Whew, I had some reservations about the first few episodes of this season, but The Bold Type has been stepping it up these past couple weeks. “Stride Of Pride” surpasses “OMG” as the top episode of the season so far, delivering a storyline on white privilege and insidiously discriminatory hiring policies that succeeds where its episode about Kat’s biracial identity didn’t quite. It ends on a meaningful cliffhanger, and it also includes one of the greatest (and gayest?!) sequences the show has ever done.
Let’s start with that great, gay scene I’m talking about. Given that the episode is titled “Stride Of Pride,” my gay ass thought that referred to some sort of gay march or something to do with Pride and didn’t make the walk of shame reclamation connection. Alas! Even though Adena is out of town this episode, it’s still extremely gay, mostly thanks to a scene in a karaoke bar. I love karaoke, and I love when characters on television do karaoke. But Jane, Sutton, and Kat don’t merely sing karaoke together in this episode of The Bold Type. They sing ABBA! And do lite CHOREOGRAPHY! It is beautiful and magical and gay, and I’m trying to work out the logistics in my head for how The Bold Type could do a musical episode? Because all three of them can actually sing?
So imagine my disappointment when their “Mamma Mia” karaoke sesh is interrupted by A MAN. And not just any man — a lying, terrible, cheating man. Sutton wakes up with some dude named Dillon at the top of the episode and invites him out to the karaoke bar at the behest of Jane and Kat who think that she needs to be more open to commitment instead of just casual hookups in the wake of the Richard breakup. But Dillon, it turns out, has a wife who he didn’t tell Sutton about. And he’s reckless enough to hand over his phone to Sutton during karaoke even though he has text previews enabled?! Dillon, my guy, did you WANT to be caught?
At first I thought this might lead to a situation where Dillon explains consensual non-monogamy to Sutton because, again, he was so bad at covering up the fact that he was married. But nope, Dillon really is just the worst. And poor Sutton has some baggage in this department because her mother apparently only dated dirtbags. And that baggage leads Sutton to contact Allison and tell her that her husband is cheating on her.
I see both Kat and Sutton’s sides of this. Kat thinks she shouldn’t fuck with a stranger’s marriage, and Sutton definitely takes a risk by reaching out to Allison. Because this is The Bold Type, it ends up leading to a nice little moment of solidarity and strength between women. Allison ended up wanting to know and also ended up really respecting Sutton and immediately not believing Dillon’s lies that she was some crazy stalker of his. By telling her, Sutton doesn’t make the experience any less painful, but she does help Allison to get out of a shitty situation quicker. It’s likely she would have found out at some point if Dillon kept up this behavior compulsively, and hearing it from Sutton instead of finding evidence herself potentially softens the blow at least a little bit. It also makes it harder for Dillon to spin some sort of elaborate excuse. Look, it’s obviously a case-by-case thing, but Sutton ultimately made the right choice here.
This storyline, unfortunately, pushes Sutton back toward Richard. When Allison talks about how she just wants to be with someone who cares about her and is kind, you can see the wheels turning in Sutton’s mind. She had that with Richard. And I do sympathize, even though I think her relationship with Richard is troublesome given the power dynamics (not to mention the way Richard really poorly handled spending time with her friends last season). In any case, Sutton goes to Richard only to realize that he’s seeing someone else. It’s crushing, but the back-and-forth between Richard and Sutton just isn’t as gripping as the show maybe wants it to be? It’s becoming redundant.
Kat and Jane’s storylines in the episode overlap and interplay in a really compelling way. Kat needs to hire someone new for her social media team, and all the resumes coming through the door look the same and also look a lot like hers did, coming from kids with a lot of academic privilege. She wants someone with a fresh perspective and different background, so she recruits on Twitter and finds Angie, who is perfect for the job, has a strong voice, and has always loved Scarlet but never felt like there was a place for her there. Kat wants to hire her immediately, but things get tied up in board bureaucracy thanks to an insidiously discriminatory policy that requires all employees at the media company that owns Scarlet to have a college degree.
