Though exceedingly cringey at times, this episode successfully juggles multiple story lines and emotions and gives each of them a satisfying ending. Adopting a moral-of-the-story format, this installment of Never Have I Ever sees Devi navigating how she should go about apologizing to Aneesa for starting the rumor that she has an eating disorder.
On the first day of Devi’s suspension, Ben barges in on her family’s dinner and informs her that she needs to find a way to make it up to Aneesa because she’s planning on transferring schools yet again. Devi insists that it’s hopeless, but both Ben and Devi’s therapist, Dr. Ryan, insist that she find a way. While talking to Dr. Ryan, Devi decides to apologize to Aneesa first and foremost because she misses Aneesa’s friendship, but she admits she also has an ulterior motive of winning Ben back.
Devi recalls that her father once taught her a valuable lesson: When you mess up big, apologize even bigger. So in an adorable homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Devi concocts an elaborate maze of distractions to keep her grandmother at bay back at home while she sneaks off to school to apologize to Aneesa. Ranjita Chakravarty, who plays Devi’s grandmother, is a delightful addition to this season’s roster. She often carries entire scenes on her back, her playful and clueless demeanor making for an added layer of hilarity.
Meanwhile, Devi’s cousin Kamala is having a catastrophe of her own. After finding out her name has been left off a scientific-journal paper despite the fact that she did most of the work behind it, she is distraught. When she tries to talk to the head of the research department, he dismisses her concerns as trivial office politics. When she tries to open up to her boyfriend, Prashant, he castigates her for coming off as “hard to work with” and encourages her to keep her head down. Suddenly, her demeanor changes. You can tell she doesn’t look at him the same way anymore. Her reluctance to take his advice seems to hint at future problems for the two.
Drawing on her dad’s wisdom, Devi and her friends plan an entire cheer routine to apologize to Aneesa. Ensuring that all eyes are on her, Devi enlists the school band and drill team to put together a pep-rally type of dance routine that ends with her pulling out a sign saying “Sorry Aneesa!” To absolutely no one’s surprise, this fails miserably. Aneesa is re-traumatized by Devi reminding everyone why she is even apologizing to her in the first place. She runs off crying, and Ben chastises Devi for being so insensitive.
Meanwhile, Nalini is experiencing an emotional crisis. When delivering Dr. Jackson’s mail to him, she bursts into tears and calls herself a terrible mother. She tells him about how Devi got along much better with her father and how difficult parenting alone has been ever since Mohan passed away. Dr. Jackson gives her a solid piece of advice as a fellow single parent: When your kid says they need you, you should always just say yes.
Reflecting on her initial grandiose apology attempt, Devi realizes she might have misinterpreted her dad’s advice. She has a flashback to an argument her parents had when she was younger: Her mother was upset at Mohan for not coming to a professional awards ceremony, and instead of making excuses, Mohan was vulnerable with her, sharing how his own unemployment status clouded his judgment and made him petty and selfish instead of supportive. As Devi thinks back to that memory, she realizes she needs to take a different approach. So she goes to school and, in front of the entire student body, shares how Aneesa made her feel jealous and insecure. She promises to be a better friend to Aneesa if she stays. It’s a touching moment, one that will remind you that teenagers have humanity too, no matter how heartless and cruel they can be sometimes. Although Aneesa forgives Devi, she informs her that her parents’ minds have been made up about her transfer and there’s no chance she’s staying at Sherman Oaks.
It seems all hope is lost, but at the last minute, Devi has the bright idea to have her mom attempt to speak to Aneesa’s mom. Who better to convince a stern, begrudging Indian woman than another stern, begrudging Indian woman? Nalini, who is hesitant at first, remembers her colleague’s suggestion to always say yes when your child needs you. Ultimately, she ends up successfully convincing Aneesa’s mom to let her stay at Sherman Oaks.
This episode, “…begged for forgiveness,” accurately captures many aspects of the Indian American experience. Devi’s suspension story line throws a wrench into the “Indian nerd” archetype she has been slotted into, and Nalini’s story line gets at the mixed emotions immigrants can feel when having to parent their children in a country whose culture is so different from the one they are accustomed to. Kamala’s plot hits particularly close to home, as almost every South Asian woman knows what it’s like to be told to keep your head down in the name of “maintaining the peace,” often from people we love who claim to have our best interests at heart. The best onscreen representation is one that resonates with the community it represents while captivating those on the outside, and this episode does it perfectly.