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A funny You're The Worst helps center the series amidst a rocky season

Illustration for article titled A funny You're The Worst helps center the series amidst a rocky season
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You’re The Worst has had a generally rocky season this year for a few reasons—the separation of the core ensemble, a seemingly aimless macro structure, the amplification of the characters’ sour behavior—but sometimes good comedy can be just the antidote a show needs. Now, of course comedy is subjective and not everything makes everyone laugh, but at least for me, one of You’re The Worst’s saving graces this year has been its humor. Sure, sometimes it’s been too broad, and other times it’s been a little too mean, but whenever the series appears to have lost their sense of the characters or the situations have gone too far out of orbit, a really good one-liner can be a grounding force.

“Dad-Not-Dad” may not be the best episode of the season, but it’s probably the funniest, and it subtly tries to center the series as it heads into the homestretch. Written by Eva Anderson, the episode follows three stories: 1) Jimmy embarks on a Sunday Funday adventure with Katherine (Lucy Montgomery), the girl from his hometown with whom he hooked up in last week’s episode; 2) Gretchen tries to impress Boone’s ex-wife Whitney (Anne Dudek) so she can approve her meeting their daughter Olivia; and 3) Lindsay and Becca reach out to actor Lou Diamond Phillips, their father figure in adolescence, to discover if he’s the source of their current misery. It’s a mostly lighthearted affair (until it’s not) and features plenty of jokes and sight gags. Moreover, it injects just enough sentiment into the proceedings to at least gauge the emotional barometer of the characters.

Last week, Lindsay and Becca finally commiserated over their shared misery and decide to confront their mother Faye (Robin Riker) about her emotional neglect. Though the emotional beats were fairly unearned, “Dad-Not-Dad” goes a long way not only in trying to treat their grievances seriously but also to provide them dignity in their mission. After showing Faye home videos of her deliberately ignoring her children so as to give a young Lou Diamond Phillips a footjob, she tells them to handle their own problems like adults (you know, like splitting a Klonopin). Unsatisfied with that response, Lindsay and Becca go to Phillips’ house to ask why he abandoned them after being their surrogate parent for three years. They discover that Phillips lives outside of the city on a lemon grove and just “waits for La Croix to call.”

Now, Phillips’ one-off appearance in this episode cannot be understated. He commits so seriously to the specific absurdity of his lemon obsession that it elevates everything around him. He enters the episode by wielding a baseball bat and screaming about people stealing his lemons that he needs very badly, made funnier by a quick shot of a sign above a lemon tree that says, “Please Do Not Pick Lemons (I need them).” Phillips tells Lindsay and Becca that their mother forbid him from ever contacting them after their break up even though he wanted to be in their lives. “Listening to her is one of my biggest regrets,” he says, shaking his head. “That and turning down Die Hard.”

The story ends predictably: Lindsay and Becca confront their mother again only to find that she and Phillips have reconnected. The two pick up right where they left off and the two sisters don’t get the satisfaction of blaming their parent on their dissatisfaction. Phillips tells them not to solve their problems by blaming the past, but to do the work in the present to build themselves up again. It’s probably the only sensible advice offered to Lindsay and Becca in quite a while, and it looks like it might have finally sunk in.

Meanwhile, Jimmy wakes up the next morning to find that Katherine has made tea after their late night tryst. He receives a text from Gretchen saying that they need to talk, and though he makes a big show in front of Edgar about his disapproval of that phrase, he eagerly responds. When Gretchen tells him that it’ll have to wait until tomorrow, he impulsively joins Katherine on a brunch date with her accomplished, sophisticated friends—a macroeconomist, an architecture critic for the Times, and a scientist who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though Jimmy initially plans just to get drunk and not to even speak with them, he falls head over heels for them and joins them on a Sunday Funday that includes a wine tasting, an Escape Room, and a “scream singer.”


