Never Have I Ever Recap: Girl, Interrupted

Never Have I Ever

…been to New Jersey/…had my dream stolen
Season 4 Episodes 5 and 6
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Never Have I Ever

…been to New Jersey/…had my dream stolen
Season 4 Episodes 5 and 6
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Courtesy Of Netflix/Courtesy Of Netflix

It’s time for the New York college tour! Stops will include Princeton for Devi, Juilliard for Eleanor, Columbia for Ben, and REDACTED for Fabiola.

Devi’s getting the VIP college experience courtesy of her idol Blair Quan, a Sherman Oaks alum who managed to score early admission to Princeton and calls Devi her mini-me. She wants to give Devi a taste of what it’s like to socialize and party at Princeton, so they hit up the Armstrong Inn, an eating club where Blair pours them shots from behind the bar.

Back in Los Angeles, Nalini has the house to herself for the first time since Devi was her own newborn mini-me, and she excitedly anticipates a serious case of JOMO. But as Andres had predicted earlier, while Nalini relishes the tranquility at first, the silence soon makes her restless. Thankfully, Andres shows up looking for his phone just as she finishes a 1,000-piece puzzle of a mind-numbingly calm ocean. He agrees to keep her company, and she concedes that he was right. As they commiserate over feeling lonely without their girls, Nalini admits she always figured she would survive empty-nest syndrome with Mohan’s help. Andres assures her that even though neither of them planned to raise kids independently, they’ll get through this. This whole exchange is SO CUTE! I know he doesn’t say they’ll get through this together, but that’s what I choose to hear. This show is constantly featuring obvious ADR, so what’s one more word??

Speaking of silence, Eleanor hears crickets (and not the Sherman Oaks kind) after performing Sonya’s famous final monologue from Uncle Vanya for her Juilliard audition. When she presses for the assessors’ opinion, she’s told the school may not be the right place for her. It’s the sort of pivotal moment she’ll look back on and probably be glad things happened the way they did, but right now, it only hurts. Between the Trent breakup and this, El is going through it this season.

Dr. Warner encourages Fabiola to self-prioritize and see if Princeton suits her while she can, so the teen suggests to a mopey Eleanor that they go join Devi at the club. Ben, recovering from his own crappy college visit, asks if he can tag along.

As Devi and Blair dance, Blair gets pulled aside and … fired?! That’s when she comes clean to Devi: Blair’s no longer a student. Burned out from the grind of high-school overachieving, she was partying nonstop once she got to Princeton and soon failed all of her classes. This confession leaves Devi wondering whether she won’t be able to hack college as well. It also makes her realize she should have cut Paxton some slack when he left ASU. She calls him and tells him so, adding how nice it has been to see him around again.

The Sherman Oaks crew finds Devi at Princeton, and Eleanor tells her friends what went down at the audition. They promise her she’s not a bad actress. “We don’t lie to each other. Unless it’s, you know, like an emergency,” says Fabiola, glancing at Devi. The girls try to dance their cares away, but some college scumbag who knows Devi’s in high school grabs her and tries to cut in. Ben comes to the rescue and pushes the guy off Devi only to get punched in return. Love is a battlefield, etc., etc.

Devi finds Ben icing his cheek outside, and as they sit together, she confesses her newfound college fears. Ben points out that, unlike Blair, she’s had a rich and varied high-school life — screwing up, having fun, dating. She’s not some shell of a human who doesn’t know herself. He then admits his Columbia visit made him feel too stupid to go there, but Devi points out that students there are probably just insecure try-hards too. Plus, Ben, the ultimate bullshitter, can beat them at their own game. (Recall that last season, Mr. Gross was hospitalized for being full of literal shit.) This heart-to-heart illustrates how well these two can see, understand, and ultimately uplift each other. Devi says she gets why Ben stopped talking to her, but she misses their bond. Thankfully, Ben apologizes and says they can be buddies again. Let’s hear it for friendships tinged with mutual romantic longing!

Back in Los Angeles, Nalini has reason to smile too. The morning after they have their own heart-to-heart, Andres makes the most adorable gesture by leaving a birdhouse on Nalini’s doorstep so her “nest doesn’t feel quite so empty.” Forget Daxton and Bevi — the hottest ship for this show is now Nalini and Dimple Daddy.

In the next episode, we arrive at early-decision day. Nalini reminds her daughter that things will be okay no matter what, but Devi’s moody teenage brain takes that as a vote of no confidence. She gets a boost of serotonin after hearing Princeton admitted one mystery student from their school but is ultimately shattered when her application is deferred. Right on cue, we cut to Fabiola parked in front of her laptop getting the worst good news ever. Even when she tells Eleanor about her Princeton acceptance, Fab is encouraged to keep quiet and hope that Devi forgets. Meanwhile, Ben’s walking around looking like a human brochure for Columbia to celebrate his own early admission.

Ms. Warner reminds Devi that a deferral isn’t a “no,” but she suggests Devi apply to other schools to be safe. Our girl agrees to apply only to other Ivies, no safety schools. In the meantime, she’ll pad out her résumé — and score a varsity letter — by becoming equipment manager for the swim team. Her first task? Speedo retrieval, baby! As Devi heads to Coach Noble’s car, she comes across the early-admissions barbecue and storms off when she realizes Fab is her secret Princeton dream snatcher.

