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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How To Make It In America: “It’s Not Even Like That”

Illustration for article titled How To Make It In America: “It’s Not Even Like That”
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It isn’t hard to see why Ben gets so torn up over Rachel. Or why Domingo finds himself swooning over her. She’s nice, talented, funny, shy and sexy. Basically, she’s a fantasy. But thanks to Lake Bell, who is great this season, we connect with Rachel from her point of view, as a woman who’s lost passion and direction, and is clinging to anything different, hoping it proves instructive about what she really wants. Domingo and Ben are, in their own ways, a bit lost, and project quite a bit onto Rachel, not that she realizes. To Domingo, her affection and approval validate that he’s more than just the weed-slinging sidekick. For Ben, Rachel’s ability to move forward outside their relationship is a gauge for his own progress, even more so than the fact that Nancy wants to sell his designs and, in one scene, lick the lunch off the corner of his mouth.

The biggest surprise in “It’s Not Even Like That” is that Kapo gets a major storyline, and it’s mostly dramatic. Eddie Kaye Thomas has been great comic relief since the series began, but tonight, his character reveals serious troubles with the SEC, fights his way through a poignant wedding toast, and emerges as one of the only genuine friends Ben can trust. Not bad for a guy who’s likely heading to federal prison for duplicitous insider trading.

The final minutes of tonight’s episode feature a lonely and betrayed Ben on the phone with a lonely and self-loathing Kapo, who’s watching The Cosby Show because, “When I was little I would dream that Dr. Huxtable would adopt me.” Who didn’t? Their simple, affectionate exchange is How To Make It at its sweetest and most genuine. As we get older, friends can get to a point of self-interest with no return. When that happens, it gets easier to see who our true companions are. Ben turning to Kapo after finding out about Rachel and Domingo wasn’t a fickle or selfish gesture. It’s the opposite. When someone’s at a point in their fledgling adulthood where they just want to surround themselves with people who do the right thing, certain bonds they took for granted in capricious youth suddenly become solid and have their “Aha!” moment. I loved that Ben and Kapo had theirs.

Rene certainly has yet another in a string of his own “Aha” moments after he buys Deb a gaudy pair of earrings, then tries to replace them with fake diamonds in order to help recoup some of Rasta Monsta’s losses. This, only hours after she warns him, “Don’t go too big and go homeless” (great line). She promptly kicks him out. (You go, girl.) In a funny way, Rene—who was a top dog when the show began, lording over Ben and Cam while successfully launching his entrepreneurial operation—has fallen behind his younger protégés in the game, and has the longest way to go toward legitimacy and stability. Yes, it can be nails on a chalkboard to even hear the words “Rasta” and “Monsta," but it’s Rene’s dream, and that’s a hard thing to let go of when it feels like the alternative is to sink even lower. In Rene’s case, that means shaking down bodega owners for cash and an itinerary of petty crime, which is an exhausting hustle in its own right. Although it’s always fun to see Luis Guzman play reluctant tough guy on his old turf.

Meanwhile, Cam is living the life. He’s got Lulu (man, that happened fast), he’s buddy-buddy with her artworld-icon father, Felix (Joe Pantoliano, reprising what’s turning out to be a really fun role) and more or less kept himself clean amid the whole Rachel-Domingo scandal. Cam’s always been the show’s heart, and the easiest person to root for, so it’s a shame to get the feeling that Lulu’s no good (they’re an odd pair to begin with) and that Felix likely thrives on some of that aforementioned self-interest. But for now, Cam’s a self-made man with a pair of hot new relationships and interest in his business, and it helps the show’s energy when he’s bouncing around like a 12-year-old.

Ben, of course, is pretty down in the wake of what’s transpired between his ex and their mutual friend. Somber Ben can be an annoying Ben, but I like how their three-way drama plays out emotionally, but without it coming to bromantic blows or big speeches. Which is good, since Kid Cudi doesn’t really have the chops to carry longer scenes with more dialogue. But also because that’s what happens when shit happens between good friends. Now, it just remains to be seen which among those good friends is also true.


Stray Observations

  • The whole “hostile listening face” bit, and the scene in Rachel’s office, are both great. Her boss is a piece of work, but so accurate.
  • I love that Deb admires the earrings because Ivanka Trump would wear them.
  • Louie, Bored To Death and now How to Make It… Grand Central Station is doing booming TV business of late.
  • Not sure we need to see Luis Guzman receiving morning head.
  • We haven’t seen Joe Pantoliano grapple like that since he and Tony Soprano duked it to the death.
  • I’m glad that Kapo’s THC spray was a dud. We’ve had enough stoned-freakout scenes this season. Great wedding speech, by the way.
  • Curious if you guys are more invested in the future of Crisp or the characters themselves, and if anyone’s been a converted fan this season.