Despite what well-intentional parents, teachers, and various authority figures teach the youth, there are some things in the world that you just can’t fix. People, especially men, are often hardwired to believe that every problem has a solution, and that every hurdle life throws your way can be overcome if you just muster up enough willpower. But when you grow older, you realize this isn’t the case, and it’s especially not true when it comes to other people. Though you may try to help someone whom you love with their psychology or their brain chemistry, and as much as you believe you’re doing the right thing, you will eventually hit a wall that you cannot tear down. People are who they are and there are certain aspects of the human existence that are beyond anyone’s control. In other words, you may kill the mouse currently residing in your house, but another one is on its way, and there’s nothing you can do about it. All you can do is accept it. That’s just the way things are.
“There Is Not Currently A Problem” is the best episode of You’re The Worst. It’s the series at the height of its comedic and dramatic potential, single-handedly deepening the characters in the ensemble (well, one character much more than the others) while also telling a concise, powerful story about the difficulties of sharing the ugly realities of your life with another person. It’s effectively a bottle episode, with the action mostly relegated to Jimmy’s living room, and writers Stephen Falk and Philippe Iujvidin (plus director Wendy Stanzler) add more and more tension to the narrative simply by trapping its characters in an emotional ticking time bomb. It’s a stunning episode that left me drained with its honesty and grace.
As the last couple episodes have hinted, there’s something up with Gretchen. She’s been leaving Jimmy’s house at odd hours of the night not to see someone else, but to cry alone in her car. When Jimmy wakes up the next morning to banter with her about his sexual fantasies of Janis Joplin, she seems uninterested, even when she needles him about his use of “Hakuna matata” (Jimmy is seemingly unaware of the existence of The Lion King). When asked if she’s okay, she says she’s fine, but it’s clearly not the case.
After discovering that Edgar’s new friend Dorothy is downstairs, a “theater girl” as Gretchen derisively puts it, and there’s no food in the house, Gretchen impatiently demands that they go to the diner only to be told that it’s the day of the LA Marathon, effectively trapping them all at Jimmy’s place because of the traffic. On top of all this, Jimmy discovers there’s a mouse in his house and because he will not stand for everyone’s “staggering apathy about living with the actual cause of the plague itself,” he sets out to catch it. Anxious and frustrated with everyone and their collective situation, Gretchen constantly fidgets and tears apart lettuce, only to start abruptly dancing, all while downing booze at alarming rates.
Falk and Iujvidin effectively place the audience in Gretchen’s shoes for most of the episode, as we see her getting more and more anxious and upset, bottling up her feelings whenever a new source of irritation arises, like Lindsay’s lack of knowledge about the marathon, or Dorothy’s explanation of her “Avaca-don’t” vines. There’s literally nowhere for Gretchen to run to, and because the supply of booze is slowly dwindling, no drug to numb her emotions. From the moment Gretchen comes downstairs, there’s an explosion waiting to happen because external circumstances are forcing her to show her cards with a PTSD-riddled veteran, an improv comedian, a frat boy doctor, a ditzy friend, and her pretentious boyfriend as an audience.
Then Jimmy tells her he thinks she’s had enough to drink, and it all goes south.
You’re The Worst features all around great acting from its main cast, but “There Is Currently Not A Problem” is a showcase for Aya Cash who gives some of the best acting in the series with Gretchen’s meltdown, a truly frightening tirade against her friends and acquaintances. Creator Stephen Falk has always a delightfully edgy sense of humor that traffics in righteous anger, but the meltdown is something else. It’s cringingly cruel, filled with cutting insults that put a pit in your stomach. She derides Edgar’s post-traumatic stress, dismisses Dorothy’s profession entirely and calls her a tweener (“You’re not hot enough to be the lead, and not fat enough to be the funny friend”), calls out Jimmy’s “writer” problems as well as Lindsay’s post-divorce struggles. Stanzler shoots this scene with tight precision, keeping the camera firmly on Gretchen and shooting reaction shots very sparingly, like she wants to trap the audience in Gretchen’s mind as well. But it’s clear that this outburst is the unfortunate byproduct of something deeper, her “completely beyond-my-control wiring issues” as she puts it. Despite her frustration over it and insistence that there will be a lawsuit, there won’t be because this is who she is for better or worse. (Ed: I read the “beyond-my-control wiring issues” line as a self-commentary on Gretchen’s mental state, but I believe she’s literally referring to the wiring in her old apartment. However, the subtext is clear enough.)
