After taking a break last week, I’m back to recap all the happenings at the Coterie in DTLA. It’s tough to recap Good Trouble on a normal week — each episode is jam-packed with happening — but how to recap two week’s worth of action (“Torn” and “Doble Quince”)?
To that end, I proudly present, the compliment to last season’s “Men Are Trash (But Sometimes Not)” leaderboard: “These Women Aren’t Defined by Their Relationships (But I am Judging Them for It)” leaderboard.
1. Jazmin – Relationship Status: Happily Boo’d up
Last we saw Jazmin (in season one’s “Broken Arted”), she’d opted to take a settlement in her discrimination suit, rather than deal with a long, protracted court battle with the catering company. She wanted to stop relying on her brother — who’d taken a full-time job at Speckulate to help defer the costs of litigation — and start building a new life for herself. Well, it worked, because when Jazmin steps out onto the Coterie rooftop for her Doble Quince, a quinceañera for her 30th birthday, in lieu of the one she didn’t get at 15, Jazmin looks like she is living her best life.
With her brother on her arm, she makes a grand entrance, circling the rooftop once to show off her dress and greet her guests, before proceeding to the dance floor for the group dance. Jazmin and her brother, along with two other couples, elegantly dancing to “Waltz of the Flowers,” until the beat drops and Hailie Sahar channels all of her Lulu Ferocity realness into a routine set to Jennifer Lopez’s “El Anillo”.
WAIT. Did Good Trouble just combine two of my all-time favorite things: queer women and Jennifer Lopez music into one dance segment? Why, yes, yes they did. And did I absolutely love it and have I rewatched it at least two dozen times since it aired? You damn right. Sahar was so good in this scene, I felt like channeling my inner Pray Tell, “She don’t need no scores tonight. Just give that bitch her trophy, and go on and collect that [dress] for my closet.”
While Jazmin finishes her dance in the arms of her boyfriend, Zeke — the guy she met during her stint as a cater waiter — it’s not the most important relationship that Jazmin gets to revel in at her quince. Good Trouble adds a lot more depth to Jazmin’s character this week, revealing that she was once served in the military — her quince doubles as a fundraiser to fight the transgender military ban — like her father and grandfather had. In the lead up to her quince, Gael tries to go home to collect her dog tags, but their dad refuses to give them back, clinging to the tangible reminder of the son he once had. Jazmin’s father talks about her as if she were a murderer and disowns her for bringing shame on the family.
But, on the night of her quince, Jazmin’s 80-year-old grandfather shows up, delivering the dog tags she earned after serving her country with honor. He hangs the tags around Jazmin’s neck and wishes his “beloved granddaughter” a happy doble quince. He tells her he loves her very much and asks her for a dance. They sway together to Natalie Taylor’s “Love is the Answer” and Jazmin’s crying and Gael’s crying and I’m crying… and we’re all just beautiful sappy messes.
Gael hopes that his grandfather’s acceptance of Jazmin is proof that people can change — that no one’s forever connected to the bigotry of years past — and that his parents might grow. For now, though, Jazmin and Gael just have each other… both outcast from their family for living life as their true selves: her as an out and proud trans woman and him as a newly out bisexual man.
2. Davia – Relationship Status: It’s Complicated
Of the members of the Coterie, only Davia knows how close they came to losing Dennis… and knowing that fact has made Davia more appreciative of having him in her life. Is that appreciation just friendship or is it more romantic? Davia doesn’t know yet — I, on the other hand, do know: I definitely ship it — but what she does know is that it’s changed the way she sees her value and the way she sees Jeff. But before she could end their affair last season, Jeff does the one thing she’d always wanted but never actually thought he’d do: he leaves his wife.
Not knowing what to do, Davia searches the Coterie for someone to give her some advice and because there is, literally, no one else, she’s forced to ask Callie. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess. Davia leaves out the part of the story where she might have feelings for Dennis and, instead, tells Callie that her feelings have changed, both for Jeff and for their dream of moving back to Fitchburg, Wisconsin. Surprisingly, Callie offers some sound advice: make Jeff dump her by telling him that her life is here now and she won’t move.
