If You’re The Worst was a romantic comedy, then “Finish Your Milk” would be its second-act breakup. There’s a breach of conduct (Jimmy telling off Gretchen’s parents) and an untimely surprise (Gretchen finds an engagement ring in Jimmy’s drawer) that ruptures the foundation of their relationship. It’s a moment that’s built into the genre. However, the scene when Gretchen breaks up with Jimmy doesn’t read like a predictable plot point in the story of their relationship. It feels like an rough breakup that’s both sudden and foreseeable: Jimmy falls back on his cruel, condescending disposition after learning that Gretchen lied to him, and spurred by both Jimmy’s insults and the discovery of the ring, Gretchen cuts and runs. It’s a high-water mark in the series so far because it proves that You’re The Worst can deftly enter emotionally tense territory without it feeling the least bit telegraphed.

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I don’t mean to reduce “Finish Your Milk” to just one scene because You’re The Worst was firing on all cylinders tonight. “Finish Your Milk” features some of the best writing of the series, credited to Eva Anderson; each member of the cast are at the top of their game; and director Matt Shakman shoots the episode with a keen visual sense that compliments both the writing and the acting. It’s a great showcase for everyone involved with You’re The Worst coming at the end of its debut season, and it makes a compelling case for the potential of the series’ future.

So let’s start with the episode’s setup: Jimmy drives Gretchen to the airport so she can go visit her “uptight and lame” parents only to discover via Shitstain and Honey Nutz that she’s actually in town. He travels to the museum she’s visiting and confronts her about the lie only for her to devise a more complicated lie Keyser Soze style, even going so far as to convince two strangers to pose as her parents under the guise of a hidden camera show. Jimmy is naturally shocked and angered at Gretchen’s commitment to deception, but he’s also clearly hurt. “Am I Draco Malfoy?” he asks Edgar in a stark moment of honesty.

But Jimmy doesn’t fit into Gretchen’s long-term deception of her mother and father, played by Rebecca Tilney and Stephen Mendel respectively, who believe she represents clean musicians like Josh Groban, does a lot of charity work, and drinks milk all the time. Jimmy spies on Gretchen playing tennis with her mother and finds a disquieting scene: Gretchen’s mother castigating her for her terrible backhand and Gretchen meekly apologizing for it. It quickly establishes the tenor of Gretchen’s relationship with her parents: They bully her into being a version of themselves, and because Gretchen is terrified of disappointing them, she constantly lies to them in order to fit their perception. Gretchen speaks like them when they’re around and wears matching tennis outfits so she can look like them. When Shakman pushes the camera in on Jimmy’s face as he watches the proceedings from afar, we see a confused look that says, “This is not the real Gretchen.”

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This layered dishonesty offends Jimmy to his core so he interrupts Gretchen’s lunch with her parents first to needle them and then to pull the rug from under them. Just before Jimmy is about to leave with Gretchen’s parents understanding of their daughter intact, you can see him make a choice that he knows will have disastrous consequences but will also be the truth just by the way Geere’s expression moves from sarcastic knowingness to smug self-righteousness. However, Jimmy’s rant isn’t meant to just be a cruel rebuke to her parents but as a declaration of loyalty to the Gretchen he knows. He calls her a “brilliant, beautiful mess” and he sincerely means it as a high compliment. Jimmy thinks he’s doing the right thing telling off Gretchen’s parents, and while everything he says is technically true, it doesn’t make it any less cruel or necessary.

So Gretchen visits Jimmy at his house and blows up at him. They go back and forth: She calls him a mean person for not respecting her relationship with her parents and criticizing his relentless need to bully everyone into a version that suits him, and Jimmy roars back that he values honesty and that “at least [he is] a person,” effectively pushing the detonation button on their relationship. Both Cash and Geere play the scene uncomfortably straight simultaneously swallowing and expressing hurt feelings and regret. Take a look at Cash’s face after Jimmy throws out that final line, and Geere’s after she leaves to go downstairs to cry. Shakman bathes the scene in darkness as our heroes have gone down a one-way road and said things they can’t take back.

