The first two episodes of Alone Together have firmly established the kind of friendship Esther and Benji have, so on the third outing we get some information on where they come from. What environments led to an Esther and a Benji? We get the first real idea of what they were like as kids in this episode as we see them try briefly to re-live their youths through another family. The day we finally meet one or both of their parents (or, bless my soul, when we see flashbacks) will be fantastic, but until then we can surmise what their childhoods were like based on what they tell us they didn’t have.
While last week’s episode gave the “A” plot to Benji – it was his birthday, after all – this week it’s given to Esther. This week Esther goes to the gynecologist – Dr. Anderson, who wears the expression “I am immediately regretting this” very well – to check on her eggs. Of course, Benji accompanies her. Their excuse is that it is because they both have “nothing and no one,” he might as well join her. For some reason this is the first time their relationship has seemed beyond the norm for me. I understand the urge to bring a friend along to the doctor’s, but a male friend in particular, and to the gynecologist, is commitment to the platonic bond I have not witnessed. Harry and Sally didn’t even get that close.
What Esther learns at this appointment is that her eggs are actually “perfect candidates” for freezing. I didn’t know some eggs would not be great candidates for freezing, so thank you Alone Together for teaching me something. Esther is amazed that she’s a great candidate for anything; until she learns that it costs $10,000 to freeze your eggs. And, despite what she thought, Google will not pay for it. There is a program that would take off the cost in exchange for giving one of her eggs to someone else. She signs up for this, not thinking she will be chosen – but of course, she immediately is.
Esther goes to meet this woman, with Benji in tow, and she turns out to be Denise Richards – I mean, Jackie. Jackie is too good to be true – showering Esther with compliments, baking homemade cinnamon rolls, and taking Esther out to get her nails done. Of course, it’s soon apparent to us – and a little while later, to Esther – that Jackie just wants a daughter so she can carry on her mother’s pageant success. Jackie was once the Miss Santa Clarita Valley International World Princess 1999, and she had five kids in the attempt to have a daughter. She had no such luck, and instead has a youngest son in Bobby, who Benji immediately bonds with. I doubt Benji would admit to liking the kid very much, but it was actually a little sweet to see stone-faced Benji take little Bobby under his wing, even a little bit. These little moments keep these two main characters from becoming sniping joke-delivery machines with no relatable humanity. I mean, some of us are sniping joke-delivery machines but we can also care about kids, you know?
Benji takes to Bobby because he immediately spots him as the “neglected baby” – one of his own kind. Bobby can’t eat gluten, so is given salad to eat. He wears hand-me-down socks and never learned how to play catch. Benji corrects this by showing him YouTube videos explaining catch, as well as telling him that to successfully play solo-catch you need to throw the ball up in the air, not at a wall. Eventually Benji helps Bobby finally make some friends by doing the old “become a bully to be friends with your former bullies” maneuver. Bobby makes fun of Benji, thereby making him the weakest one, the new “Cameltoe.”
After showing Esther the room she had created for her daughter, Esther finally understands that Jackie only wants a kid to live through her life. Jackie turns this around on Esther and points out that she is doing the same thing. Besides Esther wanting her “kid” to have the life she didn’t, she wants it as well. This is very true, which is clarified when Esther thinks Jackie wanted her to move into the “daughter’s” room. Granted, the room is full of things Esther wanted when she was little, but nobody wants a new 29-year-old daughter. Esther denies that she wants to do this, but the end of the episode hints that she realized how obsessed she was with her “lost” youth. She buys herself a My Size Barbie (an apparent phenomenon that I had actually never heard of), maybe realizing that she can just admit that she wanted certain things and didn’t get them – but she can get them now, if she wants, instead of waiting to have a kid for the secret purpose of crafting a new childhood for herself.
This episode is the first to end on a relatively upbeat note, one that doesn’t mention how Esther and Benji are both going to die alone. Here, we see them hanging out and joking with Esther’s My Size Barbie, Amabella (!!). In all, “Fertility” was a little less sour than the past two episodes and it let us see a little bit of growth in the characters as well. They both take incremental steps towards being grown-ups, which includes admitting to the sucky parts of your childhood and realizing that you can make up for it as an adult. Hopefully before you have your own kids.
The episode was written by Amy Hubbs and directed by Betsy Thomas.
Benji, re: Jackie – “The beauty queen whose son is slowly dying of asthma has bad priorities?”
Benji, re: his relationship with Bobby – “It’s not weird. I showed him YouTube videos and gave him amphetamines.”
Things We Learn About Benji:
- Was cross-eyed until he was two and couldn’t see faces, which is why “he has no empathy.”
- Has touch deprivation because his mom didn’t hold him – which is why he doesn’t like hugs.
Things We Learn About Esther:
- Didn’t graduate from college.
- Was breastfed until age three and a half.
- While growing up. she was only allowed to wear nail polish on special occasions, and the only color allowed was “clear.”
- Most likely she stole her mom’s credit card when she was twelve and used it to buy Britney Spears concert tickets and $800 worth of merchandise.
- Also has touch deprivation.
- She and Benji Facetime before bed, so she “knows his patterns.”