Is love a lie? It’s a question we spend lots of time positing around here. And while there’s an understandable impulse to chalk our constant questioning up to nihilism — hey, it’s a valid coping mechanism! — the truth is queer television hasn’t been great about showcasing that love actually exists. Actually, that’s an understatement. Queer television has been bad…so, so bad. And, though we don’t acknowledge it often, that representation matters too. Representation, not just of identities but of ideas and of possibilities. Sometimes, you need to see a thing — even a fictional thing in a fictional world — to know that it can exist for you and to set expectations for what that ought to look like.
Going into this week’s episode of Good Trouble, I figured that we’d get a testament to fact that love is most definitely not a lie. After all, it was a big Coterie wedding…how could it be anything other than a celebration of love? But then again, maybe it’s only against the reflection of true love and commitment — what Jazmin and Spencer have — that we can truly recognize what we…or, in this case, everyone else at the Coterie…doesn’t have.
Jazmin/Spencer – Is Love a Lie? Absolutely the fuck not.
Jazmin Martinez makes a beautiful bride. She glides down the aisle to a rendition of Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” which reminds me of that time she performed (with her future fiancé) an entire dance number to Jennifer Lopez’s “El Anillo” and leads me to rewatch that scene a half a dozen times. Halfway down the aisle, Jazmin urges the crowd to their feet…to share in the joy that radiates off her…and everyone responds with cheers and applause. She’s met by her friend Evelyn (played by Nicky Andreas) who takes her hand and walks her the rest of the way down the aisle.
The pastor asks, “who stand in support of Jazmin on her wedding day?” and Evelyn acknowledges that they do. The pastor asks, “who else?” and Jazmin’s parents and her grandfather stand and affirm their support. And then the pastor asks again, “who else?” and the entire audience stands and proclaims their support. We don’t get to see much of the actual wedding after that — the show fast forwards to the reception — but it’s enough to make me tear up and to make some of the guests re-evaluate their lives.
As Jazmin interacts with her guests, her father laments to Gael that he wasn’t the one to walk his daughter down the aisle. He admits wanting the opportunity, seeing it as a public acknowledgement of how far he’s come in accepting Jazmin. Before Gael can chastise him, his father admits that Jazmin’s happiness is the most important thing…though, at that moment, I’m not sure he believes that. But, as the night progresses, he comes to a stark realization.
“I realized tonight, I didn’t earn that honor, because I wasn’t there for you when you needed me most,” he admits. He promises that, from this day forward, he and her mother will always be there for Jazmin…and he and his daughter share tears, hugs and their love. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Alice/Sumi – Is Love a Lie? Not when you deploy grand romantic gestures
Things between Alice and Sumi remain frosty after the revelation that Alice was looking to replace Sumi as her manager. They haven’t talked since…that is, until Sumi approaches Alice at the reception to call off their fake relationship. Apparently, seeing Jazmin and Spencer proclaim their true love got Sumi reconsidering this masquerade she and Alice had embarked upon. While Alice took comfort in calling their relationship “fake,” it was never that for Sumi. Their “fake” relationship was her way of making up for past mistakes. She acknowledges that she didn’t treat Alice well when they were first together but insists that she’s proven herself to be trustworthy. Unfortunately, though, as Sumi’s redeemed herself, Alice has shown herself not to be worthy of Sumi’s trust.
Later, Malika spots a morose Alice leaning against a wall and comes over to find out what’s wrong? Is this the conversation I’ve been waiting for Alice and Malika to have all season? Sort of…I imagined that it’d be more intimate and there’d be more weed or alcohol involved, but apparently this is the closest we’re gonna get.* Alice laments that Sumi’s mad at her about looking for new representation and that she ended their fake relationship. Malika’s surprised to hear that their relationship was fake but Alice explains that they concocted the relationship to cover for Gael who wanted to keep Isabella close.
“Look, I need Sumi,” an exasperated Alice admits. “She’s the most important person in my life! I just can’t live without her.”
Malika questions whether Alice means she needs Sumi just as a manager or if she wants something more. She notes that it sounds like Alice is in love with Sumi. At first, Alice denies it but ultimately admits that she loves Sumi but is afraid of being hurt again. Malika assures Alice that it’s not too late and pushes her to come up with a big romantic gesture to win Sumi back. Does this sound like advice Malika would normally give? No. Does it feel like advice that’s been overlly influenced by the saccharine nature of weddings? Absolutely.
