Never Have I Ever Recap: Trollhunter

Never Have I Ever

…had my own troll
Season 3 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Never Have I Ever

…had my own troll
Season 3 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Netflix

This episode’s whodunit-esque storyline almost makes it feel like a Scooby-Doo crossover. It’s got trolls! It’s got ghosts! It’s got withholding grandmothers! Scary stuff.

We immediately rejoin Devi and her friends as they try to figure out who’s behind the mysterious warning she received in the previous episode. Eleanor suggests the DM sender is probably just a jealous troll, and that’s actually a good thing: It means Devi’s social capital is up! But then the supposed troll reveals that they used to be in Devi’s shoes (i.e., a good girl who got with perfect Paxton) and had loved Paxton since grade school. Ben — who conveniently inserts himself into the snitch-hunt — points out that this is a major clue: Whoever it is went to the same elementary school as Paxton. They enlist the help of the school’s Bridgerton-inspired gossip purveyor, Lady Whistleboy (a.k.a. Eric Perkins), to generate some names. Eventually, Devi deduces that it’s Haley Garcia, the hottest girl in orchestra.

Officially outed, Haley fesses up and reveals her past with Paxton: They were close, longtime friends who impulsively hooked up once, only for Paxton to ignore her afterward. “After that, I just hit rock bottom, which is when I joined orchestra.” (As a former high-school band president, I officially resent this sentiment … but it made me laugh.)

Devi tells Haley she’s sorry Paxton did that to her. (After two seasons of watching Devi apologize for some scummy indiscretions, I’m digging these more sensitive apologies coming from her. Our girl is growing!) Devi can now see that Haley reached out as an act of good faith, not ill will. Haley says she hopes things are different for Devi and will be happy if that’s the case. “But as a woman or a friend or whatever, I just felt like you needed to know.” Never underestimate the power or value of whisper networks.

When Devi and Paxton hang out later, she asks Paxton about the Haley sitch. He’s caught off guard and defensive but admits it’s kind of true. He says he didn’t ghost her to be mean but just didn’t know how to deal with her. Devi points out that Paxton only made it easier for himself. Paxton relents, saying he “was kind of a dick back then,” but he wouldn’t do that now. Even so, Devi says she can’t be with him unless he says sorry. He resists the prospect until he finds his parents dropping this gem while lecturing his sister: “This is the time you decide what kind of person you wanna be, and you don’t wanna be someone who doesn’t own up to her mistakes.” The message is heard loud and clear.

This whole Paxton/Devi/Haley dynamic seemed like an unusually complex scenario for a lighthearted show to tackle; what do you do when someone you care about treats another person poorly? Is the onus on you to hold them accountable, and to what extent? It’s admirable for the show to attempt to navigate this gray area.

Speaking of holding loved ones accountable, Nirmala still refuses to forgive her marriage-averse granddaughter for letting Prashant loose … that is until she decides to throw a mixer for Kamala! She figures that if they find Kamala another fiancé fast enough, nobody back home will realize it’s a different fella.

At the mixer, Kamala’s dodging dates at morgues when Rhyah — the daughter-in-law of one of Nirmala’s buddies — shows up. It turns out Nirmala’s pulling double-duty as matchmaker, hoping that Rhyah and the friendless Nalini hit it off. There’s potential there, but you can tell Nalini turns up her nose at Rhyah’s roots as a nutritionist in the wellness realm.

Another unexpected guest arrives: Manish (a.k.a. Mr. K), who was tipped off about the mixer by Devi. Unfortunately, Nirmala’s not impressed by Manish’s background — an Indian American who’s never been back to the homeland, whose parents are divorced, and who can’t speak any Indian languages. Unimpressed is actually an understatement; it’s enough to send Nirmala into a medical episode, with her clutching her chest and nearly passing out. But Rhyah disperses a calming tincture onto Nirmala’s tongue, does some acupressure, and — voilà! Nirmala’s okay, and Nalini’s graciously indebted.

The next day at school, with Devi’s reassurance, Paxton approaches Haley, but as he’s mid-apology, another girl cuts him off: “You know you dicked me over too, right?” And then another: “Handy at the planetarium?” Soon, Paxton’s surrounded by all of the women he’s wronged. (There are a ton: Picture a BTS concert.) And so he proceeds to say sorry to them, too, one by one, face to face. No Notes app apologies here.

It’s always up to the person harmed to decide if and when they forgive a perpetrator, but I have to say it’s nice to see examples of how genuine apologies and redemption can go hand in hand. Sure, the show frames Paxton’s absolution conveniently tidily for narrative purposes, but I think the message is still encouraging for both sides in this kind of situation. (Also, it’s worth considering how, if more teen boys were held accountable early in life, we could maybe nip a lot of future toxic behavior in the bud.)

Lady Whistleboy’s there to live stream Paxton’s apology tour, which Ben tunes into while in the stands of Aneesa’s soccer game. As Fabiola cheers Aneesa on, Ben’s busy texting Devi and misses his girlfriend’s tie-breaking, game-winning goal.

Clueless Ben gives Aneesa the most generic of post-game congratulations, and she excuses herself to go to the bathroom, following the direction of a sign that says “GIRLS” (hello, foreshadowing!). Feeling misunderstood and unseen by a guy she suspects is still into his ex, Aneesa breaks down into tears.

A toilet flushes, and Fabiola emerges from a stall, hurling enthusiastic (and entirely deserved) compliments Aneesa’s way. She’s saying everything Ben should have. And so Aneesa gives into the moment, grabs hold of Fabiola’s lapels, and kisses her! YES!

Extra Credit

• If you couldn’t tell already, I’m all for this potential romance between soccer goddess Aneesa and Fabiola, especially as someone who wonders about what could’ve been with Bend It Like Beckham.

• Paxton’s been doing lots of cute things: buying plants to impress Devi and gifting her free cookies. Between this and the previous episode, for a supposed player, he’s a pretty great boyfriend!

• “The astronaut touched them three times, and he has touched space.

• FWIW, while not all South Asians believe in holistic medicine and Rhyah seems pretty Westernized herself, I’d be remiss not to point out how many ayurvedic practices have been co-opted by North American “wellness” methods. It’s interesting to see a mainstream Desi TV character who could potentially embody this cultural tradition in a nuanced way.

• Very annoying how, when Aneesa asks Ben if he still has feelings for Devi, he flat-out denies it. Come on, Ben!

• Manish manages to successfully ask Kamala out at the mixer! But when Nirmala finds out, she’s totally against the idea: “He looks Indian, but he has the soul of Seth Rogen and none of the charm.” Manish, prepare for some hoop jumping!

• Paxton’s apology goes so well that he invites Haley to grab a bite with him and Devi — and Devi switches from proud to threatened. Oooh boy.

Never Have I Ever Recap: Trollhunter