In the first scene of “#YumYum,” co-creative directors Ian and Poppy are getting along well. But by the end of the episode, battle lines have been drawn, potentially to last the whole season. It seems, based on this episode, that season two could become more serialized than season one.
The StageGate meeting with Montreal is next week, and Ian and Poppy have little to present for the new expansion. After disagreeing on what direction to go in, they’ve elected to each independently develop their own ideas. Since they’ve separated, they haven’t been fighting at all — but that’s a temporary solution to a problem that isn’t going away. David, triggered by the reminder of the end of his parents’ marriage — as well as his own — deems this stage “the calm before the divorce.”
Brad has a simple solution to their creative stasis: capitalize on the battle-royale fad popularized by games like Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone. But neither Ian nor Poppy like the idea, so they decide to work out of separate offices to buckle down with their respective teams. This doesn’t go well for either of them, of course, because as we know, Ian and Poppy are better together than apart.
In this case, Ian needs someone to push back more on his ideas, a request that meek Phil from the art team can’t grant. (“It has to happen organically, like it does with Poppy,” Ian insists.) He brings in Rachel as a substitute, hoping she’ll be her “normal, indignant, annoying self” and spark his creativity.
Poppy, on the other hand, needs the opposite. “Ian had this way of stroking my ego and bolstering my confidence to the point where I felt like I could overcome anything,” she admits early in the episode, unhappy with her new programming team’s brutal honesty. That’s when Dana wanders in, hoping Poppy will help her learn to code. She calls her “maybe the most talented programmer of our generation,” inspiring Poppy to bring her in to stroke her ego, just as Ian brought in Rachel to crush his. Neither strategy works, and with nothing to show for all her sleepless hours at the office, Poppy is forced to resort to Brad’s earlier battle-royale suggestion. Ian finds this out right as he’s approaching Poppy to reconcile, and the episode ends with the two erupting into an argument, their carefully calibrated ceasefire reaching its inevitable end.
The parallels to divorce in the temporary dissolution of Ian and Poppy’s partnership can be funny, but they’re also predictable, and basically a repeat of the joke just two episodes ago with David and Jo in the premiere. It’s hard to know how seriously to take the final scene when the tone of Ian and Poppy’s fight feels more comedic than dramatic; this feels more like the ending to an episode-long joke than a true “shit just got real” moment. I could’ve done without some of the more forced divorce parallels in this scene, like Poppy pointing out that “we were on a break.”
Perhaps jumping back into the dating game to distract him from his divorce anxiety at work, David gets on the dating apps this episode, to little success. After suggesting David present himself like a loot box from a game — a package with a tempting exterior that hides the garbage inside — Brad comes up with an idea to improve his online dating skills. He pulls up a Japanese dating simulation called “Divorcee Dance Party” to “soft-launch” David, tweaking everything about his conversational style that doesn’t work. That means no food pictures or drink orders hashtagged #YumYum, and no wedding photos on his dating profiles. After ten exchanges with a sim woman without her rejecting him, they’ll know David’s ready to date.
David does get there, eventually — only to realize he was interacting with real people the whole time when Brad drops a curtain to reveal Sue, Carol, and Paul. (“We’re still a little light on the ladies at MQ, so …” Brad explains.) Sue offers an explanation for rejecting him: “David, I just cannot imagine being the vessel to your seed. Does that make sense?” Carol, who thought she was testing a new HR tool for sexual harassment training when she propositioned David, is even more cutting: “David, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I could not dislike you more or be less physically attracted to you.”
Needless to say, David is dispirited. But in a sweet scene, Brad assures him that he was wrong to call him a loot box. They should be thinking of him more like a burlap sack: not flashy or fun at all, but the people who buy it really need it. Brad even went to the trouble of changing David’s profiles, and set him up on a date. It’s a nice ending to a subplot that thrives by showing Brad at his best: helping people in the honest, unsparing way that only he can. Maybe he’s capable of being the hero after all.
• In the episode’s final subplot, Jo secures C.W. an extension on the long-delayed final book in his trilogy by threatening his publisher with involving C.W. in the promotion of the film adaptation — something the publisher definitely doesn’t want, given his propensity for politically incorrect stories. It’s a slight subplot, and not exactly the meaty material I was hoping F. Murray Abraham would get; this season, he’s still more of a dirty old man stereotype than a real character. But it’s a smart touch for Jo to take Brad’s wisdom (“In a negotiation, what you think is your greatest strength can actually be your greatest weakness”) and flip it (“C.W., you’re my greatest strength!”).
• I’m also a little skeptical of Jo’s examples of authors whose personal views hurt their movie adaptations. The Ender’s Game movie was a box-office bomb, but it’s unclear if that was related to the boycott; after all, Orson Scott Card’s opposition to same-sex marriage has been well-known since the ’90s. And is it really accurate to say that “J.K. Rowling got canceled with a couple keystrokes”?
• David lures Jo into giving him attention by using a fishing metaphor for online dating. Jo involuntarily explodes, “Oh my God, David, you’re not dating, you’re trawling for a death partner.”
• When Rachel apologizes again for screwing up Grouchy Goat, Dana insists this is just a temporary roadblock. “I mean, we don’t want to be sitting on this couch forever, right?” she exclaims. “We both got big dreams.” “Totally,” Rachel replies, but based on her expression, she’s not so sure. Will the gulf in Rachel and Dana’s respective ambitions pose trouble for the new couple?
• When David makes the mistake of making a message way too long, the sim shows the woman approaching a hunk instead. “Why would they animate that?” David asks.
• It’s Always Sunny Parallel of the Week: Brad likens the team to seagulls who should be gorging themselves on the whale carcass that is battle-royale mode. When Poppy denies being a seagull, Brad replies, “Not yet you’re not.” “Not yet I’m not?” Poppy says. “What is that supposed to mean? What, I’m just going to turn into a bird?” Later, Poppy caves and goes ahead with battle royale, becoming the bird. This all calls to mind, of course, the Gang constantly referring to Dee Reynolds as a bird.