Alice takes the advice to heart and approaches Sumi for help with an upcoming audition. Under the guise of a story about Sandy and her “beautiful, sexy, brilliant” hairdresser Aaliyah, Alice confesses her love for Sumi. She assures Sumi that she does trust her and wants to be with her, if she can be forgiven. Sumi answers Alice with a kiss and the two, FINALLY, fall into bed together.
(* I remain frustrated that the conversation was entirely about Alice and Malika’s relationship with Angelica — again, her first relationship with another woman! — doesn’t get talked about at all.)
Mariana/Joaquin/Kelly – Is Love a Lie? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, we don’t talk about it.
Remember when Joaquin arrived at the Coterie and Kelly was, surprisingly, fawning all over him? I didn’t take it seriously because this show has always used Kelly for comic relief. They’ve never given her much depth. But, apparently, I (and Mariana) should’ve taken Kelly’s interest in Joaquin more seriously because, now that she’s discovered Mariana and Joaquin’s situationship, she’s angry — “You broke a code, Mariana. You broke the most important and sacred of codes…the girl code!” she exclaims — and a little bit hurt.
When Kelly corners her about Joaquin, Mariana dismisses Kelly’s concerns: there’s nothing going on between them, at least not any more. Earlier, Joaquin lashed out at Mariana’s efforts to help his sister and she’s stung by the rebuke. Unbeknownst to them, Joaquin’s still smarting from a conversation with his mother, wherein she accused him of being selfish and foresaking his sister, and he misdirected his anger towards Mariana. After watching Gael and Jazmin together, Joaquin realizes his misstep and rushes over to apologize to Mariana. They don’t talk about what’s going on between them but just the sight of them together is enough to hurt Kelly’s feelings all over again.
Later, Luca — who’s filming a video for the newly married couple — catches Kelly and she takes the opportunity to address Mariana’s criticism of her. She denies not taking anything seriously but acknowledges using her humor as a defense mechanism to keep anyone from getting too close. She admits to having a lonely childhood and never really having a boyfriend…but then she suddenly realizes she’s said this things, out loud and on camera, and rushes to try and erase the tape. I both want to hug Kelly and tell her that she deserves better than that True Detective cast-off.
Davia/Dennis/Ryan – Is Love a Lie? It’s the one we tell ourselves.
As a gift to his sister, Gael invites Davia and Dennis to the Coterie stage to perform a rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” for Jazmin and Spencer’s first dance. The chemistry between the two remains palpable and like so many times before, they sing the words they cannot bring themselves to say to one another, much to my chagrin.
Noticing their chemistry, Isabella asks why Dennis and Davia aren’t together and Gael notes that they can’t seem to get on the same page at the same time. And, of course, who would be standing behind Gael and Isabella as they acknowledge the obvious? Dennis’ new girlfriend, Ryan. And, despite the fact that this storyline has put so much emphasis on how age-appropriate Ryan is for Dennis, when her relationship is threatened, she behaves like a catty teenager…acting icy towards Davia when they find themselves in the restroom at the same time. And while the interaction (plus a warning from Gael) should make Davia avoid Dennis at all costs, she can’t help but be drawn to him…and she spends the night looking heartbroken as she watches him dance with Ryan.
After the reception, Dennis and Ryan retreat to his loft and Ryan questions him about his intentions directly. She makes it plain: she’s in search of a serious relationship and kids and she doesn’t have time for a casual relationship. Dennis looks over to the artwork that memorializes his son and I think the mention of kids will send him running for the hills but, instead, he admits he really likes Ryan too. She questions him about his feelings for Davia and he acknowledges that he loves her but just as a friend. He insists that he’s not interested in casual dating either.
Isabella/Gael – Is Love a Lie? Yes, repeatedly.
Does it feel odd to add a pairing that ends this episode engaged to the list of those who affirm that “love is a lie?” A little, yes…but every moment in Gael and Isabella’s relationship feels tenuous. Despite the fact that they’re just a few months out from sharing a child, the foundation of their relationship is so shaky…built on a slew of omissions, misdirection and manipulation. Their love is a lie…and this week, it gets exposed for what it truly is.
