Made For Love
What kind of person would marry a guy she just met and then never leave the tech palace/prison he built for ten years? This episode is our show’s chance to prove to us that the origin of this whole story is plausible enough for us to go on the rest of the ride. And unlike a CERTAIN series I shall not mention by name but will simply link to here, I think Made for Love makes a pretty convincing case.
We already know Hazel is from this shitkicker little town, that her mom died, that her dad was drunk a lot. Some basic boxes have been checked, re: why would a girl want to get out of here. But there’s gotta be more, yes? What was so appealing about Byron from the jump? Time to find out!
Ten years ago, Hazel was quite the scrappy little hustler. We see her running a clever scam outside a Gogol event where Byron will be speaking: selling lottery tickets to win a phone she’s never seen and doesn’t have. Genius! Who is watching this from afar? Byron. What’s interesting to me is that every quality of Hazel’s that seems to draw Byron to her — her sense of mischief, her self-reliance, her hunger for elsewheres — are also things that are obviously and totally incompatible with the life he wants for her (trapping her in a terrarium of scentless cubes, controlling and/or observing her every move and thought). But all Byron says is that he loves her scam artistry, and that in fact his lecture is about this very subject: spotting opportunity and understanding human desire.
You know what else I love about this? It reminds me a bit of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, in that it takes all the tropes of romantic comedies/sexy grand gestures — come away with me to Rome, tonight! I’m a stranger but I really see you! — and reveals them for the actually creepy and deeply unsettling behaviors they are, or would be, if anyone did that stuff in real life. Byron asks her to dinner in Rome and tells her she won’t need her passport because he’s with her. Oh, and he already knows her full name. Supremely sketchy, but she is too intrigued (and desperate, I think) not to go. Like, you can see how she would be excited about it.
Knowing what we do about this first date, the outfit feels like even more of a wild choice, though we will eventually learn its origin. Hazel shows up to this scary oversized truck guarded by Lyle, and just as I am writing in my notes she is definitely gonna get murdered in there, she asks, “Is he gonna kill me in there?” Great question, Hazel. Did she tell anyone where she was going tonight? Unclear! Lyle says Byron outsources all his kills, ha, ha, ha!
Inside the truck is the virtual-reality Rome. This is the part that is a little tricky on television and I am very curious how it works in the book — because on TV it doesn’t look all that different from what it is, which is like, a very powerful green screen. (And I am dying to know if there are scents in the truck, or if the food is kind of tasteless because it doesn’t smell like anything!) Byron tells Hazel that her dress suits her, even though we know she will never be allowed to dress like this ever again.
Back in the present, Hazel’s dad presents her with a cost analysis of staying with him. All families are weird about money in their own way, and this is this particular family’s way of being strange about it: With his daughter obviously in crisis — “DAD I DON’T HAVE MONEY I NEED A NEUROSURGEON WHO CAN GET THE CHIP OUT OF MY BRAIN” — Dad’s focus is on a ballpark figure of what she ought to pay for rent. Divorces are time-consuming and expensive, honey. And so are neurosurgeons, probably. She acquiesces to his reasonable rate ($200 a month, amazing deal) and only pushes back a bit on his other demand, which is to treat Diane with respect. She has some questions about the arrangement (“do you take a bite out of her food and then pretend that she ate it?”), and I get it, but also, no offense, this is a real pots-and-kettles situation, re: Hazel criticizing someone else’s unconventional and problematic relationship dynamics!
In the Hub, Byron is sitting back watching the Hazel show. He is going to have Bennett build her a smell cube. Honestly, the whole thing about Byron and smells is so funny to me and will never stop being funny to me. Just the delivery of “That’s good, that’s good, what’s that?” “…That’s glass” “That’s LOVELY” fully killed me. A-plus work Billy Magnussen. His overly literal interpretation of her needs is just perfect. As far as he’s concerned, this is all proof that the chip is working! “Look how much more I know about her!” he says. “I think this process has really brought us closer together.”
