The theme of this week’s overstuffed episode of You’re The Worst is diminished expectations. Everyone has a certain vision for who they want to be or what they want out of any given situation, and though sometimes things work out in your favor, odds are that the reality never lives up to the fantasy. Jimmy desperately wants to be a literary titan, dropping names like Faulkner and Kafka in his pitch meeting with a production company, but he ends up writing the official novelization of NCIS: LA. Gretchen wants to move past exclusively discussing men with Lindsay, but ultimately finds her sudden, intense interest in politics to be disappointing and alienating. Edgar tries to transcend his veteran identity by taking up improv classes, but impresses the girl he’s interested in with war stories. Life never works out exactly the way you want it to, which is a perennial disappointment that no one ever fully shakes, but the sooner one gets used to the contours of a new reality, the more content they’ll inevitably become.
The main problem with “We Can Do Better Than This” is that it’s too jam-packed with divergent plots that don’t tie together all that well, rendering the episode a little weightless compared to this season’s previous installments. Jimmy’s writers block, Gretchen’s feminist quest, and Edgar’s travails with improv are all nice and often funny on their own, but when thrown together in one episode, none of them really make a strong impression. Plus, unlike last week’s episode, “We Can Do Better Than This” doesn’t have a strong enough structure to keep the pacing tight and the stories grounded. “We Can Do Better Than This” is by no means a bad episode, and incidentally features some of the biggest laugh-out-loud moments of the season, but it’s simply just a bit slight for most of its running time until a Hail Mary shot at poignancy in the last 30 seconds.
Let’s start with Jimmy’s writing struggles, easily the best subplot in the episode. Finding it difficult to navigate the dense mythology of NCIS: LA and constructing a story that, according to Killian, doesn’t track, Jimmy wallows in self-pity at his supposedly fraudulent status as a writer. When Edgar invites him to his improv teacher’s show, Jimmy initially mocks Edgar brutally, but then decides to go anyway to gain back his confidence by yelling out some “well-constructed” heckles at the troupe. However, he ends up surprisingly impressed with their ability to come up with ideas on the spot, and becomes convinced he’s just a “visitor in this world.” But when Jimmy return to his apartment, he finds Gretchen looking through his “erotic tales” he wrote when he was 11, writing he routinely jerks off to (Gretchen describes this as “the most Jimmy thing [he’s] ever done”). She admits to him that they’re “hella hot,” finally giving him an idea for his next novel: This generation’s Portnoy’s Complaint. Though I’ve had issues with the “Jimmy’s writer’s block” stories before, this one worked mostly because it was a little more specific than previous outings. It focuses on the actual effects of writer’s block, which is mainly self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy, constantly distracting oneself from actually sitting down and putting words on the page. Plus, the actual zinger of Jimmy writing erotic fiction is fantastic mostly because it’s obvious in retrospect but really funny in the moment.
Then there’s Gretchen and Lindsay and their attempts to venture outside of the conversational death knell of men. After Gretchen demands that she and Lindsay talk about a diverse range of topics because they’re “complex women with rich inner lives.” But when Lindsay starts searching the Internet for discussion topics without the constant distraction of men, she ends up going down an information rabbit hole about a bevy of hot political topics—ISIS, Benghazi, global warming—and becomes immediately active in local and national politics putting Gretchen way off. Fortunately, she comes back down to Earth when Gretchen lets her know that Amy, Paul’s boyfriend, will be the official ASL translator at a Beyoncé show (“She’s finger-singing Beyoncé!”). Though occasionally funny, the plot itself is a little tired (there’s a Seinfeld episode with a very similar plotline) and doesn’t really gain enough steam to make any traction. However, I enjoyed the meta-commentary of Gretchen and Lindsay struggling to pass the Bechdel Test despite their obvious complex interiority, implicitly worrying about not being feminist enough for society.
Last but not least, “We Can Do Better Than This” features Edgar’s recurring trials with his improv troupe. I was a little more impressed with this than last week, mostly because the episode spent much more time on it than “All About That Paper,” but it still feels a little bit trivial more than anything else. However, it’s heartening that “We Can Do Better Than This” spends more time with the actual comedians rather than on the purposefully unfunny improv itself. Echo Kellum returns as Tall Nathan who’s now jealous of Dorothy’s admiration of Edgar after learning that he’s a veteran. It ultimately feels a little bit like a table-setting measure for something coming down the pipeline.
Speaking of table-setting, “We Can Do Better Than This” returns again to Gretchen sneaking out of Jimmy’s apartment with her shoes and her burner phone, but this time we learn that Jimmy is at least aware of Gretchen’s absence. It’s an interesting turn of events and sheds some light on their own concealed feelings about it. Though we don’t know where Gretchen goes or what she’s doing, knowing that both parties are aware of the transgression, it’s clear that neither of them want to talk about the creeping elephant in the room: Jimmy and Gretchen would rather have fun and ignore the ugly realities of their relationship than confront them head on. Given who these characters are, this makes complete sense. Among other things, Jimmy and Gretchen are classic ignorers, people who would rather live with a broken relationship than do the work necessary to mend it. They find comfort in the simple and the easy, like mutually masturbating over pre-pubescent erotic fiction, but have difficulty with the harder stuff. You know, like people. But they’re both gonna reach a point where improv shows, crappy reality TV, and erotica won’t be enough to distract them from the hell coming around the corner.
- Biggest laugh of the night designed exclusively for me: Gretchen and Edgar’s fear that Jimmy is writing recaps for a living. “Are you grading this episode?” Edgar says with palpable terror. Brilliant.
- Jimmy is interested in novelizing films like Seven Samurai, The 400 Blows, and Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. They don’t all have numbers in them.
- Gretchen and Lindsay appalling behavior in the frozen yogurt shop is hilarious, especially Lindsay’s shrug and just dropping her yogurt on the floor.
- My favorite of Jimmy’s pre-written heckles: 1. “That was funny! Not the scene. I was just thinking about the student loans you’ll never pay off.”; 2. “Callback? Your parents called me back—they hate you!”; and 3. “I haven’t seen this many white guys since I left Manchester—which is 88.9% white according to the 2001 UK Census, although the borough of Oldham is diversifying.”
- “Now, as you’ve said, the novelization market is blowing up in a quote ‘ginormous way.’”
- “David Copperfield? Didn’t even do any magic. Ooh, ya burnt, Dickens!”
- “You know what I’d rather experience than long-form improv? Long-form bone cancer.”
- “You’ve had some awful, awful hobbies, but this one is by far the worst, and I’m including heroin and not knowing things aren’t a school.”
- “STOP CALLING ME!”
- “Yeah, I also do Sketchthon where we write and perform 12 sketches in 12 hours.” “Oh, why do you do that?” “…I don’t know.”