You’re The Worst / FXX

The better choice is almost always the uncomfortable choice. Awareness might be half the battle, but actual self-improvement requires actively embracing difficulty, discomfort, and the possibility of failure. It’s easy to fall back on what’s comfortable because it’s what you know; it can’t quite let you down because your expectations are already calibrated. It’ll always flatter and will rarely challenge. It takes a leap of faith to reject that in favor of something that you don’t know or understand in the hope that you come out the other side a better person.

As soon as Boone cut short Gretchen’s International Night presentation, it set off a series of choices that leads her back into Jimmy’s arms. For International Night, Gretchen was simply supposed to pick a country and read some facts about it for the benefit of Olivia, Boone’s daughter. It’s a harmless, no-stakes activity that’s designed to broaden a child’s palate and improve their knowledge. Being Gretchen, however, she not only treats it like a legitimate competition but also fills her presentation with suggestive material for Boone’s benefit and also includes a striptease.

This season has too often relied on broad character behavior, and this scene is no exception. Gretchen might be impulsive, but she isn’t dumb, and seeing her aggressively hit on Boone in front of his six-year-old daughter stretches the limits of believability for the character. But her reaction when Boone playfully cuts the game short and crowns Olivia the winner gets to the heart of Gretchen’s problem: She wants to make the easy choice with a guy whose life has higher stakes. The game was for Olivia, not Boone, and Gretchen didn’t get that at all.

Luckily, Boone is an absurdly understanding guy and he comforts Gretchen by telling her that he makes mistakes with his daughter all the time (he once bought her a sword and lost her at a mall because he was staring at a Cinnabon too hard). But Gretchen thought she was supposed to be good at this and she isn’t succeeding right away. She makes up for it later when she feigns interest in Olivia’s book, but it’s mostly for Boone. As soon as she gets a text from Jimmy, she fakes a work emergency and heads straight to the bar. It takes all of two minutes for them to fall into old patterns—they yell at a stranger when he asks to use the empty chair next to them holding Gretchen’s bag—and then they kiss.

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Maybe Jimmy is the “easy choice,” but You’re The Worst argues he might not be the wrong choice. One of the reasons that the fourth season has been so frustrating is because it’s doing something very interesting in theory. Essentially, it argues that Jimmy and Gretchen need each other because they bring out the best in each other. On their own, they might be narcissistic monsters floundering in despair, but together, they neutralize their worst aspects. Falk and company tried to achieve this by separating Jimmy, Gretchen, and the rest of the ensemble entirely, illustrating this point via negation. This makes emotional sense because the four of them have little reason to hang out unless they’re together. Though it’s an interesting experiment, it mostly rendered the season rudderless, compounded by bringing out the worst in everybody (save for possibly Lindsay).

But in “From The Beginning, I Was Screwed,” it actually works pretty well. On his own, Jimmy attends a taping of the NPR game show Tip Of My Tongue (a loose parody of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me) hosted by Steeb Corniglia expecting to wow the crowd with his bon mots and intellect. Instead, Lindsay tips off Steeb about how Jimmy thinks he has tragic fashion sense, so Steeb, and Jimmy’s co-contestants Andy Daly and Emily Heller, spend the whole show ganging up on Jimmy. Even his planted heckle from Vernon turns into an opportunity for mockery. Out in the world without an anchor to keep him to the ground, Jimmy becomes either an unchecked asshole or a pathetic fool. With Gretchen, that might not be the case.

Lindsay and Edgar also explore their own respective abilities and limitations, albeit on a much smaller scale. Following Lou Diamond Phillips’ sage advice, Lindsay vows to help people, and starts with her ex-husband Paul, who had been arrested for driving under the influence on his bicycle. She takes him to her place where, after blaming Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the rise of the DUI industry, he mentions that he wanted to be a father so badly. It’s a sharp, well-timed moment that brings back moment the nasty demise of their marriage, and though Paul has flirted with MRA rhetoric and Richard Spencer haircuts, the show rings a surprising moment of sympathy from the guy. But before Lindsay can buck him up, he passes out on her couch.

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Meanwhile, Edgar opens up to Max, who actively encourages him to say all the things that Jimmy never cared about. These include childhood traumas (“And then in fourth grade, my friend pooped his pants so I did out too out of solidarity. I liked it…”), war tales (“So at first, we just tried sticking straws directly into the camel’s humps, but he was not having that. So I got out a grenade…”), and even stories from when he was homeless (“And I say, ‘Hey man, I’m new to Skid Row, I just took a shitload of heroin, and I need to take a nap. I’ll find you a new tent!’”). Max takes it the best he can, and responds with generosity and politeness, but it’s clear that he believes Edgar might be too much for him to handle. At the end of the day, Doug Benson gets in touch and says that Edgar will handle all high-profile sketches while he moves Max over to episode development. Jimmy was no doubt a jerk to Edgar for never allowing him to express himself, but Edgar also didn’t realize that revealing, often disturbing anecdotes shouldn’t necessarily be told all at once, especially to a new friend.

With two episodes left, it’s unclear what path You’re The Worst will take, but by bringing Jimmy and Gretchen back together, even temporarily, it’s taking necessary steps to rediscover the spark the show once had in spades. Maybe the two of them needed to be apart and fail separately in order to thrive together.

Stray observations

  • There’s also this weird, funny subplot involving Ben Folds, who has clearly become an alcoholic since his last appearance on the show. Gretchen introduces him to Sam and Shitstain, and they decide to collaborate, but by the time he arrives at the studio, he’s on a daylong bender and has sustained a serious head injury. He thinks a table is a piano.
  • Doug Benson has to board a flight to Davos because he’s hosting a forum on building investor confidence in post-civil war Moldova, and before you ask, there isn’t currently a civil war in Moldova, but he’s aiming for March.
  • “I don’t want to just throw out the phrase ‘plays over the Grey’s Anatomy credits’ but yeah…”
  • “Don’t be sleeping on Dads. Dads know how to bang down real good on account of they pregged up a bitch before.” “That tracks.”
  • “I lost a Rotisserie chicken in here somewhere and I can’t find it anywhere.”

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