Although this episode is enjoyable enough in its simplicity – it pretty much has two locations and barely a B-plot to speak of – I did find myself disappointed by the end that we don’t get a resolution any different from earlier episodes, particularly “Road Trip.” In that episode – just the second, so it was still fresh – Benji and Esther spend some time fighting and competing with each other, only to band together to dunk on Jeff once Jeff seems to be against both of them. That resolution was educational and important at such an early part of the series, but when it happens again four episodes later it feels as redundant as Esther and Benji point out their diagnosis of co-dependency is.
The reason this week that Esther and Benji are momentarily against each other is that Esther’s two cool lesbian neighbors, Rose and Camille (Lela Rochon and Amy Landecker), have turned their attention from Esther to Benji and Esther panics, thinking that she’s lost her potential Strong Women Mentors. The reason they’re suddenly wrapped up in Benji is because he has quite a story to tell, of how he “apologized to a woman in public” – thanks to Rose’s help. The scenes with Rose and Benji in the co-op are interesting, I think largely because Rose and Camille are the first true adults we’ve met on the show. They’re mature, they’re unshakeable and they actually have true wisdom to impart. The apology Rose gets Benji to give to the cashier he previously offended – by trying to tell her what to eat and drink – is capped off with the beautiful phrase, “I’m just a weak man with an unnecessarily strong point of view.”
While Rose is helping Benji evolve, Camille is at Esther’s apartment crafting her a “loose French braid” and explaining what it is that makes salads taste good – among many other things. The scene in which Esther rapid-fire asks Camille all sorts of “adult questions” (“How often should I floss?”) is fairly relatable and understandable, as who among us – especially Esther and Benji – really has a good source for answers to these questions? I especially liked Jeff – yes, Jeff is there, too! He showed up for a pre-scheduled and totally forgotten Game Night – piping in to ask only if the Chupacabra is real. To Camille’s negative response, he just says “Okay.”
As the fivesome finally sat down to eat the titular meal, it’s eventually revealed that the reason Rose and Camille are so mature and wise and ready to answer Benji and Esther’s questions is that they are literal psychologists. Psychologists who have been fascinated by Esther and Benji for months, trying to guess what their situation is: is Esther an emancipated minor? Is Benji keeping her against her will as an indentured servant? But, no, once meeting them they are certain the two are just a “classic case” of co-dependency. Once they are being diagnosed, Esther and Benji quickly turn their ire towards each other – competing for Rose and Camille’s attention – back towards their neighbors in defense. They seem equally disappointed as we are to hear yet another person say, first, that they’re co-dependent (which Esther and Benji openly acknowledge) and, second, that they should have sex. As Benji tells them, those are the two most “hack” things to say to them. It does feel pretty old, especially as the reactions to people telling them this doesn’t change anything about how they relate to each other. There’s never a “what if there’s some truth to what they’re saying?” or “maybe it is messing up our other relationships to have one relationship that is so co-dependent?” I don’t think Benji and Esther would necessarily use those words, but there might be something like it tossed in there or at least an acknowledgement that they’re living in denial and purposely not addressing those questions.
And so, at the end of the “dinner party” gone wrong (although not as wrong as I thought it might go), Esther and Benji are back to their co-dependent selves sans Wise Lesbian Mentors. Nothing can crack the veneer of their relationship, and I am currently very interested to see what could.
- This episode was written by Mason Fink and directed by LP.
- I think the first scene has Esther wearing some of that Britney Spears merch she bought with her mom’s credit card as a teen.
- We learn a lot of interesting things about Benji this week, in particular:
- He eats 20 small meals a day to control his metabolism.
- He’s a speed reader.
- He has “very thick” corneas.
- He can “create a cheese plate in his sleep.” This may be his most attractive quality, by far.
- The most interesting thing we learn about Esther is that she can “do a perfect cartwheel… from memory,” and it’s still not clear why she feels she needs to clarify “from memory.”
- We also learn how Benji and Esther met! Well, the basics: Esther was doing a stand-up set at a Comedy Store open mic and Benji was heckling her from the back. Of course.
- The best part of the episode is probably when Rose and Camille acknowledge that they can hear everything Benji and Esther are saying to each other regarding the lost bag of groceries. So often shows have characters move a few feet from each other and act as if no one can hear them now – that’s obviously not true to life! The breaking of that trope was such a relief.