This post discusses plot points for the fifth episode of the third season of You’re The Worst.
During last week’s episode of You’re The Worst, Edgar (Desmin Borges) said that he had a meeting at the VA, but we never saw that appointment take place. What seemed like an important storyline for the character was strangely abbreviated. Tonight, we got the full story, as the remarkable “Twenty-Two” showed us what happened to Edgar that day. While Lindsay’s (Kether Donohue) off trying to become a better mom and Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) are having sex in a cemetery, they are blithely unaware that Edgar is riddled with PTSD symptoms and getting rejected from a VA program for going off his meds. But an encounter with another vet renews his outlook, giving him a potential for solace.
The episode, written and directed by creator Stephen Falk, is told entirely from Edgar’s perspective, rendered in muddy tones and fuzzy sound. At the center is Borges’ performance, giving us a full portrait of Edgar’s pain than we’ve seen before. The A.V. Club spoke with him about his preparation and process.
The A.V. Club: How did you prepare for this episode?
Desmin Borges: Every season, four months leading up to when we’re shooting, I go into a very strict army-type regimen. I work out every day at the same time. I go to sleep at the same time. I wake up at the same time. I eat at the same time, and I eat primarily the same things every day. I wear a rotation of five outfits constantly. Just so I have that army, regimented lifestyle kind of coursing through my body. I continually do research and try to keep up as much as I can with what’s happening with our vets in this country, how the VA is responding to them, how the VA is taking care of them.
I read plenty of blogs about vets who are dealing with PTSD. Even more specifically with this—I don’t know if it was Stephen just being a brilliant genius with a great amount of foresight or if Mother Nature just had a special plan in mind—but my son was born the week that we started shooting this episode. The bubbling emotion that one has when your wife and your son are across the country, and that struggle of, “Am I fulfilling my family?” “Yet I’m here doing what I can to provide for my family.” That torment that I was going through played into what was happening in the episode. We’re basically dealing with a guy who’s broken, who wants, more than anything, to be the person he was before he started taking all these fucking meds. He has no way to actually get that done, and no support around him to help him. While they are two very completely different scenarios, the emotional undertaking that goes into both of them seemed to run very closely inside me.
AVC: How did Stephen approach you with the episode? What were your discussions like?
DB: After they got done breaking the season, and it was going to be episode five, Stephen called and said, “Hey, when’s your son due again?” I told him and he said, “All right, well, we’ve got to talk about this. It’s an Edgar-centric episode, you’re on every page, it’s all through your point of view. I don’t want to tell you too much more of that, but it it’s gonna be emotionally draining. I want to make sure you’re there for your family and I need to make sure you’re going to be here for this as well. So we need to figure out the timing.” I knew a couple months before we started shooting that there was going to be some sort of heavy emotional undertaking that Edgar was going to go through that I was going to have to be ready and prepared for.
And then as far as discussing it, we went through this a lot of with Aya [Cash] last season. Whenever you’re dealing with any issue that is as prevalent and is as affecting as a mental health issue, your first goal is to tell the story as truthfully as possible. You want to be as present as possible while you’re in it. We’re getting the opportunity to give voice to the voiceless and to those who don’t normally see themselves on TV. You want people to be able to understand that character and what that character’s going through and what people who are like that character are actually going through without having to guide them along the way. A lot of Stephen’s and my discussion on set was, “Was that a little too pointed? Yeah, let’s cut it back, let’s make it a little bit more subtle.” Once we kind of got into a flow of it, we just started going and before I knew it we wrapped the episode. It‘s kind of like a whirlwind dream almost when I think back on it.
AVC: This episode retells last week’s from Edgar’s perspective. Did you film them in conjunction with one another?
DB: We’re extremely ambitious on You’re The Worst. We block shoot four episodes at the same time, and we’ve been doing that since season one. While we were on the breakfast table Stephen would be like, “This is episode four.” Then he would come up to me and be like, “Hey, now go into episode five mode.” Aya, Chris, and Kether knew exactly what it meant that we were going into episode five. Even though their performances only slightly changed, the tone on set would be completely different.
AVC: In the episode, we realize we do see Edgar a lot through the eyes of Jimmy, Gretchen, and Lindsay, who can be awful to him. How does that perspective of him affect your performance? Did it change this episode?
DB: I think it’s probably the most artistically fulfilling thing I’ve ever done on camera before. As an actor you always want to get the opportunity to go from A to Z, and you don’t always really get that. For the most part, we’ve seen Edgar with a mask on for the past two seasons. It’s a very realistic portrayal of what people who are dealing with PTSD and who are constantly medicated feel like. When you take that mask off and the wall gets broken through, you see some really broken shit happen internally with this person while everything else in the world continues to move because the world doesn’t give a fuck what you’re going through.
