This week feels like a narrative calm before the storm, a quiet moment before the big finale (which I expect to at least partially be set at Brian and Charlie’s wedding). It’s a classic 8 out of 10, or what used to be 20 out of 22 – the good one, not the filler one, before shit really hits the fan/goes down. It starts with more solemn notes in the score and the first cold open that does not include Jimmy. It’s Paul, who cannot reach Meg on the phone, but keeps trying – he only briefly speaks with his young grandson, and his son-in-law, who hammers home that she does not want to talk.
Grace is now finally back in therapy with Jimmy, and still lives with her abusive husband, who unsurprisingly, is back on his bullshit. Even though Jimmy’s professional opinion on him is that he is a “fucking tool”, he has to try and give her, well, tools, to change his behavior, since she seemingly cannot leave him for good (yet). He advises to try a “pattern interrupt”, or in other words, “booping” him – this episode’s title and narrative thread. There need to be negative consequences to his actions for him to change them; just like Jimmy himself has to face talking to Alice about his hookup with Gaby. They explain to her that it didn’t mean anything, and Alice is as expected, less than thrilled, but despite Jimmy’s tendency to take it too far and to offer too much detail, he is also right in asserting that he has his own life and gets to make his own choices.
Zach Braff directs this week’s episode, written by Wally Baram, and you can tell by some of the subtly different choices he makes. Braff is of course best known as an actor (J.D. on Scrubs), but by now also has an established second career as a writer and director, with his memorable debut Garden State (2004) or more recently, Wish I Was Here (2014). I can wholeheartedly recommend the latter, even though, or perhaps because, it made me bawl my eyes out. The fact that he centrally deals with grief in this work makes him a perfect fit for Shrinking. Location changes are one of the things I picked up on immediately: Alice and Paul still meet sitting on a bench, but it’s no longer the one in the big public park in Pasadena, it’s a much more secluded space in a (private?) garden. When Jimmy, Brian and Charlie (Devin Kawaoka) meet up for hiking/talking while hiking, it’s not set in the Hollywood Hills of earlier episodes, but an equally more lush space I think may be part of the Jungle section of the Warner lot. It could of course come down to scheduling conflicts or similar, but it feels too deliberate for both scenes to be just that.
“You young people think you’re the only ones with problems; your Dad is going through some shit! Everyone is.”
Alice and Paul’s talk this week ends with her being upset with him because he offloads his own feelings about his fallout with Meg on her, and thus spurns her on to be reckless and hook up with some college guy. Avoiding guys on a vespa is this week’s solid life advice – you know, on top of everything else we learn about apologizing and generally, open communication. Her running off leads to a hilarious trio of Jimmy, Paul, and Brian going on a little road trip together to find her. The scene where they encounter a peacock – “they either want to attack us or fuck us” – “not sure which one I prefer” – is easily the funniest of the episode, closely followed by Paul staring down Alice‘s date.
The other trio this episode are Gaby, Liz and Sean. Gaby invites them to her ex-husband Nico’s (Adam Foster Ballard) art show – Sean mainly to balance out bringing a rich white lady. The three of them play so well off each other; Gaby and Liz‘s new friendship and their exuberant, fast-paced dynamic, vs Sean‘s understated demeanor. I have not given Luke Tennie his due in these recaps yet, so it‘s about time, the show has given him plenty of opportunity to play both quiet rage and quiet humor and he does both so so well. Particularly at the end, when Gaby blows up at her ex-husband: just when she thought he had matured and also acknowledges her part in his career, it turns out he is actually dating the gallery owner and credits her as his muse. Her freaking out like this is of course not particularly mature of her, especially when she tells everyone in the room he likes a thumb up his butt, but it’s also relatable as hell. We all have that one ex. Or two. Or three. Anyway.
“You screwed up so many times, you think you don’t have the right to be upset with anybody.”
One other conflict this week is that Brian and Charlie don’t want Jimmy to officiate their wedding. It’s understandable given he ruined their engagement party by falling apart, a.k.a. projectile vomiting over his piano, but it’s equally understandable that it hurts Jimmy’s feelings. The episode ends with Jimmy asserting his own boundaries, and booping Brian for doing so, encouraged by Paul. He also grounds Alice, instead of letting her off the hook – he’s finally ready to actually parent her again.
One last side note: we got two throwaway lines about Gaby potentially being bisexual this season, and God, can someone please make this canon? Because I am tired of bisexuality being played for laughs, and also because I think it would harbor a lot of potential for future character development. The show is now officially renewed for Season 2 as of yesterday, so fingers crossed.