Can I be honest? From a storyline perspective, this wasn’t my favorite episode of Good Trouble…however, as is this show’s wont, it manages by subvert my disappointment by giving me something else that I truly love: a Coterie Party. This week, our favorite chosen fam gathered to celebrate Dennis’ 40th birthday. But the goodness didn’t stop there, my friends. This wasn’t an ordinary Coterie Party, it was a Coterie Party featuring karaoke from the 90s. All of my favorite things!
So, this week, instead of a regular recap, I thought I’d provide a ranking of the karaoke performances with the not-so-subtle subtext behind their song choices.
14. Garbage – “Queer”
Performed by Kelly dressed as Edward Scissorhands
The Subtext: Kelly has been thirsting for Joaquin since the day that he moved into the Coterie and she is not at all shy about expressing it. She sings this song directly at him and poor Joaquin just stands there, sipping his beer, wishing he could be anywhere but here. It’s so uncomfortable to watch. Absolutely perfect song choice, though.
13. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Achy Breaky Heart”
Performed by Joaquin (dressed as Forrest Gump)
The Subtext: Joaquin came to the Coterie intent on finding out what happened to his sister who he hasn’t heard from in eight years and he seemed intent on not letting anything get in his way. He couldn’t let anything distract him from his cause, not even Mariana and Kelly’s flirtations. Over the last few weeks, though, his resolve has been weakening. He’s seen Mariana struggle in the wake of her sister’s departure and he, unwittingly, draws closer to her. Then he watches Mariana step out of the Coterie pool…and, well, a person can only resist Mariana Adams Foster’s charms for so long.
This week, he experiences a twinge of jealousy when he sees a guy coming out of Mariana’s loft early in the morning. Kelly explains that the guy is Evan Speck, Mariana’s former boss and lover, and speculates that they might be back together (ergo, Joaquin’s “Achy Breaky Heart”). When he interacts with Mariana at the party he’s the same aloof guy he’s been since he arrived but, as the night goes on, he softens. He recognizes how much Mariana misses her sister — it’s her first Coterie party without Callie — and encourages her to call her. He shares the truth about his sister and pushes Mariana not to take the ability to talk to her sister for granted.
(Also, for what it’s worth: I’d expect an Oklahoma boy to have a better rendition of this country classic in his repertoire.)
12. OMC – “How Bizarre”
Performed by Dyonte (dressed as Will Smith from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
The Subtext: How bizarre is it that Dyonte shows up to a party, dressed as Will Smith, and doesn’t actually do a Will Smith song? The Fresh Prince had so many 90s hits that he could’ve performed. And OMC of all things? No, just no. That said, I appreciated that he stayed true to that Fresh Prince choreography.
11. Smash Mouth – “All Star”
Performed by Alice (dressed as Shelby Woo from The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo)
The Subtext: Alice should be flying high. A young comic, fresh off a tour with her comedy shero, Margaret Cho? She’s an all-star. But there’s something different about the Alice that returns to the Coterie. She’s regressed. Malika expresses regret that Alice’s tour got cut short — Margaret booked a movie according to Alice — but she assures Malika that it’s fine…everything’s fine. It’s like that meme…only instead of a dog with his coffee mug, it’s Alice and her Capri Sun.
(Another way you know Alice is definitely not fine? Her heretofore straight best friend is at the party with her new girlfriend and Alice doesn’t spend the entire evening questioning Malika about it or getting to know Angelica? Yeah, something is definitely wrong.)
10. Britney Spears – “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart”
Performed by Sumi (dressed as Cher from Clueless)
The Subtext: Alice is back! Her tour with Margaret Cho ended early so she’s back at the Coterie just in time for Dennis’ surprise party. Only problem? She doesn’t have a place to live since she sublet her place to Isabella (via Gael) for the length of the tour. Instead of telling Isabella the truth, Alice opts to pretend that she and Sumi are together — which, frankly, seems like an Alice, circa Season One, thing to do — and will be sharing Sumi’s loft. But when it’s time for bed, Alice won’t sleep next to Sumi and tries to opt for the floor. Sumi refuses to allow her guest to sleep on the floor so she insists Alice take the bed. Refusing to fight anymore, Alice grabs a pillow and blanket and leaves to sleep in the vestibule.
At Dennis’ party, everyone’s got some thoughts about the Alice and Sumi reunion. Kelly reminds Alice that Sumi cheated the last time they were together and hopes that Sumi’s changed (Kelly’s heard that people can change but she hasn’t seen it for herself). When Malika raises a skeptical eyebrow over the reunion, Alice assures her that they couldn’t be happier, even if Sumi’s karaoke ballad suggests otherwise.
