Once upon a time, there was a Very Famous Movie Star and “a little rat nobody” who thought they were getting into bed for a nice little New Year’s Eve lay but ended up getting so much more. They spent an entire year inventing reasons to bump into each other, being too scared to say how they really felt (which was something definitely akin to love) and arguing themselves out of being together, which everyone else could see was inevitable. The Very Famous Movie Star learned that he didn’t actually care what other people thought about the person he loved, and also how to play the game “A Celebrity Is Coming to Dinner But Will They Fit Through the Door?” The little rat nobody learned that it was scary to be vulnerable with someone and that she kept letting her insecurities get the best of her. She also learned that being made to hide in a bougie-hotel shower for hours is not okay. Then, in her darkest hour, that little rat nobody decided to move back home to a faraway land called New Zealand. But the Famous Movie Star did not want her to go, and that little rat nobody didn’t want to leave. So, at the very last second, just as her magical carriage (a London double-decker bus) was about to pull away, she decided to stay. The Very Famous Movie Star and the little rat nobody kissed! They were so happy! It was very romantic!
And then that little rat nobody had a panic attack on the side of the road.
Welcome back to Starstruck, everybody! Although this show is a goddamned delight in a sea of misery, it is not a fairy tale. People don’t just make giant decisions to blow off a costly flight and stay in a city for someone they love without some fallout. There is a happy ending, yes, of course, we love people kissing on the back of buses, but the advantage a rom-com TV series has is that there is room to explore the immediate holy shit what did we just do moment that comes after the happy ending. Life doesn’t just stop after two people realize they want to be together for realsies — there are a lot of logistics to figure out, you know? And in one of the best bits of TV editing in history (a hat tip to episode editor Robbie Morrison), the season-two premiere kicks off with a nice reliving of the end of season one, Jessie and Tom going in for that kiss — and then a smash cut to Jessie absolutely losing it on a very public London street. The amount of times she goes back and forth between knowing she made a good albeit wild decision and wondering if she should regret that decision — I mean, her mom changed the sheets on her bed at home already, and she is going to be so mad about that — is astounding. And while they are a little bit panicked over what this decision to stay means, doesn’t it feel so nice to be hanging out with Jessie and Tom again?
Tom suggests they take things one step at a time and start with breakfast. Well, first they have to run after the bus and grab Jessie’s luggage, which they forgot, but then breakfast. Their first date! Jessie feels a little rusty in regards to first-date experience: “I prefer to bump into someone a number of times over the course of a year and not get on a plane for them — a long con.” Tom is doing his best to keep Jessie calm and assure her that this decision was a good one.
It’s not an easy job. It becomes obvious that to keep Jessie from, you know, collapsing into the fetal position in the middle of the street, she needs to keep moving. The sightseeing tour bus is a bad idea — probably best to keep Jessie off all buses for a little while, honestly — but she seems to have a nice time at the street fair. The girl loves bubbles and caricatures of herself on Jet Skis. Plus, she scores two tickets to a Magic Mike Live! show that night, so maybe things are looking up. But Jessie is a house of cards at the moment, and with only Tom to prop her up, it becomes a problem once he starts to second-guess Jessie’s decision.
He doesn’t start to get cold feet until Jessie and Tom end up sitting at a diner with Kate and Ian, Kate looking for some type of explanation as to why her friend isn’t on a flight to New Zealand right now: “I spent the entire morning grieving for you!” Kate exclaims (please bear in mind that when Jessie and Tom walked into Jessie and Kate’s flat, they found her and Ian having sex on the couch, but I guess grief will do that). While Jessie and Kate step outside so that Jessie can freely admit that she’s freaking out but doesn’t want Tom to know (uhh … I’m pretty sure he knows) and Kate assures her this is all happening because Saturn is returning (but she’ll walk her through that), Tom is left inside with Ian. Tom’s already a little worried about what he’s doing because he was supposed to get on a plane to Ireland today, and Cath has let him know she is not pleased, but that worry only grows when Ian starts going on about how this is kind of a big deal. She stayed in the country for him. He likens Tom to Helen of Troy — “the face that grounded a thousand planes” — and wonders if Tom is thinking of proposing.
It’s like he’s just now processing how serious the situation is. Jessie changed all of her plans to be with him. If that doesn’t put pressure on a relationship, what does? To relieve some of that pressure, Tom decides it would be a kind gesture to buy Jessie another ticket to New Zealand. He doesn’t just offer to buy one or ask if she wants one; he presents her with an already purchased ticket as a gift. Just so she knows she has the option. And then he doesn’t understand why she gets so upset when he gives this to her in the middle of her DDR game at the arcade. Come on, Tom, be better than this!
OF COURSE all this gesture does is make Jessie think that Tom doesn’t want her to stay. That he regrets all of this and is backing out on the idea of them being a couple. That he suddenly realizes how ridiculous this whole thing is. Once again, his actions just feed into all of her insecurities and fears. And then, oh boy, when he offers to just give her the money for the ticket as if that’ll make it better? Tom, Tom, Tom. You beautiful dummy.
The two get in another fight that is reminiscent of that hotel blowup. She tells him she’s going to Magic Mike Live! alone and wants him to leave. He calls her ridiculous and walks off.
Neither of them wants to be fighting, guys. Their emotions are heightened and they’re scared and once again are feeling all of these things neither of them seems that used to feeling. Is there any sadder tableau than that of Jessie in her Magic Mike T-shirt sitting alone at a table under those blazing blue stage lights while the women next to her get dry-humped by a stripper? I’d wager not. It only takes her until intermission to realize that she wishes Tom were with her. She calls him — but he’s already at the Magic Mike show. BECAUSE OF COURSE HE IS, HE LOVES HER. He apologizes for buying the plane ticket and she apologizes for “having a modest nervous breakdown for the past 12 hours.” Then they finally ask the questions they’ve been internally freaking out about all day (again, communication is a huge obstacle for them!!). Tom wants to know if he ruined Jessie’s life. No. She wants to know if it’s weird that she stayed. No. He’s worried she might regret her choice. She doesn’t. Everyone seems to be exactly where they want to be.
Tom has to run off to Ireland, but before he goes, he plants a reassuring kiss on her and tells her what she’s needed to hear this entire time: “I’m glad you stayed.” Buddies, it is very swoony. And yet still, Jessie is left sitting there at Magic Mike alone and you can see the enormity of her decision finally wash over her face. This is a big fucking deal.
• “Like, how often do you find yourself in the middle of London?” “Quite often.”
• I’m so glad Minnie Driver is back for season two as Tom’s agent, Cath. Her “I AM VERY STRESSED. I love you” moment is a true thing of beauty.
• “Life is simultaneously very short and very long.” She isn’t wrong!!
• Jessie’s mom did get upset about the sheets in the spare room, by the way.