Never Have I Ever Recap: Awakenings

Never Have I Ever

… liked a bad boy/… wrecked my future
Season 4 Episodes 3 and 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Never Have I Ever

… liked a bad boy/… wrecked my future
Season 4 Episodes 3 and 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Courtesy Of Netflix/Courtesy Of Netflix

Throughout this series, Devi has had a rich fantasy life. So it’s no surprise when a sleeping Devi has what starts as a good dream about being bad with a shirtless, tatted Ethan. But it all goes awry when she’s reminded that she’s betraying her bestie. Talk about a mood killer.

Speaking of sudden death, the Vishwakumars’ staircase is defective, so a Yelp-savvy Len refers Nirmala to a contractor. He shows up, and Nalini isn’t psyched, but goddammit, I sure am! It’s Margot’s babe-ly dad. Having already met under not-so-ideal circumstances through their daughters, the two parents aren’t exactly chummy with each other. But as Devi takes an epic spill down the steps (kudos to the stunt actor), Nalini knows she can’t be choosy.

At school, Devi fails to avoid Ethan — which somehow results in dick-punching — and then runs into another frequent guest in her dreams: Paxton! Turns out he has officially been hired as the school’s assistant swim coach. Devi is skeptical about whether he truly gave ASU the old college try (thank you, thank you), but he’s defensive and points out that he’s an adult. Bringing Paxton back is convenient because it keeps the show’s love-triangle element alive, but the character also serves as a reminder that life goes on after high school and not always in the ways you expect. It’s nice how the series can use him to explore this kind of story line.

Nalini comes home to find her house in disarray. According to Andres, a termite infestation has compromised the entire staircase. Nalini thinks he’s trying to upsell her, which he denies (and learns she’s a single mom in the process).

Devi figures the best way to get Ethan off her mind is to get him and Eleanor together and render him officially off-limits. Yet despite Devi’s matchmaking efforts, he finds her outside his party later that night and proposes a game of tonsil hockey. Devi gives in, but the moment is cut short when Eleanor catches them.

Devi runs after Eleanor to explain her predicament, only to learn that Eleanor has a secret of her own: Ethan kissed her just 15 minutes earlier. Devi incredulously asks what kind of person leads on two people at the same party — a cheeky callback to her two-timing in season two. Fab encourages them to make a “besties before testes” pact and each vows to leave Ethan alone.

When the Vishwakumars are left stairless for five days with no sign of Andres, Devi uses her Gen-Z tracking tactics to locate him. Nalini and Kamala head over, recording everything for a potential “Scambusters” segment. Andres admits he delayed finishing the work out of spite for Margot’s sake (he’s also raising her as a single parent). He assures Nalini he’ll return to work on the stairs the next day.

Ethan explains to Devi why he kissed her despite his dalliance with Eleanor: “I didn’t plan it. But I saw you sitting outside, and I was like, Damn, I kinda wanna kiss her right now.” I guess the boy’s got serious rizz.

Devi overhears that Margot never asked Ben to stop talking to Devi — he opted for the silent treatment himself. Feeling down, Devi heads to the parking lot to watch her crush, only to find Eleanor doing the same. The girls engage in a self-pity face-off, arguing about who deserves a shot with the slacker. Eleanor’s reasoning? She called first dibs and just got dumped. But Devi points out that Eleanor got dumped by a loving boyfriend who wanted to marry her, while she’s getting over Ben, who hit it, quit it, and now won’t talk to her. Unfortunately, a devastated Trent hears this exchange, particularly the part where Eleanor reveals she kissed Ethan.

The whole thing brings Eleanor back to earth. She realizes she has been using the dreamy degenerate as a distraction from missing Trent. With Eleanor’s blessing to have some fun with Ethan, Devi agrees to hang with the skater boy but only once he promises to stop kissing other girls. (He admits he got greedy once his growth spurt made him a hot commodity.) And that is how Devi begins dating a bad boy.

If episode three is about a bad-boy fantasy, the fourth episode, “… wrecked my future,” gets into its reality. There are some inherent glaring issues: Ethan sucks at school, is straight-up rude to adults, and — worst of all — is a litterbug. But there are benefits, as Devi happily discovers. We see our girl lying in bed after having (safe) sex with Ethan, her hair tousled and cascading as if we’re seeing a brown Birth of Venus. He leaves, and she’s visibly ecstatic over what she just experienced: great sex! It seems Ethan has proved an ancient boy-band adage true.

In other exciting news, it’s College Fair Day at Sherman Oaks! This is Devi’s shot to impress Princeton’s admissions officer, but in the meantime, she feels obliged to defend her not-so-honorable boyfriend’s honor. Ms. Warner warns that bad boys can cloud one’s judgment and that Devi needs to keep her eye on the Princeton prize. Even her friends agree that Devi’s too blinded by her “sensual hornissance” to recognize that Ethan is deadweight and a liability. But our girl seems confident she can juggle landing a good school while dating a bad boy; besides, he’s just misunderstood.

