Thursday, November 6, 2014

Selfie 1x04 ("Nugget of Wisdom"), 1x05 ("Even Hell Has Two Bars") & 1x06 ("Never Block Cookies") Reviews [Contributor: Ann]

There is so much to say about Selfie and I don’t know if I have it in me to say all of it. It’s obvious that I adore this show and think that John Cho and Karen Gillan are perfect in their roles as Henry and Eliza.

These are less reviews as they are me going off for as long as Jenn will have me (Jenn's note: I'm keeping Ann forever, by the way and will force her to write any and everything for me), and I have been threatening to write about Selfie for so long, and I have so much to write about now that we had a double feature Tuesday! So let’s begin.

"Nugget of Wisdom" (1x04)

This episode aired a long time ago, so it’s harder to say things about it, though, I mean, try me.

Quick summary: Eliza dares Henry to loosen up for a weekend. Henry dares Eliza to do something philanthropic. Charmonique goes to her high school reunion.

This episode—as is the case with pretty much all Selfie episodes, to my (wild) joy—is about false impressions. For Henry, this is made manifest in his chewable vitamins. They became so successful in a market because they took on the appearance and flavor of things besides vitamins, but now they are unable to keep up. Meanwhile, Eliza tries to best Fit Britt in a contest of follow-whores, and halfway succeeds fails with posting pictures of her fake rager. And Charmonique is ready to look—and be—whoever she needs to be to get with who she thinks is destined to be her true love, who just happens to be a priest (a truth that is shielded by the scarf he is wearing).

All of these people find a resolution. Charmonique realizes that self-love is better than the false image she set herself up for. Eliza loses, but has a great time anyway with Kevin. And Henry—who, being the resident Pining Dude, I tend to focus most of my attention on—realizes that his vitamins need to stop masquerading as someone else.

Of course, with Henry and Eliza there’s also the recurring theme that where Eliza does need Henry’s help, Henry needs her help just as much, if not more. I don’t know if I said this in the last piece I wrote about Selfie—unfortunately, it’s been too long—but I feel that the reason these two characters are able to move so fast through their relationship, and the reason I’m able to buy it, is that they are both in very dire straits. It’s like building a house out of paper; Eliza is a social media princess and Henry is perfectly polished and professional. It doesn’t seem so at face value, but both are equally guilty of putting on false appearances, mostly as a defense mechanism.

For Eliza, the reason she feels the need to be so engrossed in social media is that she was unpopular and not liked when she was younger. Having fake friends is a remedy to not having real friends for a long, long time. For Henry, the reason he is so engulfed in work is, I think, half out of fear (loneliness) and half out of self-destructive behavior (he did, after all, have a girlfriend who broke up with him for being too into his work). That’s not to say that Henry’s not actually hard-working, or that Eliza’s not actually a fan of pop culture—just that it’s so easy to assume that there’s nothing more there to them then that. That is what everyone else has done, after all.

Because of their strange arrangement— astrangement?— where Eliza is seeking out Henry’s help to better herself, boundaries that would have ordinarily been up between the two of them must be down. Even in a negotiation that they claim is business at best, they have to make themselves vulnerable to each other before they can get anywhere, both in progression of character and in progression of the inevitable romance. Because that need is so palpable, it takes very little for the truth to come out—whether or not they agree.

I said in my review of the third episode of Selfie that Henry’s very specific, and lower, number was a defense mechanism in a place where Eliza didn’t need to have one. I think the show set it up so that Henry is meant to realize his feelings for Eliza first, and I think — especially given that I’ve seen the two episodes after this — he is up to bat at this episode’s conclusion, when that defense mechanism comes crumbling down at Saperstein’s insistence that the two of them would make a good looking power couple.

I normally hate characters like Saperstein. Like, show, don’t tell, you know? But I think his character is perfectly situated to be the mediator in this situation. Not only was his character from the onset shown as being very frank despite others’ discomfort, there is something so awesome about seeing a character like him say what you are saying at your TV. Especially to a guy like Henry, who is type-A and certainly an overthinker. When Saperstein said that, it — to me — was the push of latent to recognized (albeit very cautious and reluctant) feelings.

Which is actually a decent segue into…

"Even Hell Has Two Bars" (1x05)

I know, I know—these episodes aired out of order. You can tell because of the B-plot with Terrence in the second one. I actually like this order better. (If my memory serves me, the first of the two episodes really doesn’t have much of an A- and B- plot involving the supporting cast.)

