There’s a moment in this week’s episode of Good Trouble that made me salivate over the possibilities of a genuine love triangle between three queer Asian women again: it’s early morning at the Coterie and Sumi steps out into the hallway in her pajamas. At the other end of the hall, Ruby steps out of Alice’s loft, fully dressed. She’s wearing the same thing she had on when Sumi saw her last so it’s clear that Ruby spent the night… and now the two competitors for Alice’s heart have a showdown in the hall. If Ruby knows she’s competing with Sumi, she doesn’t let on: there’s not an ounce of shame in her walk to the Coterie elevator. Sumi tries to put on a brave face — exchanging pleasantries laced with a hint of disdain — but her disappointment is palpable.
I loved this scene and, despite my tremendous misgivings about how we got to this moment, I wanted more of this. I wanted more of Ruby’s swagger, Sumi’s jealousy and Alice being a BAWSE, having these two women compete for her affection. Three Asian lesbians in a love triangle? YES, PLEASE. I wanted it despite myself.
But it was too much to hope for, really: after all, Good Trouble already has one too many love triangles on-screen and prolonging another for the sake of entertainment — no matter how groundbreaking — would’ve just been too much. So, by the time Ruby and Sumi have their showdown in the hallway, the triangle is already over.
Yes, Ruby spent the night with Alice but, in the light of day, Alice realizes that she made a mistake. She’d offered comfort to Ruby because Alice didn’t want to be another in a string of disappointments for her, which, at once, feels crueler than anything Alice has ever done and yet exactly what you’d expect Alice to do. But when Ruby wakes up with hope that their relationship can grow from this, Alice sets the record straight: her heart’s just not in it (she leaves out the part where she’s possibly falling in love with her first ex-girlfriend, again).
“I hope we can still be friends,” Alice asks, meekly.
And, in a sign that Good Trouble definitely has some gays in its writers’ room, Ruby answers back, “Of course. I mean, what kind of lesbians would we be if we didn’t stay friends after breaking up?”
But, of course, Sumi doesn’t know this when she spots Ruby in the hall and later, when she and Alice cross paths in the Coterie kitchen, all she really knows is that Ruby spent the night in Alice’s loft. She asks about Ruby — offering Alice the opportunity to clarify the relationship between them — but Alice doesn’t recognize the opening for what it is and, instead, laments that Ruby’s been forced to resign her position at CBTV. Alice does try to pivot back to the personal: she asks Sumi to talk about their Lunar New Year kiss but Sumi dismisses it as the byproduct of a little too much baijiu (Alexa, play that song that goes, “Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.”).
Sumi heads for safer ground, urging Alice to find a way to save the comedy showcase. Alice reminds her ex that they don’t have a director and Sumi encourages her to ask Margaret Cho. Alice dismisses that outright: Margaret Cho’s too famous and too busy to have time to direct the showcase. Plus, after Alice called Margaret out for her inaction, Alice doesn’t think she’ll be receptive to the invitation, given that Margaret Cho blocked her on social media. But even as Alice is content to wallow, Sumi is undeterred: “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
The way, as it turns out, is to lie. With an assist from Ruby, Sumi meets up with Margaret Cho, pretending to be a reporter from Heysian Gaysian, an online quarterly that focuses on queer Asian representation in Hollywood…which is definitely a thing Magaret Cho and I would subscribe to, if such a thing existed. With Alice feeding her questions from a nearby car, Sumi tries to interview Margaret Cho about her interview with the Hollywood Reporter and the ramifications for the CBTV program. But, of course, it turns into a comedy of errors: Alice bungles the questions or talks too fast or talks while Margaret’s trying to answer a question, leaving Sumi to improvise in front of Margaret. It’s a big mess. Eventually, Margaret Cho catches on and invites whomever’s on the other side of Sumi’s earpiece into the diner to tell her what’s really going on.
Alice slides into the diner booth next to Sumi and explains the reasoning behind their elaborate scheme: there’s no way CBTV would cancel the showcase if Margaret agreed to be the director. Unfortunately, time is not on their side: he showcase is just a week away and there’s no way that Margaret could fit directing into the projects she’s already juggling. Alice accepts defeat as a casualty of things eventually getting better and hopes she didn’t burn down her dreams in the process. The girls walk out, dejected, but Sumi rushes back in to get her phone…or, at least, that’s what she tells Alice. Instead, she sits back down with Margaret Cho and makes one final pitch to get the famed comedienne’s help.
“Let’s face it: one article in the Hollywood Reporter, blowing the whistle on a program that you participated in and profited from doesn’t make you a hero,” Sumi states plainly, before making a more emotional plea. “And I know you’re a hero because you showed me and Alice and every other Asian girl that we can be strong and funny and in charge. You inspired us, and now is not the time to let us down.”
