art and watching sunrises over Piedmont Park — and Andrew and Lucy to join them at the cabin, in the hope of reducing some of the anxiety that most of them feel about having sex for the first time.
What Victor — who was initially all for the weekend getaway — doesn’t anticipate, however, is … the lack of phone service at the Campbell family cabin. While Benji goes to freshen up in the bathroom of the cabin, Victor finds a new bottle of lube next to Benji’s duffle bag, which immediately leaves him feeling shaken and in need of some advice from Simon. The problem is that Victor can’t seem to get a phone signal from anywhere in the cabin, so he uses a trip to the nearby general store with Felix and Andrew as an excuse to give Simon a (very frantic) phone call that gets sent straight to voicemail. I won’t directly quote what Victor said in his voicemail, but let me just say that I was pleasantly surprised to see the writers address how confusing first-time sexual experiences — regardless of your sexual orientation — can be by highlighting the commonalities between Victor and Felix’s predictable worries. This show is always strongest when it is able to balance all of the age-old teenage angst and drama with comical character beats, and Michael Cimino and Anthony Turpel have been able to balance the two sides beautifully in a season that digs into much more meaningful material than the first.
Later that night, the self-proclaimed “cabin crew” — sans Felix, Mia, and Tyler — begin playing a game of “Never Have I Ever” with vodka. When Victor, who still has no way of contacting Simon, realizes that Benji has already had a sex dream about his mailman and multiple sexual partners, he chugs his entire drink and runs away to find a signal on the other side of the lavish cabin. He eventually finds one while standing on Lake and Felix’s bed, but as soon as he sees that he missed a call from Simon, he falls off and hits his head on a night table. When he barges into the washroom, he finds a bloodied (and embarrassed) Felix, who admits that he had a little “manscaping” accident. “Look at us … two virgins, bleeding in the bathroom,” Felix jokes as they talk about feeling embarrassed about not wanting to have sex yet. (I’ll have to admit that I absolutely lost it in this scene and couldn’t stop laughing. Most teenage boys hate nothing more than open communication, and I can speak from experience.)
Meanwhile, a disgruntled and disheveled Mia eventually arrives at the cabin with a suitcase and overnight bag, but without Tyler. She immediately joins the drinking game to reveal what happened: “Never have I ever dumped a college guy by the side of the road because he turned out to be an insufferable jackass and then walked the last five miles to a cabin.” It seems that Tyler, the vain artist, was not only dismissive of Mia’s own art, but he also made her change a flat tire in the middle of nowhere because he didn’t want to mess up his hands for a project he was doing. (You dodged a bullet there, Mia. Seriously.)
One of the other notable things about this landmark episode is the characterization of Mason Gooding’s character, Andrew, who — as the show’s social team has noted — has gone from “cliché jock to dependable rock.” At the general store, Andrew gives Felix some “surprisingly sweet” advice, insisting that “if you’re with the right person, it doesn’t matter” because “sex is scary for everyone the first time.” Later, when Mia is left alone without anyone to talk to, Andrew checks in with her to see if she is doing okay. At one point, he even says, “It’s kind of overwhelming, the universe, how big it is, how small we are in comparison. It kind of makes me nauseous — a good nauseous — like going up in a roller-coaster,” which makes Mia smile because she was thinking the exact same thing just days earlier. Andrew has really grown out of his days of being the stereotypical jock straight out of an ’80s movie, and it has been great to see him get some real depth this season, though I would still like to know more about his own backstory. (And I would be a fool to not ’ship him and Mia at this point.)
When they return to their respective rooms, Felix and Victor both have much-needed conversations with their partners, where they both make major breakthroughs. After Felix asks if she still finds him attractive, Lake confides in her boyfriend that her struggles with body image — which stemmed from diets that her wealthy mother inflicted on her as a child — makes her reluctant to have sex for the first time. (Felix, to his credit, reiterates that Lake is the most beautiful woman that he has ever seen.) The two decide to do something “fun and stupid” and end up skinny dipping in Lake Lanier before consummating their relationship on the docks. (I still can’t tell if Lake losing her virginity on a literal lake is poetic or too on-the-nose.)
Victor, meanwhile, admits that he’s terrified to lose his virginity and tells Benji that he doesn’t want their first time to be something else that he has to hold his hand through. “I don’t want you to feel like you always have to teach me how to be gay,” Victor says before Benji reassures him that things are new and scary for him too. They spend most of the night facing and within arm’s reach of each other. And in the morning, Victor decides that it’s time for him to take the lead in their relationship for once, so he is the one who says “I love you” first and initiates their first sexual encounter.
• After hearing Victor essentially strong-arm Isabel into letting him go to the cabin (since Armando had already said yes), Pilar says, “Damn. Gay Victor has way bigger balls than straight Victor.” One of the things that I have appreciated about this new season is that Victor, while attempting to respect his mother’s evolving acceptance of his sexuality, is not afraid to stand up for himself — something that, I felt, was largely lacking in the freshman season.
• While Victor’s at the cabin and Pilar and Adrian are at his new place, Armando returns to the Salazar apartment to pick up Adrian’s turtle, but the turtle escaped from the tank and is on the loose in the apartment. Isabel thinks it’s her fault since she might have forgotten to close the tank, but what if it was Adrian who let the turtle out? He has been obsessed with the Parent Trap lately, and he might have (unwittingly or not) trapped his own parents into getting back together.
• “You know what? I’m really impressed with you … that you’re handling all of this,” Isabel tells Armando while they’re looking for the turtle. “A lot of guys would get all weird and machista, but you’re really trying … Who would have thunk that the 17-year-old tough guy walking around school with his little goatee, listening to Naughty by Nature on his Walkman, would turn out to be such a caring and sensitive father?” (I’m glad that the writers highlighted this again, because there are simply not enough on-screen depictions of fathers who are willing to put their own egos aside to love their children for who they are.)
• Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Isabel and Armando do end up sleeping together again, which will only complicate their relationship going forward. They have their issues, but the love they share is clearly still there, and I do hope that they will find a way back to each other.