The title of “After Hours” is an obvious reference to the Martin Scorsese film of the same name, which came out in 1985, the same year that Red Oaks takes place. In his review of the movie, Roger Ebert wrote, “After Hours is another chapter in Scorsese’s continuing examination of Manhattan as a state of mind; if he hadn’t already used the title New York, New York, he could have used it this time.” That’s a great explanation of “After Hours,” as well. The city is less a place that Skye and David go to, more a sense of freedom and abandon and uncertainty and terror all wrapped up in this perfectly attractive package. It’s a place where Skye can spend the summer in Paris only to return exhausted, and David can take the spotlight and dance. Even the way Skye says it—“The City”—with more joy and enthusiasm than we’ve seen her say anything in the rest of the series, it becomes this sort of escape-from-suburbia Valhalla.

So off they go, without Karen’s knowledge or permission, which is a little ridiculous, but hey this is an episode about living outside of the comfort zone so we’ll ignore that hole in the plot. Their first stop is Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee, where after they can flirt with each other about the sexiness of elbows. It’s here that Skye is more charming than she’s been anywhere else in Red Oaks. Skye is an odd character: Her hard exterior is softened—especially when she’s talking to Sam, interned in David’s body—but it’s been a quick transition, and not entirely a smooth one. We’re supposed to love her by now as this symbol of the exotic in David’s life becomes real and vulnerable, but I’m not there yet.

The next stop is a party where Skye reveals her true self by displaying the phoniness she deplores in everyone else. She tells her two friends she’s had quite the summer abroad even though all we’ve watched her do is laze by the Red Oaks pool. It’s here where she and David really connect. She talks about starting a jewelry line after college. Doesn’t that scare her? The uncertainty? Why should it? She’s only 20. But through her lies comes the truth: She’s not afraid of the uncertainty, because she has to embrace it. She’s failing out of school and she sees jewelry design as her only option. Through their epic journey through the city, Skye lets down her guard, so does David and they are left penniless—just like Griffin Dunne’s Paul Hackett—and happier for it.

Simultaneously, Wheeler and Misty have their own adventure, but rather than changing locations, like Skye and David, or time periods, like Doc Brown and Marty McFly in the movie Wheeler loves so much, they change class for the evening. Misty has long established herself as less wealthy than the clientele she serves, and Wheeler’s backstory is shown in great detail. But for the night, they get to be rich, eating lobster in a fancy restaurant and using the pool that was once before only a place of work, not of pleasure. Wheeler gets to be the goofy-looking dude with the hot girlfriend, if only it’s for the benefit of a couple of kids getting ice cream. Misty gets to be the girl who married rich instead of for the guy who bails to Pasadena.

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Throughout the episode, objects from one couple’s night fade into another, notably the patriotic dick statue that dissolves into the ice cream cone. Both couples are having an adventure. They get to fall in love if just for a night. One may be in the wilds of New York City, another safe at home in New Jersey.

Stray observations

  • Amy Heckerling directed this episode beautifully.
  • There’s some place-setting in this episode to clean up after “Body Swap.” To David, the swap was real. To Skye, David was just acting funny. The envelope that David gave to the mailman did not consist of a roster of film courses, but of accounting ones as he tells Getty that he’s still an accounting major. This, even though when Getty namechecks The Right Stuff, David very clearly gets more excited about the movie than the metaphor.
  • “Do you always talk this much during sex?” “No, sometimes I weep.”

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