But, of course, no advice that Callie Adams Foster has ever given goes to plan. When Davia tells Jeff that she’s signed on for another year of Teach for America — as he told her to do, back when he was using her as a West Coast booty call — and wants to stay in LA, he understands. Instead of breaking up with her, though, he commits to transferring to his company’s LA office and starting a relationship with Davia there. Oops!
And because things aren’t nearly complicated enough for Davia, that night ends with Dennis in her bed. She’s been pushing him to confront his grief over losing his son — with exercise, healthy eating and a support group — and Dennis feels suffocated by it all. But instead, of letting it all overtake him, as he did last season, Dennis shows up at Davia’s door and asks to stay the night. She curls up in bed next to Dennis, wraps him in her arms and silently lets him know that he’s not alone.
3. Alice – Relationship Status: Failure to Launch
“[Standup comedy] did two things: paid the bills and also, great therapy. Literally. To be able to talk about things, whether it was things going on in my life or going on in the world, it was a great relief,” Robin Williams once said. That’s precisely what Alice is doing — not just venturing into a new career as a comedienne, but using her stand-up as a way to grapple with coming out and her relationships with her parents and Joey. And, it works, on-stage before the quince kicks off, Alice is as comfortable as we’ve ever seen her, with Sherry Cola imbuing her character with the confidence she’s gained from performing stand-up.
But while it works for Alice, it doesn’t go over nearly as well with Joey who feels like their identity was the butt of the jokes and they gives Alice the cold shoulder as soon as she steps off the stage. Joey stews as Alice introduces them as her girlfriend, instead of as her partner, in front of a pair of women who host a queer comedy show. Later, the couple has it out: Joey calls Alice out for having an issue with her pronouns but Alice assures them that she doesn’t, she’s just trying to figure things out.
After a rough back and forth, Alice finally stands up for herself, “I’m sorry that I just came out of the closet like two minutes ago, okay? I’m trying to figure out who I am as a lesbian and a comedian. Do you know how hard that is? I’m not a perfectly fully formed human being but I can’t keep trying to convince you to be with me.”
But, it turns out that Joey’s anxiety wasn’t solely about their perception of Alice’s discomfort, it was about their fear that Alice’s exploration of this new side of herself would mean that something would, inevitably, come between them. They’ve been burned before and are weary about reliving that experience. It’s understandable but it’s ultimately Joey’s issue — one they have to work to get past on their own — and they encourage Alice to get out more and check out the comedy scene as much as she can.
Crisis averted and each of them admit to the other that they’re falling in love.
4. Mariana – Relationship Status: When You Know Better, Do Better
Over 16 episodes, Mariana has been working to change the culture at Speckulate — first, by just being a Latinx woman in a space that doesn’t often make room for diversity, and then, as the leader of the Fight Club, the all women’s effort to create change in culture and in the pay scale. And while its “easy” to rail against someone like Josh, the former Speckulate executive who made unwanted sexual advances on women, maintained the gender and race pay gaps and perpetuated bro culture, it’s harder to look at ourselves and consider what we’re doing to maintain those same dynamics. Such is the case with Mariana Adams-Foster.
Outside of the offices of Speckulate, there’s nothing wrong with the relationship between Raj and Mariana but within the offices, Mariana’s new role as team leader and Raj’s boss makes their relationship all sorts of problematic. At first, I’m surprised that Mariana doesn’t recognize the potential for conflict right away but that’s how it happens sometimes: Mariana is so convinced that she’s okay — their relationship is purely consensual and it would never impact their work — that she doesn’t stop to consider how things could go sideways…or, how rules prohibiting relationships between supervisors and their charges sometimes catch the “okay” in their nets, so that “not okays” can also be caught.
But even when employee grievance committee brings the issue and the prospective new policy to her attention, Mariana doesn’t change her behavior. She still recruits him to work on her app — he saves the day when her app crashes during its beta test at Jazmin’s quince/fundraiser — and still holds his hands at party where her boss and her co-workers are present. Oh, Mariana. Do better.
