“The Bold Type” Episode 209 Recap: Babs Brady

This season of The Bold Type has been steadily dropping hints that we would eventually delve more into Sutton’s background, and this week’s episode comes through on that promise, delivering major emotional revelations for all three of the friends but zeroing in on Sutton’s life in particular by throwing us into her past. Sutton has become my favorite character this season (and, hey, remember two episodes ago when she hinted that she’s not totally straight, because I WILL NEVER FORGET), so I was here for a big storyline for Sutton, especially since Meghann Fahy has been killing it on both the comedic and dramatic fronts all season.

But first, let’s talk about the fact that a musical episode of The Bold Type actually needs to happen. I already launched this campaign when the trio sang “Mamma Mia” a few weeks ago, and now I feel it even more. This week, Kat, Jane, and Sutton all jam out on their road trip to Harrisburg, PA — Sutton’s hometown — to none other than “New Rules,” the Dua Lipa song with the gayest music video (and all Dua Lipa music videos are gay). They can all sing so well!!!! I need more! And then Jane—who spends most of this episode drunk or high or both — sings a cover of “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia at the dive bar where they meet Sutton’s mom, and it is perfect. Look, I’m not the biggest Jane fan, but the fact that she’s going through a pretty big crisis in her life and ends up singing “Torn” about it (or, more accurately, as a distraction from it) is… relatable. I see you, Tiny Jane.

So Jane’s busy singing and Kat’s busy getting hit on by a super forward and hot bartender who actually pulls a here-let-me-show-you-how-to-do-it move when she and Kat are playing pool, and it’s all very fun and sexy. (And Aisha Dee is very good making out with people on screen — have you noticed? I’m sure you’ve noticed.) BUT this episode also gets very, very real, especially when it comes to Sutton’s reunion with her mother.

In usual The Bold Type fashion, Sutton’s reunion with her mom doesn’t exactly go in an unexpected way. I instantly had a feeling that Sutton wouldn’t encounter the version of her mother that she has been talking about leading up to this and would instead have to grapple with something much more difficult: a version of her mother who is trying to change and stay sober. (Kat’s observation that Babs Brady is hardly the “Ramona Singer ‘turtle time’” mess she expected is a perfect crossover of The Bold Type and another show I love dearly, Real Housewives of New York City).

It’s not necessarily more devastating for Sutton to encounter this version of her mother, but it’s a different kind of devastating. She can’t let herself get her hopes up, and while Jane and Kat might see Sutton’s refusal to see the changes in her mother as harsh, it’s completely valid. She has, after all, been through this before. Over and over. It becomes very clear that so much of Sutton’s life when she lived in Harrisburg was dictated by her mother’s addiction and behaviors. Moving to NYC allowed her to escape all of that and to move forward with her life, but that meant really, truly letting go. Sutton’s determination to remain unattached and uninvested in her mother’s life is intensely felt the second they get to Harrisburg.

But Kat and Jane remind Sutton that she doesn’t have to deal with this — the hope, the heartbreak, the emotional rollercoaster — on her own anymore. She has them, and that gives Sutton the strength and encouragement she needs to agree to really talk with her mom and hear her out. The Bold Type thankfully doesn’t play this as an “everything’s solved!” moment. It’s cathartic in a way, but Sutton isn’t about to just forgive her mom for everything right then and there. They might never reach a point of total forgiveness, because the path toward repairing a relationship as damaged as theirs is long, messy, and not even a little bit straightforward. The Bold Type allows for all those nuances and complexities.

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Kat, meanwhile, has a breakthrough of her own in Harrisburg. She’s the only character with a real Scarlet plotline this episode: She gets into a disagreement with Jacqueline about the comments section on the relaunched website. Jacqueline wants to get rid of it, thinking it’s just a cesspool of trolls, but Kat knows that it would mean isolating the readers who engage with the brand the most. Sure enough, Kat ends up being right, and Jacqueline admits she was wrong. But more important than all this is Kat’s realization that her open relationship with Adena has messed up communication between them.

This realization certainly comes from a believable place. Kat and Adena seem to keep having missed connections because of the weirdly strict scheduling rules regarding their open relationship. It almost seems like weekends are the only time they can be together anymore, and while Kat is having fun making out with hotties all over NYC (and Harrisburg), it doesn’t seem to be the most fulfilling experience for her. She misses doing things with Adena and spending quality time with her girlfriend. While open relationships can often strengthen communication between couples, it seems to have gone the total opposite way for Kat and Adena, which isn’t all that surprising given the way the terms were initially dictated. I still never fully got the sense that this is what Kat wanted.

Even though they agree to be monogamous again, that doesn’t immediately solve some of their communication issues. There seems to be a disconnect in their priorities, and while Kat has been generally good about voicing how she feels this season, she doesn’t address whatever is bothering her at the end of the episode when Adena forgoes breakfast together to work on her latest gallery.

While this episode is strong overall, it does reiterate this season’s Adena Problem. She only really seems to exist in terms of Kat and Kat’s emotional journey. Nikohl Boosheri was upped to regular status this season, and yet we hardly see her, and Adena hasn’t had a storyline of her own at all. She seems to exist just outside the orbit of Kat, Jane, and Sutton… for no real reason? Her relationship with Kat would actually be more compelling if the character somewhat stood on her own. But it’s almost like the writers still aren’t sure what to do with her.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a writer and critic currently living in Miami. Her fiction is upcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. Her pop culture writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 242 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. I have been so surprised by how much I love Sutton this season, she consistently makes me laugh and cry and somehow she’s become my favorite character on the show?!

    Also drunk Jane is much more fun than sober Jane.

  2. The episode was good, I wasn’t even annoyed by Jane this week, which is unusual for me, Sutton’s story was very emotional and relatable and I was really glad Kat decided that she only wanted Adena.

    Offtopic: Season 4 of Casual just came out and Laura (one of the protagonists) is pretty gay this season.

  3. Is Jacqueline a bad editor because she accepts pitches that are just “how to have fun when you can’t do anything” or the most powerful woman in the country because her magazine can get a passport made in a single week?

  4. Yeah, the way they played the last moments between Sutton and her mom was really nice and Meghann Fahy has been totally great this season.
    But y’known who continued to suck? Judgy Jane. On the list of things you should never say to anyone, let alone your best friend when they’re talking about an abusive/absent/terrible parent, “Be grateful” has got to be in at least the top three.

    • I was so frustrated most of this episode with Jane and Kat not really taking seriously that Sutton had a very good reason for not wanting to embrace this new version of her mom, and this made me hit the roof. I really wish the narrative would stop letting her turn out to be “right” in the end (see also: the gun psychoanalysis) and actually make her see some consequences for being so judgy.

      In general between Sutton’s friends not listening to her and Dr Ben not asking Jane what she needed and instead doing what made him feel better, I thought this episode would do something about communicating needs/listening to and trying to meet other people’s needs in a difficult time. I was disappointed that in the end the people who either weren’t listening or weren’t asking turned out to be Right All Along.

  5. I couldn’t pay attention to anything after the waitress Kat was making out with said, “I’ve got THIRTY MINUTES left on my break!”

    Crowdsource: Has anyone in food service had longer than a twenty minute break, total? And will your place of work hire me?

  6. I was wondering why women keep hitting on Kat when she’s not in a context that makes her sexuality obvious. She doesn’t appear to me to be giving of queer vibes when with her friends. (Or were they having conversations that made it obvious and I have forgotten).

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