After all the bareknuckle fights, the back-and-forth about commitment, the big depression spiral, the break-ups, and the adolescent tantrums in between, Jimmy and Gretchen still have a fundamental problem with open communication. The two are great together in many contexts—planning a wedding, clowning on other people, getting drunk—and they’ve managed to build something resembling a sustainable relationship despite the myriad hiccups, but when it comes to actual trust, they still flounder like the worst of them. If the flash-forwards are any indication of what will happen to Jimmy and Gretchen (as opposed to what might happen in the Christmas Carol sense), then their lack of faith in the other will be their downfall. In fact, it’s not difficult to imagine that Fuck Week marks the beginning of the end.
“This Brief Fermata” (the episode was originally titled “Fuck Week,” but FX must have drawn the line there) features a simple story that’s rife with potential for misunderstanding. In a cheap attempt to assuage his guilt after receiving fellatio from the florist last week, Jimmy poses to Gretchen that they embark on a week of no-strings-attached sex with anyone of their choosing. She immediately agrees, but finds herself getting caught up with work as she tries to sign the elusive, difficult rapper Nock Nock. While Jimmy has no intention of following through with Fuck Week, he still goes to elaborate lengths to make it seem to Gretchen like he has indulged. Neither shares their true feelings until it’s too late, subsequently sending the relationship off balance.
Writer April Shih crafts a scenario in which everyone talks past each other in order to save face. Gretchen desperately tries to get into the spirit of Fuck Week with Lindsay (who possibly dives into the deep end too quickly, so to speak), but after her previously easy job turned into a fulfilling one the moment she started to care, anonymous sex suddenly takes a backseat to professional success. All Gretchen wants to do at the end of a long week is to go home and tell Jimmy about it, except that agreeing to Fuck Week in the first place essentially guarantees he won’t be home at all. On the other hand, if Gretchen hadn’t agreed to Fuck Week, then maybe she wouldn’t have realized that she didn’t need it in the first place.
That isn’t to say Gretchen shoulders the majority of the blame in this particular case. In another in a long string of stupidly arrogant plans, Jimmy tries to rectify the connubial imbalance without Gretchen learning about his own indiscretion, except that he couldn’t foresee her sudden re-commitment to her job. His absurd ruse, which at one point includes paying a prostitute to give him a disgusting hickey, is intrinsically flawed, but it wouldn’t be necessary if he followed Edgar’s advice and just told her about the unfortunate blowjob. Granted, after all the shit that Jimmy has pulled, maybe his latest breach of trust would’ve been the final nail in the coffin. Yet, not telling her at all still seems infinitely preferable to Jimmy’s plan, which manages to be a gross overcompensation for his inability to be honest with his partner.
Still, Jimmy and Gretchen might have ended up just playing in-person phone tag the whole week if one lie too many didn’t conspire to force Gretchen’s hand. Shih establishes this moment perfectly by burying it in the music industry B-plot. Sam tries and fails to get ahold of Gretchen the whole week because he’s been unhappy with Lindsay’s (stellar) professional acumen. Gretchen lies and tells Sam that her busy Fuck Week made it impossible to be available to him, which sets off a slap-in-the-head chain of events: Sam tells Jimmy that Gretchen has been banging a bunch of dudes and has kept it from him; Jimmy goes out to get laid in order to compensate, but a lame jacket filled with crumbly, old ecstasy renders him indisposed for the evening; that very night, Gretchen returns home early to seek out Jimmy’s company only to find that he’s presumably out having sex with a stranger; the next day, she finally follows through on Fuck Week, which makes Jimmy inconsolably jealous, especially because the whole affair is his fault.
“This Brief Fermata” stands out because of this sort of expert plotting, which divides Jimmy and Gretchen’s experiences and still keeps them firmly entwined. But Shih constantly emphasizes that the whole debacle could’ve been avoided if one of them decided to call it and just talk to the other. Gretchen could’ve told Jimmy that she’s not feeling Fuck Week because of her job and their stability, which might have given Jimmy an opening to tell Gretchen the truth about the florist. Or Jimmy could’ve been honest from the jump about his lapse in judgment, which would’ve saved both of them from a week of tiptoeing around each other. Pride and guilt are powerful emotions that make people take the long route to an unfortunate end.
By the end of Fuck Week, Gretchen shares her feelings with Jimmy, and he, in the most roundabout asshole way possible, tells her about the bathroom blowjob. Of course, she’s furious and hides it behind a thin veil of passive aggression (“It makes me feel better to know you’re as big of a dishonest, disgusting fucking liar as I am,” she says with a smile), and he doesn’t know where he stands. They’ve been down a similar road before, and it’s possible the whole thing amounts to a small fight amidst a vast relationship. However, the tragic part is that there’s no telling if they won’t keep tripping down the same path again and again and again. Maybe Fuck Week sets off the chain of events that leads to Jimmy’s house in escrow. Or maybe it’s another version of Fuck Week down the line that could’ve been easily avoided if only these two kids could trust each other.
- Gretchen’s Ideas For Fun: Mailbox baseball in Beverly Hills, shrooms at the Museum of Tolerance, and egging golfers at Griffith Park.
- Fun Fact #1: The Cheesecake Factory bathroom is off limits during Fuck Week because that’s exclusively for Jimmy and Gretchen.
- Fun Fact #2: Apparently guys with Golden Retrievers eat pussy.
- Fun Fact #3: Gretchen once spilled chocolate on her pants and told the dry cleaners that she’d shit herself because she didn’t want him to judge her.
- Jimmy’s jacket is so old that he finds his old Zune in the pocket!
- How did Nock Nock get his name, you ask? Well, he’s been hearing it his whole life…because he grew up with a doorbell…or a door. (Still doesn’t explain the purposeful misspelling.)
- Oh, Nock Nock will collaborate with Sam and the boys on a track. Nock Nock has been a fan of Sam’s work since “Big Titty Dreams” got him through his parents’ divorce and Sam has been a fan of Nock Nock’s work since Gretchen told him that he gets a half million monthly listens on SoundCloud.
- The You’re The Worst team created two full Nock Nock music videos “perhaps to justify the literal hours we spent in the writers room watching Soundcloud rappers’ videos,” per Stephen Falk. To honor Nock Nock signing to Caliber, both are linked below.