Don’t get it twisted; this was an episode about Craig. Yes, there were all sorts of other issues swirling around him — Pringle not being able to discipline his kids, Kathryn once again trying to rationalize her racist behavior without apologizing for it, Michael continuing to put his life at risk for a capricious woman who lets her dogs shit all over the house — but Craig was right there front and center. I say this because you might think this episode was about the trouble between Shep and Taylor and the recent breakup of Austen and Madison. You would be wrong. This is all about Craig.
First let’s look at Shep and Taylor. She got COVID from hanging out with Shep and his idiot friends Austen and Craig, who were spending more time at bars with baseball hats on backward than with masks on frontward. When they all got tested, Shep was negative and he shipped Taylor off to quarantine all alone while he stayed virus free. Where did he send her? That’s right, to Craig’s.
When quarantine is over, Taylor is mad at Shep for not paying more attention to her feelings of abandonment while she was trapped in a bachelor pad being paid for by a pillow empire. Where do you think those feelings came from? Craig! He was in there prodding her hatred with his pool cue (not a euphemism, since Craig literally has a pool table instead of a living-room sofa). They were about to break up, and it’s all because her resentment was being massaged like an NFL team owner in a Florida strip mall.
For the record, Shep was totally right about what was going on. He should have sent her off somewhere else to get the virus out of her system (why that place couldn’t be her own apartment, I have no idea) while he stayed healthy. We still have no idea how COVID is going to react with any one person, and luckily for Taylor, Craig, and that blonde ghost of a sorority recruitment chair that Craig is currently dating, they all had a nice mild case. Shep does have a long chat with his therapist about it, and she tells him that while he might have been right, he can’t be so blunt with Taylor. Just because he was right doesn’t mean he wasn’t a dick, so he does something very un-Shep-like and apologizes to her for not thinking that her feelings were valid. Another one of Craig’s plans spoiled for good.
Most of what goes down with Austen, Madison, and Craig goes down in the aftermath of the crab boil that Patricia has on her rainy patio. All of the boys come over on a soggy summer afternoon and do cannonballs in their board shorts like they’re 14 instead of 14 pounds overweight. (Except Pringle, who has got me popped and now he can’t stop.) I’m with Whitney: A crab boil is always a stupid idea. It’s so much work, so much mess, so much crackling, for just a tiny little scrap of meat. It’s not worth it! Just make me a California roll and order me a cab while the rest of you hammer and mallet away at that bullshit.
Madison and Austen officially broke up at the end of last episode, but we learn from Austen that Madison is still sending him texts like, “I promise everything is going to be okay. I’ll hold your hand forever.” Okay, that is some bullshit. If she’s going to break up with him, fine, but those text messages are like a pilot light for Austen’s nether regions. Just a little bit of gas and the whole thing is going to blow. Austen is also bent out of shape because he finally got his Trop Hop beer in cans — though Patricia has to be basically forced to drink it — and he doesn’t get any credit for it with Madison. Though he’s working hard, she still sees him as a simpleton party boy who can’t commit. But she still wants to hang around and be friends.
Craig hates all of this. Know why? Because this is basically a replay of his breakup with Naomi from last season. Naomi thought that Craig was a wastrel sitting around sewing his little pillows and not completing projects while she had her life together. She finally broke it off, but was forced to be around Craig and his friends all the time (hello, it’s called their job), and he just wanted her back even though she wasn’t in love with him anymore.
This is why Craig has such a visceral reaction to Madison talking to Austen. It has nothing to do with their situation and everything to do with his. He’s seeing the same humiliation play out in front of him, and this time he can stop it, he can butt in. He tells all of the boys — including Pringle, who says he’s too old to care about guy code and is going to pursue Madison anyway — that he’s going to go talk to her and try to get her to set Austen free, why don’t you babe, get out his life, why don’t you babe, because you don’t really need him, you just keep him hanging on. (Whoo-hooo-hoo.)
What’s funny, though, is that while Craig is sitting out on the end of a pier looking like Pacey’s older brother, he sort of answers all of his own questions about Madison’s and Austen’s relationship. Madison asks him if it’s hard to be back in the neighborhood where he lived with Naomi (which is apparently where this picturesque pier is). He says that he’s not sad, just nostalgic for a happier time. Then he tells her that he thinks that this Nadine or Natalie or whatever real-estate broker name she has is the one. “Everyone tells you that you’re going to meet someone new and you don’t believe it until you do,” he says.
This is it. That is exactly it. Craig doesn’t need to do any of this. Just let the universe take its course. Just let the world keep on spinning forward. Just let Austen fall out of love on his own and find his new love, a fitness influencer also named Madison, who will accept him for who he is. Yes, he’ll feel the sting of Patricia telling him that he was never good enough for Madison, but eventually he’ll realize that she’s right. That so much in life — and in love — is about timing. It’s about practicality. It’s about the right train pulling into the right station at the right time. But it’s always on time. There is so little romance in who we end up with eventually, and Craig needs to realize that and pass it on to Austen. He just needs to feel that like the wind whipping through his half-manicured hair on that peer, making it nice and messy, but leaving every single strand exactly where it should be.