“K Is For Keep Out” is so much fun it flies by, as long as you don’t keep pausing to keep up with all the jokes. Like “H Is For Hostile Takeover,” it’s a rich episode, primarily because there are two separate rounds of square dancing as the characters figure out the appropriate level of expression for their feelings. There’s a lot of broad comedy, and for once it doesn’t distract from the underlying issues. It’s an exaggeration of them. For instance, instead of Stu being an obnoxious sidekick or an obnoxious date-stalker or an obnoxious everything, he’s an obnoxious roommate acting out because his best friend is abandoning him. So when Stu crawls into bed between Andrew and Zelda because he’s afraid of the storm, it doesn’t feel as real as that final phone call between Andrew and Zelda, but it fits in seamlessly nonetheless.
There’s a feeling that the central relationship is going a little too fast from the moment the narrator recaps: Andrew and Zelda met, three months later they fell in love, and now they need lots of alone time. I get that last part, but love? I’m obviously not going to define universal romantic love in this space, but they’ve only known each other for three months, and I think it’s safe to say some of that passion is covered under the honeymoon period (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s probably too rational to demand they feel comfortable living together before agreeing that what they feel toward each other is love, anyway, and besides: That’s part of the point of the episode.
That’s what’s on the table in “K Is For Keep Out.” Andrew and Zelda never get any alone time because of their roommates—Exhibit A: Stephie and Joe making out in the bathroom as Zelda makes a getaway army-crawling between their legs and Andrew just accepts he’s trapped and sits down with a magazine—so Andrew considers finding his own place. Not only is everything happening so fast, reflected in the madcap pace, but it’s all happening almost accidentally. The only reason Andrew looks for a new place is because when he asks Stu to maybe give him and Zelda a night alone together, they get into a tiff. It’s possible he wouldn’t have even gone to look for a place if Stu hadn’t already invited his new bestie Joseph to room with him. So Andrew tries to surprise Zelda with his new apartment, and she takes it as an invitation to move in together. It’s a great moment because neither want to move in together, but with Zelda, that information has to come through wordlessly because she still has to pretend for Andrew. And she does such a good job pretending that you’re not totally sure where she stands, even after she enthusiastically asks the realtor, “Ooh, is that…original linoleum?”
And after that, both Andrew and Zelda (and Stephie, who is having Joseph move in with her due to a similar misunderstanding) talk themselves into going through with it. For Andrew, it’s more about giving it a shot with Zelda, and it’s kind of surprising that such a romantic ever had cold feet, but that’s what makes him three-dimensional. For Stephie and Zelda, the reason is they can’t very well reject such offers and still complain that no guys want to settle down with them. There’s a huge middle ground there, one they discover in the end, but it’s easy to get swept up in their logic, because the episode takes that moment to let the characters reconsider and recommit to their decision for non-sitcom reasons. It’s not just about those misunderstandings anymore.
The episode is full of misunderstandings, but they feel productive in the Andrew and Zelda story, there to test how fast the characters are moving versus how fast they feel comfortable moving. So the big sitcom misunderstanding that’s most annoying occurs in the other story. Basically, Lydia picks Lora to girl talk with. What’s girl talk? Lora explains, “Well, I gather, we call each other girlfriend and remain supportive, even if the other one says something idiotic.” So Lydia confides that she has a crush on honcho Dane, and she asks, well, orders Lora to ask him out for her. Lora does so, but she does it so subtly he assumes she’s asking him out for herself. He motormouths about their scheduled date and then walks off—that, I buy—but then she just stands there silently while Lydia and then Dinesh shame her and walk off? Come on. Even if this is part of Dane’s “game,” it requires the main three characters to be far denser than they are.
There’s another snag too: Howard. I’d be happy to ignore him just like the episode does, but when you place “K Is For Keep Out” in continuity, it’s hard not to notice that just two episodes after Lydia starts to appreciate her relationship with Howard, she’s swooning over some guest star.
It’s a very funny episode, but what’s even more remarkable is how moving the resolutions are. That night, after Dane reveals he was playing a game to make Lydia jealous and the couples are finally properly arranged, Lydia gives Lora a call to apologize. That right there is development for Lydia. For her part, Lora is incredibly gracious. “It’s okay. I’ve been friends with a cool girl before.” It’s like Millie on Freaks And Geeks letting Lindsay go. Hopefully Lydia and Lora will still make time to play Uno.
Andrew and Zelda get a sweet sendoff, too. After the new apartment is nixed and everyone goes back to the way things were, the couple gets home to find Stephie and Stu have made them a feast and volunteered to give them three days of uninterrupted alone time. The mood is a little down, though. It’s dark, we don’t get a good view of the delectable dinner, the main view is a wide, empty house. Zelda says it looks so nice she’s tempted to let Stu and Stephie stick around but she doesn’t. Stu and Stephie put their heads together to peek around the door. It’s like they’re putting their kids to sleep. It’s a sweet scene, but a muted one.
That’s because of what happens with Andrew and Zelda in the scene prior, which is a phone call from one office to the other where the lovers say a hundred different ways that it’s not the right time for them to move in together. It’s not, and they know it’s not. But the fact that it’s not has them second-guessing their whole relationship. I think they might just need a good night’s sleep without Stu, but they’re both hung up on what it means that it doesn’t feel right to move in yet, and it casts a pall over that final scene with Stu and Stephie. Then again, Andrew and Zelda are only halfway through their relationship. Maybe it’s nothing.
- When Wallflower goes down for a few hours (a deliberate ploy by Lydia), Dane comes out to check up on things. Lydia sees Lora in the background and tries to cover, but Lora has to fill in the blanks. “This is…” “Lora.” “She’s the best…” “Programmer.” “…we have.”
- Hard to put in print, but Cristin Milioti has such a spontaneous delivery here: “Um, I don’t pay for hotels…in the city where I live. That is a personal rule of mine.” In these jam-packed episodes, the cast feels like a real ensemble with everyone at the top of their game: Stephie jumping on Zelda’s call with Andrew, Stu fielding the offer to go on with Joseph to a Clippers game (“Is he cool with insulting opposing players with regards to, like, the ugliness of their mothers and stuff like that?”), Lora in take your pick of scenes.
- Stephie vents to Zelda and Andrew about Joseph having a great time with Stu at the game. “One day Joseph and I are gonna get married, and Stu is gonna be his best man. He’s gonna make a speech about how he was with me first and then some weird, inappropriate joke about how the baby might actually be his.” Zelda: “You’re planning on being pregnant at your wedding?” Andrew: “Wouldn’t I be the best man? I introduced both of you.”
- Lydia at girl talk: “There’s so many barriers between Dane and I being together. I’m upper middle management, he’s lower upper management. Our worlds are too different.”
- Stephie tells Zelda how Joseph wants to move in with her now. “Yeah, I mean, I told him you were moving out, and he was like, ‘Oh, sweet, I’ll just live here.’ And I said, ‘Well, hang on, I don’t know if we’re ready for that yet,’ and he just ignored me and carried on having sex with me.”
- There was a failsafe excuse not to sign a lease on the new apartment. The realtor says, “Guys, I almost forgot to tell you. Before you sign, there’s a sex offender living downstairs. And it’s me.”
- After the Lora-Dane misunderstanding, Lora walks in on Lydia and Dinesh drinking wine. “What’s going on?” she asks. Lydia answers, “Oh, nothing. We’re just lubing up before dinner.”
- Zelda: “Stephie and Joseph are making blood sausage tonight, which is either a euphemism or the real thing. Either way, I want no part of it.”