Please Like Me has always had a manic streak, but “Amoxicillin” is just a little too silly a little too often. It’s a problem that starts with the main plots. Tom has chlamydia (fine), and he decides to sneak Ella the medication to cure the chlamydia he probably transmitted to her (a little sitcommy, but I’ll allow it), but Tom and Josh can’t figure out a way to get Ella out of the kitchen while Josh prepares her meal (is Tom that incompetent?), so Josh has to pretend he has worms (I mean, what)? Meanwhile Stewart is lying on the floor at Rose’s and refusing to leave until she forgives him. The silliness courses all through the main plot, with everyone freaking out about the worms and Josh having to play chicken with the story. And it’s even in little moments, like Arnold Googling what to do and then, I guess, changing his mind. Thank god for Ben.
Ben spends the episode alone, but he interrupts three times like some kind of parable, and his deathly presence once again rescues the episode. Part of that has to do with the rushed, recurring intro to Josh’s voice-mail: “Hello, this is Josh. I am unavailable. I’m too busy. I’m too busy for you! [Beep!]” But mostly it’s Ben, the kind of sad one-night stand trying to transcend his role, beaming back into Josh’s life from the gloomy hospital. He knows Josh has a boyfriend. He also know he (Ben) has terrible headaches and takes pleasure in his mom’s tears. “I realize that makes me a far less attractive prospect than your boyfriend and would advise against seeing me.” But he can’t help it. He wants to see Josh again. It takes three calls for him to get there, but in the end, he’s sure. “Come see me at the hospital before my aneurysm operation or you’ll look like a proper douche.”
So, since Tom and Ella explicate themselves, and the adults are embarrassing(ly simple) this week, let’s take a moment to think about what Ben’s offer entails. Has Josh told Arnold about him? They must have talked about what they did while Arnold was at maths camp by now. So I guess it’s all okay. But Arnold’s rules for an open relationship didn’t say anything about seeing the same guy more than once. And at that point it becomes even harder to keep it purely physical. Besides, Josh is going to visit Ben in the hospital. They’re not likely to do anything except talk. And this isn’t far from how Josh and Arnold got together, except that Josh and Ben have had sex a few times already. But meeting a boy in need in a hospital is becoming a pattern with Josh, who so loves to play caretaker that he’s excited to babysit on chlamydia pill night. Maybe it’s confirmation bias, but it looks to me like Ben is going to pose a problem for Josh and Arnold.
Now, letting the episode have its premise, which I maintain is way out on the end of a twig on the end of a branch on the end of a really loose limb, it does right by its characters. Claire cackles at Josh and Tom having to maintain their ridiculous story, Arnold get anxious about every little thing, Josh tries to save yet another person in his life. Everyone behaves exactly right and often very funny. Ella’s the wackiest character in the group, and she never seems as ramshackle as the wacky plot, because this is who she is. “Worms love babies,” she tells Josh. He’s not convinced. “Everyone loves babies,” she says by way of justification. That kind of cutesy thinking is just how Ella works. It’s not how most people work, which is the problem for the plot, but it’s right for Ella. When she finds out about the worms, she rolls with it, not wanting to shame anyone for bringing worms into the group, even if it was her, and secretly seeing all the positives of this unusual group bonding experience. She’s a woman who thinks it’s clever when she learns of Josh and Tom’s plan to sneak her chlamydia medication in the form of an anti-worm pill. And she’s a woman who thinks it’s funny and not at all over the line to gross Josh out by rubbing her possibly contagious vagina on his thigh (through clothes, not like an actual transmission, but he still might want to wash those pants) as revenge. Even her worst moment, breaking Tom’s toy because he won’t give her sex, is in keeping with Ella’s personality, although you’d think the breaking or at least Tom’s reaction would snap her out of it, because that is not cool. Still, in short, Ella is a keeper.
Unfortunately, Tom isn’t. It’s actually kind of valuable that he has an STI, in a representation sense. Not a lot of fictional characters grapple with that kind of thing, but a lot of real people do. The running gag in the episode is that this isn’t the first time Tom’s had chlamydia and that everyone knows it. My question is where did he get it? Off-screen sex is the obvious answer, but he couldn’t have sex with that prostitute, and he was incredibly mopey for some time, and then I guess he had unprotected sex with someone and then lied to his ensuing girlfriend about it? In the end he sees exactly where all he went wrong, even compounding his guilt with confessions we didn’t know about yet. He lied about having a clean bill of health, because he didn’t have condoms, and he didn’t want to walk across the street to buy some. Then he went through this whole worms charade, hoping to never have to tell Ella.
Ella does what she has to do. “Dammit. Now I have to get angry at you and I don’t want to get angry but I have to as a way of respecting myself.” Is this the first time Ella’s said something like that? Add her to the list of people who speak in the language of therapy. Even the parts of Please Like Me that have nothing to do with mental health marinate in those juices. But the important thing is she’s not just saying that. She is slightly falling for Tom’s feel-really-bad routine. He’s just sorry he got caught. But she isn’t letting herself be taken advantage of by another shitty guy just to not be alone. “I value myself, okay? The reason that I’m not gonna break up with you is that I too have lied to people for my own selfish reasons. I’m just a better liar than you so I got away with it.”
In other words that went about as well as it possibly could have.
- “Amoxicillin” is written by Josh Thomas and Liz Doran and directed by Matthew Saville.
- Meanwhile Alan and Mae rescue Rose and Hannah. Rose and Hannah don’t forgive Stewart, Alan doesn’t forgive Mae, nobody cleans the kitchen, we don’t get to see them all having a slumber party at Mae’s, just a waste all around.
- When Tom reveals he has chlamydia again, Josh asks, “Have you been to the doctor?” “No.” “How do you know?” “I just know, okay?”
- The thing about Tom is he’s still an irrepressible delight. He has such a funny enthusiasm in his announcement that he has chlamydia. Besides, the second doctor didn’t penetrate his penis like the first one did, meaning it was unnecessary, and now he’s confused. I suppose he has been through a lot here.
- Claire: “Okay, Tom, I need you to stop knowingly eating worm eggs, mmhmm?”
- When Josh and Tom tell Claire the truth, she thinks the only solution is to come clean to Ella. She pleads, “Please, just tell her the truth.” Josh responds, “No, not now that I’ve lied for Tom. ‘Cause then Arnold will find out, and he’ll realize what kind of people we are.”
- Ben: “To be honest, at the point when I was accosted by your awful voice-mail greeting, I hadn’t resolved my intentions as well as you might have liked, and now it seems I’ve made the same mistake twice.”
- “Why can’t you see that I’m a good man?” Stewart whines from the floor of someone else’s house he won’t leave.
- Eventually Claire gets a chance to tell Arnold the truth. “There are no worms. Tom has chlamydia.” “Again?” “Yeah.” “How are the two related?” Shortly thereafter he starts second-guessing his boyfriend for his behavior that night. Claire covers, but it’s not a cover. She’s completely sincere. “This is the nicest thing I’ve ever seen Josh do for someone.”