The following recap contains spoilers for Good Trouble episode 413, “A Penny With A Hole In It.”
A few months after I finished college, I found myself back in my mentor’s office, frustrated by the pace of life. I’d done everything that’d been asked of me — I got an education, I’d worked hard for very little money (shout out to unpaid internships!) — but it all seemed for naught. Everything I’d done felt fruitless: the opportunities I’d expected to await me after graduation just weren’t there. Meanwhile, stories about my friends’ successes redounded. I couldn’t understand it…they hadn’t worked harder than me, they weren’t more talented than me…and yet they were getting the opportunities I’d coveted. After listening to me rant, my mentor repeated words that have echoed in my ears regularly in the years since: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
It’s a lesson that Alice learns the hard way this week on Good Trouble and, in the end, she comes a little closer to realizing that the source of her joy isn’t what she’d thought it was.
When Good Trouble picks back up this week, Alice is still trying to lean into her “Year of Yes.” Among the new gigs that her new manager/pretend girlfriend, Sumi, has lined up for her? Facilitating an early morning online sexual harassment training. I’m not sure who thought it’d be a good idea to invite a comedian to lead a session on such a serious topic but it goes about as well as you’d imagine. Before she can get to the section on dating co-workers, all the participants abandon the call. The only person left? Kelly, who stumbles into Alice’s loft, and mocks her performance with a slow clap.
Afterwards, Alice puts her foot down: she refuses to do any more online seminars or pet adoptions. She laments that just one month ago, she was opening for Margaret Cho and now she’s been reduced to this. Sumi assures Alice that she’s on the right path and mentions that she’s secured Alice a new gig at a very hot coffee shop. Alice laments the news: she wants to perform somewhere where the crowd’s interested in laughter, not lattes. Then, as if Alice’s day couldn’t get any worse, she turns to see posters advertising a new sitcom called Hiss & Hers starring Derek, the least funny comedian and general asshole from Alice’s CBTV diversity program. Sumi celebrates Derek’s success but Alice is incensed.
“I was the one they were supposed to give the comedy deal to,” Alice rants. “This is supposed to be me! He tried to sabotage us! I had to do the right thing. I had to be Ms. Big Person and now look at him! I was supposed to be Hiss & Hers! This is my life!”
Sumi tries to calm her client down by reminding her that everyone has their own path to success. She reiterates their “Year of Yes” strategy and urges Alice to run her own race and try to find joy in the wins of her friends. But, as soon as the words come out of Sumi’s mouth, a bus approaches, wrapped in an advertisement for Hiss & Hers and I think that’ll be easier said that done. Back at the loft, Alice surveys the social media of her CBTV crew and it seems like everyone’s winning but her. Derek has his sitcom, LB’s making their stand-up debut on Jimmy Kimmel, Magda’s booked a national commercial and they’re all racking up Instagram likes and views. Determined to match their success, Alice starts cold calling new prospective agents.
Malika interrupts her call and, for a second, I think we’re finally going to get that friendship moment that I’ve been waiting for all season: Alice can share her frustrations about her friends’ success relative to her own and confess about her fake relationship with Sumi and Malika can get some perspective about what to do about Angelica. Finally, Malika and Alice would get to showcase the deep friendship that’s been one of my favorite parts of Good Trouble since season one. But, season four of Good Trouble is like, “you thought!”
Apparently, we can’t waste time on friendships between core cast members because we’re too busy pretending that this is a season of True Detective and we need to spend our time rescuing this new guy’s sister from a farming cult. Seriously, how is it possible that Malika is in her first relationship with a woman — which even under the best of circumstances is a scary venture — and Good Trouble‘s never given us a conversation between her and her lesbian BFF about it? HOW SWAY?! I thought this show understood the value of community. But I digress….
Alice laments that managing is not Sumi’s true calling and she might be better off with someone else. Surprisingly, Malika advocates for Alice to stick it out with Sumi: after all, when she had to step in as Coterie manager, she did a great job. Plus, Malika reminds her, no other manager will care more about her than Sumi does. Later, Alice’s gig at the coffee house goes really, really well. She even manages to catch the attention of a casting director who’s picking up her latte. Unfortunately, though, when it’s time to connect the agent with her manager, Alice is without one: Sumi quits when after spots a text message on Alice’s phone from Michelle from D&M Management looking to set up a meeting.
Alice tries to apologize…to get Sumi to talk to her at all…but to no avail. She lies alone in her loft, all her joy gone, and returns to Instagram to offer likes and supportive comments on her friends’ successes.
