From the beginning, You’re The Worst argued that Jimmy and Gretchen are made for each other, but not for other people. They both know how to push each other’s buttons. They both pretend that things don’t bother them even when they do. They’re selfish, delusional, often cruel, and occasionally criminal, but they are made for each other. That much is true. But Jimmy and Gretchen also can turn everything to shit faster than anyone else. They don’t always mean to negatively affect those around them, but they also don’t care much if they do. Falk knows that Jimmy and Gretchen are toxic people, but he also likes them in spite of that. He knows that they’re bitter, desperate people who lash out at the world because they don’t know how to honestly engage with anyone, but the series’ greatest strength is that Falk doesn’t excuse their behavior. He just understands its roots.
“PTSD” (not Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but rather Previously Taken or Sucked Dick) is the best episode of the series by a mile because it doubles down on the competing ideas at the heart of the series’ premise: Jimmy and Gretchen are made for each other, but not for other people. Credited to Franklin Hardy & Shane Kosakowski, the episode illustrates in no uncertain terms the damaging effect Jimmy and Gretchen have on those around them, even as it draws them closer together. A lot of sitcoms stuff their characters’ awfulness into its subtext because they want the audience to like them, but You’re The Worst wants the audience to like its characters even when they’re truly the worst. Falk and co. constantly ride that fine line and don’t always succeed, but this week, they succeeded in spades.
“PTSD” opens with Becca and Vernon in couples counseling. They’re unhappy and they don’t know why even though the answer is right in front of them: they’re not right for each other. But instead of dealing with that ugly reality, their therapist argues that maybe its “negative external elements” that are affecting their relationship. Cut to Jimmy and Gretchen voraciously chowing down breakfast at the diner while Becca and Vernon “break up” with them because they can’t hang around toxic couples any longer. Gretchen doesn’t balk at the breakup, but at the notion that they’re a couple. Jimmy makes sure Vernon is paying for breakfast, and then after he and Becca leave, proceeds to order $300 worth of food. Becca and Vernon could have been holograms and Jimmy and Gretchen wouldn’t have noticed the difference.
What Jimmy does notice is that Gretchen said they weren’t a couple, so he needles her with an interview he’s doing with Megan Thomas (Ginger Gonzaga), Hollywood’s new “It Girl”. Gretchen needles him back with the challenge of sending her nude pictures of Thomas. Jimmy sleeps with Megan after the interview and sends Gretchen the pictures. Spurred by Lindsay, Gretchen retaliates by sleeping with her ex-boyfriend Venti (Adam Tsekhman), a barista at Silverlake Coffee, while he’s at work. To Gretchen, this is just getting even, but Jimmy says otherwise. See, because Jimmy slept with a stranger and Gretchen slept with an ex, technically they’re not even. In fact, Jimmy is up “a half” because Venti doesn’t count as a “full person” and Megan does. This is the logic of delusional children who can’t be honest with each other so they resort to cruelty. It’s cute in an abstract “playground puppy love” kind of way, but one look at the hurt faces Jimmy and Gretchen try to conceal under many layers of sarcasm illustrates that it’s actually quite sick.
So Gretchen goes out with Lindsay to a bar to pick up a stranger in order to get “even” with Jimmy. They spend the night talking to lame or obnoxious guys before Gretchen goes out for a cigarette and meets the bouncer. Meanwhile, Lindsay stays in the bar, gets drunk, and talks to an innocent, wide-eyed Ohioan with dreams of making it in Hollywood about her crumbling marriage. Gretchen fucks the bouncer in the alley, while Lindsay fucks the Ohioan in her minivan. Unlike the series’ previous sex scenes, this isn’t portrayed as fun or even slightly titillating. It’s just sad and gritty. Gretchen asks the bouncer to move her six inches to the right so she doesn’t have to look at a booger on an alley wall, and Lindsay takes one look at the cheaply drawn images of her future family stenciled on her rear windshield before returning to her conquest. They’re going through the motions when they don’t have to.
