Except for the luggage, there isn’t a lot to unpack in “Episode 7.” Everything happens right there on the surface. But there is a sense of history repeating itself and cycles remaining unbroken. For example, Henry and his peers watch Freddie gets rejected on account of his old age. To which Freddie responds by threatening to move in with a boy he thinks is hot. Is this how Henrys are made?

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“Well, he’s too cool for fucking school.” That’s new neighbor Maureen on Freddie, and it’s about time someone said so. Of course it takes someone not blinded by attraction. But it seems to wound Freddie just a little bit. So does getting rejected by a 20-year-old at Lance’s wake because he’s too old, but even after that experience, he still has the bare minimum of compassion for Henry. He complains to his other friends about how he’s Henry’s best friend now, how tragedy has bound this old man to him, and he decides to move in with them. But it’s not until Maureen’s line that he starts to thaw. Once they leave, he’s practically exuberant about the prospect of going on a little adventure with the roommates he’s too good for. He even announces he’d have a threesome with Henry and Aiden, 24, Vers from Grindr. What’s more, when they finally track Aiden down, Freddie rejects the hook-up in favor of hanging out with Henry and Dean. When they get home, Dean listens to music and Henry faces the silence, but Freddie unpacks. It’s one of the happiest parts of the episode.

That said, Freddie’s the only one who can’t bring himself to confess his secrets. Henry tells Dean and Freddie that he’s never had anal. He’s so frustrated and serious, and then along comes happy-go-lucky Dean with a confession of his own: “I come too soon.” Henry doesn’t immediately see the bonhomie in Dean’s confession, but it’s even worse that Freddie can’t think of anything wrong with himself. Because that means it’s not true that everyone has problems, and it exacerbates Henry’s image of Freddie as perfect, which makes it even more unbearable that Henry can’t do this simple thing. Dean and Freddie push Henry to talk about it more than ever. Yes, he’s turned on by anal. When he masturbates he fantasizes about penetration. He’s done it once, and it hurt, and he never tried again out of shame. Eventually Dean brings up the subject of one touchy memory of Freddie’s named Christopher, and Freddie refuses to open up even after all that. Yet Henry’s the repressed one.

When they get back, after rejecting Aiden, Freddie climbs into Henry’s bed. Henry rolls over to face him, not far off a crying jag, and just says, “No.” And Freddie responds, “Good.” I don’t get it. I can think of plenty of reasons Henry wouldn’t want to have sex with Freddie in that scenario. His first time might be upsetting no matter what, but especially so soon after Lance died, which happened, in a roundabout way, at least in Henry’s mind, because Henry wouldn’t have sex with him. Besides that, Henry has a lot of practice rejecting men in bed, and he’s had a tough day and he might be embarrassed about his crush on this boy half his age. What I don’t get is the “No”/”Good” exchange. Good how? This was a test? Or Freddie’s saving face? Or Freddie’s just checking on Henry?

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A lot of people offer well-meaning advice and sympathy to Henry, but nobody’s really helping him. Veronica walks in mid-rant about Daniel, Freddie of all people tells him not to let this define him, Scottie collapses in tears. (Dean: “Everyone’s gonna think she’s Lance’s secret daughter.”) Cliff turns out be the dependable one in Henry’s social circle, but even Cliff starts out by offering to shank Daniel with a pen. It’s such a weird drift into melodrama that I wasn’t sure if Henry was fantasizing. But Cleo consents, and so does Lance’s sister Marie, and after that we’re onto the next scene. Nobody mentions it again, one of the few hanging threads for the finale, I guess. Speaking of Marie, she blames Henry for Lance’s death, because he wouldn’t have even been in that situation if not for Henry. Nobody says, so I will, that Henry showed up at Lance’s to persuade him not to go out with Daniel that night. Henry has enough guilt. But Marie cleverly turns Henry’s refusal to accept blame back onto him by refusing to accept blame for the way all of Henry’s money wound up in her bank account. “It’s not anyone’s fault. It just is.” And then she has another wake-up call for Henry. “You’re not the boyfriend, Henry. You’re the ex.” We know that’s true. We watched Henry and Lance each refuse to buckle at that coffee shop. And we watched Lance reject Henry on his way out the door last week. “So what?” We also know Lance had planned to keep Henry’s finances for him, not to take them from him entirely. But Lance isn’t here to say so.