Later, Alice joins her fellow CBTV comedians to hear about the fate of the showcase. She apologizes for the way that everyone found out about her relationship with Ruby but assures them that their relationship wasn’t why Alice had gotten into the program. Cooler heads have, seemingly, prevailed and most of the comics are more understanding than they seemed originally. Even Lindsay — who would be completely justified in having animosity towards Alice — stands up for her and asserts that Alice deserved her place in the program. The lone holdout is Derek, who remains critical of Alice’s role in bringing the program to its potential demise. It’s at that moment that it finally clicks for Alice: Derek is the one who told Scott about her relationship with Ruby.
The revelation causes tempers to flare until the CBTV HR director interrupts. She delivers what sounds like bad news — the showcase can’t go on without a director — but then introduces the new director: Margaret Cho! As everyone celebrates the news, Alice asks what changed Margaret’s mind and she admits Alice’s stunt with Sumi deserved to be rewarded. She tells Alice that Sumi is a keeper and, bashfully, Alice admits that she already knows that.
I take that admission as a sign that Alice will persist. Sumi’s grand gesture — one of the greatest romantic tropes — speaks far louder than anything she said earlier about their kiss. Alice’s affirmation has to mean that she’ll leave rehearsals, she’ll find Sumi and they’ll finally have an honest conversation about their feelings, right? Oh, if only.
Later, Alice and Sumi toast the success of their stunt on the Coterie rooftop. Sumi also offers credit to Ruby — who, apparently, is just living rent free in Sumi’s head at this point — and Alice shares that Margaret got Ruby re-instated as co-director. Sumi asks about the potential conflict of interest, given Alice’s relationship with Ruby…and it’s the opening I’ve been waiting for. All Alice has to do is tell Sumi the truth: she and Ruby have decided to just be friends and confess that her heart belongs to Sumi, but Alice doesn’t do it. Sharing these moments with Sumi has brought back the memories of their shared past…including good moments like their first date at a seniors’ swimming class and their bad ones, like Sumi cheating and the fallout from the heartbreak. The pain’s been made real again and Alice just isn’t ready to risk that again.
But while Alice’s queer love connection may have failed this week, Malika’s is just getting started.
Malika is still playing host to Yvonne’s children at the Coterie and, as a result, switches her schedule to work the afternoon shift at Douro. She rants to Angelica about how holding Yvonne in jail — over what is, apparently, a clerical error — is grossly unfair and puts the family’s entire life at risk. Angelica volunteers to ask her friend on the city council for help and Malika welcomes any help she could provide. That friend on the City Council? It’s actually Angelica’s ex. And when Angelica casually says she’s “on the city council,” she really means she’s on the City Council…her ex is Councilwoman Lucia Morales. Angelica calls in a favor and secures Yvonne’s release…much to her kids and Malika’s delight.
With the crisis averted and Angelica’s queerness confirmed, Malika presses her on whether or not their hike was meant to be a date. They do this dance around each other — the directing in this scene is particularly good — which only fuels the tension building between them. Angelica acknowledges that she wanted it to be a date but she didn’t want make assumptions. Malika admits that she didn’t know if she wanted it to be a date, at first, because she’d never dated a woman before…and, of course, Angelica seizes on the “at first” part of her answer (which, again: proof that Good Trouble has gays in its writers’ room).
“I would like to go on a date with you,” Malika confesses. “But I’d want to ask you properly, you know? Just so there’s no question in either of our minds what we’re doing.”
Malika steps into Angelica’s physical space, ostensibly to grab another glass to clean, before stepping back and waiting for Angelica to respond. It’s a power move — it’s a top-off, actually — that I don’t entirely buy a newly queer person making, but, on the other hand, it’s very, very hot so I’m willing to overlook it. Angelica grabs Malika’s hand and pulls her back towards her and…just so there’s no confusion…they kiss. It’s all very, very hot…and Flavia’s “Blue” is the absolute perfect song to soundtrack the moment…and I can’t wait to see what happens with Angelica and Malika.
Good Trouble Coterie Sundries
+ I suspect that, due to COVID protocols, it must be easier for Good Trouble (and shows like it) to keep storylines siloed from each other…but as I watched Alice grapple with her past and a potential future with Sumi and Malika navigate her first romantic feelings for a woman, I couldn’t help but think about how both those characters (and their storylines) could’ve benefitted from some time together. Their friendship has always been a grounding force…and it would’ve been helpful to lean on it here.
+ There was a brief moment in “Shame” where Gael admits that he and Isabella can’t raise a baby in the Coterie — a point that was, seemingly, re-emphasized last week as they met with his parents — but this week, we got to see a bit of what it might look like if they tried. It was pretty adorable, actually. Everyone at the Coterie pitches in to help get Yvonne’s kids ready for school…and for a moment, I thought, “well, this could actually work. They could totally raise the baby here.”
But, of course, just as I start to imagine the possibility, Isabella starts to experience cramping and bleeding…and she and I both fear she’s about to have a miscarriage?
+ I know part of the Autotraddle TV Team brand is “make it gay, you cowards” but this week when they revealed that Tommy and the boy he allegedly killed, Zach, were secretly gay for each other…that just felt unnecessary?
