“Euphoria” Episode 204 Recap: Not Really Smart, Not Really Cruel

This Euphoria recap contains spoilers.

When I watched The OC, I didn’t expect genius. I was content to watch the hot 20-somethings play teens, to watch them gallivant around their fancy homes, to watch them get tangled up in increasingly absurd drama. The show didn’t pretend to be anything other than a teen soap opera. And also I was 10.

This episode of Euphoria made me realize I’ve been watching the show all wrong. Sam Levinson may think he’s a genius making a genius show, Zendaya may have won an Emmy and posted a statement about Euphoria being for adults. But, ultimately, Euphoria is just a teen soap opera. It may want us to take it seriously, but it’s so much better when we don’t.

We begin with oral sex. Jules is going down on Rue and asking if it feels good and Rue just keeps saying it’s amazing. Narrator Rue tells us that she really loves Jules and we sink into a goofy montage of Jules and Rue as art and other famous couples. We get Jules in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and a Frida Kahlo self-portrait. And we get Rue and Jules as Magritte’s The Lovers, Yoko Ono and John Lennon, the Ghost pottery scene, the Titanic “King of the World” scene, Snow White’s kiss, and the lead up to the Brokeback Mountain tent sex.

Of course, these are all either fiction or exaggerated portrayals of reality. And Rue may love Jules but she’s too high to feel whatever Jules is doing under the sheets. Rue decides she needs to fake an orgasm and it’s somehow even less convincing than her performance of sobriety.

Jules and Elliot have become besties — or another word for when your girlfriend has relapsed with a hot boy and then you start hanging out with that hot boy because he’s better at validating you than your girlfriend — and he says that Rue is too lazy to fake an orgasm. But then Jules repeats what Rue did and he’s like oh.

He jokes that maybe Jules is just bad at eating pussy because his whole thing is complimenting her and then insulting her. She says this makes her feel like a guy and Elliot says it’s not her fault if she’s inexperienced. He shows her how to do it on her hand and I am sorry but I simply do not believe that this high school boy with the face tattoo is actually good at eating pussy. But he is good at licking the hand of a girl whose partner is making her feel crazy and so when Jules does it to his hand it quickly leads to a make out.

As they hook up, Jules is wearing a sports bra and has a visible thong riding up her pants like it’s the early 2000s. If I’m generous, I’d say this points to Jules trying all sorts of things with her gender presentation. If I’m being ungenerous I’d say, Levinson wants to make a point about Jules’ gender journey with the sports bra but still needs a visible thong to fulfill his weird sexual obsession with her.

Rue arrives. This is all before the title.

Next, we have a montage set to Mahalia Jackson’s version of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” I’m not saying Sam Levinson doesn’t understand the history of this song, but I am saying it feels weird to hear it while Nate Jacobs swigs champagne straight from the bottle.

The Nate/Cassie/Maddy stuff is getting so tedious. Maddy is like why do you love me and Nate is like because you’re smart and cruel but not really and she’s like not really smart and he’s like not really cruel. It’s so bad that I had a Euphoria-style fantasy sequence of smashing my head into my headboard. And yet this is somehow topped by Cassie and Nate’s fight that felt like two teenage theatre students were told to do an improv.

Speaking of theatre, Lexi begins casting her play with dialogue she’s literally stolen from Cassie. This should end well.

The timeline of this episode is all over the place but more or less it’s Maddy’s birthday and Cassie, Lexi, Kat, and vape girl are celebrating at the Howard house. Here we get our one Kat moment where she tells Maddy she doesn’t like Ethan and then Maddy says the R-word a bunch. According to the comments, it’s not unrealistic that Maddy is saying this, but I’m still like… why?

Back at Elliot’s, our trio are doing a little dance where Rue goes to the bathroom to do drugs and Jules and Elliot steal make outs. Elliot asks if they should all fuck and that does seem like the move except that Rue doesn’t want to fuck anyone and Jules doesn’t know Rue and Elliot are doing drugs and not to be a teen on Tumblr but Elliot is starting to feel super manipulative to me.

In Elliot’s defense, when it’s his turn to do drugs in the bathroom he gets rid of them instead. Upon his return, Rue makes out with him, clearly on a dare, and then when Rue says it’s amazing, a hurt Jules dares Elliot to lick up her stomach.