The biggest repeating cycle is what Cliff calls an allotment scheme. The landlord of the Calico Warehouse filled it with tenants who wouldn’t ask questions and wouldn’t sign a contract, waited for them to pack it with electronics, and then claimed all the valuables as his when he evicts everyone. In a few months he’ll do it again. So that’s another pocket lined with Henry’s money.

Injustice is an apt feeling for the episode after Lance’s murder. Everything’s just so unfair. Aging, dating, the gay panic defense, the allotment scheme, Marie taking Henry’s assets and Henry’s suspension in the first place. Toward the end Henry tells Cliff, “I have nothing,” and it’s basically true. Cliff laughs and hugs him, bonding over how miserable his lot is, and that’s when Henry gets the idea to squat in his old house, the one Marie’s trying to sell. And as far as I can tell, she was within her rights. Lance was paying for that house, and Henry doesn’t have any income or savings anyway. Henry’s passing the injustice on, wielding this unfair life to his advantage.

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He passive-aggressively hounds Marie all the way out the door (She should stay! Lance would want them to live together!) as Freddie, Dean, Scottie, and Meatballs walk in to help move Henry’s stuff. Then Cleo walks in with the kids and Tomasz, happy to see Henry back at his home. Once Marie’s gone, Henry takes us into the living room where there’s a dance party already in progress. The Geordie Man walks in, happy to see Freddie and less keen on Dean. The Banana sightings are the most exciting: Helen chats with Vanessa, and in the background Amy and Kay show they’re still going strong. And in the middle of the dance floor, Cliff dances with underwear on his head and no crutches in sight.

There’s still one more episode to deal with the nagging details—just how many of the evicted tenants is Henry planning on housing, and is this going to get Marie to fork over his money as requested?—but it’s a beautiful final scene. It’s a sprawling, queer, found family, but not because anyone has been rejected by their parents. In fact, all of their families are relatively supportive. But they’ve carved out their little space in the city anyway, somewhere they can be away from the world and all its injustice and just dance.

Stray observations:

  • In the original UK airing, there’s a shocking cut to a close-up of the dick with the hair growing out of the middle. It’s great that Cucumber and Banana are even airing in the States, but they’re cropped, the music’s changed, and the nudity’s censored. At some point, you’re not airing Cucumber and Banana anymore. Great sight gag though. Henry says the hair is just a stray and tries to pull it away, and when he does so, it tenses so that you can see it’s growing right out of the shaft, hence the funny reaction.
  • Freddie’s surprisingly enthusiastic about going on a Grindr hunt. “Ooh, why don’t we try? ‘Cause you can sit there and think of reasons why not and then cry-wank yourself to sleep, or you can come with me and get hard and get dirty as my gift.”
  • Henry’s ashamed he didn’t talk more to Lance’s ex-girlfriend, Susan. “I didn’t want to run because everyone was looking at me. So I just let her go. In case I looked like an idiot.”

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Banana, “Episode 7”: Aiden and Frank

The story of Aiden (Dino Fetscher) and Frank (Alex Frost) walks a tight rope over so many different obstacles it’s impressive it lands at all. Everything’s so dumb and mean at first, not in an expressionistic way, but rather like the show is telling it like it is. As if people are so petty they would, say, keep swatting away the uglier person in a threesome as he tries to go in for a kiss. It’s funny, sure. It’s just not very rich. Humanity is a lot more complicated than that opening montage.

But is it any better that this is the story of “ugly” Frank persuading underwear model Aiden to get over himself? That’s awfully simplistic, too. But it does give us that Day 1 spark. The music overdoes it a few times, going all heavy when Aiden describes their inherently doomed relationship and getting all romantic when Frank talks about the odds, but the performances and the script give us that same romantic feeling pretty effectively. It’s never as strong as the music. It never feels like Aiden and Frank are the only ones for each other. But they do have a connection beyond looks. As Frank says about his sheep joke, “I like you because you nearly laughed at ‘Baa-curious.’”

