You’re The Worst has frequently excelled at introducing broad premises and deepening them so slowly and effectively that oftentimes you don’t notice when shit becomes real. That’s arguably the basis of the original series—two commitment-phobic, toxic narcissists enter into a relationship—but that one’s a bit obvious; the issue wasn’t when Falk and co. were going to take Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship seriously, but how. So let’s look at some other past storylines: Lindsay and Paul’s marriage, initially the butt of bored housewife and nebbishy companion jokes slowly morphs into a portrait of a doomed marriage desperately trying to pull out of a ditch but ultimately failing. There’s Edgar’s PTSD, always treated sensitively but still relegated to supporting character fodder until the series’ fully reckoned with it to devastating effect. Finally, Gretchen’s clinical depression, depicted initially as another detached character trait quickly becomes an intense look at how mental illness, when untreated, can stymie personal growth.
If you’ve been following my recaps, it might be obvious that I’ve been kind of struggling with this season of You’re The Worst. While the series hasn’t crossed into “bad” territory, an unlikely move considering the pedigree of those on and behind the screen, it has demonstrated a disparate focus this year that’s clearly purposeful but nevertheless scans as opaque to me. It’s entirely possible I’m not enjoying the ride as much as before, even though it’s been fun so far. It’s also possible that I haven’t had anything tangible to latch onto yet.
“There’s Always A Back Door” is the season’s best episode by far, not just because it’s a great showcase for the series’ dark humor and beating heart, but it also goes to great lengths to clarify the season’s approach. Though the episode starts with classic hijinks—Gretchen’s new hookup has a kid instead of a wife; Edgar takes Jimmy out for a bonding date; Lindsay tries to become friends with her co-workers—it quickly reveals a subtler core: Everyone’s outgrowing each other, and they’re only slowly realizing it. “There’s Always A Back Door” captures the moment of transition when relationships begin to die and new ones begin to form.
Let’s start with the smallest story: Lindsay’s attempts to branch out from Gretchen since she’s spending all her time with Boone. A distracted Gretchen advises Lindsay to shed her professional persona and become more of “herself” in the workplace. So, naturally, she shows her true obnoxious colors. She saunters into work smoking a cigarette wearing her best badass attire, makes a mess of the coffee maker, and tells pedophile jokes and overly revealing stories about her Coachella hook-ups. Naturally, it doesn’t go over well with her colleagues, who politely put up with it but then lie when Lindsay asks them to hang out after hours. She eventually discovers her co-workers performing karaoke without her, which sends her back to her apartment where she cracks wise and licks her wounds with Edgar.
Speaking of Edgar, his heartbreaking story with Jimmy might best illustrate the episode’s conceit. After hearing Doug Benson and a fellow writer (Johnny Pemberton) talk about their close relationships with their best friends, Edgar decides to take Jimmy, still spiraling into delusional, megalomaniacal narcissism following Gretchen’s latest tryst with Boone, out for dinner. It begins exactly how you’d imagine: Jimmy yammers on about how Gretchen will inevitably crawl back to him and the upcoming Romance & Erotica Book Expo (he’s right about it being a terrible name) that he’s chosen not to attend, while Edgar struggles to get a word in. Just as Edgar tries to make his intentions clear, Vernon and Paul, now an avowed men’s rights activist and sporting a Richard Spencer haircut, make an appearance and throw the whole night off track.
Then Jimmy does something entirely in character and truly mean: He’s completely honest with Edgar and tells him that he has absolutely zero interest in becoming his close friend. Geere has played up the more noxious traits of Jimmy this season, especially his caddish behavior with Gretchen, partly because the character has been elevated to villainous status, but his flat rejection of Edgar takes the cake. In an attempt to wall himself off from others to protect his own feelings, he has thrown away the one guy who actually stuck around. To add insult to injury, he opens up with Vernon and Paul as soon as Edgar storms off.