Cut to Jane, who is still having trouble locking down a job. Her anxiety about the instability of freelance life is super realistic: She’s still waiting to get paid for a piece she wrote, and she longs for structure and an office. Pinstripe helps get her an interview at a site that’s perfect for her, but she ends up not getting the job. Pinstripe mentions that the publication is making a diversity push, and Jane automatically jumps to the conclusion that she didn’t get the job because she’s white and is upset about it. Kat immediately pushes back, pointing out that Jane seems to only be for diversity when it’s convenient for her to be, and then Jane jumps to more conclusions, assuming that Kat’s calling her racist. But Kat never said that at all. It’s a highly realistic moment of a white person becoming super defensive in order to not be perceived as racist. Jane doesn’t realize that Kat is simply trying to call her out on a specific thing that she’s saying, not attacking her.
Something that The Bold Type is really exceptional at is making its central friendships believable. Too often, I’m watching television and wondering WHY two characters are friends with each other. (Especially when it comes to adult characters. High school friendships IRL are often based on the flimsiest of premises, so a show like Riverdale can sell me just about any character combination as a friendship.) I never have to wonder that when it comes to The Bold Type. And as counterintuitive as it sounds, the way that Kat and Jane fight in this episode really just reinforces how close they are. Kat loves Jane, but that doesn’t mean that she’s not going to call her out for saying something problematic.
When they meet again to talk about it, Kat points out that Jane sounds entitled for not thinking that the person who got the job deserved it as much as she did. (Hell, maybe that person deserved it even more! Jane really is just thinking about herself here.) But Jane immediately snaps back that Kat has no right to talk about entitlement because she lives in her parents’ loft and has never paid a bill. Again, this is extremely believable dialogue. I’ve had similar conversations with white people in my life who are quick to think that class status can potentially negate their white privilege. But Kat isn’t saying that Jane has had it easy by any means. She isn’t discrediting the burden of student debt and the fact that Jane doesn’t have a financial safety net. Kat understands the nuances of the situation. She also knows that Jane hugely benefits from her white privilege, especially in this industry. “Welcome to the entire existence of people of color, Jane,” she says.
It’s an honest wake-up call for Jane, and Kat drives it home by asking how many times she even notices that she’s in a room full of white people. Kat says she thinks about it all the time. Again, I’ve had this conversation almost word-for-word with white friends, and hey, maybe The Bold Type will save me some time in the future by spelling this out for white viewers. Because, yeah, like Kat says, it’s not a particularly fun thing to talk about all the time with the white people in your life.
And Kat indeed has privilege, but she’s using that privilege to open the door for someone else by advocating for Angie. Kat’s honestly on fire in this episode, confronting Richard to explain why the policy is discriminatory. And it’s refreshing to see Jane take the steps toward checking her privilege by also helping Angie out. Angie can’t take time off from her receptionist job, so Jane steps in. It’s a perfect example of action-based allyhood…even if it is pretty unrealistic that she could just step into a job at a business she does not work for. So much of the storyline is strikingly realistic that I’m willing to look past that little detail.
Another strikingly realistic part is the fact that while Kat is successful in getting the board to end the college degree requirement for Scarlet, it’s not a total win. The policy remains in place for the rest of the company and its other publications. Institutional change comes slowly, and Kat may have achieved some progress, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
While this episode is lite on Kat’s personal life since Adena’s out of town, it ends on quite the cliffhanger. I definitely fell for the fake out, thinking that Kat had decided to hook up with Adena’s friend who she met last week, even though it admittedly felt out of character. Sure enough, it isn’t real, and instead The Bold Type wades into territory that’s honestly more interesting and complex than just a cheating storyline. It was just a dream, suggesting that there could be an underlying attraction there. I’m curious to see where The Bold Type goes with this. A big part of Kat and Adena’s relationship development this season has hinged on emotional honesty. Will Kat tell Adena? Should she? Does the dream mean more than just a dream? I’m nervous! But intrigued! Don’t break my heart too much, The Bold Type!