It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl have a romantic courtship and thrilling sexual escapades and commit a smattering of manslaughters. Boy and girl have a baby, settle down, buy a house in the suburbs, kill ONE more person on purpose, and also one more person, but by accident, but still, and then they pinky swear: NO MORE MURDERING. But alas, the spark goes out of their relationship. Sure, nobody around them is dying. But are boy and girl really living???
Six months have passed since Love killed Natalie. Love and Joe report to their therapist that they are “just a normal, boring suburban family” now. Joe has become obsessed with tending to the lawn (I laughed out loud at his line reading of “The lawn is the foyer of the home”). Joe keeps telling himself he can live a life so dull and empty he doesn’t even bother jerking off in the shower anymore; he has also been struggling to stay hard for sex with Love, who no longer excites him because she is not committing and/or covering up a homicide. Whatever, anything to make Henry happy! Parenting is about sacrifice! Love tells the therapist that Joe has had a harder time making friends than she has — his only friends are at work, and by “friends,” he means Marienne, the latest doomed object of his desire. Even though I, like Joe, am underwhelmed by the social offerings of Madre Linda, I do like that this therapist tells him he needs to have friends outside of his marriage, which is a wise counsel I wish more couples took seriously.
Also, Love’s makeup looks fantastic. It looks phenomenal all episode, as do her outfits, which I know is supposed to be a bad sign because it means she’s fully assimilated, but who cares? Joe’s douchey shellacked look for the family photo is also perfect styling-as-character work. A+ to the hair and makeup department this episode.
But maybe Love’s skin is aglow because she is keeping a secret: She’s stayed in touch with Theo, “helping him” from afar by ordering him Ubers when he’s too drunk to drive and by thinking about their one passionate kiss. “Bored housewife yearns for torrid affair with hot teen next door” is the free space on the Suburban TV Tropes bingo board, so, glad to see everyone leaning into their clichés here. Also, when I found out that they were angling to get Henry into the Ashman School — after ALL this hype about moving to Madre Linda for the excellent public schools — I lost my mind.
I love that Joe keeps asking himself, with no irony, “Maybe I am the problem?” Like yeah, Joe, of course you are the problem, you’re a fuckin’ psycho! Naturally, when Joe goes to the library, where the lighting is soft and warm and he is safe in the embrace of hardcover books and the people who adore them, Marienne drags his hair for being “very Patrick Bateman meets Venetian gondola.” For totally normal reasons, Marienne needs Joe to pose for her and answer flirtatious questions about his favorite childhood literature so she can … draw a picture of something that isn’t Joe. I can’t say I care whether Marienne enters the illustration contest, but I guess this is an improvement from Guinevere “I want to be a writer, but all I do is theatrically flop on my bed, look at my laptop for two seconds, sigh dramatically, and then close my laptop” Beck. Good to see a woman with some follow-through.
Because Love has befriended Sherry, Joe is trapped in a broship with Cary, who likes to talk about the key to “truly orgasmic barbeque,” which is to kill your own meat. So Joe gets roped into going on this all-male hunting trip, which is the only way for Joe to become a MAN again. UNLEASH THE IMPULSES. Honestly, the way Cary describes it, I thought and sort of hoped they were all going to hook up in the woods, but nope. Again, I will say I am fascinated by how gender-normie the vibe is in this supposedly progressive place. It feels a bit retro for the setting, no?
Meanwhile, Sherry’s hot gossip is that Theo showed up for a midterm drunk and took leave from school. Theo pops over to see Love, and Joe realizes as he walks in on their conversation that he has walked in on something. Theo teases Joe’s lawn with a “Richard Yates level of attention to detail,” which is a great burn. Love fesses up to the Ubers, and Joe goes full Marriage Story and shouts while punching a wall. I write in my notes: “Why don’t Love and Joe just … open their marriage?” But alas, they are committed to making it work the old-fashioned way: Men are men who hunt their meat, women are women who throw baby birthday parties, husbands and wives only kiss each other, and no one commits any felonies.
