The following recap contains spoilers for Good Trouble episode 411 “Baby, Just Say ‘Yes.”
In her book, Year of Yes, there’s a story that Shonda Rhimes tells about a Thanksgiving dinner she once hosted.
Rhimes and her eldest sister are in the kitchen, prepping the meal together…well, Rhimes’ sister is prepping…Rhimes is helping out where she can, wrangling her small children and trying to keep her sister entertained. She shares the littany of invitations she’s received lately — the events, conferences, parties and talk shows she’s been invited to — because, no matter who you are or how big you get, the younger sister always wants to impresses her older sister. At some point, Rhimes’ sister stops and asks if she’s actually going to go to any of these events. Shonda’s a little taken aback by the question but stammers out her answer: “of course not.”
The declined invitations were out of necessity or, at least, that’s what Rhimes told herself. She had shows to write, shows to produce, a staff of over 600 people to wrangle and, most importantly, three tiny humans who depended on her. She was a titan, she didn’t have time for all that other nonsense. After listening to Shonda’s meager defense, her sister dismisses it with six little words: “You never say yes to anything.” The words sit dormant in her head for weeks…until after she returns from a rare outing to the Kennedy Center Honors.
At the annual event — an event she was obliged to attend thanks to her nomination to the board by the POTUS — she gets shuffled into the president’s box. No one asks, she’s just seated behind the President and the First Lady. For the first time in a long time, Shonda Rhimes can’t say no. She goes and has the time of her life.
A few weeks later, Rhimes is lying in bed when she has a realization: if anyone had bothered to ask her if she wanted to sit in the presidential box at the Kennedy Center Honors, she would have said no. She would let her fear and anxiety win out and have missed out on one of the most memorable nights of her life. Her sister was right, she never says yes to anything. So she decides, in that moment, to start saying yes…to spend a year saying yes to anything and everything that scared her.
“For one year, I would say yes to all the things that scared me. Anything that made me nervous, took me out of my comfort zone, I forced myself to say yes to. Did I want to speak in public? No, but yes. Did I want to be on live TV? No, but yes. Did I want to try acting? No, no, no, but yes, yes, yes,” Rhimes explained in a subsequent TED talk. “And a crazy thing happened: the very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear, made it not scary.”
I mention all of that because, ostensibly, that is what’s happening on Good Trouble: Sumi’s asking Alice to embrace her “Year of Yes.”
Alice has been through a traumatic experience — an experience that encroached upon the one place where Alice had always been her fullest self, the comedy stage — and to get back out there, to really regain her confidence, she has to undo that fear. That means saying yes to the comedy show at the pet adoption event. It means saying yes to the comedy show at the retirement home in the Valley. Saying yes, Sumi explains, is the key to success. But, of course, Alice doesn’t agree to this idea easily, so Sumi starts by agreeing to a modified version of the “year of yes:” whatever Alice suggests, she’ll do, no questions asked.
It starts innocently enough, with Alice ordering Sumi to hug the always irascible Kelly and to confess the craziest thing she’s ever done. Personally, I refuse to believe that the craziest thing that Sumi’s ever done is to get root beer in her Chipotle water cup but Sumi’s relieved to get that secret off her chest. Alice accepts her answer but you can almost see the wheels in her head turning: what ridiculous thing can she get Sumi to do next?
The answer, apparently, is chugging ketchup. Is this really a challenge the kids are doing these days? Downing entire bottles of ketchup?! My stomach hurts just thinking about it. With Alice recording her for the Instagram/Tiktok clicks and almost everyone in the Coterie cheering her on, Sumi deposits a 38 oz bottle of ketchup into a mug and then proceeds to chug it all down. The crowd vacillates between cheering and looking on in abject horror. Just as she crosses the finish line, it looks like she might vomit but, miraculously, she steels herself and is able to keep the ketchup down. Sumi raises her hands in victory as everyone cheers her success.
But Alice’s challenges just keep coming: first, the apple/fork challenge. After several errant attempts, including one where Alice almost ends up with a fork in her chest, Sumi is ready to give up. Alice reminds her of the stakes — giving up means agreeing that not everything’s worth saying yes to — and Sumi recommits to the challenge. And, of course, that’s when Sumi succeeds. She shrieks with excitement, thrilled by the prospect of trying something new and hard and succeeding.
With that challenge conquered, Alice takes Sumi out on the streets of LA and tasks her with denotating ten kindness bombs. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about those first two trends, but aggressive compliments to total strangers? I love this challenge and so does Sumi. She embraces the opportunity to share her light with others and everyone receives her compliments happily. Alice keeps trying to find a challenge that Sumi won’t do — including a ghost pepper challenge that I desperately wish had made its way on-screen (blame it on watching too many episodes of Hot Ones) — but to no avail.
“It’s been so amazing,” Sumi admits. “Like, doing things outside my comfort zone has made me feel alive.”
Alice finally sees the value in Sumi’s approach so she acquiesces. The first stop? A mortician conference to help lighten up the death industry. Am I a little sad that Alice didn’t use this opportunity to find out more about Sumi’s feelings and what sparked their initial break-up? Yes but also, I recognize that the biggest impediment between Alice and Sumi’s romantic reunion has always been the lack of trust….and this is how you build it back up.
Despite having said yes to the invitation to move into the Coterie, Luca’s still uncertain of his place there. The lessons of being unhoused are difficult to unlearn so when he leaves the Coterie every morning, he carries everything he owns with him. He appreciates the temporary roof over his head but he’s fully expecting that one day, the folks at the Coterie will run out of patience…they’ll discover that they took on more than they want to deal with and show him the exit. But, of course, that’s not the case…and back at the Coterie, everyone’s trying to figure out a way to make him feel more at home.
“Luca’s lost his things to street sweeps before, it’s probably just instinct to him at this point,” Joaquin notes, explaining why Luca walks around with all of his belongings. Luca comes in, as the group’s preparing dinner, and rather than hanging out with the group, he retreats into his space by himself. Mariana laments that Luca doesn’t yet feel at home here, and so Alice sets out to make the situation right, after all she has a bit of experience in the matter.
The next day, Alice invites Luca — who is trying to make himself indispensable by fixing things around the Coterie — to talk to the group. The worry that flashes on Luca’s face is unmistakeable…he thinks this is it, he’s going to be asked to leave. Instead, Alice leads him to his makeshift loft where everyone’s waiting. They wanted Luca to know he was truly welcome here so they’ve added a bed, a nightstand, a lamp and a dresser to his space…and some curtains for privacy. Alice hands him the keys to the building and the mailbox and that cements him as a resident at the Coterie. Luca admits he’s never had a set of keys before and he holds them with such pride (this is the part where I start to tear up, FYI). Davia rushes over and wraps him in a hug and then everyone else joins in, welcoming Luca home.
The next morning, Luca gets up and goes through his routine of getting ready when he realizes that his routine can change now. He doesn’t have to carry everything with him all the time anymore. He unpacks his clothes and stores him in his new dresser before grabbing his keys — HIS KEYS! — and heading out.
Good Trouble Coterie Sundries
+ I really have no idea what to make of this entire situation with Isabella. Surely, she had to know that going to Yuri as she did was going to have some blowback? And there’s something about her therapy sessions that feel less candid? Anyone have an theories about what the endgame is here?
+ Does sleeping with Mariana make Joaquin more interesting to me? Yes. Does that make me care about this storyline with his sister? Sadly, no. Someone just call Stef Adams Foster so we can wrap this whole thing up!
+ Doesn’t Elliot’s dad look like Davia’s past love interests — Jeff and Dennis — combined? The girl definitely has a type.
Next Week: “Are you playing games?”