Then Gretchen finds the ring and it’s all over. She goes back upstairs and says she’s “tagging out” of their relationship and it cuts to a split-screen while Gretchen breaks it off. It’s obvious but effective symbolism as the two are miles apart emotionally as neither one of them wants to take the necessary steps to either change their behavior, in the case of Jimmy, or be completely honest, in the case of Gretchen. Jimmy is stunned that he couldn’t downgrade the situation from DEFCON 1 with couple of drinks and Gretchen is stunned that Jimmy feels strongly enough about her to propose. It’s a classic example of two people with two different conceptions of their relationship and it blows up in their face.

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Meanwhile, Lindsay and Edgar are also facing obstacles in the way of their contentment. Lindsay spends the day with Paul out of guilt for her affair: She rides with him on his tandem recumbent bike, she accompanies him as he flies his model airplane, she listens to him talk about home brewing, and goes stargazing with him and his telescope. The subplot solidifies Paul as a nice, nerdy guy who has legitimate affection for Lindsay and Lindsay as someone who is completely different from Paul, but also has some affection for him anyway. It’s telling that Lindsay genuinely enjoys the day she spent with Paul, but still doesn’t have the heart to tell him about her adultery and is pulled away by a text message from Gretchen at the last minute. Anderson effectively lays out their marriage at their best, even though it’s on its last legs.

Finally, poor Edgar has to deal with the cruel bureaucracy at the V.A. just to get medication for his PTSD. The caseworker (Tim Bagley) he’s assigned superficially sympathizes with Edgar’s plight, but passes the buck off to Jimmy claiming that he should be paying for Edgar’s medication and, worse, that Edgar is suffering from “Domestic Civilian Transference Syndrome by Proxy” just to get him off the V.A.’s back. Jimmy sends Edgar right back to the V.A. only for them to refuse again to pay for his medication because he lives in Silverlake with Jimmy. It’s a funny C-story but it’s also an unsparing critique of the government’s indifference to the plight of veterans. It’s hard not to feel terrible for Edgar who all but begs his caseworker for meds so he can have a good night’s sleep.

So Edgar comes home empty handed only to find a distraught Jimmy mindlessly stirring ketchup in a pan. Jimmy tries to pass off his emotional state as a joke, but Edgar recognizes his pain and helps him cook something after Jimmy pathetically admits that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. It’s a very nice scene with Jimmy promising Edgar that he’ll go down to the V.A. office to sort out the problem and with Edgar helping a friend feel good at something even for a little while. Both of them are at their lowest but do their best to lend a helping hand, ending the episode on a sweet yet dark moment. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of You’re The Worst at its best.

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Stray Observations:

  • What’s the deal with that ring, eh? I didn’t see that coming, and for a second it seemed like a cheap way to goose the drama of the situation, but I ended up buying it wholeheartedly. We’ll see how well the series teases out that development.
  • Janet Varney makes another guest appearance as Becca who tries to persuade Lindsay to reveal her infidelity to Paul, which is a scene made all the more hilarious because they’re nestled into Yoga aerial hammocks.
  • Jimmy travels to the black movie theater in town so he can comfortably “yell out character inconsistencies, structural flaws, and keep a general humorous running commentary,” but it’s cool because Shitstain and Honey Nutz travel to Beverly Hills to see Wes Anderson films. They like it when white people clap for Bill Murray.
  • Where’s Sam in all this? He’s on the board of the Angelino Heights restoration committee because that makes perfect sense.
  • Gretchen’s packing fools Jimmy even though she just put wet laundry and toilet paper into a suitcase.
  • At one point, Edgar was drinking generic vodka to numb his nightmares, but he’d still have them, only he’d be drunk and way less coordinated.
  • “I feel so bad I can’t eat or watch shows with adultery. That’s all my shows!”
  • “You’re trading soda cans for black-market pharmaceuticals. That is a problem.”
  • “Are you here to see a black movie as well?” “We just call it a movie.”
  • “You’re not art.”
  • “No, man. Stuff’s going to stay on the ground. This hipster is having bad dreams.”
  • Let’s close with some of Jimmy’s wisdom to Edgar: “You bought into a long con. Society screwed you over and we owe you for that. I personally do not owe you, but a sort of collective “we” does. And you need your meds so you can shake off some of the damage done by Cheney’s fictional yellow cake uranium.”

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