After arriving at the fair, Devi feels even better about her odds: the Princeton rep is Indian! Devi channels her inner Kool-Aid Man and busts through to the front of a long line of patient hopefuls, launching into her pick-me pitch. But Akshara, the rep, is turned off by Devi’s selfish and try-hard approach, which sends Devi spiraling.

Fabiola’s helicopter mom hijacks a college check-in meeting with Ms. Warner, saying Fab should apply early to an Ivy despite her desire not to. She insists Fab should consider all options, including Princeton, even though Devi’s gunning for it and it’s unlikely the prestigious college will accept two students early from Sherman Oaks. I can’t get behind the dismissive approach of Fabiola’s mother, but I don’t think her reasoning is wrong. She suggests Devi would probably love to go to college with Fab — an expectation that seems reasonable to me? Besides, Fab’s line of thinking reinforces an unhelpful, unhealthy scarcity mind-set. What’s meant for you can’t be taken away!

True to form, Ethan offers car-focused revenge tactics when he hears about Devi’s disastrous first impression with Princeton, but she opts for earnest groveling instead. Devi knows she came across as unlikable and emphasizes how attending this college is a deep-rooted dream of hers. Akshara cuts her some slack. As the two connect on Desi family dynamics, Ethan crashes their lunch and gives his own pro-Devi spiel, complete with an honor-roll list he snatched from the wall of the principal’s office. The move leaves Akshara impressed and Devi charmed.

Kamala is recovering from LASIK surgery (and Nirmala’s Grand Theft Auto–style driving) chez Vishwakumar, which Andres is still working on. (Don’t worry, the stairs are long finished, but Nalini keeps finding other jobs for him to do. I wonder why?) Kamala awakens from a snooze to discover she’s alone in the house with Len and an uninvited female stranger — Nirmala was out shopping for vadai ingredients and ogling a shirtless Ranveer Singh (much like these ladies in Ram-Leela, I suspect).

And Ranveer’s not the only one going topless! When Ben is thrown by Margot’s suggestion that he make his Columbia speech more conversational, he stumbles into some wet paint. Devi spots him scrambling for a change of clothes, but he tries to get rid of her by citing Margot. Devi nonchalantly reveals she knows he’s actually the one who wanted to sever ties and then grabs a cami from her locker, dragging Ben into the bathroom with her. She proceeds to take off her own dress shirt, and they switch tops (but not without Ben getting distracted by Devi in her bra!). She assures him this doesn’t make them friends and sends him back to the fair. And while Devi came to his rescue, it turns out Margot’s advice did too: Ben has a great meeting with the Columbia rep by being himself, sans a buzzword-filled sales pitch. Elsewhere at the fair, Fabiola ends up chatting with Akshara, who’s keen to talk up Princeton’s robotics program.

Speaking of Akshara, while jumping Ethan’s bones in the janitor’s closet, Devi discovers the rep’s wallet in his backpack. “Oh my God, you are a dirtbag,” she says to her sticky-fingered (soon-to-be ex-) boyfriend. She thanks him for leading her through a sexual awakening but knows she needs to be with someone who has more integrity.

At the risk of seeming like a stalker, Devi returns Akshara’s wallet in person. She explains what happened, and Akshara commends Devi for her courage and honesty. Between helping Ben and this confession, our girl should feel pretty damn good about herself and her moral compass. Usually, we see Devi fixing shitshows she’s directly responsible for, yet this episode has her acting more independently and altruistically.

But can she keep it up? The episode ends with Devi and Ben sending their early applications to their dream schools and Fabiola submitting her own application to Princeton in what could very well become a nightmare scenario.

Extra Credit

• Is it just me, or do the boys of Never Have I Ever rip off their shirts in record timing? Are they taught this in school? Is it nature or nurture? I’m perplexed.

• We meet Lindsay Thompson, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed substitute teacher taking over for Dr. Keyes in episode three. It’s nice to know Paxton will have a young peer to interact with instead of just the high-school kids.

• While Lindsay has come to terms with her low-status position, Paxton is in denial and insecure over the optics of where he is, particularly when he’s the butt of the new Hot Pocket’s jokes. Luckily, a pep talk from good ol’ Trent has Paxton confronting his high-school bully while conveniently wielding staff privileges. 

• Nalini’s “That’s very rude” direct to camera — so funny.

• I was worried in the previous recap that I might be getting my hopes up, but now it feels safe to predict Andres as a future love interest for Nalini. Between this show and And Just Like That …, Iván Hernández is quickly becoming the “It” guy for helping stylish widows get back in the game. Thank you for your service, Iván.

Never Have I Ever Recap: Awakenings