In the interest of drama, people in stories—and perhaps in serialized stories in particular—often make bad decisions. They make those decisions very loudly. We nonfictional beings do the same, but real-life humans, young and not so young, also occasionally summon the nerve or presence of mind to make good, hard decisions. That’s something that happens less on television, and it’s to The Bold Type’s credit that Sutton, Kat, and Tiny Jane all make good, hard decisions in “Three Girls In A Tub.” It’s refreshing. It feels honest. It’s just a little bit lovely.
It’s also just a little bit flat, because as it turns out, when each of the main characters dodges some life drama, there’s a paucity of dramatic drama. Each of the stories in this episode end in a way that’s good for all involved. Seeing young female characters make healthy relationship choices is something of a novelty on screen, to say nothing of seeing two women do so in the same hour. That, all by itself, is a delight. That these women make these decisions with the support of their friends makes it all the sweeter. The end of the hour arrives, and all three women deserve a good meal, a hot bath, and a big glass of wine. They have seen red flags, and they have walked away. It’s great for them. For us, it’s almost great.
What makes “Three Girls In A Tub” both a little dull and also kind of genius is this: On paper, this is a very eventful episode. Kat’s plot is the least exciting of the three, and she manages to kind of screw over a friend on her way to having to fire someone for the first time, which is exactly the kind of mundane drama that can send a person into a full-tilt anxiety attack. Tiny Jane discovers she’s not a casual dater by inadvertently saying “I love you” during sex (a sentiment she doesn’t actually mean), making an ass of herself in front of her boss when asked about her love life, going on a great date with a guy she obviously likes, then reading something Pinstripe Guy wrote about another woman. And Sutton comes to the conclusion that her unsustainable relationship is unsustainable—something she realizes without the dramatic aid of a love triangle.
That’s a lot for one episode (and one assumes at least one of these storylines will reemerge before the season ends.) But even with all that happening, writers Ian Deitchman and Kristin Robinson manage to make it all feel almost mundane. We’ve seen Kat, Sutton, and Jane fight and make up with relatively few fireworks more than once this season, and their breakups are much the same. Once they realize what has to be done, they do it, and with few tears. Deitchman and Robinson seem to have prioritized the dignity and good sense of their protagonists above all else. It doesn’t make for thrilling television, but it does make for a satisfying experience.
What makes a sentiment like “This is kind of boring, but man, I really like it” possible? Good acting, good writing, and good direction. Because Meghann Fahy (Sutton) is good at her job, we can read past the almost blank expression on her face when she’s in that tub. Because director Jann Turner trusts the actors and writers that surround her, she can keep the theatrics to a minimum and let these characters speak for themselves, quietly and directly. The result is an outing that doesn’t do any of the things we expect of breakup stories. No one throws anything or storms out of anywhere, no one begs or descends into cruelty. Jane and Sutton figure out what they want and then adjust their lives accordingly.
I imagine this point will get old fast, but one thing these women don’t feel the need to adjust is their friendship. It seems definite that to the team behind The Bold Type, the most important romance of the series is the one between three friends who love, support, and challenge each other. It’s not a revolutionary concept, but it’s a nice one, and while it’s foolish to assume we won’t see any serious conflict between the three before the season ends, it’s clear that particular well won’t be visited on a whim.
How can you not be kind of delighted by an hour that subverts all expectations in the least dramatic way possible? Sutton accidentally gets stoned out of her mind at a networking event, and it doesn’t jeopardize her career and merely irritates her love interest. Jane gets jealous when she reads about wax-play girl, and by the end of the hour she’s figured out that she and Pinstripe Guy don’t want the same things and can’t change who they are in hopes of finding love. Kat tries her best to avoid firing someone, realizes she can’t, and bites the bullet while wishing she were “a better boss-lady.”
That all sounds perfectly normal, doesn’t it? Not thrilling, maybe, but honest. The Bold Type won’t be coming for Game Of Thrones’ crown anytime soon. God bless it for that. People quietly making good decisions for themselves may not be internet-breaking, but it‘s very nice to watch.
- There’s a lot about this week that’s a horror show, but let this be known: I expressed a wish for a GIF of Jane physically shushing PG during sex on Twitter, and less than an hour later…
- “Touching. Rocking. Humming.”
- Kat wore the silver boots again (more than once, actually!), and Jane wore the same top twice. Any more recycled clothing I missed?
- This week’s most Jed Bartlet moment for Jacqueline? “Sometimes letting someone go can be the best thing for both of you.” Her most Toby Ziegler moment? “Please try to make the article shorter than this exchange.”
- “Love it, or gotta have it?”