“Why do I always have to be Gay Victor?” Victor laments. “Why can’t I just be Victor?”
What’s interesting about this quote — which Victor says early on in the episode, after his well-intentioned but deeply cringe coach asks him to accept the Bravery Award “for, you know, being so brave and open about being … you know” — is that it feels at odds with one of the show’s biggest themes. Especially throughout Love, Victor’s first two seasons, Victor had to fight to be “Gay Victor.” His mom was in denial about his sexuality for months; there was an entire story line about Benji’s friends criticizing Victor for not being “gay enough.” (In other words, for playing sports, I guess.) But Victor’s always struggled with homophobia and general weirdness from his coach and some of his basketball teammates. You can’t exactly blame him for raising his eyebrows that, suddenly, Coach Ford (Andy Richter) wants to give him a prize for his sexuality.
Most of “The Gay Award” isn’t about the eponymous gay award, though: It’s about Victor’s budding relationship with Nick, Rahim’s new romance with cute waiter Connor (Tyler Lofton), and what it means to be out. All four of these characters are openly gay, but when they go on a double dinner date, Rahim is the only one who clocks the duo of homophobic frat guys leering at them — well, leering at him. He asks if they can move to a table outside, and Victor doesn’t pick up on his discomfort.
Dinner gets tense. Victor brings up the gay award, and Rahim doesn’t understand why he isn’t jumping to accept it. After an awkward meal, one of the guys from inside harasses Rahim, who claps back with a thorough and detailed list of what I can only describe as affirmations. “I am tall, I am fashion-forward, I am the moment,” Rahim says. “You are sad. You’re ignorant. You’re yesterday.” When Victor’s shocked he came up with such a specific speech in the moment, Rahim replies that he’d started thinking about it when they were still in the restaurant. For Victor, he says, being “openly gay” is something that he can turn on and off; Rahim, on the other hand, can’t and doesn’t want to hide who he is.
Victor follows him to the coffee shop and gives a genuine apology for writing off Rahim’s fears about the bros. Rahim reiterates that he doesn’t understand why Victor wouldn’t accept an award that comes hand in hand with the opportunity to be out and proud in front of the whole school. I love that Rahim and Victor have been able to have so many conversations about how their experiences overlap and diverge, but honestly, the attempted connection between the almost–hate crime and the Bravery Award has me a little lost. Victor agrees to accept the award, but it doesn’t necessarily seem like he learned something new about owning his identity. If anything, the decision seems more like he feels guilty about the confrontation and wants to make it up to Rahim. Regardless of why he’s doing it, though, I’m glad he’ll accept the award in the final episode — Love, Victor is setting up a perfect feel-good, full-circle finale.
Victor ends his night with a sweet, cinematic kiss from Nick, who’s slowly developed real feelings for him. Meanwhile, pretty much every Love, Victor character who wasn’t on this messy double date is dealing with heartbreak in some shape or form. There’s Lake and Lucy, Felix and his mom, even Andrew and Mia. Let’s get into it.
Lake, panicked and at a loss about Lucy’s impending cross-country move, decides to live in the moment and plan a romantic, spontaneous date night in. That lasts for about one hour. “I can’t live in the now, Lucy,” she says, tearing up a bit. “I just don’t understand why you have to go.” Lucy explains that she’s been miserable pretty much her entire life: She feels trapped in Creekwood and doesn’t have a stable, solid, or happy home life. Lake gets it, but she can’t handle a slow-burn heartbreak when she’s already falling in love. They decide to go their separate ways.
Then, there’s Mia and Andrew. Now in Palo Alto, they’re as in love as ever, but then Harold catches wind that Andrew skipped out on an important game with some recruiters from big-name colleges. He didn’t bother to tell Mia; ditching the game in order to fly out to California instead was a no-brainer. “Mia is my future,” Andrew says. “Everything else comes second.” But back at the house, with Veronica, Mia’s rethinking her own future. Staying in a cozy house with her mom, stepmom, and new baby brother — it reminds her of everything she’s ever wanted.
Just when she’s about to float the idea of moving back in with her dad, Andrew comes clean about skipping out on the game, and suddenly, the timing feels wrong. Somehow, these two have really moved into my heart, and if any Love, Victor couple can make it work (besides Rahim and his new guy), I hope it’s them.
Over at the Weston residence, Felix and his mom are both going through breakups. Dawn’s meditation guy says that their relationship journey has run its course (and truly, good riddance to anyone who says things like “relationship journey” or “a smidge of depression here and there”). Felix is prepared to drop everything to take care of Dawn, but when she accidentally learns that he’s going through his own breakup, too, she switches their plans. She’s going to take care of Felix, and she’s going to do it by turning on a game show and making some root-beer floats. “You’re my son, I’m your mom, and I am finally well enough to act like it,” Dawn says. If this is the end of Felix’s arc, it’s a satisfying one.
This episode’s biggest heartbreak happens to Benji. He still can’t decide if Victor is a positive influence in his life — or a trigger, as his parents believe. The stress tempts him to drink, but instead, he goes to an AA meeting, where he talks about how much he misses his ex and explains that Victor was the only person who ever made him feel loved. Another participant advises him to do what feels right; it’s a pretty generic tip, but it does hit Benji hard. Hard enough that he heads over to Victor’s house …
… and sees him kissing Nick good-bye. Between this and the wedding incident, Benji’s really gotta learn to initiate the “let’s get back together” conversation over text.
If the tail end of this season has any theme or message, it’s that there are more important things than relationships, especially when you’re in high school. Benji has to put his sobriety first; Andrew has to figure out how to prioritize his basketball career. Lucy has to move for her own well-being, and Mia might have to move for hers, too. Because this is such a feel-good show, I’m sure some of these relationships will still work out — long-distance is a thing! — but I doubt they’ll all make it through the finale unscathed. Did anyone out there predict that Victor’s parents would actually be the strongest couple at this point?
• This episode’s best line goes to Felix: “I don’t believe in expiration dates. That’s just a myth Big Grocery invented to sell more soup.”
• … and this episode’s worst line goes to Nick. “They do say the best revenge for an almost gay hate crime is to be really, really gay,” he tells Victor before making out with him in his car. No offense to Nick’s actor, who is doing the best he can, but this line reading is a new intrusive thought moving forward.