This is the Murphy’s law episode — (mostly) anything that could go wrong did go wrong. We remain marooned on Greek life island, not surprising since it’s one of the more salacious things under 21s can take part in, and most of the episode hinges on the Thetalympics party Nico’s frat is hosting. We have all our college girls at one party for the first time since the first episode, and it’s nice. They’re not exactly close (no one knows about Dalton, Leighton won’t come out), but we watch them process their turmoils next to each other, a different but still formative kind of bonding.
But before the turmoil, there’s the ~magic~. In this case, Nico “Captain Crunch With Abs But Also Erectile Dysfunction” Murray left a comment on Kimberly’s Instagram. Kimberly, Bela, and Whitney all freak out about how the comment undoubtedly means that Nico wants to bang, despite it coming across as somehow even more sterile than the needle Walgreens used to deliver my booster shot.
As a reminder, Nico wrote “That dress tho.” and there was an emoji involved, but it doesn’t make it any better. Moments like this really cement the fact that the show’s writers are all well over 30 because no one has gotten “sexy hot teen” from “that [noun] tho” since nearly ten years ago. And anyway, as a eunuch (I suspect), Nico would have felt much more comfortable telling Kimberly that “it’s giving… it’s giving Cher.”
But the comment doesn’t matter for long; the dirty bastard ends up deleting it! Bela assures Kimberly that this, if anything, is a good sign, showing that Nico thought about the post hard enough to remember to revisit it the next day. Later, Kimberly shares that, although Nico watched her Instagram story in two-minute record timing after she replied to his party invite with a “GIF of a baby running real fast,” he said “jk” and then “whoops! That was meant for someone else.” Kimberly really should just focus on completing her econ assignment, which is due at midnight, but yes, this is all great for Kimberly and Nico’s bone-dry relationship. Let’s put it in the dehydrator and tell Ben Shapiro’s wife.
After the party, Nico walks Kimberly home, and she does miss the submission time for her econ assignment, but maybe it was worth it? Unclear. But enough of Nico, let’s get to his repressed little sister. This was actually a very good Leighton episode. That lonely shell she’s grown around herself finally starts to crack, predictably, with the help of enemies-to-lovers bait Alicia.
When they hear about the Thetalympics party, the Women’s Center members share that, although they’ve been campaigning to ban Greek life from campus, they’re willing to hold off judgment until actually attending a frat event themselves. Much to Leighton and Nico’s dismay, of course. Sorry, we’re talking about Nico again. All his flannels gained sentience and hacked into my laptop to blackmail me.
Nico scrambles to rid Thetalympics of “triggers,” like “sombreros, kimonos, and fake afros,” which don’t really make sense at an Olympics-themed party, but I’m glad the writers were able to cram some cultural appropriation belittlement in there. But Alicia wants Nico to know that she’s a cool lesbian activist and not a lesbian activist who hates binge drinking, urging him just to chillax and hold her feet for a keg stand.
Surprisingly, it works, and the Women’s Center members seem to have a good time in frat heaven. I was not aware that small liberal arts colleges could throw parties that don’t have the vibe of Spotify playlists with titles like “White Man Kisses Truck On Lips,” but this one had treadmills and not one truck with eyelashes. But, like with all of the girls in this episode, the night goes well until it really, really doesn’t.
Alicia laughs outside the party with Leighton, who’s warming up to her in a way she hasn’t warmed up to anyone, but a drunk guy decides to take a piss right next to them. Alicia tells him to please pee somewhere else, but then things take a darker turn when he calls her the d-slur. Alicia knocks him to the ground and kicks him in the stomach; Leighton pulls her off of him; Alicia says Leighton could never understand because she’s a “pretty, blonde, straight girl who [men] actually think is worthy of respect.”
Overwhelmed by her emotions, her worry for Alicia, and the heavyweight of her secret, Leighton takes that line as permission for her to finally come out to someone that really knows her. And she does it … with a kiss! Then Alicia and Leighton have sex and watch Netflix after Alicia’s urging, marking the first time that Leighton hasn’t immediately run away from someone she was just intimate with. Okay, now let’s UNPACK ALL THAT.
