“The Bold Type” Episode 204 Recap: Relationships Are Hard!

This is hands down my favorite episode of The Bold Type’s second season. All of the conflict is organic and touches on past character development; the episode sort of zooms out from Scarlet a bit and places the trio elsewhere for storylines that certainly blend their personal and professional spheres but lean more heavily into the personal. The stakes feel high but not dire, and the relationship work is solid. It’s tender and hopeful throughout, even amid the drama! It’s a sweet little reminder of why I love this show so much.

Jane is still in the anxious throes of unemployment (her open laptop with a blank document pulled up labeled STORY IDEAS is… a mood), and a blast from her past interrupts her sad coffee shop lingering unexpectedly. Yep, Pinstripe is back, and as much as I hate to see it, I was kind of pleased with his return? I never liked the Jane/Pinstripe let’s-be-mean-to-each-other-but-it’ll-be-cute-and-flirty vibe, but toward the end of last season — and also in this episode — The Bold Type has actually developed Pinstripe into a more interesting, layered character who is a lot more than his snark. At first I rolled at my eyes at him talking about how he’s working on his novel in his free time, but I like that the show took it somewhere else by having Jane expose some of his own career insecurities. Underneath the surface, he seems as unsatisfied and unfulfilled as Jane is right now.

But I’m also glad that the show ends up avoiding making this into a true love triangle situation. In fact, it upends that whole notion entirely by being so self-aware about it: Sutton keeps insisting that Jane/Pinstripe/Dr. Ben are now in a steamy love triangle, but that never really comes true. Sure, Jane initially pulls away from Dr. Ben once she learns how religious he is, but instead of just recklessly hooking up with Pinstripe as a result of that, she does the emotionally mature thing and has a real conversation with Dr. Ben about it. Jane’s reservations about religion come from a deeply honest place, and the way she opens up to Dr. Ben is moving. The Bold Type has been really smart about when Jane does and doesn’t talk about her mother’s death. Her grief is always just beneath the surface.

(I’m still kind of bored with Dr. Ben, but alas, he’s like FINE. And better for Jane than Pinstripe.)

Sutton spends the episode trying to court an Instagram influencer named Brooke who — surprise, surprise — turns out to be the worst! Sutton’s frustrations with where she’s at in her career are totally valid, and of course she’s happy for how quickly Kat worked her way up, but it’s tough to know that you’ve been at a company for the same amount of time as someone else and worked just as hard but haven’t made any upward momentum.

And Kat, like Brooke, had the early advantage of money. Again, Sutton never says that Kat doesn’t work hard, but there is certainly an implied tension hinging on class. It’s more at the surface in how Sutton sees Brooke, but it’s more complicated when it comes to Kat because of how close they are and how supportive Sutton is of her success. But just look at when Sutton gets in over her head with Brooke and her friends who charge $500 of cocaine to her Scarlet credit card: Kat immediately suggests the solution of Sutton just paying for it herself. Sutton doesn’t have that kind of money; that solution was never a viable option for her. Sutton ends up making an irresponsible choice by lying on her expense reports in order to maintain a relationship with Brooke, and there will likely be consequences in the future. But it’s easy to see why Sutton made that choice: She’s desperate to move up in the fashion world, and Brooke provides easy access.

Kat’s arc in the episode is a nice parallel to Jane’s in that it’s largely focused on emotional honesty and expressing your feelings transparently. Kat and Adena’s relationship has moved really quickly, and the character development on both sides hasn’t always been the smoothest. But the season premiere and this episode both really allow the characters to learn and grow in their relationship even as they face obstacles. Relationships are hard! And as much as I just want Kat and Adena to be happy together, I’m glad The Bold Type is digging into some really specific and complicated relationship problems that are deeply personal yet widely relatable.

Adena seems to… have a bit of a reputation in the lesbian art world. As in, she has slept with everyone in it. This becomes evident when she and Kat go to a party at some mythical massive lesbian bar that doesn’t look a thing like the couple of lesbian bars that actually exist in Manhattan. (I know it’s a TV show, but sometimes it doesn’t even feel like The Bold Type makes the smallest of efforts to look and feel like New York!!!!!!) Kat’s jealousy comes from a very believable place, especially considering how her relationship with Adena started. Adena cheated on her girlfriend with Kat, and that has to somewhat affect Kat psychologically, especially when she sees how close Adena is with her exes and also hears from someone else that they would be jealous if they were in Kat’s shoes.

There’s also this real thing about being in a queer relationship for the first time with someone who has been out for longer and has dated more people. Queer friendships can sometimes blur the lines of attraction and romance, and yep lesbians do love to stay friends with exes! Kat’s still new to all this and still conditioned to see things through a pretty heteronormative lens, and I think some of her jealousy and insecurity stems from that. But some of it is just plain ol’ straightforward jealousy that comes with being in a new relationship and figuring out relationship boundaries.

Kat does the emotionally mature thing, too, and talks to Adena pretty much as soon as she has these feelings. And then everything gets so much worse when Adena just sort of dodges the questions. The way that tension builds is super believable: It starts out as such a small issue, but by not really acknowledging it or addressing Kat’s concerns, the jealousy and trust issues fester and turn into something much bigger. Asking Adena how many people she has slept with isn’t totally fair and yet isn’t totally unfair all at once. It’s easy to get swept up in the paranoia and confusion of feeling insecure in a relationship.

When Kat ends up talking to Sutton and Jane about the whole thing, I wish they hadn’t just breezed past the part where they all kind of make a joke about “what counts” as lesbian sex. That’s such a common, annoying thing to hear people discuss, and The Bold Type is kind of lazy for just throwing it in there without pointing out how annoying/reductive/heteronormative it is.

Adena’s reservations to talk about the past and to open up to Kat end up coming from an honest and complicated place, too. She’s in love with Kat, but that level of commitment has huge ramifications on her life. Their relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it can’t. There’s too much at stake for Adena, including her literal immigration status. Kat has never really seemed to fully grasp the gravity of that. But now that they’ve both confessed their love for one another, the relationship has new stakes and meaning for both of their lives.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a Brooklyn-based writer, television critic, and comedian who spends most of her time over-analyzing queer subtext on television, singing "Take Me Or Leave Me" in public places, and assembling cheese platters. She has a cat named after Piper Halliwell from Charmed, and her go-to karaoke song is "Everywhere" by Michelle Branch. Her writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her screaming in all-caps about Kalinda Sharma, Jennifer Lopez, and oysters on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 168 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Great recap! I also loved this episode the best this season, for all the reasons you beautifully articulated. Also that bar made me fall off the couch and onto the floor laughing. It’s like TBT set designer’s never been to a lesbian bar OR to New York City.

  2. I perked up like my Chihuahua when it seemed like they were heading into a “what counts as lesbian sex'” conversation and too was sad to see it end quickly, but still was glad they did it at all?

    jane is good at talking to strangers and getting what she wants out of them, i learned this episode, which is the first genuine talent i have seen her exhibit thus far.

    i was very offended by the lesbian bar, i hope the young viewers of the bold type don’t get their hopes up for anything like that to exist in the real world. can you imagine? those giant windows!

  3. I absolutely loved this episode and also assume that that lesbian bar exists in the same universe as the airport where they let you hang out in the terminal and have sex in the first class lounge before being deported.

  4. I loved this episode too…this show is really at its best when it mines for authenticity within these characters and the Kat and Adena stuff this week was just another example of that.

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