It’s finally cause for celebration in the Simonverse: It’s Benji’s birthday — and, for better or for worse, the universe has more than one surprise up its sleeve.
After Benji’s posh mother secretly invites him to a fancy birthday dinner, Victor, despite having no idea what “cozy chic” means, could not be more excited, but his fashion sense … could use a little work. (In one of my favorite lines of the episode, Pilar says when she sees Victor wearing an ugly sweater, “Are you sure you’re gay?”) Thankfully, Rahim comes to the rescue, offering to lend Victor the stylish Saint Laurent button-up shirt that he’s already wearing (and leaving Victor a little flustered in the process). But when Victor shows up to the restaurant, Benji isn’t exactly thrilled to see him — and the reason leads to their first big fight.
During her birthday toast, Benji’s mother reveals that, after his car accident last year, Benji began drinking, to the point that he had to begin attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and just received his one-year sobriety chip. (Keep in mind: These characters are supposed to be 16 years old.) The surprising secret leaves Benji feeling embarrassed and Victor feeling shocked, especially after realizing that his boyfriend was drinking orange juice instead of vodka at the cabin. When Benji apologizes, explaining that he didn’t want Victor to think of him as an alcoholic, Victor wants to accept the apology, but he can’t shake the feeling that Benji, who has always told him to be open about his feelings, has been hiding a key part of his own life. The thinly-veiled accusation lights the short fuse of Benji, who insists that he’s had to “put up with a ton of your shit and never made you feel bad about it.”
“There’s the fact that you’re completely new to being gay, and every single thing we go through is this massively big deal that we have to examine,” he continues. “But do I ever make you feel guilty about any of that stuff? No, I’ve been nothing but patient and understanding. The very least you could do is return the favor.” Benji certainly makes some valid points in this speech, but it’s definitely the right move for Victor to walk away before one of them says something else they won’t be able to take back. Even in more dramatic moments like the ones we’ve been getting in these last two episodes, Love, Victor never veers too hard toward the soapy or hysterical in its confrontations, which goes a long way toward making it such an easy and comforting show to watch.
Meanwhile, an exasperated Lake is desperately trying to find the perfect way to win Felix back after her mother sent his mother into a hospital-mandated psychiatric hold. She eventually settles on a deep-sea fishing exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium because Felix taught her about an anglerfish, which she describes as this “weird, glow-in-the-dark deep-sea fish,” when they first kissed, and she hopes that it can represent a new start in their relationship. Felix, who is still struggling to come to terms with Lake’s “betrayal,” decides to hear his girlfriend out after discovering that his mother’s hold has been extended to 14 days. (He also has an insightful conversation with Victor, who went straight home after his run-in with Benji, and it’s really interesting that the writers have chosen to parallel their respective relationships, dating back to the day they both lost their virginity at the cabin.)
The one person who isn’t happy that Felix is giving Lake another chance, however, is … Pilar. When she accidentally lets it slip to Rahim that Felix is one of the sweetest sweatiest people she knows, Pilar is forced to confront an uncomfortable truth: She doesn’t see Felix as a “sweet, goofy muppet”; she sees him as a “sexy ass” one. (What’s this?? Pilar finally giving us something besides “moody teenager”?! I have to admit that I find her not-so-sudden crush on Felix really endearing.)
But at the breathtaking aquarium, Felix explains that, while he understands Lake’s decision to tell her mom about his living situation, she still betrayed his trust and now he doesn’t know when (or if) his mom will be back. “The night I kissed you, I told you the only thing a male anglerfish wants is to make his mate happy. I don’t want to be that fish. I think I need to be happy, too,” Felix says. “Right now, seeing you makes me … really, really sad. So, I’m sorry, Lake. I don’t think we can be together.” While Lake goes to seek solace at Mia’s house, effectively ending Mia’s intimate night-in with Andrew, Felix goes back to his apartment and watches Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, which is one of the few traditions that he has tried to keep with his mom. Pilar, who insists that feeling “sad and pissed” is totally her vibe, takes this opportunity to watch the show with him and they spend the rest of the night trying to guess the correct answers to the questions.
After making a major breakthrough with Victor, Isabel, who seems ready to fulfill her promise of telling Adrian about Victor’s sexuality, decides to attend her first PFLAG meeting, but she leaves as quickly as she came in when she sees Armando flirting with a woman named Shelby. She waits until the meeting is over to confront her estranged husband, saying that she knows him like the back of her hand and asking if he really wants to see other people. “When we decided to take this time apart, we agreed that we needed to work on ourselves, to find a way back to our marriage with fresh eyes — if we’re meant to come back to it,” Armando responds before saying yes. “We’ve been together since we were kids, and I just think — I mean, what’s the point of being separated if we’re not gonna try to find out what we really want?” (I was really rooting for Isabel and Armando to work through their acceptance of Victor’s sexuality together, but the fact that they have handled this situation like night and day made this separation feel inevitable. But selfishly, I still hope they find a way back to each other.)
But things are about to go from bad to worse for Isabel when she returns home. With Adrian asleep and everyone else out of the house, Victor decides to text Benji and ask him to come over. When Benji shows up and explains that he wanted to keep his alcoholism (the part of his life that he hates) from Victor (the part that he loves), Victor goes in for a kiss, and the couple impulsively decides to go to Victor’s room. So when Isabel walks into Victor’s room to ask him about his dinner, she walks in on her son and his boyfriend having sex. Yeah, they really went there! This episode has also turned into a PSA for parents to knock before entering their teenager’s bedroom.