With the penultimate episode of its first season, Man Seeking Woman abruptly shifts perspective and in doing so, delivers its best installment yet. In the opening scene, Josh wonders aloud to Mike what dating is like for women, how easy it must be. We cut to a clinically polite goodbye between the now broken up Leo and Liz and a familiar downpour, complete with hail and dive-bombing birds, hands the narrative off to Liz. “Teacup” fits easily within the world of the series and it’s great to see Simon Rich already start changing up the series’ point of view, if not format, within the first season. The fantastical sequences remain, but switching protagonists gives Woman Seeking Man a distinctly different tone and subtext, a welcome change of pace for the series. Josh, the 27 year-old sadsack temp, wading into the murky waters of the dating world is a very different story than Liz, the 29 year-old workaholic lawyer, doing the same and the writers are well aware of this.
While there are plenty of laughs throughout the episode, “Teacup” has a notably darker and more dour feel than the rest of the season, highlighting Liz’s insecurities at every turn and not backing away from the claustrophobia she feels. Her chance to have the life she’s planned for herself is slipping away—or so the young girls at the tea party argue, laying out the math countless single woman Liz’s age (who want to get married and have children) have done—and there’s a palpable dread as Liz stares at her calendar, her 30th birthday looming. Several episodes this season have centered on fears or insecurities, but none have had “Teacup”’s specificity. Josh wants to find a girlfriend; Liz is worried she’ll miss her window and wind up childless and alone. The higher stakes of Liz’s situation, at least as she currently sees it, add weight to the episode and make each victory and defeat all the more impactful.
Throughout the season, Josh has been very much the everyman, his work life and much of his history left intentionally unexplored. Liz is much more distinctly drawn. After this episode, viewers know more about her life, her fears, her desires, and her plans for herself than they do any one aspect of Josh and this detail makes Liz instantly relatable. Whereas Josh doesn’t know what he wants in a partner, Liz has too concrete an idea, and her lack of flexibility isolates her. She may be shooting herself in the foot in the dating world with her impossible standards, but it’s hard to argue with some of her rejections—too cocaine-y, indeed—and her pickiness gives the episode its most memorable sequence. Liz’s channeling of Dr. Frankenstein is fun, stylish, and as with the tea party, underlines its humor with social commentary. Josh speculates that women have an easier time dating because they control access to sex, but sex drive is so low on Liz’s list of priorities in a partner she forgets to make sure her creation is interested in women, though it could also be argued this is a statement of her privilege in the dating world: as a beautiful woman, she assumes any man would love to date her. Just as pointed is the sequence’s closing line; Liz’s assistant Igor spits out, “Bitch” with startling vitriol when she rejects his unwanted advances, an example of how quickly a seemingly friendly acquaintance can turn ugly.
The closing sequence, a twist on Josh’s date with Gorbachaka in “Lizard,” sees Liz out on a blind date with former childhood friend Chip, who is a terrible date, at least until Liz downs a couple Manhattans and a bottle of wine. The dinner is fun and one many victims of terrible setups will recognize, with Chip prattling on about the history of accounting without ever answering Liz’s actual question, what it means to him. Chip’s butchering of movie quotes is reminiscent of Josh and Laura’s awkward Must Love Dogs exchange, but by asking Liz about her job and then saying the magic words, “It is right around the corner,” Chip turns the whole evening around, at least for a while. No spiral eyes required. Unfortunately, taking a chance on a robot (quite a step down from her reconstructed Mr. Almost Perfect) doesn’t work out for Liz, as Chip bails on her the instant he completes his sex sequence, utterly uninterested in her pleasure or feelings. This parallels Josh’s treatment of several of the women he’s dated over the course of the series, particularly Maude, and it’s nice to see the other side of the equation finally represented.
Any one of the setbacks Liz faces in “Teacup” would be difficult to take, so it’s not surprising when Chip’s departure—leaving a path of destruction in his wake—finally wears her down. Britt Lower is fantastic throughout the episode, as she has been all season, and one of her best scenes is the final one, as Liz sits alone looking at pictures of her and Leo and then is cheered up by Josh. Lower makes Liz exhausted and uncertain, but not overwhelmingly so. This isn’t the end of the world, it’s just been a really long day and with nothing else to distract her from her thoughts, she can’t help but wallow a bit. Thankfully, Josh stumbles in unaware, offering encouragement and a problem for her to solve. It’s a beautifully small moment and a great way to end the show’s detour into Liz’s experience. Man Seeking Woman will undoubtedly return to Josh for the season finale, but hopefully, given the success of “Teacup,” the writers will change up the series’ perspective at least once or twice in season two, giving voice to different spheres of the dating world.
- There are a lot of fun lines in the episode, but it’s hard to top the tea party and the delivery of, “You’re older than bones!”
- However, Lower manages to do it with her pep talk in the bathroom mirror: “You’re still young. You’re… attractive. And making partner is right around the corner!”
- A quick note to Liz: Every time you’re worried about your 30th birthday, just remember- the fabulous Mary Richards started over at 30, and you already have a great job. Ignore those seven year old bitches, you’re ahead of the game!
- The production elements of the central sequence are delightful, particularly Liz’s hair, the score, and the lighting. It’s the series’ most direct homage yet, and it absolutely works.
- Two fantastic uses of sound: the dead silence after Liz’s tea party nemesis lays out her relationship math and the sound effect for Chip’s condom
- The most relatable component of Liz’s Mr. Right? “The neighborhood proximity of that guy in my building who died last year!”