5. Malika – Relationship Status: Molly, You in Danger Girl
I’m sure that in real life, Sarunas Jackson is an incredibly nice young man, but, when it comes to the characters he plays on-screen, he’s developed a bit of a reputation. If you are writer in Hollywood and you’re looking for a guy to play a character who might, charitably, be described as a “fuckboy,” Sarunas Jackson would be a good person for you to call. He’s been a fuckboy on Insecure, he’s a fuckboy on his new show, Games People Play and, initially, it looked like he’d be a fuckboy on Good Trouble too. But Isaac has defied all expectations and really has become the best boyfriend to Malika…a fact that’s so unsettling to an audience so used to seeing Jackson play fuckboys, that everyone just assumed he and Malika were dating in real life.
After Malika steals Callie’s security pass and sneaks into Judge Wilson’s chambers to chastise him for the outcome of the Jamal Thompson case, Isaac is there to bail her out. He invites her to meet his family at their regular Sunday dinner. He encourages her to step back from activism, not because he doesn’t support her mission but because he worries about her carrying the pain of the struggle. He insists they are an official couple, even when Malika’s unsure. When she goes out in search of her absentee father — who, according to him, spent her childhood in prison on a trumped up possession charges (I do not believe him at all, FWIW) — Isaac advises her to take a time to focus on herself and her future. Even when Malika’s silently judging him for not being as much of an activist as she is, he’s gentle in his response and doesn’t run away at the slightest disagreement. Look at you, Sarunas Jackson, out here trying to break out of that fuckboy typecasting.
That said, when the father she never really knew, with a prison record and a “too good to be true” story about his time as a Black Panther, shows up at the Coterie, after he just voiced concern about her security… well, judging from the look on Isaac’s face, this might be a bridge too far.
6. Callie – Relationship Status: Does She Even Know How Relationships Work? (Also: The Worst)
Oh, God… Callie. I want to love Callie, I really, really do. I want to cheer her rise from the juvenile detention center where we first met her to the law school graduate with a prestigious federal clerkship. I want to admire her relentlessness and celebrate her passion for justice. And yet, I cannot, because Callie Adams Foster makes loving her so damn hard.
Last week, Callie quit her job. Not fired as she probably should’ve been for lying to her judge about her friendship with Malika and the personnel file she was mysteriously sent…she quit. Judge Wilson wanted to keep her on because he admired her integrity but Callie’s integrity couldn’t have her staying neutral in the fight for justice, so she quit.
She presses pause on her relationship with Jamie so that she can get her shit together…which, I think, is just code for finally choosing between Jamie and Gael. She interviews at the Community Rights Consortium, West Coast Alliance for Social Justice and the ACLU and impresses wherever she goes. Once her bar results come in, she’s got whatever job she wants just waiting for her and she’s even got her new tailored $1500 suit picked out for her first day. But then Callie discovers that she didn’t pass the bar — she’s not alone, 25% of first-time bar exam takers didn’t pass last year — and spends the night crying in bed, against Jamie’s chest.
So let’s recap: no job, no law license, no prospects and no fancy suit but, at least she’s rekindled her relationship with the “sweet and dependable” Jamie.
OH, BUT WAIT….
Because she doesn’t tell Jamie about Jazmin’s quince — instead, she tells him that she’s going to a work thing with Mariana — and spends the entire evening eyeing Gael from across the room. Unbeknownst to Callie, Jazmin invited Jamie all on her own to thank him for his help on her case and he opted not to come. While Callie tries to defend herself by saying that she didn’t want to bring Jamie and hurt Gael’s feelings, her sister echos the feelings of the entire audience by asking, “WHY??!”
“What about Jamie’s feelings? I mean, seriously Callie, you really think he’s not going to find out about tonight?” Mariana asks, once again putting to rest any question about who the smarter Adams Foster daughter is. “The point is: the reason you haven’t told Gael about Jamie is because you don’t want him to move on, ’cause you always have one foot out the door. I mean, when are you gonna make a serious choice with these guys and not have them hanging on a hook?”
I may have stood up and clapped at that.
Callie finds Gael, just after witnessing Jazmin’s dance with their grandfather, when he’s understandably emotional, and chooses that moment to tell Gael that she’s back with Jamie (CALLIE!). Afterwards, she makes her way to Jamie’s apartment and claims she’s made her choice: she wants to be with Jamie.
Oh, Callie, I only wish I could believe you.