Esther and Benji face the prospect of “The Big One,” California’s inevitable disastrous earthquake this week, and manage to save their episode from equal disaster by a few solid jokes at the end. Well, maybe disaster is too strong of a word, but it might be the weakest plotted episode of the season so far. After a tremor spooks Esther, she goes to Benji’s house with her “white trash box” of her favorite things she wants in a crisis. Shortly after, Benji’s sister Alia (Ginger Gonzaga) arrives with some friends/employees (it’s hard to say, and I think the line is blurred for Alia) in search of Dean’s rare tequila. Because Benji is interested in Alia’s friend, Clara, and Esther thinks if they’re in a house with successful, hot Instagram influencers they will definitely be saved after “The Big One,” so they conspire to keep the guests in the house through the duration of the expected earthquake that evening.
Despite Esther’s over-the-top panic about the earthquake, it’s still a bit of a stretch to buy her excuse for trying to keep the girls in the house all day. The means by which she and Benji go about keeping them there are also a bit lackluster, while simultaneously being a little deranged. Esther brings out her box and pulls on the Britney Spears Juicy sweat suit (you know, the one she wore after her wedding to Kevin Federline) and her limited edition lip tattoos to “entertain” the ladies, offering herself up as a joke if need be. Benji decides to cut the power outside of the kitchen because Dean needs his truffles to stay refrigerated. The power cut sort of works, as they basically can’t leave the house because the gate won’t open. This half-hearted conspiracy works for a little bit until Benji’s stern older sister snaps Clara out of her panic attacks and decides that they will be leaving this crazy place. This moment, in which Alia delivers a stone-faced word of warning about what might happen if Clara doesn’t snap out of it, is shot in a fierce close-up which was a refreshing change in style for the series so far. It added an extra layer of intensity to the speech, and I hope the directors in the future continue to experiment with form a little more.
Once Alia and her posse leave, we get a short scene that does a lot, particularly in terms of humor. I found the first part of the episode a little stale and lagging, but the end shook me out of the shrug the plot had previously put me in. First, the earthquake they had been waiting for finally happens – it’s, of course, not bad at all, but Esther and Benji leap up from their seats at the table and cling to each other while having a classic “confess random secrets during a crisis” exchange. The exchange happens so fast, and the inflection in their voices changes in small, hilarious ways that you can’t appreciate in text alone but I’m going to reprint the conversation here anyway:
Benji: I think you should know that I smelled your underwear once.
Esther: I think you should know that I watched you do it.
Benji: I think you should know that I did it twice.
Esther: I know, I have it on film.
Benji: How do you have it on film?
Esther: I have a camera in your room.
Benji: Where’s the camera?
Esther: Some things go to the grave.
And then, to top it off, Dean comes down the stairs to reveal that he has been in the house the whole time, just watching a Million Dollar Listings marathon on his laptop (his laptop must have a great battery life, but never mind). He sees the dark house (Benji couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to turn the power back on), lit up by candles and asks what kind of Eyes Wide Shut thing the two of them have going on down there. He then, of course, accuses them of acting weird because they had sex, to which Benji and Esther respectively refute by saying things like “no, my dick is so dry right now” and “mine too.”
Dean eventually leaves them alone, but there’s a little bit of tension in the air which Esther addresses by claiming she felt a “fresh boner” against her when they were huddled together, which Benji claims was just a fear boner that he gets sometimes. That, of course, devolves into them roasting each other, but making each other laugh, like they do best. The humorous ending, with the reveal of some interesting information regarding the pair, feels easy and natural in comparison to the first 20 minutes that didn’t really go anywhere. If Alone Together can focus more on Esther and Benji and the absurd world they live in, and incorporate fewer straight-man adults who are constantly dismissing them, we might be better able to enjoy the zaniness that lies underneath the surface of each episode, and which we glimpsed during their near-death experience.
- This episode was written by Eben Russell and directed by Kat Coiro.
- Esther doesn’t touch rocks.
- Alia calls Esther “Cheryl,” which Benji reminds her was actually the name of a turtle he had in college. I like this name for a turtle more than I like it for a person.
- Ironically during the first commercial break I saw an ad for California tourism.