Why is Wade friends with Stuart? Why is Stuart friends with Wade? The perks of Stuart’s friendship for Wade come only after he’s mocked and marginalized. They usually involve partying with hot ladies after Stuart has ditched him for something he deems better. In “The Dinner,” Wade started to rebel against the way Stuart treats him, relenting only when he discovers how truly sad Stuart is. But he still felt the need to rebel in the first place. There’s no reason that these two people should be hanging out other than the scenario it creates. It’s fundamental problems like this that prevent Hello Ladies from feeling fleshed-out beyond it’s stand-up roots. There has to be a reason that these two keep calling each other, and there really isn’t one.
The scenario Stuart and Wade’s union creates this week is a pool party that Stuart hopes will be attended by the hottest people he can con into showing up. Yet Stuart’s attempts to give the party an air of exclusivity just end up excluding him in the end. “Pool Party” plays on the fears of anyone insecure who throws a party: No one will come. ,So Stuart gets discouraged and leaves. But the party happens without him and he’s once again left on the wrong side of the velvet rope—except this time it’s a gated fence, and instead of bouncer it’s a security guard on Segway. I always find Segways hilarious, so that gag alone was one of my favorite moments of the episode. Many of the episode's sight gags work well, like Rory and Stuart’s pool party celebration dance and Stuart hiking up his trunks so he can retrieve the phone that the disgruntled mother sends swimming. Stephen Merchant is just so weird-looking. He should put his physicality to use more often.
Stuart’s exclusion from his own party was a foregone conclusion. He’s always going to be on the wrong side of the fence. But what “Pool Party” does that other episodes of Hello Ladies haven’t done as well is build on the world that the previous episodes created. Characters from past episodes have shown up for multiple rides on Stuart’s humiliation merry-go-round, but this time, the characters build on each other in a way that made Hello Ladies feel bigger than a one-man standup show. Kimberly the yacht model remains the unattainable object of Stuart’s affection, Glenn still only knows Stuart as Chicken Wing, and Kives will charm his way into the hearts of some ladies. It’s a step in the right direction.
Through the world-building, Kyle Mooney gets a chance to do his thing for more than one scene. Rory's spaciness is in direct contrast with Stuart's high-strung tension. He’s happy with who he is, and he's excited he can go hang out with the boss outside of the office (or room in Stuart’s house, as it were). It's a great balance between the two characters—they don't bristle up against each other, but work in tandem. Rory doesn't understand that it is not just the perception of cool that Stuart wants. Being Photoshopped into a picture of models won't do, Stuart wants the experience of it. But to Rory, it all has the same outcome. Mooney is “Pool Party’s” MVP.
Jessica’s storyline is weaker than Stuart’s pool party, barring the use of the phrase “fuck you fuckin’ googly-eyed beanpole cunt.” Jessica is out of Stuart’s orbit for most of the episode, depriving it of the chemistry that made “The Dinner” so enjoyable. She meets and attempts to befriend a homeless girl, Heaven (Parenthood alum Rosa Salazaar) at the soup kitchen where she volunteers. Jessica clearly has designs on becoming a savior for wayward Heaven, but the reality of the scenario she pictures in her head is considerably different from the fantasy in which she teaches Heaven how to write a resumé and introduces her to the inspirational power of classical music (like a more adorable version of Down and Out in Beverly Hills). But instead it just came off mean-spirited—not because of anything the characters did, but because of the view it took on altruism. The embarrassment each character feels is generally of their own making, like Stuart leaving a party alone once again. But Jessica is even punished when she attempts to be good, and that’s a sadder message to send than anything Stuart could possibly do to himself.