Elliot says if they’re going to continue these lesbian power games they should get some alcohol even though he knows Rue shouldn’t be drinking on the drugs she’s taking. They go to a convenience store and Elliot and Jules go through a whole thing to steal a pack of White Claws. This ends with a quick getaway and a baseball bat through Jules’ window. Seems like a lot of drama for White Claw!

As they drive away, Rue cracks open a White Claw much to Elliot and Jules’ dismay. Elliot is upset that she’s drinking on drugs and Jules is just upset that she’s drinking. It’s like they haven’t heard that there ain’t no laws when you’re drinking claws??? Rue snaps at Jules and says she can’t stand her and asks Elliot to take her home. And by home she means leave her on the side of the road which he for some reason obliges.

Speaking of drinking and driving, Cal is shitfaced and trying to recreate the joyride of his youth. His head is bandaged and he is guzzling liquor while whooping and hollering and swerving. He arrives at the same gay bar that has not changed since 1985 or 1995 or 2005 or whenever Cal was 18. He walks in and kisses the stool much to horror of the surrounding twinks. To be fair, if I was at that bar, I would think he was there for a hate crime.

He saunters over to the jukebox and puts on “Drink Before the War” by Sinéad O’Connor, because apparently that’s who closeted pansexual boys in ???? were listening to. He starts lip syncing for his life right there in this gay bar that’s more John Wayne movies on in the background vibes than Drag Race watch party.

It may feel a little random that Cal is singing along to this admittedly great song, but it really stretches the imagination that he’s joined by Cassie. Cal’s son has gifted Maddy a necklace from Tiffany’s and Cassie is spiraling. She walks downstairs in a bathing suit that Kat quips is “certainly a choice.” And she begins singing along to the song that is also playing at Maddy’s birthday party? Maybe we’re supposed to think of this more as an everybody singing “Wise Up” in Magnolia moment but it’s very random especially since the song could’ve continued from the previous scene without it being diegetic.

Lexi is finally noticing Cassie’s decline and I need her to stop writing her play for five seconds before her sister drives off a cliff singing Oklahoma! or — more likely — chokes on her own Smirnoff Ice vomit.

She thankfully doesn’t choke but she does vomit. Right there in the jacuzzi as Maddy talks about all of Nate’s love promises to her. Meanwhile, Cal is trying to wrestle the young guy with daddy issues he was dancing with and he gets himself kicked out. Rue is doing drugs from the suitcase. Jules is back at Elliot’s asking to take a shower. Euphoria really is just three montages in a trench coat pretending to be a TV show.

Elliot and Jules start making out and Elliot finally tells Jules that Rue isn’t sober and that he’s been doing drugs too. Then we go to Rue who is high and hallucinating that she’s walking through a Black church. Jules and Elliot are there too and the three of them are the only people in this fantasy sequence who are lit. (Not in a stylistic way — Levinson and his DP just don’t know how to light anyone with dark skin.) Rue hugs the pastor who is played by the show’s composer Labrinth and then he turns into Rue’s dad as she cries and says that she’s not a good person.

Cal drives home from the bar with his hands in the air and it’s a miracle that this man does not die or kill someone. An act of God. And by God I, of course, mean Sam Levinson who is too into this storyline to let it end yet.

He makes it home and starts pissing in the foyer of his upper-upper-middle class mansion. This wakes up his wife and two (surviving?) sons. His dick is out as he talks to — no, rants to — his family. He tells Nate’s brother, Aaron, that the first time he fucked a man was when Aaron was a fetus. “I’ll fuck men. I’ll fuck women. I’ll fuck transsexuals,” Cal says. Pansexual icon, Cal Jacobs. He’s not done. “I’m a faggot. A sexist, chaser pig and I love it.” Truly wild that a cis straight man woke up one morning and decided to put these words in Final Draft. It’s a whole monologue and it ends with Cal saying that it’s his family’s fault that he’s fucked up and then he walks out the door supposedly forever.

We end with a dreamy montage that communicates zero new information. Rue is saying “I love you” repeatedly as we check in on the entire cast. The very Euphoria music plays and everyone is in a liminal space. I’ll give Euphoria that — waaaaay more liminal space than The OC.

More Glitter:

+ This episode was once again written and directed by Sam Levinson.

+ Rumor has it Kat’s role was severely cut because Barbie Ferreira fought with Levinson.

