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.
One mark of a good romantic comedy is that you can be yelling “Will you two dummies just get together already?!” while also enjoying the fact that those two dummies haven’t gotten together already because it means more flirting and more almost-kisses and more yearning. It’s a tough line to walk, but Starstruck walks it well even here in its third outing, and yes, third thwarting of something real happening between Jessie and Tom.
It’s summertime on Starstruck, and this time around the obstacles keeping our would-be couple from really going for it are twofold: There’s the fact that neither of them has the courage to tell the other that they are extremely into whatever is happening between them and there’s also Joe. Fucking Joe, guys!!! To think I was wishing real love for him just last week!! Now he’s ditching probably very nice if not quite sad ladies on dates and ruining Jessie’s chances at happiness!! Joe!! But before we get to how Joe royally fucks things up for Jessie, we should talk about the other obstacle because when it comes down to it, Jessie and Tom only have themselves to blame for not making this work.
You may recall that when we last left these two, Tom had gotten freaked out by some bad advice from Minnie Driver and called Jessie the dreaded P-word: pal. I know, it’s still shocking to think about it. Needless to say, Jessie left that interaction feeling confused and rejected, so it’s no real surprise to learn that after casting Dan off for being, well, an idiot and terrible person, they’re now having casual sex while he’s in an “open” relationship with Fringe. Starstruck does a great job of revealing Jessie’s insecurities without ever having to hammer us over the head with them.
We find Jessie getting ready for Kate’s big murder-mystery dinner party with their friends — and Joe, who becomes a last-minute fill-in for someone who ate old rice and had to cancel — and lining up some sex shenanigans with Dan for later. No one thinks this is a good idea, and I’m pretty sure deep down that includes Jessie.
Just as she has perfected her character for the party and is ready to head downstairs lest Kate actually murder her, she gets a call from one Mr. Tom Famous. Her first instinct is to throw her phone in horror. Her second is to answer it but not say anything. Who among us, really? In fact, this whole interaction on the phone — in which Tom asks if he can come over for help with an audition and Jessie says why yes, of course — feels so authentically awkward. As if Tom has absolutely no one else to call to help with an Australian accent other than Jessie, a New Zealander; He just wants to see her again, duh!! Jessie says yes even though she is shaking her head no the entire time because she is well aware that she is actually busy at the moment and also that she should not get involved in this very confusing and ultimately heartbreaking situation again — but she wants to. She wants to so, so badly. The two of them just can’t help themselves, even if neither of them can actually say that.
And that’s how Tom Kapoor ends up walking into the middle of murder-mystery game night with a box of Bran Flakes (he wanted to bring Jessie something, and it’s the only thing he’s seen her eat). Here’s how you know Tom is really into Jessie: Last time, he ran off after freaking himself out over the fact that Jessie is not at all from his world — a normie, if you will. But here, surrounded by a whole gaggle of normies doing such a normie thing, Tom stays. God, he is falling for Jessie hard, isn’t he? ISN’T HE?? Jessie, of course, ushers Tom upstairs as quickly as she can, leaving her friends down below to discuss — Joe just doesn’t think Jessie would ever go for a guy like Tom Kapoor to which every other person in the room tells him he’s an idiot; literally any human would go for a guy like Tom Kapoor.
Upstairs, Jessie gives Tom a tour of her bedroom — “This is a plant I’ve recently killed” — and Tom makes it known that he has an early flight the next morning. It’s not like Jessie can just hang out all night either; she has mousetraps in the kitchen to reset and everything. Regardless, Jessie helps record Tom’s audition, and it’s fun and flirty and when she remarks that she’d never be able to watch her own face back on video, Tom tells her that he thinks she has a nice face, which, like should not be as hot as it is. But guys, it’s kind of hot. Just as the two are about to go in for a kiss, Kate knocks on the door to check on them. Now, Jessie might be able to physically block Kate from fully entering the room, but she cannot stop her from inviting Tom to stay for dinner. He accepts the invitation without even thinking about it. (He just wants to hang out with her!!!)
Dinner is as awkward as you’d expect when a movie star squeezes in at an already overstuffed table surrounded by people in ridiculous murder-mystery costumes in front of a bowl of “risotto” that is mostly parsley. Tom eventually puts them at ease, and it doesn’t take long for the dinner party to simply just continue like it was. Does it make the gang’s game of “A Celebrity Is Coming to Dinner but Will They Fit Through the Door?” a little tricky since, yes, Tom knows exactly how short Scarlett Johansson is (that’s an unfair advantage)? Sure, but in a fun way. Plus, when Jessie can’t get over how little ScarJo is compared to her, that she could fit inside Jessie’s body, it gives Tom the opportunity to tell Jessie that he would prefer if ScarJo wore a Jessie skin suit. Again, this shouldn’t be hot, but it is!! Tom Kapoor has a very particular set of skills and it is mostly just saying things that could be creepy in an endearing way and making us all hot and bothered.
As the evening winds down, Jessie heads upstairs to do two very important things: First, she needs to rehearse how she is going to casually invite Tom to stay the night. Second, she’s gotta change out of her Spanx and into her good undies. While I get the need for both of these things, Jessie leaving Tom downstairs alone with Joe proves to be a big mistake. As the two guys are cleaning up, an extremely jealous Joe starts talking to Tom about Jessie and Dan being a couple and how great they are together. Oh Joe, you know exactly what you’re doing here, buddy. You can see Tom’s face drop immediately. You know he was hoping to really go for it with Jessie this time. He wants to be with her but now on top of not wanting to hurt Jessie, he feels lied to and led on. As Jessie comes downstairs, Tom already has his coat on and before she can even talk to him about staying, Dan walks in, arriving right on time for his hookup — if Tom had any doubts about what Joe told him, they’re all gone now. Tom is clearly upset as he walks out, which is an extremely different vibe from the one he was giving off before Jessie went upstairs. As it goes with so many rom-coms, these two could clear a lot of things up if only they’d have an honest conversation. Alas, while Jessie is once again left standing there confused in her apartment, we’re left to ask the age-old question: Will you two dummies just get together already??
• Kate making everybody spoon some of their risotto into a bowl so there’s enough for Tom is just a perfect moment.
• Not to bring Starstruck back to Notting Hill again, but one of the things that makes Notting Hill rise to the top of rom-coms is Will’s group of wacky, lovable friends (Rhys Ifans is perfect in this movie, and I will not hear otherwise), and I love that this show knows that, too.
• Yes, that’s Rose Matafeo’s Starstruck co-writer Alice Snedden as Amelia, Jessie’s friend who stole money from her and isn’t afraid to break out her Fawlty Towers impression.
• Everybody should be playing “A Celebrity Is Coming to Dinner but Will They Fit Through the Door?” It seems light on rules but a great time.