It’s not always a good idea to read the comments. No matter what you write people are going to take issue with it — sometimes with cause, sometimes very much without. But if you do read the comments literal and proverbial there are a few ways you can respond. You can make a pandemic movie with rants against your critics using stand-ins with different experiences from yourself. You can become the main character on Twitter and then stay the main character for a week. Or, you know, you can actually reflect on the ways you need to improve.
And so let me start this Euphoria recap by saying I had to respond way too much last week with “I’m not saying this couldn’t happen, I’m saying it isn’t being done well” for the problem to not have been on my end. Whether my writing was muddled or whether I let my frustrations with this show — and how seriously I take the issues the show deals with — get the best of me, I don’t know, but I wasn’t clear.
So let me be clear. My issue with Euphoria is not about the realism of the broad strokes. Like Sam Levinson, I cannot speak to many of the experiences portrayed and even the ones I can are just my own personal experiences. Never mind the fact that “realism” is not something that is inherently good or bad in storytelling. My issue with Euphoria is not the broad strokes, it’s the moment to moment intimacies. When I say those feel false, I don’t mean what is happening is false to our world — I’m saying line by line, beat by beat they feel hollow.
It’s strange then to get to this episode that will definitely incite less praise and discussion than last week, but that I ultimately found more successful. If Euphoria was just a show about Sam Levinson stand-ins Nate Jacobs and Lexi Howard, I wouldn’t be watching. But this week felt like a relief to have so much time with dynamics that Levinson seems to actually understand. The intimacies ring true amidst all the soapy drama.
We open on Rue sitting at her kitchen table, going through withdrawals. She’s looking at a Jolly Rancher as her nose drips. Narrator Rue delivers one of my least favorite lines of the episode saying, “You know what I love about hospitals? They don’t need to know if you’re a good person.” She goes on to wax poetic about the neutrality of hospitals and I promise I’ll get to the stuff I do like in this episode but my God does Sam Levinson really live in such a bubble that he thinks HOSPITALS are neutral? That Rue as a middle class mixed race Black girl would be treated the way he was? That trans people are given the same care as cis people? You’re killing me, Sam.
Rue’s mom is caring for her and Rue notes that her mom grew up in the church and at least Christians believe in forgiveness. We get our first glimpse of a young Leslie singing in a church choir and I really thought we were finally getting a Leslie-focused episode! But no. All we get is she was in the church and in the choir in the church and is Rue’s mom which we already knew.
Rue is feeling remorseful about all the things she said and all the things she doesn’t remember saying. Most of all she’s feeling remorseful about what she said to Ali. She knows most of the world, including his family, writes him off for the same reasons she could be written off and she doesn’t want to contribute to that.
She calls him and says she’s sorry. He says he forgives her. All the talk about last episode securing Zendaya a second Emmy, this was the moment for me. It’s quieter than last week — I mean she’s still sobbing, it’s still Euphoria — but it’s just an incredible moment of nuanced performance.
Ali comes over to cook for Rue and her family. He sends Rue and her mom away and talks to Gia. He says as tough as things have been on Rue, it’s been tougher on her. Thank God someone is thinking of Gia! I still don’t think Levinson has written in a nuance to these moments the way he does with the Jacobs or the Howards, but I do think what he understands best about Rue is her addiction and these discussions of forgiveness and hurt worked for me. And it helps when you have Colman Domingo to deliver your lines.
Smash cut to Nate Jacobs lifting weights. He’s happy his dad is gone and doesn’t yet know that he has 38 missed calls from Cassie. You know, Cassie Howard from Maddy-is-on-the-phone-with-Kat-talking-about-how-she-wants-to-literally-kill-her fame. Kat is taking said call while out with Ethan who she’s about to break up with. She chickens out and instead tells him that she has a terminal brain disorder. He doesn’t buy it and storms off in frustration. Considering this is one of Kat’s few scenes this season, I wish it didn’t make Kat into such a comical bad guy. Would the Kat we know really break up with Ethan like this? I’m not sure… but Barbie Ferreira does her best to sell it.
Meanwhile, it’s seeming like Cassie might do the job herself. She is hysterical to the point that her mom has Lexi hide all the knives in the house. Lexi is starting to have doubts about her play but then she goes over to Fez’s and he reinforces her artistic spirit. The internet has been begging for Lezco? Fexi? Lezco. scenes since they flirted in the premiere and Levinson has finally delivered. Fez tells Lexi that she should include him beating up Nate in her play and insists re: Cassie that some people need to have their feelings hurt. They talk about how the play is going to have Stand By Me vibes because these characters all have the cultural references of their 37-year-old creator.
Another unlikely pairing happening across town is Nate and his mom. She’s gone full wine mom mode in the wake of her husband’s breakdown and she tells her son not to marry someone he meets in high school. She mentions him being an angry guy and Nate angrily argues that he is not. His mom then comes out as #TeamCassie and talks about how Nate was such a sweet boy until around 8 or 9 he darkened. Is the implication that Nate was raped? By Cal? Later Narrator Rue will confirm that Cal is technically not a pedophile so maybe something else happened that will be revealed later? After this mother-son drunk bonding moment, Nate sets out to recover Cal’s evidence. He doesn’t care about Cal but he does want to save the family real estate business. Of course the Jacobs are in fucking real estate.
