Flashback Joe is reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower because of course he is. The gentle nurse Fiona gazes upon him and shares her sad little sandwich. Her nook is a haven at the Queen’s Gambit Tranquilizer Den for Separating the Weak From the Merely Abandoned, but alas, she cannot save herself, for young Joe sees that her wrists bear the wounds of some gross MAN who hurts her. By the end of the episode we will see Joe, a child, tell this adult woman that he and only he really sees what’s happening to her and that she shouldn’t take back her shitty, undeserving boyfriend. I mean, yes, but also: easier said, buddy! These blast-from-the-past scenes are even worse than Don Draper’s Little Whorehouse on the Prairie memories, which is really saying something.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have some issues with how this series handles partner violence. Namely, that so many women in the show are in abusive relationships, and that they either fail to escape these relationships OR their way out of them is always … Joe, who is ALSO abusive!! In this episode, we learn that Marienne’s ex-husband (played by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s A+ Scott Michael Foster) abused her and manipulated the system in his favor to keep her from getting full custody of their daughter. But JOE and JOE ALONE will fight for her. This has gross echoes with season one’s Claudia, mother of the stairwell urchin, whose abusive boyfriend gets murdered by (who else?) Joe. Also consider the litany of abusive and gross men in season one: the grope-y book agent, the perv-y professor who tries to screw Beck, the abusive uncle Beck tells us about. Or season two’s Hendy plotline, which, again, was “resolved” not by Delilah’s reporting but by Joe killing Hendy. And we can’t leave out the urtext here: Joe’s mom, “saved” by Joe, who shot and killed his abusive dad, or just one of her many boyfriends, I actually can’t remember. (Plus, let’s not forget that before Natalie got the axe, she was essentially being surveilled 24/7 by her husband, which is not not abusive behavior, and she was on the verge of using Joe as an escape from that situation.)
It’s just a lot of women experiencing abuse for a show that wants to be soapy, wild, and ridiculous in a dark-but-still-fun way. And: The show intends to deconstruct these tropes about men saving women and reveal them for the twisted truths they are, right? Meanwhile, You has most of its women “saved,” however problematically (primarily by homicide) by Joe. Instead of by, I don’t know … other women in their lives! Most of the women who try to save — Candace, Delilah, Peach — get killed before they can. What do you all think? How is this landing with you?
For now, let’s retreat to a safe space: the library. Joe has decided that Marienne, who “likes flaws and whimsy,” is “deep.” Good lord. He breaks into her house to sniff her pillows but, more importantly, to find out WHY he feels the need to break into her house and sniff her pillows. He hides under the bed when she gets home and watches her get undressed (“Okay, now you’re just playing with me,” he narrates to a woman who doesn’t know he’s there) and receives a text from Love. Love, to whom Joe must prove he is a devoted husband, for reasons.
Back at home, Love ignores Theo’s texts and is gazing at that classic plot device: a pregnancy test. I mean, there’s no way she’s pregnant because the show isn’t going to give her character two babies; they’re too annoying to deal with when the story needs to move forward, and television is generally too conservative to let a Sacred Pregnant Woman get her hands as dirty as Love does. But before the inevitable fake-out, we are treated to an entire episode of Love wondering who the father is!
Love deals with her confusion by texting Forty. She has his phone in her nightstand. I, for one, would not put such damning information in a text message with such a stalker-y husband. Not to MENTION her next-door neighbor who made his fortune in tech surveillance and whose wife you literally murdered.
Love has to go to Glamma Dottie’s vineyard for its big opening weekend, a goddess-y girlboss-y summit. Before Love leaves, she hears Lorde’s “Supercut” blasting from outside, and I write in my notes: I swear to God if this fucking teen is holding a Beats Pill over his head outside her window, I will kill him myself and then, yup, that’s exactly what he’s doing. NO ONE DOES THIS. The only good part about it is when Theo says he thought this was something she’d like because of the “rom-coms of her generation,” and Love is like, I am NOT that old, lmao. Theo says Love is the only person he can talk to. I say: Theo, see a therapist!
Theo demands to know if Love thinks of him when she has sex with Joe, “because yours is the only face I see.” Joe and Love then have sex while thinking about their separate obsessions, and again I wonder why they don’t just have an open marriage? If they can negotiate corpse disposal and homicide coverups, I’m pretty sure they could navigate polyamory!
Meanwhile, Matthew has hired an investigator to look into his wife’s murder. The attorney from his company — FINALLY, someone is talking to counsel — advises against this. It is a massive PR problem already, and he will only make it worse. But Matthew is a man obsessed, and, in his defense, he is correct.