Meanwhile, Malika approaches Lucia to voice her concerns about the site of the women’s center. She’s worried about the optics: she doesn’t want it to appear as though they’re using the women’s center as political cover for displacing the unhoused encampment. The councilwoman reminds Malika that they’re clearing the encampment for a noble purpose, not to build a Target. Lucia assures her staffer that they’ll relocate the unhoused to shelters but Malika knows that’s an insufficient solution: shelters are temporary and force the unhoused to conform to their conditions and curfews. Malika recommends that the unhoused be offered permanent housing and an exasperated Lucia responds with a simple question: “Where?” Lucia reminds her that the women’s center is an opportunity to improve people’s lives and provide them with necessary services but if Malika has a better idea, she should present it.
“You’re gonna need to learn, Malika, that there are no perfect solutions to the problems that we face,” Lucia lectures. I generally loathe political storylines because so few shows invest energy in getting the minutiae right. Shows like the focus on the glamorous parts — the television appearances, the speeches, the town halls with voters — because that makes for better television. But that also creates a false perception about how government operates and what it has the capacity to do. The reality is, governing is often boring and thankless work and it forces even the most idealistic among us to embrace pragmatism. To Good Trouble‘s credit, they are the rare show that’s getting it mostly right…so much so that Lucia’s words give me flashbacks to my days as a junior staffer. Yikes!
But I’m pretty sure Malika stopped listening to Lucia after the invitation to present a better idea because she devotes herself to tracking down another solution. She comes across a story from Philadelphia about organizers who got the city to buy empty apartment buildings to shelter the unhoused. Tracy admits that a similar proposal had been floated in Los Angeles but the deal fell apart. Malika pushes Tracy to work with her to get a meeting with the real estate developer who was involved with the LA proposal and even the office’s cynic can’t say no to Zuri Adele’s face.
As they wait outside the developer’s office, Malika checks her phone repeatedly and Tracy calls her on it. Malika admits that she and Angelica got into a fight and she’s hoping to get a text. Tracy encourages her to just text Angelica but, apparently, she’s not familiar with this new plot device version of Malika who avoids conflict and won’t be honest with her girlfriend. Malika admits that Angelica was both right and wrong in their fight and because wrong always outweighs right, the onus is on Angelica to respond first. Tracy compliments her on her reasoning and its dash of pettiness.
Just then, the developer, Mr. Redford, and his son arrive and Malika gives him an elevator pitch about reviving the proposal to purchase his apartment buildings. Unfortunately, Redford’s not interested: he’d offered to sell his properties to the City at minimal profit but they were “penny wise and pound foolish,” preferring to spend millions on temporary band-aids than to invest in a long-term solutions. But while the developer’s not interested, Tracy clocks the interest of his son, Xavier, and pushes Malika to take another swing. If she can convince Xavier, maybe he can convince his dad to recommit to the proposal.
I should pause here and note that the developer’s son is played by Nick Creegan, who Autostraddle readers might remember from his recent stint on Batwoman (RIP). Now, I’m sure that young man is a talented actor, capable of playing a myriad of characters, but he’s very good at playing a maniacal villain, so I automatically start to worry. Lucia, AKA Adele from The L Word, has already proven that Good Trouble isn’t above typecasting…so, nope, keep Marquis Jet and his pretty eyes far, far away from my beloved Malika.
The next day, before work, Tracy and Malika track Xavier down at his favorite coffee cart. Malika handles the conversation with the skill of a seasoned political operative: first, she pretends as though she didn’t already know Xavier was the developer’s son, and then she pivots to pushing him to step up to do what the older generation could not. He agrees to talk to his father about it. Later — while she’s scrolling through Angelica’s instagram — he texts Malika with news that he was able to convince his dad to reconsider the housing deal: if she can get the City Council on board, they’re in.
As she gets the news, there’s a knock on her loft’s door and — surprise! — it’s Angelica…and she thinks they need to talk.
Good Trouble Coterie Sundries
+ Good Trouble isn’t above using misdirection in its trailers — the show’s brand of storytelling is conduscive to that, TBH — but I felt burned by last week’s trailer. Angelica’s invitation to talk was featured in the promo, suggesting that there’d be additional conversation in this week’s episode, but that ended up being the extent of her appearance. We’ll have to wait yet another week to see if their relationship can survive their lack of communication.
+ There is no episode of television that can’t be made better by an appearance by Hailie Sahar and this episode was no different. I can’t wait to see her wedding next week. Is it too much to hope for another Jennifer Lopez dance routine?
+ Even though Gael pushed for Isabella to leave their families out of their personal relationship, what do you think the chances are that he ignores the text from Isabella’s father? Slim or none?
+ Can someone just call Stef Adams Foster so we can put this True Detective storyline behind us, once and for all?
Next Week: (Fake) Break Ups 2 Make Ups?