I want to return to the very first scene of The Bold Type for a moment. Presented without context, the image of three women dressed in formalwear screaming at the top of their lungs on a subway platform invites fun suspense. It’s a peculiar sight, begging you to wonder, without yet knowing anything about the three of them, how they got here. But even though there’s a sense of playful mystery to the opening, there’s also a sense of comfort. The screaming is jarring, but the closeness between these three women, the way they hold hands naturally, move and scream in unison, connotes closeness, an ease that flows between the three characters. So no, we don’t yet know anything about them as individuals, but we’re immediately introduced to the bond between them. From that very first image, The Bold Type establishes friendship as its central theme, the thread that weaves everything together. “Three Girls In A Tub” sees Jane, Kat, and Sutton through separate obstacles in their personal and professional lives, but their stories converge at the nexus of their friendship. That’s why the Fashion Closet has become such a significant setting on this show: It’s where the three descend to talk about their problems, connect with one another, support each other.
Even though it’s small and takes up less space than the other developments in the episode, my favorite storyline here is Kat’s. Kat has a pretty huge job as social media director for Scarlet, and we’ve seen her both crush it and make a few mistakes here and there, but “Three Girls In A Tub” explicitly grapples with what it’s like to be a young boss, which is something I haven’t seen a lot of on television. When I was an editor at my college’s newspaper, the hardest part of my job was hiring and firing. In The Bold Type, Kat has to figure out what to do when her employee Natalie, another young woman, repeatedly messes up and fails to follow direction. Kat very much so wants to be a cool and nurturing boss, no doubt channeling some of Jacqueline but with a little more chill. She steers Natalie toward sticking to posts about makeup, style, and celebrity gossip after she fires off some more serious health tweets without checking her sources. But then Natalie tweets something about Kylie Jenner with the hashtag #secondhottestJenner, and it’s clear that she doesn’t understand Scarlet’s brand (or what counts as comedy). Jacqueline is firm with Kat, who realizes she has to fire Natalie. While we don’t end up seeing the actual moment when Kat fires Natalie, the build-up to it is compelling. While it’s fun to watch Kat, Jane, and Sutton crush it in the workplace, little challenges and setbacks like these raise the stakes.
Jane runs into a problem this week that blurs the lines between her personal and professional life. She’s trying to keep things aggressively casual with Pinstripe, even though she accidentally says “I love you” during shower sex with him (Sutton shares that she once was hooking up with a guy who used to say “Cubs win!” during sex, and Kat apparently quotes Nicki Minaj lyrics during sex). When Jacqueline asks if Jane is single, she hesitates, word vomits a bit, and then eventually comes to the conclusion that she technically isn’t in an exclusive relationship and therefore can write the piece on a new dating app Jacqueline’s trying to assign. The new dating app lets your best friends set you up on blind dates, which sounds horrifying, but luckily Kat, Sutton, and Jane are close enough that it could actually work out. Kat and Sutton indeed land Jane a sweet and compatible guy who’s in an aughts cover band and, most importantly, is not a writer. They hit it off on their first date.
Sutton and Richard hit a turning point in their relationship when Sutton points out that he doesn’t know any of her friends. There’s a good reason for that. Their relationship is still a secret. In fact, Richard’s not too happy that Alex knows about it now, even though Sutton assures him he won’t tell anyone. So it’s a little strange that Richard suggests a dinner party with Kat and Jane. They obviously know about the relationship, and Richard understands why, but having a dinner party with his girlfriend who he’s not supposed to be dating and two other women who he’s not supposed to have a relationship outside of work with seems a little risky and stupid. Sure, it’s a sweet gesture that Richard wants to get to know Sutton’s friends. But Richard and Sutton are trying to do something normal when their relationship is far too complicated and ethically murky to fit normal.
Unsurprisingly, the dinner party is not a success. Jane shows up late, drunk from her blind date. Sutton shows up fucked up, too, not realizing that the “high tea” networking event she attended with fellow workers in the fashion industry was a play on words and that the treats were indeed edibles. Kat is the only one on time, but Natalie’s inappropriate Kylie Jenner tweet is fired off while she’s in Richard’s apartment, and Richard suddenly awkwardly switches from her friend’s boyfriend trying to get to know her to one of her superiors at work. It’s hard enough for Sutton and Richard to compartmentalize their contradictory personal vs. professional roles in each other’s lives, but inviting Kat and Jane into it all makes it even more clear why relationships like this aren’t sustainable. A very high Sutton ends up in Richard’s bathtub, calling for Jane, who joins her. Kat eventually joins them, too. Richard might as well not even be there. Sutton apologizes to him the next day, and he isn’t mad, but he does think her friends are young. Duh, Richard! You’re dating a younger woman! If you don’t want to hang out with other twenty-something women, then you should have thought of that before dating one.
Until this episode, I felt like The Bold Type was romanticizing Richard and Sutton’s relationship a bit. They’ve had their challenges in previous episodes, but it was mostly little things like not being able to talk to each other unless they were alone in an elevator (by the way, elevators haven’t been a more important setting on a show since Mad Men). This episode finally reveals just how hard and unsustainable their relationship is. It’s a lose-lose situation. If Richard had no interest in getting to know Sutton’s friends, he’d be an asshole. But he does, and it just isn’t possible without blurring more professional boundaries. Richard complains about the Kylie mess up to Jacqueline, and Kat in turn goes to his office to yell at him for it, saying that he would have never been involved if she hadn’t been in his apartment that night. It’s of course wildly inappropriate for Kat to barge into his office like that, but she has a point. Richard’s behavior has been wildly inappropriate, too. Sutton realizes she has to end things with Richard, and she does. She finally sees their relationship for what it really is and knows that “keeping things separate” isn’t a long-term solution. She makes the emotionally mature decision to end it.
Jane also faces a decision when it becomes clear that she doesn’t want to date multiple people. Working on the dating app story turns out to be harder than she thought. She likes the new guy, but she also keeps thinking about Pinstripe. In the interest of transparency, she tells Pinstripe about the new guy in a painfully awkward exchange. Jane seems to be trying to convince herself that she’s totally cool with everything. But when Ryan also writes two articles about sexual partners who aren’t her (one about wax play and one about threesomes, titled To Three Or Not To Three, which prompted me to scream “OH MY GOD, LEAVE HIM JANE” at my screen), Jane admits that she isn’t comfortable. She avoids her feelings and talking to Pinstripe for most of the episode, but in the end, she also ends things. She says she doesn’t want to change him but also doesn’t want to change herself. They want different things. As with Richard and Sutton, the parameters of their relationship just weren’t sustainable. Jane comes to the big realization that she wants a monogamous relationship after observing Jacqueline and her husband, which comes off as heavy-handed and not totally necessary. But other than that, the beats of Jane’s arc come together organically, making the second breakup scene of the episode as cogent as the first. Both instances are quiet breakups, the kind that aren’t brought about because of some sort of grand fuck-up or indiscretion. Some relationships just aren’t built to last. Sometimes people want or need different things.
After Kat fires her employee, Sutton breaks up with Richard, and Jane ends things with Pinstripe, the three best friends end up, naturally, together. Kat and Jane join a very sad Sutton in the bathtub. They comfort her, give her wine, tell her what she needs to hear. As with that opening scene of the series, it’s a perfect depiction of the intimacy, safety, and ease that marks this threeway relationship. At the end of the day, they all still have each other.