Jessie and Tom’s fights are brutal. They just are. We know this. There is, perhaps most memorably, that whole hedgehog-Labrador fight from season one (honestly, still reeling from the way Tom spits out “You’re pathetic”), but how about this fight in the cold open that ends up being about a round of Bananagrams gone wrong? They really go for the jugular. The term gaslighting is used. They make up as soon as Kate and Ian, who have been innocent bystanders this entire time, ask if they want to play another round, but still. Brutal.
And then, of course, I’m talking about the fight at the end of this episode, an episode that is supposed to be about Valentine’s Day, a day of love and kissing and, most important, hanging out with very cool senior citizens who like to talk about rom-coms and get discounted movie tickets. That is the tradition. The tradition is not to have an uneventful day in which all you do is adorably cuddle before falling asleep and then a few days later have a fight so devastating you break up. That is not the Valentine’s spirit, friends. But it is what happens to Jessie and Tom. So, in the words of Kate, a florist who knows, “Valentine’s Day can piss off.”
How does this life-altering (or at least show-altering) fight come about? I’ll give you one guess. Did you guess Ben? Good. You’ve been paying attention.
In the last recap, we talked a little bit about how both Ben and Jessie know what they’re doing when it comes to each other, so wouldn’t you know it, after that post-funeral almost-kiss and Ben very well knowing that Jessie is with someone, he walks into the movie theater on Valentine’s Day. He heard that Jessie lost her nannying job and lets her know about a part-time opening at the library where he works. She tries to rebuff it at first, but he tells her she’ll barely see him there, and he also tells her how much she’ll make an hour. She says yes. They shake on it — this is business after all. He signs her cast (no one else has done this) and goes on his way.
The moment you know this will be a problem occurs that evening: Tom is over at Jessie’s, and rather than any kind of exciting Valentine’s Day plan, they are just snuggling and cracking jokes and sleeping as Jessie and Tom are wont to do. Jessie does tell Tom she got a new job, but when he asks how she ended up getting a job at the library, she simply responds that “a friend” works there. She’s keeping the particulars to herself. He’s not suspicious yet — he trusts Jessie — but when he spots Ben’s name on Jessie’s cast, implying she must have seen him recently, his Spidey-senses start tingling.
Remember how Ben said he wouldn’t really be around when Jessie was working? On her first day — when we learn that apparently Ben pulled some major strings to get Jessie this gig, which is a major red flag — Ben almost immediately finds his way to Jessie. He starts up with some banter and invites Jessie to spend lunch with him reading to a school group and tells her there will be a bubble machine. A bubble machine?! A BUBBLE MACHINE. The absolute gall of this man! He knows Jessie cannot resist a bubble machine. And so they hang out all day. After hours, they have beers in the office, and he makes fun of Tom’s movies and claims the two of them are embarking on a very adult friendship. It’s their “Big Chill era.” But to us, it is so clear what Ben is doing — his whole “I have a girlfriend shtick” is bullshit — and it is beyond frustrating to watch Jessie go along with it.
The next day, Tom arrives at Jessie’s place after having an interesting and confusing lunch with the director of his latest film. After fucking around with Tom a bit, which is his way, Dave tells Tom he was incredible in the film, he thinks they make a good pair, and he wants Tom in his next one. It has a bigger budget and a bigger cast, but the catch is he can’t tell him what the movie actually is and also it shoots in Atlanta for eight months. Those are some real pros and cons right there. You can tell Tom is apprehensive about leaving London — about leaving Jessie — for that long, but it is a tempting opportunity. He fills Jessie in and seems to be gauging her reaction, but she kind of brushes it off; she’s more concerned about what color paint she’s going to put on the living-room walls (she’s going to do a feature wall … Actually four feature walls, which Tom tries to explain defeats the purpose). When she shows Tom which color she’s leaning toward, he says he likes it and it’s very her because it’s kooky.
You would think he just spit in her face, she is so offended. It’s not, like, the best way to be described, but it doesn’t warrant the level of indignation she gives Tom. And when he tries to backpedal, not really understanding what she’s mad about, and calls her “quirky” instead? Well, that’s even worse. She’s just a “goddamn Helena Bonham Carter” to him (some might take that as a compliment). She feels disrespected and insulted and goes outside to have a cigarette.
While Jessie is fuming outside, Kate comes home. When Tom tells her he and Jessie are in the middle of a fight, she assumes it’s because she told him about working with Ben, and she says not to worry at all — and then, as soon as she realizes her mistake, bolts out of the flat.
Jessie comes back in ready to accept an apology so they can have sex, but Tom has questions about Ben. Things unravel so quickly here. Jessie is defensive. Tom just wants to know why she would lie to him and why she would go out of her way to spend time with someone she supposedly hates. She takes it as him being controlling and says “every relationship should have a healthy amount of secrets,” which just blows Tom’s mind. It is so wrong and unhealthy, and all he wants is to have a real relationship with her. She says she feels as if he is asking her to change who she is, but he assures her he isn’t; he just wants her to consider him a tiny bit. When she asks “Why?” — well, that is the last straw. “That’s so fucking selfish,” he says, and he isn’t wrong. We haven’t gotten a lot of details about Jessie’s dating history, but between Ben and last season’s Dan, it’s clear she’s a little immature when it comes to this stuff. It’s as if she’s scared to be with someone who treats her well, so she feels the need to ruin it.
Last season, Jessie turned down Tom’s offer to be anything more than friends because it was all so hard, there were so many ups and downs, and she didn’t think it should be that hard to love someone. On Tom’s way out, he tells her she was right about that. He tells her it is hard to love her. You can see Jessie getting upset, and you can tell she wants to take it all back, but it’s as if she can’t help herself. She knows she is blowing up something great and can’t stop it.
To add to the chaos, Jessie calls Ben to come over afterward as she’s nursing her wounds with a good cry and some wine. She tells Ben that Tom was jealous of him, but that was stupid, right? Someone toss some tea on this dude! It takes him zero time to sit next to her on the floor, tell her Tom wasn’t right for her because Tom isn’t like them — really playing on her insecurities there — and say yes, she is a kook but a very lovable one. He kisses her, and she seems into it until she realizes all of this means Tom was right about Ben and right about her.
• Tom was going to turn down the job for Jessie. I knew it! He is so deep in this, and he leaves so utterly heartbroken.
• According to Jessie, Ben’s go-to movie would be a “pretentious documentary about fonts,” and you know what? That tracks.
• “What are you doing this afternoon?” “Probably going to shame-spiral about my life generally.”
• Jessie’s film club at work seems like a hoot. They talk about their favorite classic movies, how hot Rock Hudson was, how men don’t know anything about film, and who is having surgery soon. When some of the ladies tell Jessie she should get a man so she doesn’t end up like them, Jessie won’t hear it: “What, going to the movies in the daytime for a discounted price? That’s amazing. Of course I’d want that.”
• “Don’t draw a dick — I wanna do that one myself.”