After the explosion of information and personality in the pilot last week, Alone Together only settles down a little bit in its follow-up, “Road Trip.” It’s a little quieter, a little simpler, but it still conveys important information about Benji and Esther’s unique bond.
We start the show with, of course, another rat-a-tat scene between Esther and Benji in which it’s revealed that it is Benji’s birthday! Esther convinces him to join her on a special birthday road trip, but it’s clear she has something up her sleeve that she’s keeping from him. It’s surprising Benji doesn’t catch on to that, but we soon find out that she has led Benji to believe they will be staying in Berkeley – about 5 hours away – overnight. They will not be doing this, and Benji will have to drive them home after a long day celebrating his birthday. The “lie of omission” (the least bad of all the lies, in Esther’s ranking) brings us back to the reality of their friendship. Not a day goes by that one of them doesn’t do something that bothers the other in some way. And while my first reflex is to think “oh that’s not very fair, Esther,” I have definitely been one to take advantage of the lie of omission.
Joining them on their trip is their “third party,” Jeff. Jeff! Thank god we’ve got another person on this road trip, filling up the back seat to be the middleman between Esther and Benji’s dynamic. However, this very idea – that anybody could really insert themselves in-between Esther and Benji – is hilariously refuted in this episode.
It doesn’t take long before Esther’s secret is revealed. They stop for lunch and Jeff encourages Benji to treat himself and get the fried chicken with beer instead of “his usual” grilled chicken and water. Esther scolds him for this, knowing that Benji is only eating these foods because “if there is one thing you need to know about Benji” it’s that he needs to shower after he eats fried, greasy foods. The detail is amazing and fascinating, especially as we see how right she is. When Benji learns there is no hotel to shower in, he snaps. Benji’s reaction is a little surprising, because although we’ve seen he and Esther be annoyed with each other, here he seems genuinely mad at her and Jeff for lying to him and upending his plans.
They go to a nearby gym for the showers, and while there we are treated to the most bizarre Alone Together scene so far. Benji makes a friend with a giant of a man in the showers – both of the men frequently shot in a way that requires crotch blurring – and the “Muscle Guy” lets Benji vent about his entire day while pop music plays. It evokes the female bonding montages of ’80s movies. I hope the show takes detours into surreal little dialogue-free moments like this in the future. While I greatly enjoy the banter between the two leads, adding purely visual jokes helps add a texture to the viewing experience and to the kinds of laughs it can produce.
Benji’s anger at Esther lasts a surprisingly long time, up through their fight about sugar cookies versus snickerdoodles used so effectively in the pre-pilot marketing. Once Jeff leaves (I don’t blame him), Esther and Benji manage to go from hating each other to being a tight-knit team again in two minutes or less. In that moment I felt that I finally “got” Esther and Benji’s relationship. It’s a little volatile and messy, but ultimately they want to be on each other’s team more than anyone else’s. This will be good to know going forward, as we can see their affection for each other here and their desire to bitch together rather than at each other. This way we know they’re not just friends who bicker a lot because they’re friends out of convenience and don’t really like each other. If this episode tells us anything, it’s that these two completely understand each other and this “fighting” is just how they communicate. They turn on Jeff, claiming he was trying to tear them apart and ruin their day and they immediately walk off with a plan to heckle his stand-up set. Jeff is now the Squidward to their Spongebob and Patrick (if you ask me, he’s more like their Sandy).
The episode ends with the status quo restored, and the trio enjoying some birthday donuts. Jeff has enough of their routine again – correctly pointing out that rather than admit to their own problems, they project them onto a “third party.” Once he leaves, they proceed to do just that and comment about how much of a sociopath Jeff is, and how it’s sad because “when you act like that you’re never gonna find someone.” Do they know they’re talking about themselves? I think deep down they do. And so another episode ends with the duo admitting that they are going to live and die alone… well, you can read the title.
This episode is written by Hunter Covington and directed by Todd Biermann
“Should we do a quick bedsore check?”
“Only eating salads” is a sign of depression in Esther’s world.
Benji has no neck dexterity.
Jeff is a UC Berkeley legend because he pooped on a plate and put it in the College Republicans fridge.
Esther has had “teen onset parental attachment disorder.” This lines up with her established Dad Issues from last week.
Esther: “Have I ruined your day any more than I usually do? I think the answer is no.”