It’s kind of neat that Chloe’s character has evolved and become more human over just nine episodes. It’s to the point where, when the writers bait us with a version of the character who seems to be in a normal relationship, it’s almost plausible. Almost.
It’s all the more tempting because the romantic-comedy tropes Chloe’s enacting do have enough of her personality in them that they still feel sort of like the Chloe we know. Take for example the super-disgusting When Harry Met Sally homage from “Love And Monsters…,” in which Ben and Chloe recount how they met to the tune of “It Had To Be You”: While it’s cloying enough to be an obvious tipoff that something’s amiss, their meet-cute still involves bath salts. (The first big tipoff being that there’s no way in hell Chloe would ever agree to play Scattergories.)
That’s not the only rom-com specifically referenced in this episode: I’m somewhat embarrassed to identify the music under the last scene as being from Love Actually, specifically the scene where the weird-faced, precocious kid dodges through airport security to say goodbye to the girl he’s decided he’s in love with. But IDing the melodramatic score swelling like a hemorrhoid under Chloe’s own airport visit made me very happy, as it was a hint that, no, the ending wasn’t going to undercut the episode’s focus on the falseness of the standard romantic-comedy plot (“they send a negative message that women need to be in a relationship to be happy, and Kate Hudson,” according to Chloe) by going for the genre’s familiar happy ending and hoping that the misanthropy and fucked-uppedness of the male and female leads would act as camouflage.
Because real Ben and real Chloe come dangerously close to being pulled into the exact same lame rom-com plot they’ve been play-acting for, what, several months? (As Ben lays out the details of his own con, Chloe realizes with dawning horror that they’d had a good-natured snowball fight—so they’ve been dating at least since the previous winter. That’s dedication.) If Ben and Chloe were to tell the real story of meeting via a mutual game of life-ruining to the strains of “It Had To Be You,” it wouldn’t feel that tonally out of place next to the other interludes from When Harry Met Sally, and their real personalities seem just as meant for each other as June finds their fake ones to be. And frankly, just about everyone—even people who love jokes about tranq guns and jam-fetish pornography—likes a happy ending if they’re not thinking about it too hard. It seems like it would be tough for the writers to resist.
But the writers wrap it up cleverly and with grace; neither spiriting away the potential love interest in a barrage of fart noises nor betraying Chloe’s hatred of lame happy endings. Does Chloe genuinely like Ben? Does Chloe just want to win their game? Something in between? They’re all plausible, which makes the whole thing a lot less sickly sweet. We’ll see Ben again (the actor’s IMDb page says he’ll be back in the sixth episode), but even if it all turns out to be real on Chloe’s part, it seems highly unlikely that he’ll cause her to start believing she needs to be in a relationship to be happy.
Still more romance is in the air! I said last week that Mark:
… looks like he’s starting to get interested in June, the first sign of which is, hilariously, when the camera tracks him automatically checking out June’s rack after she complains that sadness is causing her boobs to shrink.
This drew a bunch of flak in the comments about my reading too much into it, as checking out boobs is an involuntary straight-guy reflex rather than a sign of legit interest. Which is true! My brain somehow transported one of the Mark-June scenes where it’s clearer from this episode into the previous one, so whoever noted in the comments that I’d seen the next episode and might have spilled an accidental spoiler was completely right. Sorry, guys!
But I’d like to briefly address the discussion of boobs in the comments section of the previous review. I think the general IRL rule is that you’re free to check out all the boobs you want, but you don’t get to be all butthurt if their owner notices and reacts by saying “Hey, knock it off, you’re being creepy.” There’s an online parallel to this: Expressions of entitlement about women’s bodies—for examples from last week’s comments, “If a girl mentions her boobs, that's like a free pass to take a glance” is entitlement, while “Us men (well, a large majority of us) have a pre-installed "R.C.O.C" or Rack-Checking-Out Chip” is just a statement of fact and didn’t bother me at all—make me even more uncomfortable than if some rando had actually been staring at my tits, and I think a lot of women feel the same way.
But the Internet version of “Hey, knock it off, you’re being creepy” is generally greeted with “GTFO” or, on this site, “go back to Jezebel,” so I think most women have taken to just rolling their eyes and saving their energy for bigger fights over things like “legitimate rape.” Since this makes it appear that nobody really minds the thousand smaller examples that don’t clear the average lady’s worth-the-blowback threshold, I feel like it’s kind of my responsibility to mention: I minded.
- That’s probably the most evil context the Full House theme song has ever appeared in, right?
- I love the imaginary JVDB projects the writers keep coming up with. The poster for Love Monster is a perfect mix of ridiculousness and plausibility, and leads to some excellent visuals when JVDB later mentions that “the love scenes were a challenge.”
- Ben first reveals himself as a secret Australian with just two syllables, “I know,” but manages to pack about a dozen dipthongs in there to make it as clear as possible.
- Luther didn’t have much to do tonight, did he? Eli’s briefly back in his “explains it all” function, and still no sign of Robin.
- Chloe chooses one of her victims when she overhears him say, “Wait, you’ve never seen The Wire? I’m going to spend the next hour telling you how good it is!”