Since we’re in rom-com season and the return of Starstruck is quickly approaching, Vulture is returning to where the romance began with weekly recaps of season one. Rewatch along with us and check back every Thursday morning for the next episode.
It’s all been heading toward this, right? You can’t have three very confusing interactions in which people are overwhelmed by feelings but refuse to talk about them, mixed together with insecurities and miscommunication, and not have it end up in a whopper of a fight. It’s science. Or, at least, romcomology.
But before we get into those gutting last few minutes of “Autumn,” we should do a quick regroup on both Jessie’s and Tom’s emotional statuses. In short, they’re unwell. Jessie’s been left standing in her kitchen confused by Tom’s mixed signals more than once, and for someone who has insecurities about who she is and where she is in her life on most days, these send those insecurities into overdrive. When he continues to build her up only to reject her again, he’s only confirming the bad things that the little voice in her head is surely saying. What is someone like Tom doing with someone like her? Meanwhile, Tom seems unmoored by the level of his unexpected feelings for Jessie — a post-breakup one-night stand on New Year’s Eve! We don’t know much about his dating history before Jessie, but it seems fair to assume he doesn’t have much experience feeling this way about someone. Add in the doubts planted by his agent, and Tom is just a ball of anxiety. Is he handling it well? No. Does it help that Jessie isn’t exactly straightforward with her feelings either? Definitely not. Like I said, everyone is unwell.
And that’s where we are when a very fancy invitation — it’s clear! — to a private screening of Siege on Olympus starring Tom Kapoor arrives in Jessie and Kate’s mailbox. It’s addressed to Kate with a plus one since, apparently, she was begging Tom for an invite the last time he was over, but come on, Tom knows exactly what he’s doing here. He may not have spoken to Jessie since hightailing it out of her flat once Joe misleadingly dropped information about Jessie “dating” Dan, but he obviously wants to see her again. Kate tells Jessie as much as she convinces her friend to put on something hot and show Tom what he’s missing. Jessie says she’ll think about it — which, of course, means she’s totally going. And when the evening of the event rolls around, not only is Jessie going, but she’s wearing matching underwear. There is only one reason to go through the trouble of wearing matching underwear out, and that reason is sex. So clearly, while Jessie and Tom may be in yet another one of their limbo periods, Jessie knows it’s just a matter of time before they fall back into bed — it is their way.
And within seconds of these two running into each other at the screening, you know Jessie’s instinct isn’t exactly wrong. You can feel the tension. Jessie can barely make eye contact at first; Tom can’t stop looking at her. While at first this seems like a strong indication that Jessie’s decision to wear matching underwear was a very, very good idea, we then meet Sophie, Tom’s co-star in Siege on Olympus, and everything changes. That almost automatic hand Sophie death grips onto Tom’s shoulder when he introduces the girls — not his parole officers, as Jessie would have some believe — to her? It screams, “We’re fucking.” Jessie knows it, Kate knows it, we know it.
Thus begins Jessie’s mini-spiral in the middle of a dark movie theater — we’ve all been there — in which she, while staring at Tom and Sophie in the back of the theater, attempts to reason that actors are always all over each other. “When an actor greets another actor, it’s as if one of them’s been cleared of cancer,” she whispers to Kate. But by the time Sophie is snuggling up on Tom’s shoulder, Jessie can barely stand it and makes a run for it. It’s not like Tom isn’t in the throes of a spiral, too. He is, at first, trying to check out what Jessie is up to as well, but gets distracted first by Sophie making him super-uncomfortable and then by just how awful this movie is. He needs some air to contemplate how his career has become a joke, among other things.
And so Jessie and Tom run into each other in the bathroom for the second time in their budding romance. With Tom sulking and Jessie trying to be comforting, it doesn’t take long for these two to wind up in Tom’s fancy hotel room. It is obvious to everyone except these two that Jessie and Tom just want to be near each other, to hang out, just the two of them. When they’re alone, it’s all so easy; it’s when the outside world encroaches on their sweet, banter-y bubble that things get messy.
Things get real messy here. It starts off with so much potential! This is so good, guys!! Tom is having an epic pout on the bed, and Jessie, while laying down next to him, isn’t afraid to call him out for being “a little bitch” and reminds him that he’s a movie star who gets to live a life full of free macarons, so he should just get over it. Again, their banter is pitch-perfect. Before long, they are making out. Very hot, no notes. Unfortunately, Jessie decides to pause things so she can run into the bathroom and give herself a little pep talk. “You’re doing it! It’s happening!” she tells herself in the mirror. Don’t you just want to yell, “Come on, lady, we have been WAITING for you to nail Tom Kapoor again; get out there now and do it for us, humankind!!!!”?
She’s too late. It is not to be. While Tom’s waiting on the bed for Jessie, Sophie walks in and immediately sits on his lap and starts making out with him. This whole situation is excruciating. Tom runs into the bathroom and tells Jessie to be quiet, it’ll only be a few minutes, and stuffs some macarons in her hands before stuffing her into the shower. It is beyond demeaning and heartbreaking and infuriating. Tom being with Sophie while hiding Jessie away is pretty much the embodiment of her insecurities when it comes to having a relationship with him, and now she has three hours to stew on it.
When Sophie finally passes out, and Tom goes to rouse Jessie from the shower, she doesn’t even have words — she just wants to get out of there. But out in the hallway, as Tom tries to explain that there’s nothing really going on with Sophie, Jessie can’t just let it lie. This fight is brutal. They both let all of the things they’ve been angsting over out, but in the angriest, cruelest ways. An exasperated Tom finally tells Jessie that he really likes her but that she makes it impossible for him to say that and that he doesn’t understand anything she does (how Mr. Darcy of him). Jessie tells him that this whole thing between them is a joke because they look ridiculous together. She thinks that people would see them and it would be like one of those “weird animal friendship shows where a labrador and hedgehog are friends.” She assures him that he doesn’t actually like her and he’s just trying to make himself more interesting. She says he and Sophie are made for each other because they’re both “attractive, horrible people.” She calls his movie a “piece of shit.” He calls her pathetic. She calls him an actor (trust me, it cuts to his core). They end the whole thing with a “fuck you” and a “good night” before Jessie storms off to the elevator. It’s not until the doors close that she lets herself break down in tears. It’s all awful. Like, we wanted them to talk honestly about their feelings but not this way! Dear lord, not this way!!
The only silver lining here is that according to romcomology, two people who can have that emotional of a fight most assuredly have real feelings for one another. So, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the end of “Autumn,” there’s still a whole heap of hope for Jessie and Tom.
• Should this section just be called “What Kate Did This Week”? Because she remains the consummate rom-com sidekick. An example: She’s pumping her friend up by telling Jessie that yes, she will attend that screening and she will look fabulous and she will “grab him by the scruff of his neck and say, ‘Who do you think you are?’”
• How about a nice slow clap for Emma Sidi for nailing that whole “I can’t go,” “I would love to go,” “I can’t believe I’m going” bit. It’s pulled off expertly.
• I know it’s only been four episodes, but I feel like Starstruck has been depriving us of these nanny pickup conversations. The nannies waiting to get their charges from school are hilarious, and yes, I would like to hear more from a nanny who describes one child’s attitude as having “big dick energy” and is just so, so proud of Jessie for sleeping with Tom Kapoor. The whole group is a hoot.
• As a person with large feet, I found Jessie falling on the ground and having her boss have to physically look at the bottom of her shoes to get Jessie’s size rather than just tell her what size she is highly relatable.
• Is “I’m attending a police auction” the best excuse for not being able to go to an event?
• “All these flowers are dead! Grow up.”
• “That was character building for them to get lost.”