“The Ambush” is an episode made up of moments. They come in the form of heartwarming moments between mothers and daughters and heartbreaking moments between husbands and wives; supportive moments between friends and awkward moments between lovers. When stitched together, the moments make for a bit of a scattered episode, but taken as individual snapshots of their respective storylines, they make for a sufficiently satisfying episode.
The story with the most lasting impact for the show belongs to Toby, when Nikki suddenly shows up on his doorstep with some pretty serious news: The organization she’s working for in Peru wants to offer her a full-time job in Africa, and she wants to know if Toby could see himself coming with her. Toby has spent this entire season figuring out who he is as an adult, building a life and attempting to do something meaningful with the field hockey team at Carlton, so just as Nikki can’t see her life as anywhere other than in Africa, he can’t see his life as anywhere other than where he is right now. It’s a sad, surprisingly mature ending to a marriage that was entered into fairly rashly. The only thing that is a bit disappointing is we never got to see Toby and Nikki as a couple—how can Nikki give up on something she never actually tried? Never seeing them give their marriage a real shot takes a bit of the sting out of the ending.
I do find myself interested in what Toby will do next, now that what he thought he was building his life for—a marriage and a partnership—blew up in his face. Will he rebel against the responsibilities he’s given himself, or will he embrace what appears to be his calling as a coach and teacher? Watching his relationship with Sharee develop and seeing him truly find joy in helping her is a welcome development for his character—especially because it gives him and John a connection they haven’t had much throughout the series, ever since Toby rejected baseball for music way back in season one.
Other than Toby’s story, what most resonated in the episode were Daphne and Bay’s respective issues with the men in their lives and how their mothers helped talk them through. Daphne is still wrestling with her feelings for Jorge and Campbell until Kathryn helps her see that she lights up more when she talks about Campbell. More importantly, Kathryn lets Daphne realize that it’s perfectly fine to feel apprehensive about what dating Campbell will be like with him in a wheelchair. It’s interesting to put these two characters together, because on their surface they have a lot of similarities, but underneath their struggles are nowhere near the same, and they handle them different ways. Where Daphne wants to fight against the world when it comes to being discriminated against, Campbell is more willing to let things slide. I don’t get a keen sense of their relationship dynamic yet, but them realizing that just because they both have challenges doesn’t mean they have the same challenges feels like a decent starting-off point.
As for Bay, she is slowly mending fences with Tank after accidentally outing him to the brothers last week. They spend the episode rebuilding their relationship only to have it basically get torn apart again when, during an intimate moment, Bay decides she’s not ready to have sex and Tank doesn’t take it well. It’s a tricky scene—it seems more awkward than passionate, really—but it gets at a fairly universal issue for young girls: What happens when you say no? Tank’s immediate defensive reaction is confusing for Bay, and leads to a really great conversation between Bay and Regina about navigating situations like that and when it’s okay to say no. (Answer: ALWAYS.) Bay obviously comes out of the moment with her faith in Tank shaken, but when he shows up and apologizes for his actions she appears to easily forgive him.
It’s hard to say exactly where Bay’s relationship with Tank is leading, simply because at every turn it seems as if Bay and Emmett are being drawn closer together. Here is happens because Bay is trying to be a good friend to him—which is great!—but in the process, she discovers that his long-distance girlfriend Mandy might not be everything she’s cracked up to be. Slowly but surely, this season has brought Bay and Emmett closer and closer together as friends. Whether it stays that way or leads to something more, Vanessa Marano and Sean Berdy’s scenes together are consistently some of the best on the show, so I hope they continue.
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: There are a lot of paintings titled The Ambush. Pick your favorite! (Um, they all kind of look the same to me?)
- Wes is apparently somewhat scamming Regina into closing lowball deals with the businesses in East Riverside. Of course he is! Regina, he scammed the local taco shop! That is unforgivable! Give back that shiny new Mercedes and run away!
- So are we to assume that because the picture is a fake, Mandy is some kind of catfish thing? Poor Emmett.
- Sharee starting to sign a bit when talking to Daphne was a nice, subtle character moment.
- John dorking out over Daphne’s field hockey game brings me joy.