Photo: Christos Kalohoridis/FXX Network

There’s a poetic quality to feeling a bit let down by this week’s episode—the disappointment mirrors Lucy’s in “Shrimp,” in onset and duration. But after the heightened unreality of “Popcorn,” this midseason offering feels just a little too ordinary. ”Shrimp” isn’t a misstep, really—there was bound to be some spinning of wheels elsewhere in MSW’s world, since there was little hesitation or interference regarding the now central romance. It’s a breath, and that’s fine, but it didn’t have me doubled over in laughter or anything.

Lucy and Josh’s lives are mostly in sync now, except for their professional trajectories. Josh is still killing time (presumably; I honestly don’t know what he aspires to do) as an office manager, while Lucy is in high demand as a graphic artist. They end up at many a swanky shindig, where the booze flows freely—for everyone except Josh, that is. His resentment grows with every tray of cocktail shrimp that walks by him. We’ve seen this frustration in Josh before, back when he was a temp. Its return hinges upon him once more worrying about being good enough for Lucy. We got a bit of this in the premiere, and it’s probably not going to go away, but it’s too early in the season for a retread. The sudden step back loses some of the momentum.

The quibbling over the bill was amusing, because that’s a familiar anxiety/ongoing concern for anyone stuck in administrative purgatory like Josh. But that extended gag (it felt like it went on longer than most) wasn’t quite funny enough to be the only developed bit. MSW regularly works topical concerns into its dating scenarios, so climate change might be the issue being referred to in this Day After Tomorrow parody. There’s a perfect storm of expensive tastes, excitement over Lucy’s success, and Josh’s minuscule resources, which leads to him blowing up at her new colleagues. That is, until she offers to pay. The bill is soon settled, but not the matter of income disparity.

It sucks that someone’s success—let alone someone you love—could rankle you so. But the ugly, petty side of relationships is something Man Seeking Woman has never shied away from. Jason Belleville’s script touches on Josh’s insecurities about his finances and career (or lack thereof). It’s good to know that they haven’t magically disappeared just because he’s in love, though we do see that he takes real comfort in that fact. But this latest trip through Josh’s self doubt isn’t nearly as compelling as previous jaunts. It was good to see both Mike and Liz get some screen time, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the MSW team was burning through a half hour.

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Josh’s bad manners have consequences, though they’re not made entirely clear. Lucy’s definitely upset, but she initially just retreats. That seems to be in character for her, and her evasion leads to Josh’s ill-advised attempts at handcrafting an apology gift. I’m not sure what Josh’s lack of artistic ability is supposed to represent, except that perhaps he and Lucy don’t have as much in common as they thought. It could also mean that he simply misinterpreted Lucy’s feelings about their different socioeconomic levels, which hadn’t really come to light before, despite that trip to her parents’ place. Then again, sometimes a painting of a guy sucking a dog’s dick is just a painting of a guy sucking a dog’s dick.

By the time we reach the reconciliation—and Josh has depicted himself pleasuring multiple animals, who nonetheless all have the same sex catchphrase—it’s more than a little confusing. Early on, he’s reminded by a creepy little kid that he’s unsuccessful; at episode’s ends, he opens up to Lucy about those feelings. So she asks him to stop trying to be a cool guy, and just go back to being the guy she fell for in the first place. But Josh didn’t do much other than sulk and paint this episode, so that reaction doesn’t quite jibe with what their seeming conflict is—money and resentment. Their rush to make up might end up being a bad sign, and their spat could be recalled in a later episode, which might make it worth it. But for all the food (even if it was mostly small plates), this episode feels slight.

Stray observations

  • As noted, “Shrimp” was written by Jason Belleville, who also wrote “Popcorn.” This week’s episode was directed by Andrew DeYoung (of “Horse” and 555, a webseries I’m very curious about). Yes, I’m going to go back and add this writer/director info to previous reviews.
  • “That woman thinks she’s a writer, but McSweeney’s disagrees.” I heard that.
  • Liz’s interpretation of the dog fellatio tableau is that it was Josh’s idea, and the dog is “just going along with it.”
  • I’m sorry about the poor quality of the screenshots, but I found the episodic images lacking. Besides, it would have been an affront to Josh’s painting skills not to include one of his works.
  • The cast was good, as usual, but there were no real standouts this week, which is kind of surprising. No one goes out of their way to outshine the other, but I think, up until now, the episodes have showcased each actor’s talents. I’m still waiting on my Liz episode, though.

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