We’re finally here — the last day of Devi’s junior year. Paxton will be saying sayonara to Sherman Oaks and Devi will soon be entering her senior year (or, as the show calls it, “the pinnacle of human existence”).
Devi thinks the next year of her life is pretty much mapped out until Principal Grubbs approaches her with unexpected news. After her school nominated her, Devi was accepted into Shrubland — a prestigious boarding school in Colorado that’s exclusive to gifted students. It’s basically a one-way ticket to whatever Ivy League school she has her heart set on.
Ben thinks her going to Shrubland should be a no-brainer (I know I’m tough on Ben, but he’s ultimately always supportive and pragmatic when it comes to Devi, and I do appreciate that about him). Eleanor and Fabiola are decidedly against Devi not being around for senior year — that’s a major milestone for them! Speaking of milestones, it turns out Fabiola and Addison had sex, which means Devi is the last virgin standing in her friend group. She doesn’t see herself getting laid at Shrubland, so she decides she must stay.
In other news, Trent’s been weird(er than usual) over the past week. Eleanor figures he’s in denial about graduating, growing up, and having to leave her. Things are sunnier for Trent’s buddy, though; Paxton’s been voted as both “Most Likely to Succeed at Hotness” as well as the grad ceremony’s class speaker! (At Sherman Oaks, popular kids get to speak, not valedictorians. This feels like depressing prep for the real world.)
At dinner that night, Nalini brings up Shrubland — it turns out Principal Grubbs gave her a call. But while Kamala highlights the school’s impressive track record, Devi’s adamant that she wants to stay, and Nalini admits she’s not quite ready for Devi to fly the coop either. Before Kamala heads home for the night, she approaches Nalini to suggest she reconsider the Shrubland thing. Kamala recalls her own fear of leaving her home and family when she came to CalTech, but then says that this amazing opportunity helped her grow so much.
The conversation triggers an early memory for Nalini, back when they’d first moved from India to the States. She’s frustrated over her rude treatment in this new land: “They always act like they can’t understand my accent. They talk to me like I’m a child.” (Real talk: The way some North Americans treat people with South Asian accents can be truly atrocious.) But Mohan reminds her why they sacrificed so much to immigrate in the first place: so Devi could get the best education possible, regardless of their own needs. So, of course, cutting back to the present, Nalini changes her stance on Shrubland and decides they will visit it. Luckily, a pep talk from Dr. Ryan helps convince Devi to open up her dreams, embrace their evolution, and at least consider the possibility of Colorado.
Devi’s skeptical when she arrives at Shrubland but is soon charmed by all it has to offer: college-level courses, flexible curfews, and fellow keeners. Plus, she gets to be on a first-name basis with the teachers (“See, Devi? You love disrespectful nonsense like this,” says Nalini). On the flight back home, Devi gushes about how great it was to be at a school where she fits in, and it’s cool to be smart. She tells Nalini she thinks she wants to go there after all. Sex can wait until college.
At the graduation ceremony, Eleanor notices Trent sitting in the audience, sans grad cap and gown. He reveals that he failed senior year and has to repeat it. He’s embarrassed and down in the dumps about it until he notices Eleanor’s grinning from ear to ear: She’s psyched they can be together for another whole year. “Thank God you’re so terrible at school!”
When it comes time for Paxton’s speech — something he felt confident in preparing — he doesn’t do the sexy dance requested by Shira. Instead, he talks about how grateful he is that someone (read: Devi) taught him the value of hard work. He advises his fellow students never to let a label define them and then offers the mic to their class valedictorian.
After the ceremony, Ben overhears Devi talking about going to Shrubland after all. And he admits to her that he doesn’t want her to go! He says he’ll miss her. A lot. They have a moment, locking eyes, stomachs in knots, until Paxton comes down the hall. Ben excuses himself, and Devi thanks Paxton for his speech shoutout. He admits he probably wouldn’t be going to college if it weren’t for her, and she thanks him for helping her get through her dad’s death. When he asks how, she says, “By being a dream.” Never underestimate the epic power of an intense crush!
Minutes later, Devi watches as Paxton gets a congratulatory hug from his dad, and it triggers something in her. She walks home, reflecting on her obsession with the future, how nothing is guaranteed, and how she wants to value the present more. We see flashbacks to special moments she’s shared with Nalini and Devi’s eyes well up. She confesses to Nalini that she doesn’t want to leave her and insists that Mohan would’ve wanted them to be together, too: “I need more time with you. Is that okay?” Nalini tearfully agrees.
It’s logical how we fixate on tragedy and pain when we lose a loved one. But even though death is a net negative, it can bring along small gifts. (To be clear, I fully acknowledge that most of us would forfeit those gifts to have the alternative reality back in a heartbeat.) I’ve mentioned before how Mohan’s passing, as terrible as it was, brought Devi and Nalini much closer together. And we’re seeing in this episode how it’s changed Devi’s value system, making her more invested in family and living in the now. Part of me wishes she could be a blissfully ignorant kid who lacks any need to consider those things, but I think, in the long run, Devi will be glad she’s making choices through this lens — just as long as her decisions are made out of love, not fear. Man, I keep saying it, but I can’t get over how nuanced NHIE is in its exploration of grief unfolding. And it still manages to be funny!? I suspect witchcraft.
The final minute of this season is so satisfying and also surprising! Devi’s done a nice job of sifting through her dreams and allowing them to shift, but she realizes that, as much as she has changed, one part of her old dream is as alive as ever. And so she heads over to Ben’s house and cashes in on that “ONE FREE BOINK” voucher he gave her in the previous episode. (The hopeful look she gives Ben when he glances up from reading the coupon is SO cute!) They start kissing, the door closes, and that’s how junior year ends for Ms. Devi Vishwakumar.
• “I love you, which is why I worry about how weak you are.”
• This was my favorite season of the show yet! But I do think Fabiola kinda fell between the cracks towards the end, and Aneesa DEFINITELY did (we see her briefly in the finale, so at least we know she’s alive). I hope next season they each have more to do with storylines that aren’t just about their love lives! (Also, I want to see more of Aneesa’s amazing wardrobe.)
• Ben and Margot agreed to go on a date this episode, but was it all just to throw us off from the ending?
• Gabe Liedman makes a cameo as a guy stuck on an airplane between two gushing Vishwakumars.
• Trent’s reflexive boo during Paxton’s speech was perfect.
• It was satisfying to hear Paxton finally describe himself as “sort of smart” when he had questioned his intelligence so much throughout high school. And while we’re on the topic of Paxton, if he’s graduating, does that mean Darren Barnet won’t be back for the final season? This would be the logical choice … but not okay.
• I feel like I need to emphasize how sweet but also sexy the final scene is! Paxton and Devi have had some hot, thrilling, super atmospheric kisses, so it’s nice to see Ben and Devi get the same treatment. (I know they had a great kiss at the end of season one, but this one hit different and in a good way!)
• Jaren Lewison has very nice and expressive eyes, and they did some of their best work in this episode. Considering how some actors get body parts insured, I urge him to consider protecting those peepers. They’re money-makers!
• I so adore Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. Forget shipping wars: let’s all just be #TeamDevi. See ya next season, Crickets!