In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus returns home to Ithaca after a 20-year absence to find that 108 suitors are reveling in his palace and courting his wife Penelope. In order to reclaim his throne, Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar, completes a seemingly impossible archery challenge, and then kills all the suitors. It’s only then that Penelope finally recognizes her husband and welcomes her back into her life.

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“Odysseus,” the third episode of You’re The Worst’s fourth season, doesn’t pose itself as a Homeric allegory, but more like a modern twist on the last third of his epic poem. The only difference is that the Odysseus in question, Jimmy Shive-Overly, isn’t a great hero at all. Instead, he’s more of a garden-variety asshole who demands that the tables be turned upright after he flipped them over. That doesn’t exactly make him a villain, per se, but it does squarely place the sympathies onto the people he left behind, mainly Gretchen and Edgar.

In the episode, Jimmy finally returns home to find his bed occupied by Edgar and Lindsay, a horrifying relief considering he initially thought Gretchen had already moved on. After sheepishly asking Lindsay about Gretchen’s whereabouts, assuming that she’ll simply vent her anger and then go back to normal, Lindsay lies and tells him that she’s moved on. He later consults with Sam and Shitstain (HoneyNutz couldn’t make it because he’s attending his godson’s wedding, and no, they’re not sure about the math on that) who informs him that she’s been in Europe since he left. It’s only when Jimmy despondently goes to return her things to Lindsay’s apartment does he learn the truth: His abandonment devastated Gretchen rendering her a shut-in. Naturally, Jimmy is delighted by this.

Meanwhile, Gretchen learns that Jimmy has returned to Los Angeles, so she decides to avoid him and get drunk at Ty’s obnoxious yoga/crossword party filled with crunchy, granola types. She quickly finds a holdout from the festivities, Boone (Colin Ferguson), who has holed himself up in the wine closet getting drunk, but he just dismisses her as another “Ty girl.” Ty eventually enlists Boone to drive her home after she gets too drunk to drive herself, but they take a detour to a Korean karaoke bar after she accidentally sees Jimmy outside Lindsay’s apartment. Of course, Gretchen and Boone eventually fuck in his car after a couple bottles of Soju, since booze and meaningless sex is Gretchen’s coping strategies to recover from heartbreak.

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But “Odysseus” spends most of its running time leading up to Jimmy and Gretchen’s confrontation, a five-minute tour-de-force sequence that contains four seasons worth of memories, experiences, and pain. Gretchen initially travels to Jimmy’s place to respond to his “delightfully neutral and decidedly open-ended” text with the appropriate amount of rage (“HEY. DOT. DOT. DOT!”). Shaken, Jimmy and Edgar quickly follow her to outside Lindsay’s apartment where he demands to talk to her. He eventually musters out a sincere apology, claiming she didn’t deserve such ill treatment. Gretchen, exhausted and furious, ostensibly accepts it and proceeds to walk inside. You can tell that she’s not ready to forgive him, but it could be a nice note with which to begin a potential reconciliation. With that apology, there’s a damn good chance she might one day be willing to speak to him, and maybe, just maybe, take him back.

Then, Jimmy says the words, “…but you did say family” in the smuggest, most self-assured tone of voice you can imagine, and that little kernel of good will goes straight out the window. Edgar and Lindsay’s horrified reactions do the heavy lifting here as they watch the slow-motion car crash take place mere feet away.

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The problem is a simple and obvious one: Jimmy never considers how his actions affect others. Edgar has to scream it in his face for Jimmy to apologize for leaving him in the lurch, but any sensible person knows that more is required for the person whom you asked to marry. Jimmy apologizes, but still believes that he’s in the right because she accidentally triggered fearful feelings stemming from his father’s death. Though that fear might be valid, it doesn’t justify the abandonment, nor his flippant, obnoxiously casual way he approaches his reunion.

So, Gretchen, sporting the most murderous smile imaginable, feigns forgiveness, which Jimmy obviously falls for hook, line, and sinker. He breathes a sigh of relief, chocking it all up to “a crazy three months,” and excitedly goes to show the galley of his new book. He throws it to her only for her to let it drop in front of her. Still smiling like a killer, she and Lindsay leave Jimmy and Edgar on the street. In shock, Jimmy asks for Edgar’s fedora. He puts it on, and as two hobos start a garbage fire in the background, remarks that, “This is fine.” It’s unclear if he comprehends the hurt he’s caused, but he at least knows the score.

In other words, Penelope turns her back on Odysseus, refusing to embrace him after his absence, and leaving him to twist in the wind, while all of Los Angeles, and its various suitors, await her presence.

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Stray observations

  • In case it wasn’t obvious, Boone and Ty have a pretty strange, borderline-intimate relationship that neither will fully disclose to Gretchen.
  • “Ty’s parties used to be way more fun before Gavin Rossdale convinced everyone to go to AA. I mean, I didn’t bang your nanny, bro, why do we all have to be punished?”
  • “I’ve got cells you don’t even know about it.”
  • “I think I hate him and I’ve never hated anyone before, even that drill sergeant who called me ‘Egg.’”
  • “Can’t believe they have fireworks after a symphony about Mahler’s daughter’s death, and his impending death, and the death of tonality itself. But hey, modern artists need that razzle-dazzle.”
  • “You ever have a day that starts with one bad decision and then it’s just a cascade of bad decisions until you’re like, ‘Well, might as well burn down the whole town tonight.’”
  • I want to reprint Edgar’s rant to Jimmy because it’s absolutely wonderful and Desmin Borges delivers it perfectly: “Maybe she’s not texting you because she knows the only reason you’re checking in is to make yourself feel better. Yeah, maybe Gretchen wants to get on with her life and never think about you again. Maybe she thought you were DEAD, Jimmy. Checking tips on the hotline, coming home night after night to an empty house with only your scent on your pillow to cling to for comfort, until it too faded away and she was left ALL ALONE with nobody to make breakfast ramen for, alone with nothing but her scentless pillows and haunted thoughts of all the friends she lost in the war.”

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