I don’t doubt that many people will find this particular set of scenes conflicting. I’m stuck on the fact that media often depicts being queer alongside violence, which is a reality for many people, but those people are usually poor, Black or Latinx, and/or gender nonconforming. I don’t think that having a middle-class, cis, half-white woman punch a guy for calling her a slur is cathartic or constructive to see for the people closest to that situation actually happening.
In terms of story, though, it makes sense that Leighton would need something big to knock her out of her set ways, and seeing her build genuine connections to people for the first time is a lovely development in her coming-of-age.
But the clunky attempts to highlight real-world issues did not stop there! For the entirety of this episode, Whitney focuses on “standing up against discrimination.” The discrimination has nothing to do with being a Black woman at a majority white college with mostly white roommates, though (unexplored territory that I hope the show eventually addresses), but in showcasing the differences between men and women college athletes.
I’m being hard to please, and this is a legitimate issue that I’m glad that the show addresses, but every time we see Whitney, she’s either with her foot fungus older boyfriend or crying over how he has foot fungus. This is the first episode where we spend most of it without him — can’t we define Whitney as an individual without any opposition?
Nico’s collection of pleather belts just emailed me the word “NO” in tiny, tiny Garamond, so, whatever, here’s what went down. Upon discovering that the men’s soccer team got cute team sweaters, even after losing their last game, Whitney is livid and makes her way to the men’s locker room to showcase how much more money gets poured on the men’s team than women’s. She goes on Instagram Live to react to “the disparity” in real-time, only to immediately shut it off when she accidentally gets a naked soccer player in frame. It is a locker room, after all.
I don’t think the show knows what Instagram Live is because although Whitney gets in trouble for the act of filming a dick, she says she was only planning to “go public with the footage and get [injustice] fixed.” Unfortunately, Instagram Live could not be more public. I know for a fact that Chelsea Clinton watched your Live and saw that dick, Whitney.
This doesn’t get addressed because Adele wrote the show, but Whitney is suspended for two games anyway. Just as quickly, Whitney gets unsuspended when her senator mom calls in and convinces her coach to reverse the decision, which prompts Dalton to realize that, oh, hey, I’m having an affair with a senator’s daughter. He breaks up with Whitney and reveals that he never told his wife about their relationship in a brutal double whammy, leaving Whitney to sob alone on the side of the road for a disappointingly anticlimactic and sudden end to their relationship. Whitney does, however, throw a brick through Dalton’s truck window, which I liked.
Don’t worry, Whitney, you’re not alone in being taken advantage of and tossed aside. Because Bela just got tossed, all right. She sneaks into a Catullan wine and cheese party and has a tough time schmoozing after mistaking Franzen for Franzia, though she wasn’t far off. “Nice” Catullan editor Ryan (Conor Donnally) then swoops in to save her, sharing his edits on a comedy piece she wrote.
They go into his room, and he seems to have really helped her until he says he wants to show her a “funny video” he saw. The video is porn, him showing her is indisputably sexual harassment, and Bela is extremely confused and uncomfortable. And it’s not even funny porn — although, later, when Bela shows the video to her roommates to get their take on what happened to her, Whitney notes that one of the performer’s “balls are a different color than his penis.” That’s a little funny, I guess.
It’s painful to watch Bela process the experience, especially because she ends up completing Ryan’s suggested edits, presumably motivated by the old, embedded desire of getting into Catullan no matter the cost. It sucks ass. The theme of this episode is “sometimes being a woman sucks ass.”
This focus on icky men does bring up some of my gripes with the series as a whole, though. I’m a little tired of the shallow stabs at women’s issues. Would Bela or Whitney even have a personality if there wasn’t a male power figure to rage against? The deluge of aggression towards these otherwise privileged characters also makes womanhood seem a lot scarier than it is. I don’t want womanhood to be inextricable from victimhood. This show makes the two synonymous while cutesifying it with characters like Dalton and events like Bela giving six handjobs to write for a shitty college humor magazine. Is there a magazine in the whole world that is worth giving six handjobs for? Don’t answer that. God, I wish we could just watch a bunch of privileged kids’ have dumb, fun romps and riots. Blair Waldorf, my ass!