Much to my surprise, Gael tells Isabella about the texts from her father soon after he gets them. He stands firm behind his commitment to not involve their families in their relationship and to respect the boundaries that Isabella has with her parents. Isabella breathes an audible sigh of relief as Gael deletes the message and blocks his number. Still, she can’t keep her father — and his demand that she put the baby up for adoption or risk going to jail — at bay. He calls and reiterates his threat via voicemail. It’s telling that Isabella can’t follow Gael’s lead and block her father’s number. It’s hard to outgrow (or outrun) that desire for affirmation from your parents, even when they’ve let you down so many times before.
But while Gael respects Isabella’s boundaries with her parents, does Isabella do the same? Not really. Gael hasn’t told his parents that he and Isabella are a couple. Last we saw his parents, Gael was still with Callie — much to his mother’s dismay — and seemed firm in his belief that his only relationship with Isabella would be as co-parents. Now that things have changed, Gael doesn’t want to invite his parents in to add aditional pressure to their new relationship. He assures Davia that Isabella’s okay with that and she, like me, doesn’t believe that for a second.
“No, that’s bullshit. There’s no way that she’s okay with being pregnant with your child and being in a secret relationship with you,” Davia insists. And then, because like most people, Davia’s better at dispensing advice than taking it, she adds, ironically, “If you’re not having doubts, then what are you waiting for?”
Later, Isabella questions Gael about his intentions and wonders if he’s been manipulating her the entire time. I’m stunned by her audacity — after all, she’s the one who hasn’t been honest about her parents’ blackmail attempt — but she uses it as a cudgel to get Gael to acknowledge their relationship in front of his parents. He does, announcing their relationship to the whole room…which, while Jazmin said it was alright, still feels like a shitty thing to do at someone else’s wedding.
Spurned by all the love and goodwill from the wedding, Gael affirms his commitment to Isabella and their growing family: first, he decides to go to work for his father (an avenue he’s steadily avoided since we first met him) and then, he wants to make their family official: he wants to get married. This is why going to weddings is dangerous…people get all sorts of crazy ideas. Isabella accepts and later she texts her father with proof of her happiness. She urges him to just let her be happy.
But, of course, that ain’t happening…and the next day, just as Gael’s about to share the news, the cops show up to arrest Isabella.
Malika/Angelica – Is Love a Lie? No, But Also: Yes
After their first fight, Malika and Angelica retreated into their own corners to lick their wounds. Malika’s ego keeps her from reaching out but, thankfully, Angelica finally shows up at the Coterie, ready to talk. I gird myself for the break-up but it doesn’t happen; instead, Angelica apologizes and Malika answers with her own apology. The whole thing gets resolved way too quickly — and without any mention of Lucia — and I should be on high alert…but then Angelica strips off her coat and settles into Malika’s lap and there’s talk of make-up sex and, suddenly, I forget what I’m supposed to be mad about. I’m only human!
Angelica joins Malika at Jazmin’s wedding but they both take different lessons from the showcase: Malika touts the romance and the celebration of love and Angelica celebrates the commitment and the promise of forever. It’s at this point that I’m snapped out of my revelry: they are fixated on different things — they want different things — and now all that’s left is for both of them to come to that realization.
Swept up by the romance of the day, Malika makes her own grand gesture: as she dances with Angelica, she confesses her love. Angelica’s breath is taken away by the revelation and she steps back and rushes out of the room to catch her breath. Malika finds her later and it’s clear that some thing is amiss. Malika apologizes for moving too fast and admits that she got caught up in the moment. But Angelica insists that it wasn’t too soon and confesses that she loves her too. Malika’s eyes fill with joyous tears that only make the rest of the conversation more difficult to watch. The wedding made Angelica realize that she wants what Jazmin and Spencer have and while Malika insists that she wants that too, Angelica doubts whether she can truly have that in a relationship with someone who’s poly.
From the script to the screen, the heartbreak is palpable.
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“Loving you is starting to hurt,” Angelica tearfully confesses…and, admittedly, I don’t really get it, but just the way she says it feels like a dagger in the heart.
Malika acquiesces, “you know, if I’m being honest with myself, I need someone who can love me and accept me for all of who I am so I’m not on eggshells waiting for them to bail.”
I’m stunned that we’ve gotten to this point so quickly. I don’t mind Angelica and Malika not being together — I suspected it wouldn’t last from the outset — but I wish the progression to get to this point made sense.
Next Week: Locked Up and Locked In