But then “There’s Always A Back Door,” credited to Philippe Iujvidin, does something completely obvious but entirely organic: It falls back on the Edgar-Lindsay relationship that has slowly but surely grown over four years. In one brief scene, You’re The Worst illustrates how Edgar and Lindsay have arguably grown closer than either of their original friends. They have a natural rapport, they’re both independent, and they understand each other’s foibles. Edgar may have forever lost Jimmy as a companion (and, honestly, good riddance), but in the process, he’s gained a life and a partner beyond him, and the same goes for Lindsay. People mature at different rates, and any given relationship’s needs change so rapidly that it might take a bit for someone to catch up.
On that note, there’s Gretchen and Boone, her latest hook-up. Though Gretchen believes that Boone is married and thus a part-time fling, the pre-credits sequence confirms that he’s in fact divorced from his wife Whitney (Anne Dudke), who has remarried to French horn-playing Neil (Brendan Jennings), and they have a daughter named Olivia (Keiry Baker). One afternoon after Gretchen and Boone have sex, in what Gretchen thinks is a “married” bed, she sees a text from Olivia saying that she’s on her way home. Gretchen ducks out of the house, believing that she has just missed Boone’s wife.
This premise leads to a farcical exchange between the two of them (“I found one of her toys yesterday!” “So! They’re all over the house!”), but it also opens the doors for whole new emotional territory once Gretchen learns the full truth. Once Gretchen learns that Boone is divorced and has a daughter, she lets it spill to him that she liked believing he was married because then she doesn’t have to invest anything in it. He walks away and so does she, but then Gretchen does something different: She decides to wait outside Boone’s house in the hope that he’ll come back and fight for her.
He ultimately does go back outside to throw the garbage out and he sees Gretchen sitting on the curb chain-smoking cigarettes. She then admits to him that she thinks she deserves to have someone fight for her and that she needs to give people a chance to do so. That’s a sweet statement on the surface, but the subtext of that provides it with extra weight: She’s done waiting for Jimmy to keep fighting for her. He stuck around through the depression but when she made a gesture towards commitment, he ran for (or, rather, from) the hills. There are only so many chances a person can give to another in the hope that they become the best version of themselves. But Gretchen learns from her relationship with Jimmy in that she needs to start from a less guarded, more open place to allow others the opportunity to know her.
Meanwhile, Jimmy learns the painful, but simpler lesson about letting go. After receiving a text from Lindsay that Gretchen was about to break up with Boone, he rushes back to his place, opens up a bottle of booze, pours two glasses, and waits for Gretchen to return. Hours later, the bottle’s empty but her glass is still full. Despite his earlier selfish, shitty behavior, Jimmy’s pain still resonates (credit to Geere for communicating internalized emotions so well), and when he finally confirms to Candace that he’ll attend the expo, it signals a step in a healthy direction. Gretchen’s gone for the foreseeable future, maybe forever, and there’s no sense in holding onto something that you previously abandoned.
Everyone on You’re The Worst is moving on, and for the first time this season, it’s unclear where they will actually end up.
- There wasn’t a good place for this in the above recap, but this episode is hilarious and features some of the best lines of the season. My favorites will be below.
- The best visual gags are as follows: Paul with the Spencer-esque haircut, and Paul getting decked in the restaurant, a la Richard Spencer.
- Props to Colin Ferguson, who has a funny delivery and seems to be the most naked person so far this season.
- “Come watch me play piano. I just learned ‘City of Stars’!” “Isn’t that like four notes?”
- “Sounds like me and Carlos…Mencia. We ride our Ducati’s down PCH every Sunday and then we just chat for hours.”
- “What’s the word, it’s like bad but involves other people.” “Carsick, hard fart, murder.”
- “So I’m at Coachella and Hozier kicks me out of his trailer and I’m already sore, and then there’s Father john Misty all cranked up and ready to go, so I’m like alright, I guess we’re doing this.”
- “She doesn’t have pubes! And I just said that! Wow, okay!”
- “A family of raccoons has taken residence in the box spring that Gretchen jettisoned into the front yard, so that’s a dangerous wild card.”
- “We look like the poster from Rounders! So tight!”
- “I’ll have a vodka soda, and no, I’m not trying to rape you.”
- “No, Gretchen, he killed the kid. That’s the joke.”
- “So Jimmy’s actions are vilified and yet Julia Roberts’ antics in Runaway Bride are delightful and quirky. Nauseating.”
- “I went to the circus for lunch.”