When Lindsay goes to console Gretchen, we learn that this type of thing has happened before and that she hasn’t told Jimmy about her clinical depression because she doesn’t want him to know her “brain is broken.” It’s heartbreaking to watch Lindsay and Gretchen share a heart-to-heart about the importance of sharing yourself with other people because of the history of these characters. We know that this is difficult for them in the best circumstances, but with something like mental illness, it’s especially difficult and thorny. How will Jimmy react? Will he run? Will he brush it off? These are the difficult questions embedded in all relationships, but in the stories of four characters that excel at bottling up emotions, they take on a whole new level of emotional resonance.
By the end, Gretchen apologies and finally tells Jimmy about her depression, but she also explains what she needs from him, which is not to make a big deal out of it and accept her for who she is and that he can’t fix her. It’s one of those major, line-in-the-sand relationship moments, and Jimmy basically reacts in the best way possible, by cracking wise, making her smile, and then hugging her. (Chris Geere’s facial reaction to this is fantastic. He somehow communicates fear, concern, and then a façade of sunny sarcastic confidence in less than four seconds.) But as Jimmy watches another mouse sneak into his house after killing one with an exhaust pipe, he realizes that she’s right: He can’t fix this. He will have to deal with it like an adult and support her down the line. And that’s fucking terrifying. But that’s also just the way things are.
It’s exceptionally hard to do an episode like this well without it coming off as didactic or preachy or “Very Special Episode-y,” but You’re The Worst succeeds with flying colors. This is an episode about coping with depression that doesn’t use the word until the last scene, and that never once suggests that Gretchen is anything less than who she is because of it. In fact, the whole point is that this is just yet another layer to her personality, and she’s entirely self-aware that she doesn’t need “fixing.” She just needs people to understand and that’s it. You’re The Worst makes this argument every week: We’re all problems without fixes, and that’s what makes us beautiful.
- There’s so much I didn’t get into in the main body of the review, but mainly, this was also a hysterical episode with some of the very best line readings of the series.
- Gretchen’s silent, confused reaction to Dorothy’s existence (and her “song”) was fantastic. Plus, for all of Dorothy’s great qualities, she also embodies plenty of terribly irritating “theater” quirks. (That song she sings being Exhibit A.)
- Jimmy couldn’t finish to Janis Joplin in the shower, but he switched to Grace Slick, so it’s okay.
- God bless Jimmy’s “New York” impression. “Oh, fugeddabout it! Let’s get a pizza bagel with Mayor Giuliani!”
- Lindsay busting right into dance moves after sifting her way through hellish traffic was wonderful. There was no beat taken between entering the house and dancing.
- Vernon’s rant to Lindsay was something else, man. Todd Robert Anderson brings his A-game every single time he’s on the show. Plus, I love how he was more hurt that Gretchen deemed he was not worthy of evisceration than actually being eviscerated.
- The Rocket Ship to Heaven is the episode’s best sight gag.
- “So would you say it’s a problem-free philosophy?”
- “I napped in a sunbeam!”
- “Who’s the rando?”
- “Shit, I don’t want some wack-ass baby, but I have needs!”
- “You’re all just dancing like some uncoordinated doomsday cult while vermin run around unchecked.”
- “I mean, everyone feels sorry for the kids forced to work in the diamond mines of Sierra Leone, but where is the telethon for the noble writer?”
- “I’m afraid even though this speech is a little cheesy, I munster continue. Gouda day, little guy.” “Goddammit, she’s good.”
- “Can’t I, though? I got that mouse!”