Back at the Vishwakumar house, Nirmala has been showering Len with Tommy Bahama hauls and romantic getaways, leading Kamala to question his motives. Could he be faking feels to use Nirmy as his Apple-shareholding sugar mama? In the previous episode, Nalini chalks up Kamala’s suspicions to the wonderful magic of Valium. But in this one, a perfectly sober Kamala witnesses Len calling an Aussie lady “baby” and promising her money. Kamala tries to warn Nirmala and Nalini about the sighting but again gets brushed off. Things seem even more dire when Len pops the question to Nirmala. It’s our second proposal this season, but this time she says yes! Pati moves fast. When you know, you know?

Alas, as one couple grows closer, another one kicks the bucket. At an art show, Margot’s work gets noticed by an alum gallery owner who looks like an alt-reality Wes Anderson. Ben offers to grab them all drinks but overhears Margot downplaying their relationship to the gallery goon. (He describes Ben as having an “Urkel vibe,” proving the dude’s way too old to be caring what a high-school girl’s dating status is.) It’s enough for Ben to break up with her.

Paxton finds Devi near the school pool raging against some lane buoys. She tells him about Fabiola getting into Princeton, to which he replies, “That’s awesome for her!” (Finally, somebody with some goddamned sense!) Devi writes him off as not getting it, but Paxton reminds her that his own college dreams were dashed when someone caused him to get hit by a car. And he’s not bringing it up to karmically guilt-trip Devi — he has long forgiven her — but to encourage her to let this go, too.

In class, Mr. Shapiro invites “strong woman of color” Fabiola to present her topic, 1930s American isolationism. She tearfully talks about the importance of allies before rushing out of the room, prompting Devi to run after her, apologize, and concede that she herself is the problem. In therapy, Devi acts as if things are fine, just fine, but Dr. Ryan pushes her to admit she’s still unhappy about the deferral. Dr. Ryan points out that if the Princeton dream affects Devi’s self-worth so much, maybe it’s not good for her after all.

This launches Devi into a memory that helps us all see why she holds so tightly to her Princeton dream. Hint: It’s not just about prestige! When young Devi learned there’s no Princess College, her dad suggested Princeton College instead. It was a plan they made together, and now Devi wants to follow through — she sees it as a way to stay connected to him. Obviously, this sweet reminiscence frames her obsession in a much different, more sympathetic light.

Later that night, armed with a peace offering in the form of chip salad, Nalini explains that she has always believed in Devi, but she knows firsthand that things don’t always go as planned. Despite being the top resident in her program back in India, Nalini unexpectedly had to prove herself all over again once she moved to the States — nobody in the U.S. appreciated her credentials. (This is a tale as old as time for so many overqualified immigrant professionals.) She says Princeton messed up by not snatching Devi ASAP. Devi admits all she wanted to hear from her mom was that Princeton was stupid. “Very stupid,” affirms Nalini. “And you know what? Even when things don’t work out, they usually do work out — as long as you don’t give up.” Hmmm, food for thought. Is this a reference to Princeton? Orrrrr the fact that Devi has learned Ben is suddenly single?

Extra Credit

• It’s interesting to have Eleanor be so demoralized when her audition monologue is essentially about enduring the trials of life.

• Aneesa keeps popping in and out, which I’d like to think is because Megan Suri has booked other gigs, but it’s a bummer Aneesa isn’t more present because she’s a great character. And where the hell is Manish (Utkarsh Ambudkar)?!

• Addison also makes an appearance in episode six! While I love seeing Fab in a hot and happy coupling, I appreciate that her arc this season isn’t so dependent on her love life.

• Kamala gets a dream job offer in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins but turns it down, citing her family as the reason she can’t move. But the offer still stands if she changes her mind, so I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of it.

• So fun to see Coach Noble played by Pete Gardner of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame. Devi has always reminded me of a lighter version of Rebecca Bunch (and, like Rebecca, she gets demonized way too much by viewers). Can’t you imagine poor, destructive Devi singing “You Stupid Bitch”?

• Business lingerie.

• “Too much, Mami, just — it’s too much.”

• I know Nirmala’s horniness is played for laughs — and holy shit, it works — but it also feels pretty groundbreaking to see this many South Asian women owning their sexuality and desires on the show. Characters like Ranjita Chakravarty’s Nirmala and Sarita Choudhury’s Seema on And Just Like That … in particular are really shifting depictions of Desi women above a certain age and in fun ways.

• “And it is always nice to be reminded of America’s pronouns.”

• Eleanor drops her own secret bombshell: She’s graduating early, in two days, to focus on acting professionally.

• Ben’s pretty much the only one to agree with Devi that being deferred is a flat-out bad thing (“It’s horrible. Regular decision’s for gen pop”), which makes me even more convinced he’ll be endgame. I came into this season leaning toward Paxton (HE IS THE ELDEST BOY!), but Bevi just seems to align better.

Never Have I Ever Recap: Girl, Interrupted