Okay, this is a big one. We get an actual sex scene in a show about college girls having sex and not just Lifetime movie jump cuts to undressing or boobs. Bear witness — this is the only Thanksgiving miracle in recorded history.
Sadly, that scene is also quite literally the only action we get in this episode. I can’t shake the sense that this series moves at an actual snail’s pace, drawing out plot points as painfully inch-by-inch as its 30-minute runtime allows it to. In these particular 30 minutes, we slowly unwind the most significant narrative threads of the last episode; Leighton does community service as penance for underage drinking, Kimberly gets tutored by sexy WeWork ground-patrol member (this is the backstory I gave him) Nico, Whitney continues her torrid love affair with DALTON, and Bela has sex and talks about masturbating to Kyle Mooney. She’s sick and twisted, and I completely understand where she’s coming from.
Leighton’s community service is at the Essex College Women’s Center, an “inclusive collective for females and people of all genders,” which we quickly discover is really a place for daddy issues, songs about ovaries (despite that “all genders” thing), and women who love nature (gross!!!). It’s difficult to gauge how self-aware the show is about these tired digs at women activists, but from the looks of volunteer leader Alicia (Dash & Lily’s Midori Francis), whose short, slicked-back hair and leather jacket with pointed shoulder pads indicates that she’s not like other girls, I’d guess not very.
Leighton’s community service is also conveniently the beginning of her conservative villain arc, in which we discover that she can’t stop wearing tweed and thinks safe spaces are products of society becoming “a little bit too sensitive.” She films and laughs at people as they perform slam poems from their uteruses and/or hearts at her first Women’s Center event, causing Alicia to refuse to sign off on Leighton’s community-service hours as punishment.
Leighton has already received pushback for how unfriendly and selfish she is from everyone she knows at Essex, including her New York friends, current roommates, and various Essex College staff members. Will shoulder-padded Alicia be the one to finally crack that frozen exterior and release the neglected Snail Mail-loving lesbian within? Probably! She’s the only other canonical lesbian in the show, which, by TV law, means they have to kiss. For now, Leighton vows to Alicia that she’ll be less of a “dumb cis bitch,” one cis bitch to another.
What unites all the girls, though, is the fact that their mini-fridge smells like a “tooth abscess.” It’s stinking up the halls, and throughout the episode, the roommates blame Bela for it, an accusation she calls a racially motivated, “offensive conjecture.” It turns out the fridge smells like horrible, week-old cat piss because she unplugged it to spray paint her abs last episode and all the food inside rotted. You would think any of them would have noticed that their refrigerated Yoplait isn’t what it used to be, but it takes them the entire episode to realize. It’s all very compelling.
But let’s get back to Bela, who talks about nothing else than being horny and Indian. To that first point, now, instead of a bunch of hand jobs, Bela really wants to have sex with a guy with abs. This prompts a conversation between her, Whitney, and Kimberly on their favorite guys with abs, including Zac Efron in Baywatch, Michael B. Jordan in Creed, and — I’m sobbing as I type this — Beto O’Rourke in their imaginations. What, did they forget Paul Giamatti? Sure, those are all perfectly handsome men, but these girls are teenagers, Mindy Kaling. They want to fuck Bryce Hall and Evan Mock, not disgraced Democrat Beto O’Rourke.
In any case, Bela eventually lands the washboard abs of her dreams, a guy with his shirt riding up in the library that she spots with the same laser eyes as a rabid raccoon or, I guess, sexually inexperienced teen. She introduces herself as Bela, “like in Twilight, but Indian,” and when they have dinner together, she shares a story about how she once set herself on fire to get out of an “Indian thing” with her family. Okay, we get it; you’re Indian, Bela. Expand on the fire thing instead!
But, alas, she never does. At first, I was excited to watch a show where a South Asian girl actively pursues a personal relationship to sex, which often gets shrouded by cultural shame. But instead of allowing Bela to host any thoughtful conversations about her background, the show reduces her culture to a punchline, a party trick she whips out for the white guys she lusts after, or just a lazy way to summarize her character without having to develop it. It’s disheartening to watch Bela be so apologetically Indian episode after episode, but, hey, she has sex with a washboard-ab guy, so maybe I’m the idiot.
The sex itself, by the way, seemed fine and fun, except the ab man kept responding to Bela’s cries of “You’re so fucking hot!” with “You’re so fucking funny!” prompting Bela to label him as a “chuckle fucker,” someone who tragically only likes her for her personality. She briefly freaks out about her hotness level and then has sex with the guy again anyway because he did a pull-up. Moving on.
I really can’t get into the Kimberly and Nico romance that seems to be blooming; I just really can’t. They seem to be more like estranged siblings; Kimberly, in her baby barrettes and modest-is-hottest sweaters, and Nico in his fucking … What is that, like a marled grey zip up hoodie from his Amazon locker? A dead fish has more chemistry with a pelican’s gullet than these two do, but we still have to suffer through closeups of Nico’s pillowy, pillowy lips as he tutors Kimberly in French for his minor degree credit.
In the process, we learn a little more about him. Kimberly asks Nico how he became so fluent in French, and he tells her about his au pair from Marseille, who made up for his absent mom, made him chicken nuggets, and let him watch Golden Girls in French. “The first word I learned in French was ménopause,” he says. OMG, Nico, you’re so deep and in tune with women’s health. Do you tell all the Amazon workers about it while they fetch your drawstring joggers???
It turns out that knowing French doesn’t disqualify Nico from being your run-of-the-mill idiot frat boy. Although he invites Kimberly over to his frat house to, ooh la la, watch French Betty White say ménopause, he completely forgets about it and instead watches basketball with his bros. Kimberly is forced to walk home from the frat house alone in her “Stay Golden” sweatshirt, which I believe she custom printed on Redbubble.
It’s painful to watch, much like Whitney’s whole deal. Aside from throwing out a few doe-eyed pleas for Dalton to finally leave his wife, Whitney seems somewhat content to help him cheat. Of course, he should leave his wife because banging your teenage soccer team member is, how do you say, To Catch a Predator shit and indicates deeper problems both within Dalton and his marriage, but obviously, he will not. Because he’s a predator. And a soccer coach. He does it all.
Like racing Whitney in a park because he’s so cute and silly (PUKE!), and setting up a viewing of Love & Basketball in the middle of the Vermont woods because they’ve never gone on a date before (feels racist and VOMIT!). Whitney discovers that she’s saved in Dalton’s phone as “Steven Kim Accountant” while his wife is saved as “Honey Bunny,” both equally idiotic but feeling like a secret offends her.
To keep up appearances, on his date with Whitney, Dalton texts his wife that they need to have “a serious talk. Tonight.” He shows the sent message to Whitney, who is thrilled. Naturally, Dalton then goes home and promptly tells his wife that he had meant to send the text to Coach Wood instead. Dalton is evil, but it thankfully seems like his wife thinks so too. His excuse for being shirtless during her FaceTime call, Whitney just slightly out of frame, was that he “spilled a bunch of soup” on his shirt, so, yeah, I wouldn’t believe him either. Hopefully his poor wife Kill Bill’s his ass and then Whitney can get an additional personality trait to “is having an affair.” You know, this episode was all chuckle fuckers and affairs. Do better, men of Essex College.