The party seems to cut the tension between Alice and Sumi a little but when Sumi’s alerted that Margaret Cho’s still touring and that Alice lied, she’s got questions . She DMs the legendary comedienne directly and asks why Alice left the tour but Margaret doesn’t have an answer. When Alice comes into Sumi’s loft that night, Sumi confronts her directly, “I know you quit the tour. What’s going on, Alice? Why did you lie?”
9. CeCe Peniston – “Finally”
Performed by Angelica (dressed as Britney Spears, circa “…Baby One More Time”)
The Subtext: Again, this was a great opportunity to marry the costume with the song choice and Good Trouble, seemingly opted against it. Given Angelica’s storyline, “Crazy” feels like the obvious choice, doesn’t it? A missed opportunity for sure. That said, I respect CeCe Peniston karaoke choice because: 1. “Finally” is still a bop and 2. Despite the male-centric lyrics, “Finally” has an indelible place in the soundtrack of on-screen lady loving. But I digress…
Dennis’ birthday party isn’t the first time Angelica’s met Dyonte…and they’re perfectly amicable with each other…but it definitely feels like it’s the first time that they’ve viewed each other as romantic rivals. Angelica watches Dyonte’s interactions with Malika closely and he can’t take his eyes off them during Angelica’s performance.
8. Los Del Rio – “Macarena”
Performed by Isabella (dressed as Fembot from Austin Powers)
The Subtext: Remember how I said that I didn’t really like the storylines in this episode? Isabella’s storyline, in particular, grates. We’ve seen a lot of growth in Isabella since she returned to the Coterie last season and I’m perplexed that this week’s episode, seemingly, throws all of that character development out of the window? For the last two weeks, she’s been sensitive to Dennis’ pain — over people judging his life choices, over seeing his ex with a new baby boy — and this week, he tells her he experienced social anxiety, she just shrugs and plans this party over the objections of those who know him well? This isn’t consistent with the character we’ve gotten to know this season.
I don’t mind the show not going there with Dennis and Isabella…I mean, sure, it means we’ve wasted five episodes of story, but whatever. Maybe that Coterie love triangle (quadrilateral?) would’ve been too close for comfort. But Isabella’s not the person she was when we met her: the person who got between Mariana and Raj (though even that seems like a stretch, given what we know) isn’t the same person who bent over backwards to make space for Callie in Gael’s life. Don’t sacrifice the development of a character for the sake of maintaining the chemistry between Davia and Dennis.
A Fembot? And the “Macarena?” Seriously?! Ugh. But while I hate the song choice (and the costume), anyone who knows something other than the chorus to “Macarena” gets bonus points from me.
7. Salt-N-Pepa – “Let’s Talk About Sex”
Performed by Malika (dressed as Janet circa “Rhythm Nation”)
The Subtext: Lucia’s plan to keep Malika busy with work is, seemingly, starting to pay dividends, as she and Angelica struggle to find time to be together. When Angelica suggests that they get together on Saturday, Malika admits — having learned her lesson from last week — that she has plans with Dyonte that night. To her credit, Angelica doesn’t try and encroach on Dyonte’s time; instead, it’s Malika that invites Angelica to join them at Dennis’ surprise party. She makes plans to invite Dyonte’s primary partner, Tanya, and they’ll all enjoy the party together.
At the party, Davia marvels that both of Malika’s paramours are at the party and that they’re getting along. She notes that Angelica looks especially hot dressed as Britney Spears (circa “…Baby One More Time”) and, before she can stop herself from saying it, Malika blurts out, “girl, she makes everything hot.” Davia calls her out for blushing and asks if things are getting serious between them. Malika offers a definite “maybe” and leaves to interrupt her a conversation between Dyonte and Angelica about who looks better with Janet Jackson: the Fresh Prince or Britney Spears. Malika asks if Tanya’s coming and Dyonte admits that they broke up.
Later, Angelica asks Malika how she feels about the break-up and Malika admits she’s thrown by the news because Tanya and Dyonte seemed so solid. Angelica suggests that maybe Dyonte will want more of Malika’s time and attention now, she scoffs, but, as it turns out, that’s exactly what Dyonte wants. After his “conscious uncoupling” with Tanya — “you know I’m allergic to white nonsense,” Malika says dismissively — Dyonte proposes making Malika his new primary partner.
6. Backstreet Boys – “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”
Performed by Dennis (dressed as The Dude from The Big Lebowski)
The Subtext: The Birthday Boy kicks off his surprises 90s themed surprise party with a karaoke rendition of the BSB classic. While the song gets the crowd going, beneath the surface Dennis is freaked out because, apparently, he hates karoake…only slightly more than he hates surprise parties.