While this is happening, the Howards are having their own family togetherness moment. Cassie is ranting about how she didn’t do anything wrong while her mom is like… okay babe. Lexi is just sitting there observing. This is a BIG episode for younger siblings trying to keep quiet and keep the peace. Cassie then tries to slit her wrists with a corkscrew before finally getting into a big fight with Lexi about her ratting on Fez. She continues her rampage a bit later shouting about how she may be bad but Rue is worse, as if that is relevant or comparable. Cassie’s mom, rightfully, says that Cassie needs an exorcising.
These scenes are so good?? Sydney Sweeney is hilarious and Cassie’s antics ring so true for a nightmare teenage girl. These moments are both painful and funny and they feel worth all the exhaustion of this season’s Nate and Cassie affair.
It was around this time that I thought “where is Jules??” and Rue answered by explaining that Jules is at home and— fuck Jules and Elliot, Rue doesn’t want to talk about them. Back to Maddy.
Samantha — MILFka Kelly — comes home and tells Maddy they should get drunk and go for a swim. Maddy confides in Samantha about Nate and Cassie and Samantha admits to pulling a Cassie against her best friend when she was in college. There’s a vibe as they bond about being messy and then Samantha pointedly notes that Maddy is 18.
Lezco are watching the end of Stand By Me and Lexi is crying. It’s a cute little moment that convinced me the kids on Twitter are right about this pair. While this is happening Faye takes out the trash in the rain — elite house guest — where she meets her boyfriend who admits to collaborating with the police against Fez and Ashtray and asks Faye not to reveal this secret — less elite house guest.
Next stop on the Nate Jacobs redemption tour is a reminder that he does not deserve one. He’s sitting in Maddy’s room in the dark holding a gun. He asks Maddy where the disc is of his dad’s sexual exploits and when she says she doesn’t have it, he puts one bullet in the gun and gets on top of her. He points it at her head and then moves the gun to his own. Click. No bullet. Click. No bullet. Maddy, through tears, tells him it’s in her purse. He gets the disc and then apologizes(??) saying there weren’t actually bullets in the gun(??).
He pulls a Cal — drinking and driving with a cocky smirk — as he calls Jules to tell her he’s coming over. She goes outside to meet him with a boxcutter up her sleeve — the literal definition of bringing a knife to a gun fight. He apologizes. He says he was protecting someone who didn’t deserve it. And then he gives her the disc. As she’s leaving, he grabs her hand and says that he meant everything he said to her. She leaves — thank God — but if Levinson tries to endgame them, I will lose my mind.
Nate calls Cassie and tells her to pack a suitcase. As Cassie stands at her front door, she locks eyes with her mom. Then she gets a text from Nate that says “here.” To roughly quote Lady Bird: “You’re not gonna get in a car with a guy who texts, are ya?” Alas, she does. They drive to Nate’s house and he lets her beat his chest before they kiss. All the while, Jules is watching her experience with his dad on her computer that still has a disc drive.
Finally, we return to Ali’s dinner with the Bennetts. Rue says she wants to get clean and Ali asks Gia how she feels about that. She’s skeptical. Leslie starts to object and Ali defends her. He says losing faith is fair until Rue finds some for herself. Really loving all of Ali’s Gia defense!!!! All Gia has done is be a good sister!!! She hasn’t even used the material for a play!!!
Gia asks to sleep in Rue’s bed and, as they lie there, Rue says she feels like she doesn’t know anything about Gia’s life. Gia says I’ll tell you when you get back.
But back from where is the question. The episode ends with Leslie on the phone with the rehab facility. She’s crying and begging and it’s clear there’s some sort of problem. Rue may not be going back to rehab after all.
This episode doesn’t work, because it’s realistic. It works because it’s grounded in its creator’s experiences. Levinson may not know that people get treated differently at the hospital, but he does have experience with addiction. He has experience with Rue’s guilt and her forgiveness. He has experience with people like Nate Jacobs and Lexi Howard. And, I assume, he has experience getting dumped by someone hotter than him.
+ This episode was once again written and directed by Sam Levinson
+ I know Fexi is the more common ship name but this is Autostraddle dot com. I’m calling these straight people Lezco.
+ Nate’s mom mentions wanting to buy a Peloton. What is it with TV and Peloton?? Were all these scripts written early pandemic when Pelotons were all the rage?
+ I’m on Team Maddy because she’s funnier, but I do think there’s a difference between having sex with your best friend’s recent ex and having sex with your best friend’s boyfriend. Cassie is right that she didn’t technically fuck her best friend’s boyfriend. Continuing to fuck Nate once he and Maddy rekindled wasn’t the best though.
+ I really, really, really like when older writers make recent period pieces rather than awkward contemporary-set stories. Not to reference Lady Bird for the second time, but that movie being set in 2002 let’s Greta Gerwig include all her personal specificity. I wish Sam Levinson had done that with Euphoria even if Rue wouldn’t get to be born right after 9/11.
+ People on the internet are so fucking harsh on Rue and Jules. They’re teenagers! Rue is an addict! Jules is… Jules has done barely anything wrong. It’s one thing to critique their behaviors but the hatred toward these flawed teen characters is wild.
+ This TikTok is fascinating. It’s not uncommon for actors to reword their lines, but it is uncommon for every single line to be vastly improved. Give Zendaya a writing Emmy along with her second acting Emmy.
#euphoria zendaya stayed on script and went off script at the same time haha