For some reason, Love thinks the solution to this problem is for Joe to go on the weekend trip with the boys. I think deep in her lizard brain, Love knows she needs to get rid of Joe to have sex with Theo.
The way all the men on this trip talk about Cary and his rituals that saved their marriages and releasing their inner beasts is very weird, like they’re some sort of cult. You can tell that somebody in the writer’s room had a lot of fun coming up with all the batshit mantras Cary says. The only rule is that you can ONLY EAT what you KILL FOR YOURSELF. Also, MEN can PUNCH EACH OTHER IN THE FACE, but then, ALSO, they can COLLAPSE INTO EACH OTHER’S ARMS and SOB LIKE WOUNDED ANIMALS. I write in my notes: “Okay, are these guys gonna fuck or … ?” But no, it’s just more like shirtless hunting. I personally would be worried about ticks, but I guess MEN cannot get LYME DISEASE. That is an ILLNESS for GIRLS and BABIES who haven’t EMBRACED THEIR INNER BEASTS.
During a nighttime sprint through the woods with Cary, Joe is taunted into punching his leader in the face. Cary falls back over a ledge, and Joe thinks he killed him, and there is a whole thing of CPR, but then Cary pops up, good as new. “I’m impossible to kill,” he announces and then shoves his arm back into place with a very upsetting crunch sound. He approvingly calls Joe “one fine specimen of a man.” It is INSANE that none of these dudes even kiss on this trip. Joe believes these men have “accepted his darkness” when, in fact, they did no such thing.
Just in case you aren’t connecting the dots here, we are treated to even more flashbacks to The Queen’s Gambit Tranquilizer Den for Separating the Weak From the Merely Abandoned. In this very special episode, Joe could have pushed a bully down the stairs, but he didn’t, and his dream girlfriend, the nurse, wants him to know that he’s a Good Person™, but also, he would STILL have been a Good Person™ if he had shoved that bully down the staircase because the bully had it coming. Good People™ are empowered with this gift of unilaterally deciding who deserves to get the shit kicked out of them.
Left to her own devices, Love finds herself alone with Theo yet again. It turns out they were email pen pals for a while until Love drew a hard line there that Theo respectfully did not cross. But Theo heard Joe’s shouting last night and is worried about Love because he does not yet know that Love recently assaulted a man with a rolling pin in the very spot Theo is standing. Later, Theo calls Love because he got picked up for a DUI for drunkenly riding an electric scooter (Don’t do that!! Please be careful on your scooters, people!). She teaches him a lesson by … riding on the scooter with him because she’s never tried it before. They wipe out (duh), and through tears, Theo says he is actually taking a leave of absence because he can’t stop thinking about Love. He knows she isn’t happy. She grabs him and kisses him, and then they have sex in the dirt.
When Love gets home, Glamma reports that she saw Theo get out of Love’s car and that she missed the FaceTime call Dottie made while Henry took his first steps. I think Dottie is bad, generally speaking, but her advice here isn’t terrible: Love likes a project to fix, which is why she was so obsessed with her brother and initially drawn to Joe. “So let me be blunt: Grow up. That boy will distract you from your son.” Then she suggests fine wine as an alternative to a teen boy, as far as addictions go. Love sends Theo a text that says, “Never again, find someone your own age,” and for someone who knows her husband’s predilection for stalking, going through her shit, etc., that seems like a dicey move.
Joe returns home a changed man. He tells Love that she doesn’t need to tell him everything because “I trust you,” which is definitely a five-alarm fire, but Love just takes what she thinks is a win. Now that Joe is an animal, they can have great sex again; congratulations, you two.
Joe had the alarm at the bakery go off just for an excuse to leave the house so he can watch Marienne. He has decided no keepsakes, no social media, only “watching.” Which is the worst of all three stalking options, no? But this is how Joe plans to “feed his inner beast.” Ew. He’s going to be super-duper-extra-careful, and no one will find out or get hurt. Probably.