“Looking For Glory” starts like a Kevin version of “Looking For The Future,” when Patrick wakes up naked next to his new boyfriend, sits up facing away from us, and pulls his underwear on as he goes to make himself presentable for his man. Actually, it plays out like one, too, in the sense that things go wrong almost immediately, from bad breath to a breakfast accident. Patrick has prepared a romantic breakfast in bed that crashes to the floor on sight of Kevin’s bare backside. An omen? Then they both go to work instead of playing hookie. The other characters interrupt the romance, too, with their own lives and problems. And try as Patrick and Kevin might to have a romantic GaymerX, we the audience aren’t nearly as head over heels as Patrick is.

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Make no mistake: If the producers wanted to hit the high notes with a “Looking For The Future” sequel, they could have. This one starts with that memorable set-up and builds to a point where Patrick blurts out, “I love you” and gets an “I love you, too.” But Patrick’s excitement about Richie throwing a condom at his face is more palpable than his infatuation here with Kevin. “Looking For Glory” is a bomb shelter designed to honor the force of Patrick’s infatuation while protecting us from feeling it ourselves.

Start with the title, the second tongue-in-cheek one in a row. Nobody’s looking for glory in this episode, unless you’re talking about making a hit gay app, and nobody’s even looking for a glory hole. Nevertheless, the big Patrick-Kevin vacation is named for, in Gabe Liedman’s words, getting your dick sucked. That’s been the big question with Kevin all along. Is he just in it for the sex? Probably, at one time. He’s clearly never been completely happy with Jon, but instead of addressing those problems, he escaped into a projection fantasy of Patrick and later the endorphins of actually cheating with him. But in “Looking For Results,” he starts opening up, and in “Looking Top To Bottom,” he’s the one who commits to spending a day together before dessert. He even does the “Do What U Like” dance in front of people after being too embarrassed to do it alone for Patrick. Not that these examples are mutually exclusive from Kevin just keeping his side-tail on the line, but Russell Tovey’s performance gets so vulnerable at moments it’s hard to imagine Kevin’s just using Patrick.

“Looking For Glory” strikes a balance. For every time Kevin praises Patrick’s sex appeal, there’s a shot of him being the more invested one. At breakfast, Patrick wants to tell everyone they’re together, but Kevin’s the one who goes through with it both times: At the office, Kevin’s the one who confirms that he was at Patrick’s place that morning, and at GaymerX, Kevin’s the one who invites Richie and Brady on a double date. Both were bound to happen, since Patrick wore Kevin’s bulldog sweater—which doesn’t look nearly as good on him, and Kevin should have told him so—and Kevin got territorial when Patrick deflected in front of his ex, but the fact remains. Why hasn’t Kevin at least told everyone that he and Jon split up by now, though? It’s been two weeks. But that’s how things go in “Looking For Glory.” Try to pull a stray thread, and Patrick and Kevin pull right back.

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Speaking of two weeks, remember why Patrick and Richie broke up the second time? They were taking it too fast. Ironically, Patrick credits that exact conversation with his new relationship with Kevin. “The last time someone stood on my stoop, they told me I wasn’t ready, so this time I just, I decided to go for it.” Sure, but love after two weeks?

Like Patrick, Richie’s also reliving a past relationship, except this time, he, too, is going for it instead of breaking up. By which I mean Brady gets so sloppy drunk he makes that night with Patrick look like a church service, and Richie takes it all in stride. But why did Richie come to GaymerX in the first place if he doesn’t play games? Looks like it’s for the same reason Kevin went to Patrick’s Halloween party with his boyfriend. During the prom montage, Richie’s staring at Patrick and Kevin, Brady totally oblivious. Patrick sees him, but when the camera gets back to Patrick, he’s moved his head so Kevin eclipses Richie, if you catch his drift.

After an evening of Jessie’s Ware’s “Say You Love Me” egging him on, Patrick blurts it out and commits because he’s in a honeymoon period; we’ll find out what that love entails later. Kevin’s response is the usual—a tease, to protect his feelings, followed by emotional support. Think of when Brady says Patrick’s gonna get fat. Kevin mockingly agrees at first and then smiles, closes his eyes like he’s rolling them, and subtly shakes his head no. Groff is a slobbering puppy dog in “Looking For Glory,” but Tovey is that cheeky smile. At the end, Kevin jokes about how freaked out Patrick is, and when we finally cut to him, he whispers, “I love you, too.” It’s hard to say if that’s a mature response—in that he’s secure enough to be able to joke—or an immature one—he’s stalling and eventually just goes with the flow.

