How are you supposed to learn complex math when you’re having gay relationship drama?
The day after Benji told him that he wanted to take a break from their seemingly rock-solid relationship, Victor, who still looks like he just saw a ghost, can’t seem to function properly. With no roadmap to navigate the future of his first serious relationship, Victor isn’t in the mood to tell Isabel about his relationship drama, and he definitely isn’t ready to sit next to Benji in their pre-calc class and keep up appearances.
So when Rahim offers to skip school with him, insisting that both of them need a day off from “the tragic fluorescent lighting,” Victor — who made a secret trip to New York City last year to meet Simon and his friends — decides that it’s time for another adventure, even if his new friend can sense just a tiny bit of apprehension. “Fix your face and unclench your butt cheeks because you look like you just murdered your family, embezzled your inheritance, and started over in Boca Raton,” Rahim tells Victor in one of the sharpest one-liners of the episode.
Given that Rahim has successfully skipped school in the past to escape feeling like an outsider at Creekwood, he decides to take the lead in order to create a Benji-free zone for a few hours. The two start their day at a colorful outdoor restaurant, where Rahim introduces Victor to his comfort food: a crispy rice cake with chicken dish called tahchin. While Victor talks about the unknown fate of his parents’ marriage, Rahim reveals that, instead of reading the final boring chapters of Lord of the Flies, he decided to come out to his parents last night by reading a carefully written note card. To Victor’s surprise, Rahim’s dad was really happy that he finally told them because Rahim’s mom had found a revealing Google search on her son’s computer a few years ago. (I’m really happy that it went well for Rahim, but this is exactly why you need to clear your search histories, people!)
But that’s not the only surprising thing that Victor hears on his day off. After telling Rahim that he’s proud of him for coming out, Victor hears a familiar voice: Armando. It turns out that his father has begun dating again without telling anyone, and it just so happens that Armando was on an outdoor coffee date with Shelby, the woman he met at the PFLAG meetings, when he spotted Victor and Rahim cutting class. In a private conversation, Victor confronts Armando about giving up on Isabel, but Armando (unconvincingly) insists that that’s not necessarily the case and threatens to tell Isabel about Victor skipping school if he doesn’t go back immediately. On the way back, Victor admits to Rahim that he doesn’t know if his parents are right for each other anymore, which seems to circle back to the impending fate of his relationship with Benji: “They were our age when they started dating, but maybe that’s part of the problem. Like, what are the odds that the first person you date is the person you’re supposed to end up with?”
Upon hearing this latest question, Rahim decides to “turn the self-care up to an 11” and takes Victor to a local spa for a pedicure. Rahim, who seems to be hiding more secrets of his own, confides in Victor that he has begun talking to a guy named Charlie on a gay dating app, and Victor suggests that they meet up at Brasstown, “in case Charlie turns out to be a 60-year-old murderer whose kink is decapitating high-school students with a boxcutter.” (Damn, these boys really enjoy watching true crime in their spare time.)
When Rahim and Charlie do meet up for the first (and last) time, however, things don’t exactly go as planned. After Rahim begins using terms like “sis,” “obsesh,” and “serving sweet and spicy” and tells Charlie to “drop that skin care routine,” Charlie begins to look uncomfortable and admits that he is into more masculine guys before leaving the café in a hurry. In an attempt to comfort (and compliment) Rahim, Victor says that he is “a total catch” because he’s tall, smart, and super handsome and would clean up at a gay bar. This remark prompts the two new friends to sneak into a gay bar together, where a mesmerized Rahim admits that this is the first time in his life that he feels like he can really be himself.
Between dancing and drinking (these guys are supposed to be 16, how is no one ID-ing them?), Victor and Rahim begin to chat about what they look for in a guy. While Rahim says that he likes guys who are smart, athletic, and have nice smiles — does that sound like anyone you know? — Victor says that his type is Benji, because he is the only real-life guy that he ever considered going for. “And you went for it, and he went for you back. That’s a lot more than a lot of us can say,” Rahim says with a sigh. “I’ve never had what you and Benji have. I’ve never even kissed a guy before.” Michael Cimino and Anthony Keyvan both play the emotional parts of this episode so well, but the chemistry between their characters truly goes through the roof when they sing a rendition of “Holy” by Justin Bieber in front of all of the customers. (Uh oh … there’s a love triangle brewing here, and I have to admit that I’m firmly on Team Rahim right now.) Of course, nothing good can last forever. After bringing down the house with their song, Victor and Rahim are spotted by Isabel, who used “Find My iPhone” to track Victor down after he failed to answer his phone.
While Rahim goes to take a seat in the car, Victor and Isabel have an important conversation outside the bar that turns out to be one of the most poignant scenes of the Victor-Rahim-centric episode. Victor reveals to Isabel that Benji might be breaking up with him, and he didn’t want to tell her earlier that morning because she thought she might be happy. “Victor, I need you to hear this … Your happiness is my happiness. If your heart is broken, so is mine,” Isabel says. “And I know you said that Papi’s the love of my life — that’s only sort of true. You kids are the love of my life. There is nothing in this world that is more precious to me. And I know that I didn’t make you feel that way this year — I’ll never forgive myself for that — but I accept you, Victor. I love every single part of you, and I will spend the rest of my life to make sure that you know that, okay?” Cimino and Ana Ortiz continue to dominate this season with the strongest and most compelling onscreen performances, and this scene — and the beautiful hug that ends the conversation — underscores just how far their characters have come since Victor came out a few months ago. Given that Ortiz has already played a devoted and accepting mother of an LGBTQ+ child on the ABC telenovela Ugly Betty, it has been even more satisfying to see her take on a different and more challenging role this season, because the emotional payoff is just as good.
Isabel offers to drive Rahim home, and Victor offers to walk him to his door when they arrive at his house. While there is certainly a moment between them as they say good night and thank each other for a fun day, Victor and Rahim decide against crossing that unspoken boundary and go their separate ways. Victor then gets a call from Benji, who tells him that he needs more time to “figure stuff out” and doesn’t want to go with him to Harold and Veronica’s wedding.
• On the days that he wants to skip school, Rahim says that he just emails the school office and pretends that it’s some Muslim holiday. But when Victor needed a reason to skip school, Rahim decided that it would be appropriate to call the school and pretend that Isabel gave Victor some bad chimichangas before saying that … it’s now coming out of both ends. Oh, Rahim. Never change.