Hazel utilizes her con-artist skills to steal a bunch of cell phones outside a yoga class (“Digital detox today! Namaste!” okay, so she’s a genius) and sells them at a pawn shop. At said pawn shop she runs into her past: Bangles, the former best friend and design student who lent Hazel that green dress, which she needed for her final grade (!), only to be ghosted by Hazel for ten years. The intensity with which she screams, “We’re gonna fucking CATCH UP,” is just perfect. I love how bananas Hazel’s predicament sounds to anyone outside of it. “I didn’t have a phone.” “Ohhh, Mrs. Gogol didn’t have a phone?!”
Bennett arrives at the pawn shop because Byron has agreed that it would be so nice if Hazel were involved in the smell-cube-building process. Bangles intervenes (lotta B names on this show, hmm) and forces him out. In this process she is starting to see what’s what. The old Hazel would not be taking shit from this little redheaded boy. What happened?
Hazel brings Bangles home, much to her dad’s horror — “I guess they let you out of prison, huh?” he says, sizing her up. “Hope I never see you again!” Hazel and Bangles are on good terms again, now that Bangles understands what happened. Plus Hazel hasn’t hung out with a friend in literally a decade, and she is so relieved to be doing a normal.
Back at the Hub, Byron is flipping out that Hazel won’t come back despite his generosity, re: smell cube. Oh, also, he tells Fiffany, he revoked Zelda’s pool privileges. “I’m going to eat her.” Oh no! Also, Lyle really has gone rogue — at least, Byron really doesn’t know where he is and wants to find him and kill him. Meanwhile, Byron is going to learn how to appeal to Hazel on her own terms, which means he needs to drink beer. Bennett says that he and Byron can practice “hanging out the way people do where she’s from,” like … Earth? Bennett’s pour is like 90 percent foam. (They also have an exchange about donut holes and Bennett’s inability to procure one for her that cracked me up.)
Meanwhile, Fiffany has gone into private mode in her hot-pink lab. She is sending a message to Herringbone: “If you’re out there and alive, we need a new plan.” Then she pulls up a screen of all the tanks. Lots of dolphins! But where is Zelda? I am worried for Zelda! Then Byron tells Fiffany that if Hazel’s not back in 48 hours they will MERGE. Merging will probably kill Hazel but Byron doesn’t care about this; he will keep Hazel alive forever … in his mind palace.
At Hazel’s house, Bangles moons Hazel now that she realizes Byron sees everything Hazel sees. Hazel encourages this: “He HATES butts!” Dad’s advice: “Don’t engage. That’s not how you deal with narcissists.” Then Bangles reminds Hazel of a secret made-up language they used as little kids that Byron can’t understand, so they finally have a way to communicate without him knowing what’s going on. Amazing! Dad understands it, too. “Why do you think I want you out of my house?” he says to Bangles.
Now we are back in the past, on Byron and Hazel’s first date. Again, everything he does here is like, surface-level romantic but clearly actually scary — how does he have access to her bank account?! If he can put money in, he can take money out! — but she is smitten. Her joy at his ability to snap his fingers and make the truck/cube appear to be any other place that she mentions is quite convincing, even though, again, on TV it doesn’t really look like much? She is inside a screensaver. But this is the happiest we have seen her on this show. The way she says PENGUINS conveys way more joy than her supposedly five-star orgasm did.
Byron tells Hazel that he can tell they are the same: People who aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Again I want to grab Hazel by the shoulders and be like, Girl, you are inside a truck … you have not left the truck, but she’s all wrapped up in it and she hates her life and he says it’s because she’s a super-special girl who hasn’t been taken care of by anybody before and he GETS it, he built a whole world with all the best stuff in it (but no cinnamon???). He asks her to marry him and she says YES and should she call her dad maybe?? He’s like, Nope, we have to go right this second. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GO RIGHT THIS SECOND HAZEL, I yell to no one, and the truck drives them off into the night.