Love arrives at Casa Gaia Vineyard with Henry in tow. I love that she wears breezy white tops and bright colors at home, but she shows up in all black whenever she is forced to do something with her parents. (Same sartorial strategy for the “wellkend” last season, remember?) Glamma is wearing a velvet mustard-colored blazer that I love. She is in full Moira Rose mode talking about her wines and the “Women Optimizing Motherhood and Business summit,” a.k.a. “WOMB.” I’ll give this to Glamma: She knows what she’s doing. She sees right through Love’s “I’m doing a mini-detox” and goes right to “is it Joe’s or that neighbor kid’s baby in there???”
The WOMB summit is about what you’d expect. Love decides to call bullshit in the middle of a reading on The Secret of Joy, puncturing all these empty aphorisms with smug confidence until the speaker turns it around on her and asks if maybe Love likes to “sabotage [her] own happiness.” Love storms out and is, hilariously, swiftly accepted back into the fold by Glamma and Sherry, both of whom want Love to participate in a little IGTV interview where Glamma just outs Love’s pregnancy on live internet. Love flips out, and Glamma holds her ground: Love’s marriage is full of problems; Love herself is an “ungrateful little bitch.” I am very intrigued by how Glamma hints at some nefarious dealings in her own past (“You have no IDEA what I had to do to give you the world”). And Love immediately gets her period afterward. Well, time for some wine!
Apparently, on You, virtually any substance or illness will make you hallucinate because Love gets so drunk she imagines her dead brother sitting opposite her in a bubble bath. I feel like TV shows need to hire adult siblings as writers — especially adult siblings of the opposite sex because if I were in a bubble bath and I opened my eyes to find my brother sitting across from me, I would NOT respond by flinging my naked body across the tub to embrace him. Hallucination Forty tells Love that Theo “kind of reminds me of me” and that Joe cannot be her soulmate because he, Forty, is her real soulmate. WHY does this show keep walking right up to the idea that Love and Forty were Flowers in the Attic style gothic horror incest siblings without following through?! This show is at its best when it goes FULL crazy. This 75 percent crazy is just icky.
While Love is away, Joe digs through Marienne’s office and finds a lawsuit accusing her of child endangerment. Joe decides that he can’t have anything to do with “your planet of red flags” and assures himself he’s over Marienne. This determination lasts all of 20 minutes because while he’s downstairs shelving books, he hears shouting from above. Ryan — the channel three news guy we saw earlier this season — is the ex, yelling that Marienne doesn’t HAVE any rights because she’s a “fucking junkie.” Now that Marienne is a damsel again, Joe loves her once more.
Honestly, this whole thing where Joe is just now putting together his mommy issue patterns … I mean, really? Have we not known that this whole time? Joe believes this no-duh revelation has FREED him. But then that night, there is a library crisis: the sprinkler system malfunctions, water water everywhere, and while attempting to salvage books from the wreckage, Joe and Marianne confide in one another that they were both foster kids who were never hugged but instead tenderly caressed every book they ever read. It’s so on the nose that I write in my notes: Is Marienne maybe out-Joe-ing Joe? Is she playing a part to make him fall for her so SHE can kill HIM? But probably not.
Anyway, Marienne and Ryan were both using when their baby, Juliet, was born; Ryan got clean first and got full custody. Joe, given this very brief update on Marienne’s complex history, understands completely. Joe demands someone stop Ryan from manipulating the justice system, and HE is that someone! Marienne is seeing a lawyer instead, thank God. The sprinklers go off again, and they make out in the fake rain like two teens in a Taylor Swift song. It’s all a dream until Joe realizes with horror: “Oh shit, Love is going to kill you.”
Love has a vicious hangover and a surprise visitor in the morning: Theo, whom she drunk-texted last night. (Though first, she sees Sherry, who tells her that soulmates are “bullshit” and that loving someone long-term is about choosing them over and over. Actually, great advice; thank you, Sherry!) Theo is here with some news: His dad is investigating everyone in the neighborhood. Including the Quinn-Goldbergs.
By the harsh light of day, Joe tries to resign from the library. But Marienne won’t let him. They swear they would never do anything to hurt each other’s kids. Joe swears to himself that he will find a way to have Marienne and prevent Love from ever hurting her.
Reunited at home, Love tells Joe about Matthew’s P.I. and offers this convenient idea: taking advantage of Theo’s crush on her. “I could pretend like he had a chance,” she says in the most unconvincing manner. But Joe is too blinded by his own self-interest to see through Love’s whole deal, so he eagerly agrees. What a team these two make.