Quick summary: Henry and Eliza are invited to el Rancho de Saperstein. Eliza soon learns she’s meant to be a plus-one to Henry, who is expecting a promotion at the conclusion of the weekend. Henry soon finds, however, that he crushes—not in the cool Urban Dictionary way, either—when plans change, especially given that Eliza is the one changing them.

Change, I think, is the theme of this episode. The change of Henry’s job position. The change in setting. The change in plans. The subversion of expectations, an idea that can be used comically (Henry’s emoji-censored cannonball into the lake of the MILF Moment) or otherwise (the “leech” and Eliza’s surprising worth, both as the ranch’s VIP and as Henry’s better half).

Something Henry says that is worth taking note of on as many levels as our analyzing brains will allow us:
She’s gone, sir. I believe she’s gone. I fouled it up, just like I fouled up everything else this weekend. I had a plan. … But, things don’t always go according to plan, and when they don’t, I tend to unravel. 
Which Sam Saperstein loves, of course (a man after my own heart).

I love the juxtaposition of the entire weekend in general with Henry’s confusing feelings towards Eliza. I know that this is a bit of a stretch, but I think for a lot of relationships, the fear comes from a fear of losing control or unraveling. And I think that Henry—who in the pilot stated firmly that there was no romantic interest on his part—would be the type to be afraid (and also compelled) by someone who constantly challenged and surprised him and subverted his expectations. Eliza is so much more than she seemed in the pilot, and as Henry realizes that, the easier it is to get angry at Eliza for the weekend — because it’s about more than a promotion, it’s about the possibility that a) he is wrong, b) he is not in control re: their “arrangement,” and c) he is not in control of how he feels for her.

I think also you get glimmers of how much Henry feels he’s screwed up by yelling at her when he responds to Saperstein’s “better half” comment without any reluctance or resistance. That is why Saperstein’s role in this episode and the last fit better for me than had the episodes been switched; he’s established himself as Aware of Henry’s Feelings, so when they do finally emerge, fully-fleshed and clearly-defined (which I do not think happens this episode but think is hinted at, at least, in the next), he will be a good confidant and/or instigator of situations that force Eliza and Henry to face their feelings for each other.

"For each other" brings me to Eliza, FYI, but before I get there let me talk about the horse scene:
I loved it, of course. I loved the flirting, I loved the use of language on both of their parts (“bathed in moonlight,” “I have grown accustomed to your face”). I loved Henry’s hesitation before saying “friendship” which indicated to me that he is still Aware and Reluctant. And, obviously, I loved that he used a horse—changing the plan, adapting to the circumstances, so he can go see about a girl.

But I love most that Eliza finishes the episode. I mean, we see so much of Henry’s feelings for Eliza because he is the Pining Dude, but it’s important that this episode finishes with Freddy asking her about Henry and her asking if he is jealous. Not only is it setting the stage for events that feel close, it refocuses the audience. This is a love story, not a pining story, and even though Eliza has fewer barriers to her heart, she also has a boyfriend, which is as much a barrier as any.

And how the episode concludes with Henry being the only person to like the picture of the two of them together — GOD, so sweet*, and indicative of character development on both parts. Eliza will keep the picture up: it will cost her popularity on the internet but is a sign of how the internet is increasingly more indicative of her real interests, hobbies, and sexual tension partners. And Henry, in turn, uses social media to reach out to Eliza, as it is her preferred method of communication.

OH — and speaking of, how much do you love their heated moment being interrupted by the return of their signal? Juxtaposed with Henry’s “like,” this episode ends with a statement about where Eliza’s character is going: the false world she’s constructed for herself, more out-of-signal with Henry than Wifi at the Sapersteins’ is not immune to his influence. Or: he is increasingly present in all aspects of her life, which is as much a hint at how important he will become and a sign that he accepts the true Eliza (which might include the internet but just used in a heartfelt way).

* All a dude has to do to make me love him is just DOUBLE TAP MY PICTURES, geeze, how hard is it?

"Never Block Cookies" (1x06)

The reason that this episode felt best to be the most recent is that a BLATANT ROMANTIC GESTURE happens in this episode. I know, the horse wasn’t blatant?

I think that this episode packs more of a punch in the “feelings” zone because it is less sweet and more sexy, and I think it is much harder to pretend a sexy moment doesn’t involve feelings than it is for a sweet one, even one involving John Cho on a horse.

Quick summary: Henry’s in a bad mood. (Salty about Freddy, too—hmm…) Eliza and Charmonique try to set him up. Eliza has a moment with Henry, Henry is asked to be set up with Charmonique and Eliza clones, Henry says something BLATANTLY ROMANTIC, and then ends with a moment our narrator describes as “bittersweet.” Oh, and frickin’ Terrence is angling for a promotion he got last episode.