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That’s not an idle question. “Looking For Glory” takes a bunch of selfish people, makes them pretend to be nice to each other, and repeatedly punctures that politeness. Gabe Liedman’s first line is “Hey, cute zip-up,” and you can already tell he means it like Regina George. Even the fact that he’s in a wheelchair feels designed to poke at our sense of politeness. Brady’s better at hiding his disdain, at least at first, but in the end he drunkenly spills that he and Richie talk about Patrick and Kevin behind their backs. He promises to take it all back: “Patrick’s not a 13-year-old girl who’s afraid of her own vagina. And the two of you together, that’s not what’s wrong with the gay community.” Back in San Francisco, Dom tells Doris to go to Vallejo for Malik’s niece’s birthday party, and Doris says she’ll be back in time, neither of them really meaning it. And Agustín shows up to help Dom fix up the chicken window out of politeness, even though he doesn’t intend to do any work. Everyone says the right things, but when they mean something else, it leaves Eddie feeling abandoned and Dom feeling well and truly alone. So it’s an open question: Does Kevin really feel as strongly as Patrick, or is he just keeping the waters smooth?

Put another way, this is an episode about stripping away the layers and showing how people really are. Patrick, Kevin, Agustín, and—in a momentous full frontal shot—Eddie all get naked. That last one is a mic drop. We’re going on two months of wondering why Looking isn’t treating Eddie the same way it treats the other guys with respect to sex, but the whole time the show had this full frontal option in its pocket. It even gets away with post-coital flaccidity that’s apparently the rule, an erection being the most common human experience we’re not allowed to see on-screen. The sex scene is pretty upfront, too. Not that anal sex is very common on TV, but even when it does happen, you never see a top pull out, pull off the condom, and jack off to finish (all just off-screen, to clarify). After which, Eddie tells Agustín, “Come for me…come for me, baby.” Compare that to Patrick and Kevin. Nudity clauses aside, after the I Love Yous are exchanged, Kevin pulls the sheet over them. It’s a self-conscious moment, more for us than them. Eddie was perfectly upfront. Kevin is hiding.

I didn’t even mention Eddie accidentally hitting Agustín in the face. Agustín rushes off to the bathroom as politely as possible so he can rinse out his eye. He never comes back to bed. It’s the drama of the episode. Of course, Agustín says he’s cool receiving sex from an undetectable poz man, but it doesn’t take much to freak him out when he actually does it. He later meets Eddie at work in the best scene of the episode. Eddie lays out exactly why he’s so guarded: “I can’t do this Agustín. I’ve been through it too many times. Like, a really well-intentioned guy says that he’s totally cool and really well-informed and big surprise, he’s not. Like, I just can’t anymore.” Agustín eventually admits it. “Look, I got weird, okay? And I don’t know why. It’s something I’ve got to work on…but I will work on it, okay? Because, for whatever reason, I’m super into you.” It’s basically a defense of characters screwing up. Looking is a coming-of-age story. Agustín and Patrick and Kevin ought to have room to make serious mistakes. The whole point is to watch them grow.

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Eddie asks, “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a big, poz queer in this town?” “Looking For Glory” extrapolates all these fake social interactions in “Looking For Glory” to paint an unflattering picture of the city, which Eddie sees as a community of self-hating, racist gays who are the exact same as the ones in every other gay enclave in the country, only with the added sin of lying to themselves and everybody else about their values. Patrick, on the other hand, is privileged not to see that. For him the city is a haven. Notice the episode opens with the Golden Gate Bridge. Looking almost never opens with an establishing shot, but “Looking For Glory” opens with that gleaming symbol of San Francisco. Patrick looks out from his balcony and it reminds him of when he first came to the Bay Area, when he climbed Indian Rock in Berkeley and finally felt at home. He still feels that way. He’s here pimping a game about, he says, subverting stereotypes. Liedman says, “It’ll be interesting to see what you and your brother think ‘subverting’ means.” He’s an asshole, but it’s a decent question. I’m not sure how pitting a Fag Hag against a Papi in terms of “fierceness” is about subverting anything so much as, best case scenario, reclaiming. But it takes someone like Liedman to say it. As Looking has shown all along, Patrick needs someone to call him on shit. So we’re back at the original question: Is Kevin the kind of guy who will tell Patrick what he needs to hear or what he wants?

