Sometimes it only takes a single thing to illustrate the deep-seated instability lingering in your life that you’ve otherwise ignored. Maybe it’s jokey banter taken too far. Maybe it’s a professional break at the unintentional expense of a loved one. Maybe it’s things unsaid coming back to bite you in the ass. Maybe it’s another person’s happiness that reminds you of the uncertainly in your own life. We like to think life can’t be that convenient or that obvious, but think back at how many times you pushed aside a serious issue because it was too difficult to confront only for it to rear its ugly head at the worst possible moment. Sometimes life is that convenient. Sometimes life is that obvious.
This has been an interesting season of You’re The Worst insofar as it’s taken a cold, hard look at the limitations of self-awareness and how much it doesn’t accomplish. It’s not as flashy a running theme as last season’s clear-eyed depiction of depression, but it’s arguably more dynamic. Every character on You’re The Worst has exhibited personal growth in some way, and yet it’s mostly relegated to simple awareness of one’s own flaws and issues. Awareness is the first step towards change, but Stephen Falk and company routinely illustrate this season that it’s only the first step, and that true change comes from moving past awareness into actual work. But the gang is mostly stuck on the first step.
“The Inherent, Unsullied Qualitative Value of Anything” is the “shit hits the fan” episode of the season, the one where all of the dramatic storylines come to a head just in time for the one-hour finale next week. But unlike the past two seasons, this episode didn’t feature a big blow up or even particularly heightened scenes, just slow-dripping dread masked by superficial lightness, a sense that everything is going to go south in myriad unsexy ways. Director Wendy Stanzler emphasizes that sense by shooting the main party scenes in a series of long takes, capturing the fluid nature of a party as well as the dizzying emotions running high. Films and TV shows frequently use long takes poorly, mostly to call attention to the camera or to blindly show off, but here, Stanzler, director of photography Mike Berlucchi, and Steadicam operator Thom Valko employ them to devastating effect. It’s a whirlwind of an episode that forces the audience to follow the action around the entire space all while keeping up with the various sets of emotions.
There are four main stories in the episode: 1. Amidst his existential crisis, Jimmy has decided to make a pro-con list of everything in his life including Gretchen, forcing her to make her own list about Jimmy; 2. Caught up in his new comedy writing gig, Edgar selfishly ignores Dorothy at the reception while she starts to doubt her chances of succeeding in the same profession; 3. Lindsay struggles to tell Paul that she had an abortion and that she’s leaving him, all the while she tries to land a job as a fashion stylist; and finally, 4. Sam fears that he’s growing apart from Shitstain and HoneyNutz, causing him to lash out during the event. Credited writers Franklin Hardy and Shane Kosakowski balance the weight of the stories very well, keeping the action constantly moving while also deftly illustrating the barely-concealed emotional intensity on display. Everybody playacts as normal “party guests” while they deal with the tumult in their lives.
The common theme that runs through all four stories is the struggle to communicate one’s feelings while also desperately trying to avoid discomfort or unhappiness at all costs. Take Edgar and Dorothy for example: They dance around each other all night as Edgar brags about his writing gig while Dorothy, the more experienced comedienne, bemoans her lack of prospects. Neither of the two ever come out and says what they’re really feeling. Instead, Edgar boasts away without ever seeing that his partner is suffering. But Hardy and Kosakowski never the stack the deck either way. Edgar has suffered plenty this season and has finally received a break. It’s only right for him to celebrate his good fortune. Yet, Dorothy has quietly supported Edgar throughout the season and now when she needs the support in return he’s in his own world, accidentally succeeding at a job she spent her life working for.
Meanwhile, Lindsay’s story mostly remains at the level of comic relief until it suddenly, satisfyingly doesn’t. She spends the evening chatting up a fashion stylist (Kathleen Rose Perkins) so she can maybe secure a job for her new life, but eventually, Paul tries to inform her that Lindsay is pregnant. At that point, Lindsay finally bursts and tells Paul everything, but what makes the scene isn’t Lindsay’s confession, it’s Allan McLeod’s subtly heartbreaking expression. His anguished face perfectly expresses rage, betrayal, and despair. This is a guy who has taken quite a bit of abuse this season, and it’s telling that he doesn’t react in anger when he learns the news, but just profound disappointment. Think back in “The Seventh Layer” when he professes to Vernon that he so badly wants to be a father and then watch his reaction in tonight’s episode. It’s devastating.
But as always, Jimmy and Gretchen’s story is the real winner here because it showcases just how quickly a relationship can go from stable to unbalanced with just one casual admission. Hardy and Kosakowski keep the story deceptively light for the most part, couching the ugliness of listing your partner’s strengths and flaws in witty repartee and nudity. Gretchen desperately wants to know what Jimmy has on his list, but when he won’t tell her, she comes up with her own. Ironically, Gretchen preaches open communication throughout the entire episode, but when Jimmy refuses to give up any of his “cons,” they start battling in out in secret. It’s a classic sitcom premise, but one that’s punctured almost immediately when Jimmy finally says a real con out loud: “I can’t see having kids with her.” Stunned and clearly hurt, Gretchen calmly retorts that she’s afraid Jimmy will never be successful. The two take in the words separately, uncertain of how to move forward.
The final scene when Jimmy and Gretchen step outside into the night having been through an ordeal neatly captures the fractured nature of their relationship. The two of them have always had one foot on their way out the door and now it’s finally come to haunt them. Mirroring Becca and Vernon’s wedding in the pilot, Jimmy and Gretchen silently smoke a cigarette to wait for their car to arrive, only for them to realize they drove there separately. They drive alongside each other, each in their own head spaces encapsulated by the use of split screen, together but alone yet again, entering a new world where everything in their own lives are up for grabs.
- The rap trio storyline is mostly minor and for comic relief, but it’s worth noting that Hardy and Kosakowski treat the emotions on display with respect. Sam is kind of an over-the-top fool, but he harbors palpable fear that he’s being left behind by his friends who are growing up too quickly for his tastes.
- The other major runner is that the reception’s waiters are all secretly railing blow and are all involved in some cereal restaurant venture. Eventually, they coke gets stolen by Brian Posehn, who appears as himself in the episode.
- A sample of Jimmy’s pro-con list. 1. A stapler—Pros: Petite, efficient, comely; Cons: Literally no place for it in the digital world. 2. A scarf—Strong tassles, Jimmy looks fantastic in it; Cons: Jimmy saw Moby wearing the same one on the cover of Yoga Life.
- Two things I can’t stop laughing at: Lindsay’s rage when she learns that the prenup she signs screws herself out of Paul’s money and Gretchen’s sincere belief that ink comes from squids.
- HoneyNutz’s greatest fears: Public speaking, heights, and waking up with a scorpion in his mouth.
- HoneyNutz also recently had his knuckles waxed for his upcoming appearance on Poker After Dark.
- “Jimmy, if you’re thinking of getting into ski porn, it’s a niche audience and the work is seasonal.”
- “HoneyNutz is a persona. When I’m not rapping, I’m just Zachary from Reseda that likes hard cider and losing myself in a graphic novel!”
- “You know you can’t be friends with him anymore, right?”