By Kevin OKeeffe
Originally published on Advocate.com February 24 2014 1:54 PM ET
After last week's quiet Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Richie (Raúl Castillo) duet — which many of you loved, but we were iffy about because of its too-easy character development — Looking was back with the whole gang this week. And by that, we mean the entire cast was in this episode, including all our favorite supporting characters (Doris! Frank! Lynn!), which meant we spent not much time with a lot of different characters.
The plots this week, all revolving around Dom (Murray Bartlett) turning 40, were pretty varied, the one uniting aspect being that they all involved characters making absolutely terrible decisions. This show's been awkward before, but this was a special level of poor choices. Here were five moments that had us cringing:
Dom's Unfortunate Drag Queen Joke
Lynn (Scott Bakula) is fully invested in helping Dom get his restaurant off the ground, which this week involves a meeting with two huffy potential investors, Jack (Carlos Carrasco) and Randy (Richard Conti). As Jack relays a bit of "drag herstory" — a story about a queen named Mama José — Dom makes a badly timed (and badly conceived, honestly) joke about her drag name that doesn't go over as expected. "She was a World War II veteran," Jack retorts. "I think she earned the right to call herself whatever she liked." It's an A+ line reading from Carrasco, but an F on the humor front for Dom, who only manages to confuse his companions further when he starts talking about his Portuguese chicken. Since he really needed to charm his potential investors, Dom chose the worst possible moment to put his foot in his mouth.
Patrick's Cringeworthy Impression of a Gay Guy
Patrick and Richie are quite the couple after their San Francisco adventure, but Patrick's still nervous about introducing his new boyfriend to everyone at Dom's party. It's going well enough at first, but just like last week, when he fixated on the top-versus-bottom dynamic, Patrick obsessed over his perceived masculinity when Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom started making fun of his cheery voice-mail greeting. Prodded and pushed into feeling too gay, Patrick launches into a rather distasteful impersonation of a stereotypical gay guy. The moment falls a little flat — it's not out of character for Patrick to do or Dom and Agustín to laugh at, but even Richie is chuckling, which seems off. And, of course, because this is Looking, it only gets more awkward from there.
Quickly Followed Up by Patrick's Embarassment About Richie With Kevin
Patrick runs into Kevin (Russell Tovey) and immediately finds himself mumbling and trying to downplay the fun he's having to save face with his attractive boss. But their faux-flirting only goes so far when Kevin brings over Jon (Joseph Williamson), his boyfriend, to introduce him. "Crestfallen" doesn't begin to describe how Patrick feels when he learns Jon is there for good, and things only get worse when Richie comes over. Kevin has to practically force his hand out to greet Richie, who explains to them that he cuts hair for a living only to have Patrick try to play it up as much more extravagant than it is. Given a theme that comes up shortly, it's easy to feel like Patrick is ashamed of Richie, especially when the man he's always fantasized about having is right in front of him.
Agustín: Ugh, Everything About Agustín Is Terrible
But nothing Patrick does in this episode comes close to the bad choices Agustín makes. We're on record as saying that Agustín is the absolute worst, and it's a credit to Alvarez that he can make such a loathsome character compelling. But this week pushed even our investment as he treated boyfriend Frank (O.T. Fagbenle) like dirt despite his best efforts to cheer him up, called Patrick's relationship with Richie "slumming," and, instead of looking inward and trying to figure out why he sucks so badly, instead had a threesome with Frank and C.J. (T.J. Linnard), the hooker he's paying for without telling his boyfriend. Looking has a developing Agustín problem — while a hateable character isn't inherently a bad thing, Agustín has proved himself to be controlling, pushy, and self-destructive. That's narratively interesting, sure, but if there's not good stuff happening around that character, it can be hard to watch. He's got the benefit of being in an interesting plot at the moment (maybe the most interesting plot of the moment), but if that fades, the character will be impossible to enjoy, despite all of Alvarez's efforts. In other words: We love to hate Agustín now, but that kind of love can turn to pure hate in no time.
Dom's Inappropriate Affection With Lynn
One character and plotline that we can't and won't tire of is the Dom-Lynn relationship. Maybe it's just that Bartlett and Bakula have such an easy chemistry that can still feel challenging to the audience, or maybe it's that their will-they-or-won't-they avoids every cliché and keeps us genuinely guessing. Whatever it is, seeing them discuss getting into business together — only to have Dom kiss Lynn, a truly terrible decision on his part — was the most thrilling thing to happen in this episode. Having Lynn gently let Dom down was great on the writers' part as well; if they got together as Dom turned 40, that would feel unearned. Best to see Dom continue to fight rather than getting it all at once. Even when Patrick is too whiny or Agustín is too awful, we can count on these two to entertain us while representing a kind of gay relationship not previously depicted on TV.
BONUS: This Overeager Grindr Guy
No one goes up to people and shows them their Grindr profile, guy. That's incredibly awkward. But you are also very hot, so all is forgiven.
Follow Kevin O'Keeffe on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.