“All About That Paper” is a deceptively light episode of You’re The Worst. It’s far and away the most low-stakes, wacky-concept episode of the series. Credited writers Franklin Hardy & Shane Kosakowski came up with A-, B-, and C-stories where even the loglines are jokes: Jimmy hangs out with an eccentric writer at a strip club and a nursing home!; Gretchen quells and then reignites a rap beef between Sam, Honey Nutz, and Shitstain!; Edgar learns how to overcome fear through a terrible improv comedy duo! Nothing of consequence really happens in this episode besides premise-driven stories that begin and end fairly neatly, and that are also quite funny to boot.
Don’t get it twisted: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. I was expecting a fairly light, more conventional You’re The Worst episode to come up in the pipeline, and since it has fully sketched out its four main characters by this point, it can successfully place them in classical sitcom situations without sacrificing the series’ voice. The pre-credits sequence sets up the typical relationship behavior that Jimmy and Gretchen believe they’re above—“checking in” throughout the day—that provides the structural backbone for the episode with the two of them texting each other snarky comments all day, basically staying in constant contact without once realizing that they’ve actually been “checking in” the whole time. The two of them meet up at the bar later. They ask each other about their days. Fade out on a comforting, funny, sweet episode of television.
But there’s still three minutes left, and those three minutes remind me how You’re The Worst can quietly devastate and shock like few other half-hour “comedies.”
Before we get there, let’s break down the three main stories in the episode. First, Jimmy spends time with fellow writer Jonathan R. Strasburg (played by the wonderful Roger Bart), who needs help researching his next book. Jimmy believes Jonathan is an admirer of his work, but it turns out he’s just a eccentric nut who pops pills, shits at strip clubs, and spouts garbage like how “some of the best writers in the world have never written a word.” Bart gives a great performance as the type of writer who believes that writing comes from “lived experiences” like causing chaos at a nursing home instead of, you know, actually writing. He’s mostly responsible for elevating this story above classic clichés, but Hardy & Kosakowski pepper in some wonderful one-liners, like how Jonathan has a “strip club wife,” and just the idea that he steals checkers to feel alive. Unfortunately, Jimmy can also be accused of similar, albeit less obnoxious and destructive behavior this season. But there’s hope for him yet: Despite Jonathan’s praise of his work, Jimmy has no interest in working for him and instead becomes inspired to write a second novel for no other reason than not to end up the guy who runs into traffic yelling, “I’m a writer!”
Meanwhile, Honey Nutz and Shitstain burst into Gretchen’s office and tell her that they’ve uploaded some of their own material they recorded after Sam didn’t show up to the studio. The two of them put Gretchen in charge of telling Sam, who in response built a “panic fort” and dropped a diss track online (apparently, Honey Nutz rhymes with Honey Butts!). But when Gretchen sets up a meeting between the three of them and they reconcile, she gets a notification that their rap beef has gone viral, thus forcing her to construct confrontation between the three of them. The scene with Sam, Honey Nutz, and Shitstain yelling absolute nonsense at each other in the diner as people record it all around them is quite funny, especially because the three of them struggle to come up with biting insults and keep circling back to “sucking dicks” and eventually concluding it with screaming, “Rap beef!” Again, this is just another funny subplot containing the episode’s best sight gag (Sam’s panic fort) and a reliably compelling look into the nuanced personal lives of You’re The Worst’s favorite hip-hop trio.
Finally, there’s Edgar’s brief story where he learns some valuable lessons about overcoming fear from Nathan & (Tall) Nathan, an obnoxious, unfunny improv duo played by Dan Klein and Echo Kellum. I’ll admit that this didn’t do much for me, not because I have anything invested in the integrity of improv (I don’t), but because watching purposefully unfunny comedy is an inherently hit or miss prospect, and also because it wasn’t really developed beyond “Edgar gets pulled into an improv scene and treats its mundane lessons like stone-cold truth.” It just sort of started and stopped after two scenes, but at least there was the shot of Edgar writing, “Trust your instincts!” on his arm.
