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.
We’re only two episodes in, and already Starstruck has given us gifts of which we are not worthy. First and foremost, there’s the easy, palpable chemistry between Rose Matafeo and Nikesh Patel that arrives literally any time they are onscreen together. A true dream team. “Spring” opens with another true blessing: the most joyous post-one-night-stand celebration ever captured on film. Early one morning, Jessie says good-bye to some dude she slept with the night before, confirms they are never going to see each other again and then turns on Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack,” opens her arms wide, and celebrates the beauty that is casual sex with no consequences or baggage. There’s tiny hat-tipping to passersby, and there’s swinging off pergolas at a restaurant, and, by God, there’s chugging a stranger’s juice while doing body rolls. It is joy. It is euphoria (the good kind, not the youths-doing-drugs kind). It is life. It also works on multiple levels: a hilarious bit; a welcome depiction of a woman celebrating her sexuality; a reminder of how good of a song “Return of the Mack” is; a quick beat that reinforces the friendship between Jessie and Kate, who knows this is a post-sex celebration without having to ask; and it goes without saying that the whole thing is a big showcase for Matafeo.
The opening works in another way, too: It lets us know that here, a few months after all those shenanigans with Tom Famous, Jessie has moved forward. The whole two nights together will no doubt be chalked up to a funny story about that time she had sex with a celebrity. It is simply a blip. She’s not just having one-night stands, either — as Jessie says, “When it rains, it pours,” and she ends up getting a text to meet up from Dan, a guy with whom she has some sort of hookup-buddy situation. Kate is not thrilled to hear about it because Dan is a real prick, but Jessie insists she’s playing it cool and not super-enthusiastic about his invite to have a drink that afternoon. Kate, of course, knows better and checks Jessie’s phone, on which she finds Jessie’s response: “lol. Yeah. Keen, keen, keen. Where and when? I’m free all day.” Oh, friends, this text makes me laugh so hard. Someone please embroider it on a pillow and send it to me.
Sure, Jessie might consider afternoon sex “basically an errand,” but she does finagle her way out of work early and get all dressed up to meet Dan. Dan is very much an idiot, and Kate had every right to be annoyed at Jessie for meeting up with him for sex. You know, when any guy you haven’t seen in a while tells you that he’s been “focusing on [his] music,” that is a giant red flag. Another red flag? When he hits on you and tells you he’s in a relationship in the same minute. Jessie spirals a bit about Dan being the worst and his girlfriend Claire’s new fringe and how it makes her very compatible with Dan because he too has fringe. Anyway, it’s an epic spiral, and Jessie decides to flee the scene. She runs into one problem: Her Uber driver can’t seem to find her, and her repeating that she’s on a corner doesn’t help. And then she runs into a bigger problem: Tom Kapoor is there.
Oh, Tom. We should talk about how mopey and down on his luck Tom seems at the moment — he is feeling some major ennui because of his career … and maybe a little bit because of Jessie?? — but first, wow, I am so thrilled to let you know he has a meeting with his agent, and his agent is played by The Minnie Driver. Minnie Driver! I’m also thrilled to let you know that she is perfect as Cath. She’s in the episode for all of a few minutes, and yet, still, I’ll never stop laughing about her showing Tom pictures of the side-by-side burial plots she’s buying for her and her wife and waiting for Tom to agree that it is very romantic. Cath is ridiculous but also tells it like it is with her clients, and when she sees Tom making eyes at their waitress, she quickly shuts it down. She tells Tom that he is a movie star and “can’t fuck civilians” because it would ruin their life, his life, and, most important, her life. She offers up an example as a warning: “I mean, look at Reese Witherspoon’s husband.” When a confused Tom asks what happened to him, she says, “He died.” It does the moment no justice to just tell you about it — the line reading here is perfect. There should be a MasterClass only on this line reading. Tom explains that, no, that’s not true, but it doesn’t matter to Cath — she is adamant that celebs and normies shouldn’t date. This, of course, poses a problem for Tom, who had all those feelings for a normie not too long ago. It is especially a problem when that normie appears in front of the restaurant window.
Now, Tom could just wait inside until Jessie leaves and most likely never see her again — but he doesn’t. He can’t quit her, guys!! He finds her outside, and she is flustered. Flustered that her Uber driver can’t find her and flustered that she now has to deal with Tom since, it is quite apparent, she’s still angry over the whole girlfriend thing. It’s an awkward interaction that only gets worse when Dan shows up and wants a picture with Tom, leading to a whole swarm of people coming up to Tom for the same thing. Jessie uses this distraction as a way to get out of there, hops into her Uber — finally — and attempts to leave Tom in the coolest possible way by tossing out a cutting line about him saying hi to his girlfriend for her and then rolling up her window and driving off. Unfortunately, Tom ruins that “cool” moment by stopping her from rolling up the window and asking her to have a drink with him so he can explain.
At the pub, Tom and Jessie engage in more charming conversations, because of course they do — they are the best. He tells her that he and his girlfriend broke up on New Year’s Eve (also his birthday), and she tells him about the paparazzi finding her leaving his house the morning after (“They thought I was the cleaner; the speed at which they assumed that was pretty offensive”) and then they just have a great night of flirting over pub quiz and whether or not they’d rather kill a chicken with their bare hands or live with a chicken in their house for a year. It’s very cute, and we love them so much.
Tom walks Jessie to her house and uses the age-old “I need to use the bathroom” excuse to invite himself inside without having to say that he really just wants to keep hanging out with her. He meets Kate, who could not be any less cool about having Tom Kapoor in her kitchen if she tried, and then, as he heads upstairs, the two friends try to figure out what the hell is happening. As Jessie runs through the events of the day, it’s clear that Tom has been the one moving this all forward. Sure, when Tom asked to use the bathroom, her response of “totally” was almost immediate — she very much wants this to happen too. But it was Tom who wanted to get drinks; he wanted to walk her home; he wanted to come inside. Kate is beside herself because, obviously, this means he’s in love with Jessie!! And more important: She’s going to the Oscars!! Kate remains an excellent sidekick.
Upstairs, Tom hears all of the whisper-screaming going on in the kitchen, and that paired with the pictures on the bathroom mirror of a very normal Jessie doing very normal things gets Tom thinking about what Cath said. What the fuck am I doing? he asks. In short, he chickens out. He comes back downstairs and says he has to leave. Actually, he says something worse than he has to leave: “It was great to see you, pal.” Pal. PAL, YOU GUYS. Three letters, one syllable, a real dagger to the heart. Jessie — thoroughly confused by the quick change in mood — tries to put on a brave face as she walks him to the door. Back inside, what else is there to do but lean against a wall and slide onto the floor, really? And that, my friends, is strike No. 2 for Mr. Tom Kapoor.
• Let’s give a special MVP award to the older woman going to a showing of Casablanca (see also Cabaslanca) who hates Humphrey Bogart and upon being told that he’s in the movie she’s about to go see, her response is, “He wishes.” I want to be that woman when I grow up. The confidence! The crabbiness! The defiant taste in men!
• Joe and Jessie apparently had sex one time, and he is obviously obsessed with her. She considers him a co-worker and maybe a friend? Aw, dear, sweet Joe.
• Bless this tiny man paying for his entire movie outing in all coins!
• I’m still giggling thinking about how Kate didn’t realize the clocks changed over a month ago.
• Okay, but, like, what is the context of the weird smell in Jessie’s room?