As to be expected, Jimmy makes a complete asshole of himself in front of Katherine and her friends. Jimmy’s villainous turn this season hasn’t always worked out in the series’ favor, especially when Chris Geere, an actor who excels at subtlety, is forced to work broad. It’s understandable that Jimmy would go off the deep end following his quasi-breakup with Gretchen, but his too frequent obnoxious behavior hasn’t been offset by much of anything. Katherine calls him a complete rube and tells him that he just “reminds her of the past,” a damning line delivered with just the right amount of disappointment from Montgomery. Jimmy has spent the entire season alienating everyone that has ever got close to him, and it’s only made him regress into an appalling version of his self.

Finally, there’s Gretchen, who must woo Whitney in order to get in closer with Boone. Though their lunch date initially begins on shaky ground—Whitney confronts Gretchen with knowledge about her 14-year-old fake avatar that she uses to trap pedophiles and cyber bully Elle Fanning—the two eventually hit it off over vodka martinis and their shared frustrations. Whitney, the grown-up to everyone in her life, wants to let loose and have fun, and Gretchen is in a position to encourage such reckless behavior. Unfortunately, Gretchen blacks out and wakes up to the sight of her fingering Whitney until climax.


Now, if there’s one hiccup in the episode, it’s this development. To their credit, neither Anderson nor director Heath Cullens treats the nonconsensual sexual encounter like a joke. It’s a nasty scene, and the moment when Gretchen realizes that her hand is up Whitney’s skirt feels particularly lurid. However, it’s such a bitter resolution to an otherwise non-bitter story that not to address it beyond Gretchen burying the moment in front of Boone feels like a wasted opportunity. It’s entirely possible that the series revisits the scene in upcoming episodes, but of course, there’s no indication that they will, given how often the series picks up and drops stories this season on a whim.

On the whole, “Dad-Not-Dad” feels closer in spirit to early episodes of You’re The Worst, and it does just the right amount of work to clarify the character’s emotions. Though Gretchen still feels a connection to Jimmy, her relationship with Boone all but precludes any desire for her to reach out to him. Jimmy flounders in denial, refusing to emotionally bounce back from Gretchen and accept her new relationship. Lindsay realizes the most obvious lesson in the book: She must work on herself in order to feel true satisfaction following her divorce. It’s unclear exactly where You’re The Worst will go in the final stretch, but there’s at least some indication about the direction.


Stray observations

  • Edgar’s story wasn’t really at the center of the episode, but the scene between him and Jimmy is one of the best of the episode. Briefly, Edgar buys a car he really can’t afford because his new bro Max pressures him into it. Jimmy tells him that he should return it because Edgar has “poor brain” and Jimmy knows that because he has it as well. Edgar insists that Jimmy can’t tell him what to do anymore and Jimmy walks away. Yet, for the first time all season, Jimmy tries to get Edgar to do the right thing, even if he’s a dick about it.
  • Boone demands unfair refunds from various streaming services so he can get free amenities. He told U-verse that he got seizures from watching Legion, so they gave him six months of NBA TV.
  • The sweetest, saddest revelation of the night: Lindsay used to dump her dinner in the toilet because she felt bad that it only ate poop. My heart broke a little bit just thinking about that.
  • After dating Lou Diamond Phillips, Faye started seeing John Stamos, and then Dave Coulier. It’s unclear if she slept with Bob Saget or not.
  • Phillips insists that no on should mess with John Stamos. “I mean, the Beach Boys were so scared of that guy they let him pretend to play bongos on ‘Kokomo.’”
  • “On principle, I don’t regret things, like buying tickets to see Billy Bob Thornton’s band.”
  • “If I’m being honest, I basically do nothing most of the time.”
  • “One thing is for sure: Lemons will never walk away from me.”
  • “Do you know what I did with the outsized advance for my first book? I bought a house that I couldn’t afford. I got a FHA loan so I only put down 3.5%, but it’s an ARM on a balloon structure, which means by the end of the next year, I may have to burn it for the insurance which I do not have.”

Vikram Murthi is a freelance writer and critic currently based out of Brooklyn.