Gretchen brags to Jimmy that she bagged a stranger so they can be even, but Jimmy protests yet again: Now Gretchen is up a half because she slept with a stranger and an ex, so to be fully even, Jimmy has to sleep with an ex. Gretchen all but begs Jimmy to call it a draw, but Jimmy can’t let it go because of cheap jealousy and an even cheaper competitive spirit. So Jimmy texts all of his exes only to discover that they all hate him with the passion of a thousand suns. Hurt and confused, Jimmy goes to Becca’s and asks her why does everyone hate him. “Well,” Becca says, “because you’re a narcissist with face blindness who without hesitation or consequence uses people to get what you want.” Of course Jimmy doesn’t hear Becca’s answer because he tries to hook up with her not more than a minute later, but Jimmy’s initial question was sincere. He doesn’t want to be hated, but he doesn’t want to do the work not to be hated either.
So Jimmy lies to Gretchen and says he slept with an ex named Hilary, and then all the hurt feelings and jealousy start pouring out. Jimmy claims Gretchen said that it was okay for him to sleep with Megan Thomas, and Gretchen protests Jimmy’s jealousy after sleeping with one guy. They both admit that they want to be exclusive but can only bring up the idea through a thick layer of obnoxious sarcasm because Jimmy and Gretchen are still children. Their relationship has progressed, but they haven’t changed. It’s no coincidence that this scene takes place in an arcade.
But the montage that follows sealed the episode for me. Instead of the typical sappy montage of characters coming together in the face of struggle, it’s a montage of all the characters Gretchen and Jimmy have fucked up just because they didn’t want to talk openly: There’s Megan Thomas furiously screaming into a phone because of Jimmy’s article, which is titled “Inside A Hollywood It Girl (Literally)”; there’s the bouncer earnestly texting Gretchen that he had a great time with her last night unaware that he was used; there’s Becca looking at Jimmy’s pack of cigarettes and pondering her decisions as Vernon shows off his new Xbox games; there’s Venti getting fired from his job; and then there’s the Ohioan heading back to the Midwest traumatized by his short time in L.A. It’s funny, but Hardy & Kosakowski don’t skimp on the melancholy either. These are people with their own inner lives who have been damaged by our protagonists.
But then there’s Jimmy and Gretchen throwing away their condoms and proudly smiling at each other before turning to the camera and giving their best “end-of-The Graduate” faces. They’ve taken a step but don’t know if it’s the right one. We’ll follow their relationship because it’s compelling and because we like Jimmy and Gretchen, but just don’t forget about the damage they leave behind them.
- Edgar isn’t spared from Jimmy and Gretchen’s selfishness either. He’s tortured by the knowledge that Jimmy slept with Megan and because he thinks Gretchen doesn’t know, he seeks help from a radio shock jock and a shifty, unprepared priest (played by the always wonderful James Urbaniak) about what to do with his guilt. He eventually sees them in bed together and softens up. He promises to make them nachos. Poor Edgar. Poor, poor Edgar.
- Running jokes I love: 1) Jimmy’s “They’re pretty expensive” line whenever anyone asks him for a cigarette, and 2) that he steals a bottle of booze pretty much wherever he goes.
- I know my review really didn’t cover all the comedy in the episode, but it was quite funny despite all the deception and damage.
- For example: Vernon almost got fired because during a hip resurfacing, he took off his sunglasses, put them on the patient’s testicles, and took a picture of it.
- Lindsay thinks Susan B. Anthony made an airplane disappear and that John Quincy Adams was America’s first black astronaut.
- New anecdotes about Paul: He sleeps in flannel pajamas with socks, he spends six weeks of every summer at a magic camp for adults, and he has an allergy to soap so he has use a special oil made for dogs.
- Let’s close with some words of wisdom from Gretchen: “It’s so awful we have to feel any of this. Lust. Love. Don’t we have bigger problems to worry about? I’m in a bar trolling for dudes just to prove something to who? To Darwin? To myself? It is embarrassing and beneath us is what I am saying. You know?”
- On second thought, in honor of The Simpsons marathon on FXX, let’s close with what a clip that arcade scene reminded me of.