Here I was starting to worry that season-opening pact I found so invigorating would be forgotten. At the least it was overblown, but we’re talking about a teenager in the dead of night in Chatswin after all. The sitcom status quo is so magnetic that it wouldn’t have been surprising for Tessa to team up with Dalia a few episodes after sealing her anti-Chatswin vow with fire. And the season itself keeps threatening to relax the vow, although George’s dog-pamperer girlfriend has both feet on the ground and Tessa and Dalia don’t reach an agreement so much as wear each other out. Besides, look at the plots: Dividing up territory, icing out new friends, breaking down anger management training in order to restore chaos. Just last week Tessa joined a literal cult, which if you ask me is somewhat more dangerous than getting your nails done every now and then, but that’s part of the point. Suburgatory has never blindly endorsed the Altmans. Their vow to resist the lure of Chatswin is no different.
So just what does that vow entail? Initially it’s a statement of principles. George and Tessa are not Chatswin people. That is, they do not belong in country clubs, they do not decorate with extravagant see-through nothings, they do not associate with plastics, no matter how pretty Ryan Shay is. Implicitly it’s also a planted flag. Tessa’s long held that her urban values are the way forward, although what those are tends to come down to some snobby sense that she’s really lived because of where her parents happened to raise her.
“About A Boy-Yoi-Yoing” makes all of that explicit. It turns out there are actual stipulations in the anti-Chatswin pact, like no clubs and parties are optional. For Tessa, this means not indulging Evan Fievel Abramowitz in his pirate-themed party at the kosher Japanese restaurant. The broad idea I get—Tessa learns that being mean to Chatswinites isn’t part of the deal. It’s the nitty-gritty that has some holes. Like since when are Lisa and Malik friends with Evan? If they’re just humoring him out of suburban politeness or something, what compels them to go all out with the costume and gift compliments? And what does it mean for Tessa, in her words, to have crossed the line she’s drawing between herself and Chatswin?
What really stands out about “About A Boy-Yoi-Yoing” is the sharp visual play. There are cutaway gags galore, mostly actual flashbacks like the shot of Tessa talking willow Smith or Katie the two-faced klepto “finding” a pathetic new bag, which are typically how these gags work. But there are also in-scene cutaways, like Vikram dancing to celebrate overtaking Evan in perfect attendance. The best is when Tessa asks if she can sit with Lisa and Malik the day after embarrassing them and humiliating Evan. Suddenly the shot of all three of them cuts to a close-up of Lisa in profile and ping-pongs between her and Malik as they banter. “She doesn’t know.” “She wouldn’t care.” “She might.” The whole episode is thoughtfully accentuated like this, like the way the juice cabinets are backlit. New York is incredible, all those extras pouring past George and Fred, bumping into them, coughing, knifing free Fred’s fanny pack. On a show with such stylized performance and writing, some visual panache is the goji-infused cherry on top.
The reason Fred and George go to New York brings us back to the pact. It starts with Fred feeling the cold shoulder from George lately. Actually it starts with a spectacular joke about borrowing a cup of milk. But the point is George’s pact has hurt Fred. So he agrees to do something cool, manly, and out of the house with Fred, who, being Fred, has just the thing: A juice bar! It’s called A Pressed Nation, too, which adds to how perfect it is as a test of George’s conviction. On the one hand, George loves the juices. (And the whole episode I was expecting the shoe to drop about how it runs right through you. Maybe Dallas’ bathroom customers just have small bladders.) On the other, membership in a juice club is exactly the kind of suburban thing George is trying to stay away from. But back on the original hand, what could possibly be his problem with juice bars? I can see taking a stand against the shallowness of bauble decor or the extravagant waste of a country club, but juice?
To stick to or regain his principles, George decides to take a New York day. Fred: “You don’t have to ask me once!” As much as I cringe for Fred being the adult parallel to Evan, the shoe fits. At least George genuinely appreciates him. Maybe there’s hope for Evan. Anyway, New York turns out to be dark, stinky, crowded, and dangerous, and it drives George back to the juice bar. Which brings us back to the pact. What now? The plotting is fuzzy in a lot of places—at what point in the bathroom, for instance, does Tessa change her mind about attending the party?—but in this case, that’s probably because there are still several episodes left in the season to see exactly what becomes of the pact. “About A Boy-Yoi-Yoing” is just a step.
- Unfortunately the pact means the Altmans don’t get to see Chatswin Elementary’s twerkathon to end gun violence. It also means no open-house walk-in bra closets for George.
- I also don’t understand why Tessa couldn’t just tell Evan that she doesn’t want to go or be his friend and cite literally every episode he’s been in, but I do love Jane Levy playing stone-faced.
- Everything out of Chris Parnell’s mouth is great this week: “We can bro down until the cows come home, by which I mean Sheila, by which I mean she has big, tender brown eyes—please don’t tell Sheila I called her a cow.”
- I love how proud Evan is to be described as indiscriminately horny.
- Malik: “Did Steve Urkel do that for nothing?”
- The More You Know: It’s called SCUBA because you can’t get pregnant if you have sex in the water. Sperm Cannot Underwater Be Activated.