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Toward the end, Aiden tells a Grindr gnat to buzz off, and we see a montage of Aiden and Frank’s attempts to keep every day as exciting as Day 1. It’s a lot of sex, some flirting, general companionship. And then on Day 245, there’s a scene that humorously gets us back into the impolite territory of looks. Frank’s going down on Aiden in the kitchen, and outside, some six-pack takes his shirt off as he walks through the yard. Any lawyer (solicitor?) worth his salt could get Aiden off, as it were. Aiden couldn’t help it that some hottie walked into his field of vision while his partner was reduced to unkempt hair.

There’s a strange geometry to blowjobs that you don’t see explored much as geometry, give or take Cucumber and Banana. Take Cucumber “Episode 6.” Lance is sitting next to Daniel on a couch, and Daniel wants head. Lance is nervous about it, though, for reasons beyond the general tension of the scene. The blocking would basically shift all the power to Daniel. Lance would be completely indisposed, with almost no field of vision, and Daniel is basically otherwise free to move. If something were to happen, Lance wouldn’t even see it coming. The story with Aiden and Frank has a similar power dynamic, but there’s no tension. It’s just a happy fact of life that Frank is buried in his work while Aiden is still pretty mobile. The problem is the back of Frank’s head isn’t a very stimulating visual, and as we know, Aiden gets off on visuals.

So Day 245 becomes Day 1, in both the future with the six-pack, which it turns out, true to Banana’s style, was hypothetical, and the present with Frank as Aiden has some Grindr dude on the line. This time, Aiden tells Frank to wrap it up, and he’s more sincere and charming than he had been when he was still, in Frank’s words, “choosing faces” like their cute waiter’s. Because this time, he’s settled. He can give Frank a good show, because he knows he’s never going to see him again. Charm is easy. Honesty is harder.

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By the end it’s clear the episode isn’t as basic as it seemed at first. In a way the episode is telling it like it is—the hot guy rejects the “ugly” guy—but there’s more to it by the end. Aiden protests that he really has thought about them, and he doesn’t think they’d work out. And he’s not physically attracted to Frank anyway. The “I am out of your league” bit is dumb and mean, but it’s true to that character. He’s clearly too noncommittal and vain to be interested in settling down with this farmer he just met, no matter how much they liked each other during one sexual encounter and the morning after. “It’ll all just be part of a brilliant story.”

Still the episode keeps walking up to bad endings and rejecting them. Some older guy without Aiden’s looks comes up to Frank, and Frank rebuffs him, rejecting a “happy ending” based on the natural sorting of couples by looks. Then that guy meets someone in the bar and has his own Day 1. We don’t even get to see this guy’s suitor beyond a fairly fit body and a muscular, tattooed arm. We have no sense of their physical beauty power balance. And then the camera dollies back to reveal all the other people in their own relationships: a first date next to Frank, Day 9,456 in the middle, one couple with “Never” floating above their heads. And Frank’s on Day 0, just off a Day 1. With this one little chiron flourish, the episode shows how everyone’s on these journeys. That’s what it’s about, not looks, not Aiden, but simply trying to find a connection.

Stay observations:

  • “Episode 7” was written by Lee Warburton and directed by Luke Snellin.
  • The “Aiden, 24, Versatile” conversation goes differently in Banana than it did in Cucumber. Most of the hinge scenes do.
  • Aiden’s a care worker for old men, and part of his job is to “let them know that they matter. The last 80 years mattered. ‘Cause when nobody’s there, they don’t exist.”
  • Aiden: “Don’t get old.” Frank: “Don’t get old alone.” There it is.
  • Frank: “Looks fade.”
  • “Hugh Jackman’s right off my wank list since Les Mis.” Aiden prefers Tom Hardy, and that’s why Aiden is the greatest character in either series.

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