Despite the little mishap at the end brought on by Dev’s overreliance on Waze and need for more white barbecue sauce, “Nashville” might be one of the most successful first dates I’ve ever seen play out on a sitcom. And the successful date makes for a successful episode, further proving how intent Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang are on thwarting expectations. Master Of None proves that a first date episode doesn’t have to be a total trainwreck in order to be funny and fun.

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It helps, of course, that the episode intentionally takes on a much more interesting date scenario than the standard dinner date. The concept of a weekend trip first date (something that really happened to one of the show’s writers, according to Ansari) allows for fun little moments between Dev and Rachel that wouldn’t be nearly as engaging in a stationary date situation. Denise is right: Normal dates are boring. And a normal date episode of television would likely be boring, too. Master Of None, instead, plops these characters into a totally new environment and allows them to explore it together while also exploring each other.

And just because the date goes largely well, that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its awkward moments. When Dev and Rachel first meet up, Ansari especially embodies the nervous energy that usually comes with first dates. Yet again, Ansari and Yang write hyperrealistic dialogue here, sometimes as simple as Dev’s earnest “what’s going on?” as they’re waiting for their coffees. Rachel and Dev have a natural rapport with each other, and their ability to constantly roll with each others’ bits has consistently made these two so charming every time they interact on the show. That ability is epitomized by their ongoing ghost shenanigans as Alfred, Baby Justin, and the ghost koala from Sydney who is a vegetarian but eats octopus.

The weirder Rachel and Dev get with each other, the more fun they have, and it’s really fucking adorable. There’s so much sweetness and sincerity in “Nashville,” but it never feels too schmaltzy or contrived. They just have really great chemistry together, and Noël Wells is very funny every step of the way. Dev and Rachel work well together, but again, it isn’t a flawless first date. They aren’t always on target. Dev makes a comeback joke that makes zero sense, and he realizes it immediately, calling himself out. Rachel and Dev are two very real people on a very real, albeit adventurous, date that’s cute at times, awkward at others, but often both. And it’s in those hybrid moments that we get some of the best character work. “Nashville” doesn’t lean too hard into the small conflicts that arise along the way. Yes, Rachel doesn’t eat meat, but instead of just having Dev hit that difference between them way too hard, the episode takes it in another sweet direction. Dev laments over the lack of splitsies in his hypothetical future with Rachel for a brief moment, but she secretly buys him the chicken drummies anyway, and he remembers why he likes her in the first place. The framing of the napping scene is really fantastic, and neither character even needs to speak for the point to get across: It’s kind of weird and uncomfortable to nap in a hotel bed with someone you still only barely know. But it’s the exciting kind of weird and uncomfortable that’s around a lot in the early stages of a relationship.

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And then things do technically take a turn for disaster with the aforementioned Waze and barbecue sauce screwup. The fact that the date has been going so well makes Dev’s silly lapse in judgement seem even worse. Again, the characters don’t even need to speak in the sequence that follows. Their body language, the blocking, and the music all work to send the very clear message that something in the air has changed. But still, the episode doesn’t hit this drama too hard or blow it out of proportion. Rachel never has a freak out. The two never actually fight about it. Instead, she’s just sort of quietly sad about missing her niece’s recital, and Dev’s quietly mortified that he’s the reason why. It’s a lot more crushing and real than an explosive fight would be, and Dev’s apology on the plane similarly has a very understated feel to it. And just like that, the characters are back to their banter and mutual attraction. It feels real for both of them to react the way they do, and it feels real for them to fall back into their quippy selves. There are romcom elements there, but Master Of None balances the sweetness with the candor in a way that gives “Nashville” more bite than the average romcom.

Stray observations

  • I have family down in Nashville and go once or twice a year, so it was fun to see some of those downtown spots Dev and Rachel hit up.
  • On that note, I have been to Robert’s many a time, and I can confirm that the white people usually go a lot harder there than the tame crowd seen here.
  • The 8 Mile debate from the beginning of the episode was another gem left behind by Harris Wittels.
  • I strongly relate to Dev’s reliance on Waze, and I also strongly relate to Rachel’s anxiety over being late to the airport, and in my mind, the combination of those two things should be compatible unlike they end up being here.
  • “Alright honky, let’s go tonk.”

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