In Grace’s first therapy session back with Jimmy since she ghosted him, she says that sometimes she wishes she could just push her husband’s coffee off the table, making a “boop” sound. Translated to therapy-speak, “boop” represents a “pattern interrupt.” When we find ourselves caught in destructive habits, sometimes taking just one small step to break free of the routine is helpful. Boop.
That idea of the pattern interrupt echoes throughout “Boop.” Grace needs one to start really asserting herself with her emotionally abusive husband. Jimmy needs to change his relationship with his daughter, which has grown a little too lax. Gaby needs to let go of her unresolved feelings about her ex-husband, Nico. But in those cases, making a change is easier said than done. It takes time and sometimes bravery.
For the majority of this episode, the cast is split clean down the middle. In Jimmy’s half, he and Alice are on shaky ground after he and Gaby reassure her that their tryst meant nothing (which backfires when Alice points out, “So, to get this straight, you banged someone who doesn’t mean anything to you but meant a lot to Mom, and you did it in Mom’s bed?”). After Paul projects all over the place during one of his usual chats with Alice, she feels even more alone. Maybe that’s why she takes Jimmy’s car and drives (without a license) to Summer’s garden party and then to the dorm room of a USC guy she met.
Paul and Brian join Jimmy for his ride around Los Angeles looking for Alice, bringing their own baggage with them. Paul is having an off day in general, between failing to make contact with his daughter and failing to come through when Alice needed a push in the right direction. But he does come through for Jimmy, scaring Chet with a terrifying, extra-long story and later advising Jimmy to stop letting Alice get away with everything. “You’ve screwed up so many times that you think you don’t have the right to be upset with anybody,” he points out.
It’s a smart bit of wisdom, but does it totally square with the Jimmy we know? Jimmy is far from a meek or emotionally restrained person; throughout this season, we’ve seen him snap at his patients, too frustrated and impatient to let them come to their own conclusions. We saw him blow up at Liz just because her son had sex with his daughter and maliciously taunt Alice about her crush on Sean. In this episode, we see him shout at Brian for breaking the officiant news while Jimmy is driving. Jimmy may have put off the grieving process for a year using drugs, but he’s far from inexpressive.
Anyway, if you ignore the “anybody” at the end of Paul’s statement and replace it with “your daughter,” it fits better. There’s something interesting and unique about this dynamic: Alice has had the high ground in basically any argument with her dad, but she can’t keep using his (many) mistakes as a get-out-of-jail-free card forever. The show set this up well a few episodes ago when Jimmy started to scold Alice about skipping school, only for her to pull an Uno reverse card and mention cleaning up his coke. She had a point, but Jimmy knows that constantly letting her off the hook isn’t really parenting.
There are real stakes here, and the timing of Alice learning about Jimmy and Gaby complicates it further. In the end, Jimmy follows his own advice: He grounds Alice, the “boop” their relationship needs. The fight that follows is rough — no parent likes to receive an “I fucking hate you” — but Jimmy is right to reject Alice pulling the “Mom would never do this” card. And I like the final beat, with Jimmy subtly nodding to himself, hoping this is for the best.
I also find Jimmy’s conflict with Brian interesting in this episode, though it feels unfinished at the end. The two have always had an agreement to officiate each other’s weddings, but after the engagement party showed Brian how easy it is to trigger a Jimmy meltdown, the prospect of him giving a speech at his wedding is a little frightening. In the car, Brian finally tells Jimmy he doesn’t want him to officiate, and it’s pretty brutal — but it makes a lot of sense, and Brian is sticking to his guns for now.
Jimmy, Brian, and Paul’s different comedic energies make them a natural trio. And in general, the division of the ensemble in this episode points to Shrinking’s transformation into a pure hangout sitcom. That transition has felt pretty natural, but there are still moments when it feels like a certain configuration of characters is only hanging out because the plot demands it. I felt that way a bit when Gaby and Liz brought Sean along to Nico’s art show.
It turns out Gaby wasn’t officially invited, but she wants to check up on him, remembering the times he used to relapse from the stress of an upcoming show. But once they’re there and Gaby shares a warm, gracious conversation with Nico, she realizes he’s doing just fine. In fact, it’s almost upsetting how fine he is after she spent years “putting in the work” to help him, even when he wouldn’t let her. But what really sets Gaby off is hearing Nico refer to Aliyah, the chic gallery director, as the figure he was depicting in Muse on Couch. Gaby has been fixated on the painting this whole evening, and she can even point to a freckle on it that matches her own, but Nico refuses to give her credit. More than anything, credit might be what Gaby craves right now: for inspiring a nice painting, sure, but especially for turning Nico’s life around.
The story feels a bit broad to me, comedically, and it goes in a predictable direction, especially with the inevitable Gaby meltdown at the end. (Bringing up Nico’s enjoyment of butt stuff, Gaby? That’s low.) But in many ways, this is actually a story about Gaby and Liz’s newfound friendship, and there are some nice moments that solidify that bond — especially with Gaby’s request that Liz offers her a steady stream of superficial compliments. And while Sean’s catering ambitions are a bit shoehorned in, it’s good to see him start building out the concept for what he nicknames “White Guilt Catering.”
In Shrinking’s move away from its focus on therapy and toward more traditional wacky sitcom high jinks, it sometimes feels like it’s neglecting potentially interesting sources of conflict; the engagement-party episode had so much urgency, like a pattern interrupt for the show itself, but the consequences have been subtle so far. It still seems like Jimmy is on a path to selflessness and inner peace, but will the final two episodes of this season end on a high note for him — or should we be ready for another fall?
• “I’m the Jimmy in this situation.” “What?” “The fuck-up. “Ah, of course.” “Of course?”
• “Do you think he’s still mad at me?” “It’s been over eight minutes. He’s probably forgotten all about it.” Probably my favorite Harrison Ford deadpan delivery of the episode.
• My favorite example of Liz’s unconditional support is when she says, “Oh, I get it now. That makes sense,” then Gaby realizes that Liz had just been going along with her rant before that moment. Liz’s friend-thirstiness is kind of cringey (especially with her desperation to have Black friends), but there’s a nice warmth between these two now.
• Fun runner with Liz’s keychain laser pointer, which she uses to blatantly point out the other attendees they’re discussing.
• The early mention of Aliyah’s predilection for saving every wounded man she meets really tipped me off about her relationship with Nico.
• Paul loves Fun Dip.