+ Meanwhile, Sydney Sweeney pushed back against people being gross about her nude scenes, saying that Levinson cut further nude scenes when she asked him to. I think it’s important to find a way to criticize Levinson without removing agency from these actors. It’s great that Sweeney and Zendaya are having great experiences on this show. It’s also worth noting that Levinson is in a position where he’s working with a lot of young actors with different experiences than him and they are having to pick their battles with the knowledge that if they fight with Levinson he might cut their scenes.

+ If you’re wondering whether that explains McKay’s absence, I’d say it’s just as likely Levinson doesn’t know what to do with a Black male character or that it’s connected to Algee Smith being unvaccinated.

+ Trying to figure out timeline on Euphoria is as pointless as doing it for The L Word. But based on the family photo Nate is not that much younger than his brother and if he is 18 in let’s say 2019 then Cal was having his first boy crush in like 1998? Those flashbacks felt older than 1998 but what do I know I was five.

+ The other option is Nate is actually the youngest brother and it’s the middle brother who has disappeared. Also what do we think happened to the mystery brother? Is he dead? Or gay and kicked out of the house?

+ Our only glimpse of Fez is when Faye’s boyfriend stops by to say that Mouse’s baby mama showed up asking questions.

+ The one thing Euphoria will do is attack me personally with the soundtrack and this week it was the Sinéad O’Connor song since I’m newly obsessed and was listening to that album all week.

+ If you liked this Euphoria recap feel free to make me a t-shirt that says: “I’ll fuck men. I’ll fuck women. I’ll fuck transsexuals.”


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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. Her writing can be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Thrillist, I Heart Female Directors, and, of course, Autostraddle. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about trans lesbians. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew Burnett has written 313 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. this episode pissed me off and i frankly just don’t like how queerness is being framed at all this season…. it doesn’t feel like something neutral or positive, rather that from jules’ side queerness is cheating and not being a good partner, and from cal’s side queerness is being a destructive pedo. neither of which are acceptable stories for levinson to be talking about

  2. I’ve seen a lot of people praising this episode, and it had some moments that were good, but In a whole is felt so disjointed, and I couldn’t make sense of what it was trying to say at times.

  3. So grateful for this reframe to the OC because baybee I just let that show wash over my tween self and was rewarded with the bisexual awakening that was Olivia Wilde kissing Mischa Barton. If I just replace lips glossed and Adam Brody dialogue with an appreciation for set design and love for montage than, maybe–just maybe, I can make my way through this Sam Levinson experiment.

    I must say that the Rue/Elliot/Jules of it all makes no sense to me as I am still living on the planet where Jules hooked up with someone in NYC and came back to Rue and it was all copacetic. Or as copacetic as it can be considering Jules repeatedly expressing a desire for physical intimacy with Rue, whose desires or limits are not expressed. The lovers montage is hard to watch to me since Rue consistently plays the character that ultimately dies (Titanic’s Jack, Ghost’s Sam, and Brokeback’s Jack Nasty) while Jules is pedestaled from the start as Venus.

    Sam’s obsession with her is quite troubling and with each new story coming out from cast members, he feels like some Ryan Murphy (gorgeous ideas at the cost of good writing) with a Joss Whedon complex (gross). Of the many alarms to go off, the one that made me talk back to my screen was how he wrote Maddie specifically to double down and drop the r word. If I am meant to believe that Cassie and Cal are sharing a Sinead O’Connor moment than I can live in a world where Maddie uses different words to support Kat

  4. Drew, I always love you and I am always proud of you but I hope you gave yourself a TREAT for “Euphoria really is just three montages in a trench coat pretending to be a TV show.” CHEF’S KISS!! I will think of that always.

    It’s going right up there in my mind with this absolute GEM from Joshua Alston in a 2014 Scandal recap for the AV Club: “Huck talks like he was hit by lightning in the middle of an obscene phone call.”

    • Yes! Came here to say the same thing, such a great line!

      Thank you Drew for suffering through all the moments when Jules and Rue are not on screen, and indeed for the moments when they are but Levinson is Levinson-ing.