Stray observations:

  • “Looking For Glory” is written by Michael Lannan and JC Lee and directed by Jamie Babbit. Notice the lack of oners and the cutting. This one’s more about performance.
  • Correction: I originally mislocated GaymerX as in San Jose, where it will be held later this year, but it was set in San Francisco, where it was held in previous years.
  • On the subject of trading clothes, Patrick’s wearing briefs and Kevin’s wearing trunks this week. In our limited voyeuristic experience, it’s usually the other way around. Then again Agustín also goes from briefs to trunks this week, so I guess everyone’s just trying new things. Like love. Like sleeping with a poz guy. Like being well and truly alone for a night. It’s probably the first time Dom hasn’t had Doris to rely on, and he doesn’t know what to do while his best friend is at camp. It’s adorable.
  • That “your breath is terrible” bit is straight out of Please Like Me, only this time it comes with a happy ending. Which I didn’t mean like that, but yeah, probably that too.
  • “I hate putting something out in the world that isn’t perfect,” says Kevin, explaining his whole character. That’s why him performing the “Do What U Like” dance is so meaningful. Kevin likes to keep a tight grip on his presentation. He never gets sloppy. That’s Jon’s and Patrick’s job.
  • When Kevin and Patrick tell the team at work they’re dating, Meredith says, “Yeah, I just hope it won’t impact our company culture of fairness and that heterosexuals won’t be discriminated against.” First of all, it’s nice of Looking to address the elephant, that Patrick is working for his boyfriend. But mainly, it’s a joke that ties in with the episode’s idea that Kevin and Patrick are relatively privileged in their community while being a patently absurd contention that gay people as a class might be specially privileged with respect to straights.
  • Patrick’s sister update: “Megan thinks that I destroyed the most perfect relationship in the entire world.” Yeah, she and a bunch of other Looking fans.
  • “I’m a fucking catch,” Patrick says with his mouth full.
  • Dom didn’t wait for Doris’ money to come through. Instead he maxed out credit cards. I really hope this doesn’t backfire.
  • I can’t stop watching the interaction between Liedman and Patrick. Liedman drags out every syllable like he’s toying with his food. When Patrick turns to leave, he still has the huge fake smile, but the light is gone, and he looks like he wants to punch something. It’s the episode in a nutshell.
  • Patrick says, “Hypocrisy does not undermine my point.” Kevin replies, “Well, it does a little.” Maybe Kevin can challenge Patrick. He has an incentive: “You’re very cute when you’re wrong.”
  • “We could be brothers.” No, y’all couldn’t. Do people really think Patrick and Kevin look alike?
  • Patrick is so excited about gay prom. He’s running very embarrassingly through the hotel to show all the preparation: Kevin’s suit, his favorite tie, a corsage. They’re both kind of nervous about it. That’s part of why it’s hard to read Kevin. He’s too focused on looking masc to let enthusiasm take him away, whereas Patrick wears his heart all over his body. But on sight of prom, even Kevin is grinning ear to ear. He lets loose on the dance floor, he puts his head on Patrick’s shoulder in prom photos, and they end the montage rubbing noses.
  • Agustín and Eddie are off to have a shirtless dance party on Kylie Night at Toad Hall.
  • A taste of drunk Brady. He says to Richie, “I’m so good. Why you keep asking me that?” Patrick tries to help. “You’ll be better if you eat your eggs, Brady.” “You’ll be better if you eat your eggs, Passmith.” Most importantly, he calls out Richie for judging him. He has a point.
  • Patrick says to Richie, about Brady, “He’s a good guy, though. I see why you like him.” Tell the rest of us.
  • Kevin on bad reviews: “Fuck that bitchy queen. We’re not gonna please everyone. I am proud of what we’ve achieved.”
  • After Patrick blurts out the L-word, he takes a moment. “I’ve never said that before.” “Not even to your mum?” “We don’t say that in my family.”

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