5. Everclear – “I Will Buy You a New Life”
Performed by Gael (dressed as Tyler Durden from Fight Club)
The Subtext: Last week, Gael essentially promised to buy Isabella a new life: he wanted to move out of the Coterie and into an apartment together so that they could co-parent for the first year of the baby’s life. At first, Isabella’s reluctant — she doesn’t want to leave the security of their chosen family at the Coterie — but by this week, she seems more open to the possibility. The Coterie fam, on the other hand, is less than thrilled: they want a Coterie baby and are willing to make whatever changes Gael and Isabella need to feel comfortable there. Dennis encourages them to reconsider: whatever concerns they have won’t be an issue for the baby’s first nine months and it always helps to have extra hands around with a new baby. The show treats this like a revelation — like Isabella’s been swayed by Dennis — but, really, he’s just repeating everything Isabella said last week. The change draws Gael’s ire but he keeps his frustration in check until Kelly reads a birthday note from Dennis’ ex-wife which includes a congratulations on his new baby…then Gael loses it.
“Dennis is taking you to doctor’s appointments and deciding where we should have the baby and where we should live. You know what? In fact, why don’t you guys just tell me when the baby’s coming and where I should show up,” Gael argues before storming out of family dinner.
Downstairs, Gael continues his tantrum and is especially bothered than Isabella didn’t correct Dennis’ ex-wife about the paternity of the baby. She reminds him how terrible seeing his ex-wife with her new husband and their new son was for Dennis and that, seemingly, snaps Gael out of his pity party. He admits that he’s feeling insecure about the fact that they’re not together but Isabella pledges that she’ll keep him first in her life, as the baby’s father.
(Also: I am embarrassed by how much I used to love this song.)
4. George Michael – “Freedom”
Performed by Davia and Dennis
The Subtext: I guess the Denvia ship might make it after all.
3. Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn”
Performed by Mariana (dressed as Ginger Spice)
The Subtext: Mariana is truly torn between Bulk Beauty and Revitalize. Evan strolls in on his proverbial white horse with a solution, though: he’ll buy Revitalize from The Hallis Group and free Mariana from her non-compete. Surprisingly, the Bulk Beauty team — who, you’ll recall only had the money to start BB because they sued Evan over Speckulate’s toxic work environment — agree to the deal because they want Mariana back.
But Mariana’s also torn about what to do about Callie. She makes excuses to her Coterie family — she’s been busy — but in reality, Mariana feels abandoned by Callie. Thanks to a gentle push from Joaquin, Mariana relents and video-chats with Callie after Dennis’ party. Mariana shares her feelings of abandonment and wonders why Callie couldn’t just take a job at the ACLU in Los Angeles. Callie explains that she took the job she was offered and admits that she’s homesick and misses Mariana. Their personal issues resolved, Mariana explains her work conundrum to Callie, lamenting the non-compete clause that threatens to keep her at Revitalize or force her to work with Evan again. Thankfully at least someone here knows California employment law: Callie informs Mariana that non-competes aren’t enforceable in California so she’s free to do whatever she wants. This is why you don’t ignore your sister’s calls.
2. Garbage – “Stupid Girl”
Performed by Davia (dressed as Vivian Ward from Pretty Woman)
The Subtext: Since Matt broke up with Davia in the season premiere, she’s tried to keep her heartbreak a secret from Dennis…even lying to him at his own party. Complicating matters more? She notices Dennis “changing” — he seems unbothered by the surprise party or the karaoke at first — and his newfound closeness with Isabella (I suspect she’s the one Davia would call a “stupid girl”). Feeling like her role in Dennis’ life has been usurped, Davia sulks in the corner but Gael reminds her: if there’s distance, it’s her fault. He questions why, if she wants that closeness with Dennis again, she’s still allowing him to believe that she’s seeing Matt.
Later, Davia comes clean with Dennis: she admits her frustration at being replaced by Isabella and confesses that Matt dumped her. Dennis feigns disappoint but acknowledges that Davia made the right decision: though Dennis definitely wants her, he recognizes that he needs to be able to find his own happiness before he can make something else happy.
1. Extreme – “More Than Words”
Performed by Davia and Dennis
The Subtext: Dennis and Davia have never been great about telling each other how they really feel but when they sing together, their feelings couldn’t be clearer. Also worth noting: during this song, Malika has her arms wrapped around Angelica and Sumi and Alice shoot heart-eyes at each other. Joaquin, however, is very much trying to avoid Kelly’s glance…and it made me laugh hysterically.
Next Week: What’s the matter with Alice?