Grace and Frankie may have gotten back together after their explosive split in “The Pot,” but the season isn’t done exploring friendship breakups. “The Labels” hints at the early stages of a more drawn-out, messier breakup, the kind where both people still love each other. The gun earlier this season severed their relationship with sudden, powerful force. Jacob’s Santa Fe invitation, on the other hand, acts as a slower-moving, sticky poison.
“The Labels” mixes up the pairings, getting Grace and Sol in the same room and Robert and Frankie in the other. That unexpected and uncommon set-up unfolds organically, brought on by the massive surge of orders Vybrant has been getting. With the guys pitching in to help label the pre-order packages, Sol ends up being the more meticulous labeler of the two. He stays with Grace in the living room, while Robert is banished to the porch with Frankie, where both are slow and sloppy with their label work. Sol’s of course unable to keep his mouth shut while working, so he gently pries Grace with questions about her dating life, which has been at a standstill ever since she started the company. It’s a nice little conversation, unearthing some of Sol’s own issues, too, when Grace throws it back in his face that he doesn’t have a work-love balance in his life anymore either now that he’s retired. And it’s all hopefully foreshadowing an uptick in Grace’s personal life.
But Robert and Frankie—perhaps the more unlikely pals of the mashed-up exes—have an even more insightful conversation out on the porch. Frankie expresses how disappointed she is with how the business has panned out. Even though they’re already successful with all these pre-orders, it’s not what she imagined. Frankie’s unhappiness with the realities of owning a business have been hinted at all season, but this is her first real, explicit confession that she feels listless with the work. “Reality can be a stark departure from fantasy,” Robert says, and even though it’s a grand, sweeping statement, it works well here, especially since Frankie is so blown away by it. Frankie often gets labeled as “the funny one,” but it’s always clear that there’s more going on underneath the surface with her. Struggling with how she feels about the business brings out an even more complicated conundrum: What does she do about Jacob’s Santa Fe invitation? Never too good at keeping a secret, Frankie spills to Robert, who immediately tells her she needs to tell Grace, going so far as to compare her predicament to his own with Grace. “Take it from someone who wishes he told her sooner,” he says, and even though Robert’s deception was much different, his words again highlight how their families see Grace and Frankie’s friendship as a deeply rooted, intense relationship.
So Frankie tells Grace about the offer. Grace’s first reaction is denial, assuming there’s no way Frankie is actually thinking about. But Frankie makes it clear she is considering it, provoking a series of panicked questions from Grace. But Frankie doesn’t have any answers for her. So Grace jumps up and busies herself with labeling. Frankie wants to talk about it, but Grace, attempting to keep her cool, insists that she can’t talk about it right now. Just below the surface, it’s clear that something has shattered within her, and Jane Fonda conveys that masterfully. Grace waits until Frankie leaves the room to let her walls down, collapsing in her chair and crying. Frankie’s news genuinely took her off guard. And even though she’s usually so unbreakable, the news splinters her.
This personal crisis collides with a professional one, raising the stakes on Frankie’s decision. Another larger company is directly copying their product, and Grace fears they’ll have to take legal action, which Robert and Sol warn could tie them up for years. Frankie loves their company’s mission, but she’s less invested than Grace is. When Sol asks Grace if she wants more in life, she says she has Vybrant and she has Frankie. That’s good enough for her. But it’s not good enough for Frankie. And shifting priorities like that lead to sad, drawn-out breakups for couples. It looks like Grace and Frankie are no different.
Meanwhile, there’s a Coyote subplot that starts with a strong scene at his addiction group but lands on too predictable of a note to really satisfy. Also having difficulty satisfying is Bud. I love how committed the writers are to making Bud seem totally clueless about romance and passion. He buys strawberries after reading half an article in Cosmo, and he has trouble keeping up with his weirdo girlfriend’s desires. The storyline takes an interesting turn when his girlfriend whips out a Vybrant vibrator, which Grace gave her since she has carpal tunnel. She uses it with Bud and without him, and Bud represents the droves of straight men who can’t seem to wrap their mind around the complexity of the female orgasm. It’s a funny subplot, but it also shows things that usually remain unseen on television, like the fact that straight men can benefit from a vibrator, too. Grace And Frankie works a lot of realities that aren’t usually explored on television into even its most simple stories.
- The one part of Coyote’s subplot that I do like is Mallory fucking up with her meddling. Mallory and Brianna both have romanticized other people’s situations this season.
- Sol is a cookie historian.
- “Surf and turf” may have been the biggest laugh of the episode for me.