Tested | Party in the Hills

Love, Season 1, Episodes 3 & 4Love 104.png

I’ve heard/read that episodes of Love are meant to be enjoyed in bulk. In a way, it’s a very long-form romantic comedy movie. This makes it perfect for a streaming service that releases a full season of episodes all at once. While, I’ve resisted the urge to plow through all the episodes, as I watch I understand that one is not enough. I can’t imagine people would like this show if they had to wait another week to see what happens next. There really isn’t much happening from episode to episode. There’s a lot of character work being done, but not much action. It’s been a deliberately slow set-up, looking at how our leads behave apart from each other before getting into their relationship. So far, I’m liking the pacing though.

I’ve been watching two episodes a week, pretty much back-to-back. What I’ve found – and this may be pure coincidence – is that the second of the pair is the more enjoyable. However, the goings on in “One Long Day” wouldn’t be as much fun to watch without getting to know Gus and Mickey separately in “It Begins”. The same is true of “Tested” and “Party in the Hills”. In the former, we get a deeper insight into our leads (particularly through their work lives) that makes their interactions in the latter even funnier. I’m sure the story can’t keep Gus and Mickey apart for half of the episodes going forward, but it makes sense (especially in a rom-com movie paradigm) that it starts out this way.

Episode 3, “Tested”, centers around the main characters’ lives at work,  but it’s book-ended with the all-important first text. Gus sends Mickey a text – just a simple “sup?” – and spends the rest of the episode anxiously awaiting her reply. Unbeknownst to him, Mickey attempts to text back while she’s driving to work, which results in her bumping another car in traffic and speeding away. She does end up remembering to text back at the end of the episode and it’s sweet to see Gus’s obvious excitement, but it’s what happens between these events that really frames their perspectives and method of dealing with challenging situations.

They are both “Tested” at work (you see what I did there?). Gus’s job as an on-set tutor for the young actress, Arya, is on the line if she doesn’t pass a state exam. Arya clearly has no interest in learning math (her accountants will handle the books) despite all of Gus’s efforts. Ever the doormat, Gus goes along with her many distractions and doesn’t get the chance to cover any of the material for the exam. When she throws a fit and walks out of the test (she was just acting, right?), Gus finishes the exam for her. Thinking he took some initiative by compromising his moral code and cheating, Gus suspects an attaboy from the show’s producer. What he gets is the sobering reality that no one really cares how the test was passed; he just did his job as far as anyone else is concerned.

Meanwhile, Mickey is becoming more and more uncomfortable with her boss’s advances. I think we all assumed that Brett Gelman’s radio psychologist was super creepy, using his position to coerce subordinates into sleeping with him. Mickey’s solution: sleep with him so she can use sexual harassment as grounds for wrongful termination. Sadly, however inappropriate his flirting was, her boss had no intention of firing her if she rejected him. While Gus has a hard time shifting into gray areas of morality, Mickey shifts deeper into the blackness. At least she can’t get fired, though.

It’s pretty grim stuff, but “Party in the Hills” brightens things up a bit. First, Gus hanging out with his friends making up theme songs to movies is the most adorable thing ever. I loved every bit of the scene in his apartment. I also like that the secondary characters are getting a bit more use after they were introduced fairly two-dimensionally in the premiere. No secondary character can bring as much joy as Bertie, but it’s nice to know Gus’s friends a little more. In the midst of the jam, Gus gets a text from Mickey inviting him to her friends’ house-warming. He, of course, discusses it with everyone in the room and leaves immediately.

When he pulls up to the house and the time on the clock says 6:59 (he was told the party was at 7), I pitied him while laughing. He stays in the car until exactly 7:00 (hilarious) and lets himself in to see that no one has arrived yet. I’m not sure why he thought Mickey would be the punctual type (a piece of advice, Gus: you don’t want to show up before the only other person you know), but it makes for some great moments of him wandering around, clearly out of place. When Mickey does show up, she ditches him almost immediately to talk to an ex. Gus, it turns out, isn’t completely socially inept and he manages to find his own at the party. He jams with a group of guys and even gets some attention from another woman.*

Mickey should not have left Gus to talk to her ex. She goes to the party thinking she can avoid drinking, much to the excitement of Bertie who wants to get drunk and then laid (Claudia O’Doherty is so much fun to watch). The argument with her ex, who she apparently cheated on, drives her to drink and the result is not pretty. After she has two men fight for her honor – well, one for her honor; the other stands by calling her a whore – she turns into that drunk person who is being a drag telling everyone how not fun they are. She shoots Gus, who’s getting cozy with this random lady, a look and demands that everyone jump into the pool. When she biffs it diving off the roof, Gus swims to her rescue. She later suggests that Gus and Bertie hook up, meaning that she doesn’t want him to be with anyone unless she approves. Or maybe she doesn’t want to be with him, but wants him close. This is sure to be a bumpy road for them.

*I didn’t know how to fit this in the review, but hearing Paul Rust sing made me so happy. It’s sad knowing that Don’t Stop or We’ll Die is probably done for good. RIP Harris.

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