“Whatever it takes.” The two stories tonight revolve around people doing it to get what they want, and it doesn’t pan out so well for the show. First, the JVDB Dancing With The Stars subplot (which felt oddly disconnected from the show’s timeline) didn’t feel all there, though it did involve Dean Cain’s highly entertaining “flipping you the mental bird” face and the cute relationship between JVDB and June’s mom. The whole (JVDB gets a bad dance partner who, did we mention, dreams of making a movie about Eskimos)-(JVDB unsuccessfully tries to ditch her)-(June’s mom, looking evil, suggests what sounds like the Tonya Harding Solution)-(Ha ha, nope, she was actually suggesting JVDB fund the Eskimo movie!) continuum had no surprises, and not that many laughs.
The Chloe/June story—in which Chloe gets June a job via “networking,” or banging a brain-damaged investment-banker scion with an apparent mental age of four while so drunk she perceives him as a hot, clever biracial dude—had slightly more laughs. However, I had some serious problems with the next piece of that story, in which June’s continued employment is contingent on keeping Chloe drunk enough not to notice that she’s banging “I Am Sam” (as JVDB puts it). I had even more with the ending, in which the writers very quickly re-endow June with the title of Voice Of Moral Authority in an episode where she’s stymied Chloe’s (apparently genuine) attempts to temporarily get sober, then roofied her into having sex with someone she (as far as June knows) would be repulsed by if not hammered beyond belief. That is all kinds of fucked up, even for a dark comedy.
I'd argue, especially after the Thanksgiving episode, that Apartment 23 has a heart of gold under all the crudity and amorality lately—it’s not really all that dark. So while I do like the way Chloe and June’s friendship is gradually pulling both their characters to some sort of middle ground, I felt like this was either taking June far darker than her trajectory would predict, or treating her actions in this episode as not that bad. I like neither of those options, but I like the latter much less.
But it appears to be the latter, because June is let right off the hook for her (let me stress again) really fucked-up actions by having Chloe be all, “Whatever, I would have banged him sans pomegranate-juice-Mexican-nasal-spray roofies, because he’s rich.” It’s doubly disappointing that a show that until this episode has been a TV unicorn—a show on a major network in primetime with a progressive take on female promiscuity—seems to be spouting yet another example of the icky cultural subtext that deliberately getting someone drunk enough to do something sexual that they wouldn’t otherwise do is Not That Bad, Bro. Especially if she’s an established drunken slut.
Why does June taking advantage of Chloe in this episode bother me so much more than the many, many times Chloe’s done terrible things to June? Because there’s no question in either the world or the show that the cartoonish things Chloe does are funny, but obviously over-the-top wrong, wrong, wrong. June and Mark (both of whom acknowledge that they’re going to hell) have more of a foothold in the real world, as does the question of whether deliberately intoxicating someone to the point where he or she can’t make the decisions about sex he or she would if sober or mildly drunk and is more likely to do what is suggested is Really Bad or Not That Bad.
That question is also, unfortunately, something that’s up for debate in the real world—particularly if the person has a history of getting dead drunk and having sex without any outside help, as Chloe does—and the writers have Chloe act out many of the lame arguments of real-life Team Oh Come On It's Not That Bad.
So Chloe ends the episode by casually declaring her intent to set Trey’s car on fire. That’s pretty bad, right? But it’s bad in a different way. It’s not enough of a generally recognized problem that moms give cautionary speeches about watching out for ladies with Molotov cocktails—just in case. Nor, when someone’s car is set on fire, is there always a debate about whether that person set their own car on fire, or is overreacting to their car being on fire, or is probably into the smell of burning seatbelts, or somehow led someone to believe that they wanted their car set on fire. Setting cars on fire, then—along with tranqing people, getting foster children as indentured servants, and most of the bad stuff Chloe does—is detached enough from reality that it can be played for silly laughs.
So what I really didn’t like was that this show, which I like very much, suddenly had Chloe perfectly embody all the stalest arguments of Team OCOINTB, sort of in the same vein as the straw women that particularly thoughtless pro-life activists claim are always running down to the abortion clinic because whee, abortions! Chloe initiated banging him after getting herself wasted the first time (so it’s not that bad); Chloe is such an epic drunk and sex machine she doesn’t actually mind that much (so it’s not that bad); Chloe discovers Trey’s money is an appealing enough reason to continue fucking him after she removes the martini goggles (so it’s not that bad); this isn’t the first time Chloe’s accidentally jumped on a tree stump thinking it was a Kennedy, and reacts to this being pointed out with a slightly embarrassed “Again?” (so it’s not that bad).
But, dammit, what June did is that bad. And it’s not something like setting cars on fire that’s ripe for silly laughs. What’s more, June actually has the nerve, before she even quits her job, to moral-high-ground Chloe about her plans to continue to bang Trey after it becomes clear that he has a wife and child. She pulls that Chloe-you’re-disgusting face without even apologizing? (And when she does apologize to Chloe later, it’s for not being able to do “whatever it takes,” not for roofieing her.) And Chloe doesn’t call her on the hypocrisy of that? That’s some bullshit in Apartment 23.
I can already hear people typing “Well, what were they going to do, have Chloe be traumatized and go to a rape-crisis center? This is a comedy, for chrissakes!” The answer: I can’t think of a single thing the writers could have done besides having Chloe not really mind being roofied that wouldn’t have thrown the show and characters completely off the rails. I just wish that they hadn’t gone there in the first place.
So with my extreme dislike of that ending plus the lackluster JVDB plot, I deem this the worst episode of the show so far—D. Sorry to do that to your only episode so far this season, Liza Lapira! Your character wasn’t even annoying this time!
- A thing I did like: the idea that the investment bankers still left standing use sad job-seeker voicemails as their ringtones.
- Another thing I did like: Chloe’s disgusted face when noting that June’s mom’s brownies “taste like love.”
- A thing I don’t like: Man, have the ratings for this show been bad since it moved out of its spot after Modern Family. I didn’t like this episode pretty strongly, clearly, but I don’t want it to get canceled.
- Fun fact: Nearly 90 percent of registered A.V. Club commenters are male. Please keep this in mind in the comments section. [EDIT: Wait! I stumbled across that number on a pie graph on the AVC Disqus dashboard a while ago, and (though “I was high on migraine medicine” is a sort of embarrassing excuse) I was high on migraine medicine and didn’t realize that that number was just for that day, or that week, or something—maybe there was an interview with Alison Brie or something. Checking it now, it looks like the male-female registration ratio is about 2-1.]