It just makes me wonder. The very first time I met Gretchen and told her I couldn’t drive her because I have PTSD and I’m dealing with mild to medium battlefield-induced psychosis. I wonder what that thing would have been like through Edgar’s point of view at that point. It makes me think back to that. It’s exciting. Especially within this episode, to go from where we started to where we ended, and then [doing] that short film at the end. There’s this really gratifying thing that happens as an actor, to play that entire gambit in an episode and then you get to go off the rails in the end and do this huge, vaudevillian, over-the-top thing.
AVC: Edgar’s PTSD has never been taken lightly, but it has been used for the purposes of humor. How do you reckon with the parts of the show that do that?
DB: Edgar has a pretty warped sense of humor to begin with. That’s one of the things that I love about him. He finds his place within this group of misfits. They’re a bunch of assholes and his sense of humor can be asshole-y. That’s kind of how he fits into that jigsaw puzzle. I think we can kind of label PTSD comedy as cringeworthy comedy at this point. Edgar is basically the straight man and everyone around him becomes the buffoon. Jimmy, Gretchen, and Lindsay are kind of representative of our society on a much smaller scale. We send these young men and women off to war. Then they come home and we throw them party, and then the next day we go back to our regular lives and we have these broken individuals that we give a very limited support system to. You take that and you put it into this world of You’re The Worst, and Jimmy, Gretchen, and Lindsay are doing what our society does to our vets. No matter how this episode gets viewed and how people connect to it, what I really hope it does is it continues to further the conversation of how we take care of these people once they come home.
AVC: Did you or Stephen talk to any vets?
DB: First season, a vet so graciously came into the writer’s room and they phone-conferenced me in from New York. He told us his entire story. This is after the pilot but before we shot episode two. It was pretty amazing to hear that. At one point he said he was on a really, really good path; he could see the light, he was feeling it so hard. Then the Batman movie came out, and that incident happened where [James Holmes] shot up the movie theater, and it enraged him so much that he started to carrying his service weapon around again. It wasn’t because he wanted to harm anyone. It was because he wanted someone to see him with the gun on him and beat the hurt out of him. Those are his exact words. It makes me a little emotional thinking about it, but I’ve never heard anyone say that before. How do you take that and put it into a dark comedy with this character? I knew that no matter what we saw of Edgar, no matter how much he loved Rachael Ray or how much he loved cooking or how much he was championing Jimmy and Gretchen getting together, underneath all of that, all of that surface shit, there’s this bubbling hurt he wants someone to beat out of him. I didn’t know if we ever were going to get to it considering that it’s a comedy, but I think that we got as close as we possibly could so far with this episode.
I also have a couple of friends whose fathers have PTSD. I’ve known them for 18 years and they didn’t reveal to me that they had PTSD until they saw our first couple of episodes. It was amazing to me as a juxtaposition to the vet’s story that I knew them for 18 years and I never once had any iota that they were dealing with that. It really gives you a nice, well-balanced scope of what the deeper levels could be and what the everyday normal activity could be of someone dealing with PTSD is like. I also work with Adam Driver’s non-for-profit Arts In The Armed Forces. We go and encourage veterans to find an emotional and artistic outlet through telling stories. I’ve gained a lot of relationships with veterans who I have kept in touch with, who are more positive than anything about what we’re doing with Edgar. I’m actually really excited and also a little nervous to hear from them after they see this episode this week.
AVC: The episode does have this hopeful ending, both in the silent film sequence and also in Edgar’s talk with the guy towing his car. What does having that conversation mean for Edgar? Do you think it changes anything for him?
DB: I think it definitely does. Whenever you’re dealing with any sort of tragic event that’s happening in one’s life—whether it’s the death of a family member or something internal—these are moments of incredible vulnerability that I truly believe build blocks of confidence and give you a broader and more realistic viewpoint of what the world is like and how you can belong and affect that world. I think what we finally see is Edgar feel a little bit less alone and understand that there are other people going through what he’s going through and they found ways to cope with it—not that it’s gone completely. Now he’s on a mission to find his way, his path, and he doesn’t know exactly what that’s going to be and he doesn’t know who exactly is going to help him out. He doesn’t give a damn because he knows he’s going to help himself out at this point. This is the first time Edgar realizes that he has more power to help himself than anybody else. We’re going to see a much more confident Edgar continue to climb and claw his way out of his hole, so that he can get back to a place where he is giving everything he can to his personal and intimate relationships, and continue to grow as a person and transition into civilian life—as much as he possibly can.