  5. the lack of Rue narrating this episode threw me off and definitely made Rue seem more distant and disconnected from the people around her, also sobriety is NOT manipulative but elliot not taking the drugs in the bathroom read as a little manipulative to me because it seems like he’s trying to keep control while he orchestrates this sequence of events and plays both sides in the Rules relationship

  6. I guess watching this as a soap is HEALTHY. Unfortunately, I’m not there. Yet.
    As always, it’s a matter of proportions. Elliott is very abusive in this episode, but he passes as a human teenager. Maybe he’s not the most realistic representation of a “smart asshole”, but ok. His behavior is (almost?) believable. He’s not Nate, the Evil Mastermind.
    The problem with characters like Jules and Cassie – teenage girls who use sex to punish themselves – is you can always make a scene where they’re having sex with a man or a boy who’s abusing them or using the fact they’re not in the best place, and there will be a good justification for that. So maybe you should examine every time you put these characters in the position of this kind of vulnerability. It’s not like you can’t have a story about toxic, repetitive patterns, but you can tell it a bit different way, without falling into the whole tragic blonde exploitation trap.
    I’ve always seen a lot of empathy in Euphoria, but I guess I don’t anymore. And it just shows how Levinson is not with Jules in her teenage humiliation when Rue fakes an orgasm and when Jules confides in Elliott. He’s with Elliott because he wants another love triangle, another f*ck plot no matter what. And it’s creepy and cruel because most of us have been Jules. In these moments, she’s the most relatable character possible, even for the straight cis guys.
    So I guess it is a soap after all. A soap with a very little sense of humor, which doesn’t make it a good soap! So there is no way out. Or give us more Faye-as-a-Greek-chorus, please?
    See you next week

  7. No way Mcsteamy is so close to me in age lol. Those scenes looked like the early 90s. I just assumed Nate was the youngest of three and whatever older sibling they had moved out? But eh, idk.

    Really bored with the Maddy, Nate and Cassie storyline. It is too triggering of when I was masking as a heterosexual at their age.

      • I thought the whole biggest regret thing was more about Cal himself considering how his family is a relfection of his own standing/abilties/worth. I mean, the other brother likes terrible porn, but we haven’t really seen anything else from him, right? Nate is violent, abusive, manipulative and secretive way beyond the normal teenage amount and Cal has seen/experienced it himself. I would wonder if Cal blames himself (maybe he considers his own secretive and manipulative behaviors to be impacting his ability to parent well or unintentiobally passing down those values to Nate specifically) for a lot of Nate’s behaviors and now the way Nate turned out is just a big regret for him.

      • I think he said that because Nate’s obviously violent and risky behavior is embarrassing and (for some reason, given his own behavior) confusing to him.

        Also, I spent the whole episode trying to calculate timeline too, but I think the key is when he gets to the bar and says he hadn’t been there in 25 years – that would put him at 18 in 1994ish, or maybe earlier if he kept going back for a few years. The flashbacks looked late 80s or early 90s to me, but I wasn’t born then either.

    • The Rue/Jules line in this season is so boooring for me, it’s like they have nothing to offer anymore but the fact that Rue is an addict and Jules is a trans and… that’s it!
      Sorry, not enough for me, I don’t see either of them goin anywhere
      And very disappointed of the Kate’s constant absent
      I enjoyed other line tho, these 2 things just ruin everything for me

  8. After hours of trying to make sense out of this gaslighting, mansplaining f*ck plot with Elliott, I sat down and read The New Yorker’s profile of Celine Sciamma. And Sciamma these days is like, maybe you don’t need a conflict to build a plot, maybe you can do it with desire, Chekhov’s gun is bullsh*t, who needs that crap. So I had this surreal experience I don’t really recommend. You should always read about Sciamma first!

  9. The Rue/Jules line in this season is so boooring for me, it’s like they have nothing to offer anymore but the fact that Rue is an addict and Jules is a trans and… that’s it!
    Sorry, not enough for me, I don’t see either of them goin anywhere
    And very disappointed of the Kate’s constant absent
    I enjoyed other line tho, but these 2 things just ruin everything for me

  10. This episode definitely reminds the most of when I read the pilot for riverdale when it was supposed to be on FX…. Very heightened adult teen soap. Also hate how much mental energy the cal/nate storyline is taking up for me. but are we supposed to believe Cal is acting this way because he is suffering from traumatic brain injury? Or is he just having a breakdown?? Both???? Also the last time he was in the bar was 1997 by the shows math. But I’m not sure if we are supposed believe he only went there once or was he regular at some point? Also which son Aaron supposed to be? Middle or oldest?

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