I could try to wax poetic about the B-plot but I don’t really want to, because here is what was awesome about the A-plot:

First, that Eliza’s motivation for “helping Henry” is increasingly less appropriate — maybe not even appropriate at all, considering how into his smolder she was, how annoyed she was at the women on dating sites, and her own admission of bittersweetness. I don’t think Eliza’s feelings are as realized as Henry’s, not yet, but I think that her flustered departure from his house and her attempt to play it off the next day is pretty indicative that both of them are aware of “something more.”

But of course, what keeps the will-they-won’t-they dance going is that intentions were clouded the whole way through. Eliza definitely had some other motivation for trying to help Henry get action than what she presented (as Charmonique points out). Henry definitely thought she was coming onto him, especially with the help of the Greek Chorus (Larry).

Which leads to the BIG ROMANTIC ACTION, which can be dismissed in a number of ways: first by Eliza as a “lesson” and then by Henry once he realizes what Eliza and Charmonique were really up to. (He was about to tell her the truth, too, dammit!). Which is good for our will-they-won’t-they brains, and well-done, too, but frustrating for those of us who want these two to just get with it and kiss.

What I loved about Henry’s realization of Charmonique and Eliza’s action was how he worded his anger. I mean, obviously he’s right—it’s incredibly condescending and narcissistic to try to remedy a dating problem with a bunch of you lookalikes—but he is absolutely, definitely speaking from another place when he tells Eliza that “I do okay” and “some of us are looking for the real thing.” Even more than the last episode, this fight has clear subtext and is clearly pointed towards Eliza, who (in his mind) has basically rejected him. (I mean, he started off the episode saying, with puppy dog earnestness, “She doesn’t want me.” That he went all the way up and back down again makes his lashing-out far more understandable.)

Of course, he ends up with another lady at the end of the episode, and that’s cool. He’s doing it partly as a rebound, anyway—impossible not to, given that he left for that evening thinking he was going on a date with Eliza. And it will get Eliza jealous, which — if you know me — makes me very happy.

Did I forget anything? What did you all think? I loved it so much. This show is so silly and goofy, but it is also so fun for me to watch and I always get so giggly while watching it. Especially if it involves John Cho ON A HORSE!


  1. i love this show. best comedy on tv right now

  2. It's so typical that just as a show is starting to hit its stride, it gets pulled because networks have no patience. No wonder they never develop hit shows! The pilot, though promising, was lacking depth and just too focused on the "social media has destroyed people" angle, but by now Henry and Eliza both have become compelling characters that are funny, flawed, and easy to care about. Sigh...

    I loved the first episode, and as somebody who lived in the central coast for a few years, they really nailed a lot of the details about Santa Barbara non-college student culture. And I just about died laughing at Eliza doing kegels to Riff Raff.

    The scene in "Never Block the Cookies" when Eliza shows up at Henry's unannounced was probably the best moment of the season so far. It felt real, it was heartfelt, awkward, a little bit funny, and seriously hot. Eliza and Charmonique also make a great team as they try to get Henry some action, and I also really liked that they played the song "Ever Love" by Beginners when the three of them entered the pub.

    Selfie's story arc probably never had more than one or two seasons in it anyway, but I still am pretty mad that it got pulled so early. Hopefully they really will air all the episodes on Hulu and they can figure out a slick way to give it a fitting ending.

  3. Sorry for the late comment, but I really love Selfie and love reading other people's perspectives about this unconventional, multilayered romantic comedy. It seems your hypothesis about Henry being the pining dude was wrong, as for me he became the pining dude at the end of episode 13, but he was the clueless dude before that. Still, your reviews are very insightful, and I'm sorry that you weren't able to write them for us for all 13 episodes (especially episodes 9, 10, and 11).

    I also found the signal part of the horse scene in "Even Hell Has Two Bars" to be intriguing. The first time Henry tells Eliza that she got her signal, she acknowledges it without really taking her eyes off Henry, either because she thinks he was referring to her saying that the horse was chewing loudly (an awkward silence that could lead into Henry kissing Eliza, or vice-versa), or because she was so into their moment that doesn't care that much that her cell phone signal was restored. Or maybe her ignoring her phone was due to a combination of both those. Either way, it took a second beeping of their phones to snap her/them out of that moment - a nuance that nobody seemed to notice.

    I miss this show so much. :(

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