I haven’t mentioned Lindsay’s story up until this point because the meat of it takes place after the “conventional” portion of “All About That Paper” has concluded. Basically, Lindsay gets served with divorce papers and confronts Paul about it saying that she’s going to find a way to win him back. What’s that way? By defrosting Paul’s sperm that’s been sitting in a tied off condom in the freezer. What follows is some deadly combination of hysterical, desperate, and absurd. While Lindsay defrosts the sperm, Edgar arrives at her door ready to proclaim his feelings. Lindsay all but pushes him away from her only to find out that the condom has exploded in the microwave. Scraping the sperm from the microwave walls, she places it in a cup and is ready to insert it inside her via a turkey baster, only for her to recoil from, presumably, the heat of the substance. She then inserts a Popsicle inside her to cool off, all while Edgar, who had pumped himself up just moments earlier, stunned in silence watching the scene.
It’s a funny scene with really depressing implications. Lindsay is so desperate to hold onto both her pride and past life that she would impregnate herself with Paul’s sperm just so he won’t leave her for another (wonderful) woman. Before she goes about this absurd plan, she’s drunkenly watching old videos of her and Paul during a happier time, wishing that it could return to normal. Though it’s clear this plotline is nowhere near finished, that final scene with Lindsay leaves a sour aftertaste because of the emotions that lie underneath the manic exterior.
But it doesn’t hold a candle to the following scene when we basically see Gretchen sneak out of Jimmy’s house while he’s sleeping with only her jacket and her burner phone to drive off to an unknown location. What’s great about this final button is that we know almost nothing about the nature of Gretchen’s secret except that it is almost certainly a breach of trust. That this moment comes after nineteen minutes of the most comfortable couple rapport we’ve seen so far with Jimmy and Gretchen is devastating, but completely and totally in line with the character’s behavior. You’re The Worst centers on self-destructive, insecure people who are their own worst enemies, so of course Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship will have problems beyond, “Where do I put my stuff?” and “Should I get a family plan for my cellphone?” There are unavoidable cracks in their foundation simply because of who they are and while they’ve certainly been better about addressing those cracks, bringing it to the forefront doesn’t obscure the really deep ugliness that rests below. Where is Gretchen going? Who knows? She could be going somewhere entirely mundane and normal. But that last close-up shot of her facing driving in the dark all but screams, “There’s a bad moon on the horizon.”
- Jonathan Strasburg’s books include Brunching With Vagabonds, The Milk-Weed (?) of July, and In Keeping With Clem.
- A pregnant Becca returns! She’s still as condescending and explosive as ever.
- I do love the running joke of Sam, Honey Nutz, and Shitstain just uploading stuff onto the Internet instead of slowly rolling it out like a traditional publicist would probably prefer.
- Apparently, Honey Nutz once slept with a UCLA German professor. Good on you, Honey Nutz.
- Strasburg’s best shits are in the strip club. He has no idea why.
- Lindsay acting upset about Paul and Amy’s ASL was very funny.
- “Scrambled eggs? A dish so pedestrian its name is the recipe.”
- “Oh my God, their kids are gonna be so dumb. They’ll be like, ‘Let’s order some heroin!’ ‘Uh, how do you use a phone?’”
- “Your ability to bend semantics to best fit your financial interests is quite impressive.”
- “Alright, I’m gonna kick it under that tree with this popcorn catalogue real quick.”
- “Last time he was mad, he cried for a week. Then he burned down my mom’s tool shed. Now she’s keeping all her rakes in the kitchen like a chump.”
- “Who wants to play a gay banana?”
- “Spinderella would never hack a brother’s Netflix queue. I had like 500 things I wanted to watch. Now the only thing I can remember is Peaky Blinders!”
- For those of you who are interested, the episode closes with the song “New Skin” by Torres off her new album Sprinter. Both the song and her album are great. Check it out below.