+ The girls at Bulk Beauty continue to profit off of Mariana’s hard work — she helps them secure a second brand partnership with Like Nature — but instead of offering her seat back at the table, they extend minimal thanks and usher her back to work on the algorithm. But what becomes increasingly clear, after Mariana salvages the pitch meeting, is that Claire’s the only member of the Bulk Beauty team unwilling to give Mariana the credit she’s earned. Gina suspects the root of Claire’s disdain for Mariana lies with Raj — who Claire is now dating — so Mariana sets out to make things right with them both…not to regain her partnership, mind you, but to simply make amends with her friends.
But the problem for Claire was never Raj, it was always Mariana: the lies she told and the way she’d undermined Claire when she was appointed team leader. Mariana doesn’t call Claire out on her bullshit — refraining from pointing out that Claire was the lead because Mariana was penalized for something they were all complicit in or noting that Claire holds Mariana responsible for undermining her but not the person who did the actual undermining or the way the girls wouldn’t advocate for pay equity for Speckulate’s staff members of color — and it annoys me to no end. Thankfully, though, she recognizes that the situation is untenable and hits Zelda up about that job interview.
Next Week: The Good Trouble Season Three Finale!
Yay! Great recap! Malika having some queer feelings felt like a gift ive wanted since I misheard a line way back when the coterie women were picking dates for eachother. So excited!
Thanks for reading.
Admittedly, I liked Malika with Isaac so much that I never thought of her as queer but the chemistry between her and Angelica has me like, “Isaac who?”
Regarding your last paragraph about Alice and Sumi, I think you’re projecting your own opinions onto Alice’s motivations. There was no evidence onscreen that Alice was recalling bad memories of Sumi. I don’t think Alice’s nerves are any more complicated than that Sumi dismissed their kiss and Alice isn’t yet self-confident enough to see what’s really going on with Sumi.
Malika and Angelica are extremely hot together, especially in THAT scene. I did smile at your assumption that straight people don’t know the “invade someone else’s personal space and then step back and wait to see what they do” tactic. I assure you it’s not only the province of queer people, and an experienced woman like Malika would certainly know it.
The conflict between Mariana and Claire is well-done. I do understand why Claire can’t trust her; Mariana has a long history of lying and scheming (much like Sumi does). But on the other hand, Bulk Beauty obviously won’t succeed without Mariana. If Claire isn’t going to suck it up and make Mariana a full partner again – or if the other two women aren’t going to suck it up and move Claire out and make Mariana partner – Mariana is right to move on and work where she would have the title and compensation she deserves. Where Claire is really wrong is in expecting that this situation where Mariana carries Bulk Beauty as a non-partner can or should go on. It’s gross and exploitative. Either make her partner or tell her it won’t work out and she should get a fresh start elsewhere.
I think you’re right to note that there was scant evidence onscreen that Alice was recalling bad memories of Sumi but, to me, it seemed like the most logical explanation. We know, from the earliest episodes of Good Trouble, that Alice still carries the scars of what happened when their first relationship imploded…and they’ve never really dealt with that. It makes sense that to me that those scars would keep her from jumping into a few thing with Sumi. But again, I could be wrong…
As for the Malika/Angelica dance, I think you misread what I wrote. You focus on the queer/straight divide when the most important word in that description was “newly.” There’s a tentativeness that comes with new expressions of your sexuality…we’ve seen that Malika’s embrace of polyamory and her questions about whether the hike was a date. But that top-off…that’s not a beginner’s move (irrespective of sexuality)…that requires boldness that newly out folks don’t often have. But again, I forgive it because HOT.
@pecola I think your theory about the way Alice is thinking about Sumi is fully substantiated by not only Sherry Cola’s excellent acting, but the music in the background is literally “are some wounds too deep for mending”
Also, and this is purely anecdotal, as a top who came out in my mid-30’s I definitely would not have had the courage to pull that move my first time around. But yes I’m here for it because it’s hot and I can’t wait to see more of them together. Thank you for another excellent recap!
“Mariana doesn’t call Claire out on her bullshit — refraining from pointing out that Claire was the lead because Mariana was penalized for something they were all complicit in or noting that Claire holds Mariana responsible for undermining her but not the person who did the actual undermining or the way the girls wouldn’t advocate for pay equity for Speckulate’s staff members of color — and it annoys me to no end.”
Thank you sooo much for pointing that out!! I need the writers room to point out how racist this whole situation is with Mariana and those girl. That scene absolutely infuriated me. Claire sounded so condescending ughhhhh. I hope Mariana gets this new job and leaves these terrible women.
I am soooo excited for Malika’s plotline. The scene with her and Angelica was so hot, I definitely re-watched it a couple of times. I’m very curious as to where they are going to take this to.
As much as Sumi has been great and is doing a lot to help Alice, I don’t know that I can forgive her for what she put Alice through yet. I hope if they do get them back together, they don’t just skip over all that. It is quite refreshing to see not only a queer relationship but a lesbian love triangle with no white people. It really is the little things :)
@oreoluwa It really is! :)
Thank you for sharing my indignation about the Claire and Mariana situation. I understand the need for Mariana to do some penance for lying but this whole thing is out of control.