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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Loot 2x05 Recap: “Mally’s” (Happy Birthday to You) [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

“Mally’s”
Original Airdate: April 24, 2024

What you missed on the episode before this, titled “Mr. Congeniality”: Molly ended her dry spell by hooking up with Benjamin Bratt (who played an exaggerated version of himself), Arthur helps Howard find a “heel” (a villain) for his wrestling league and they end up choosing Nicholas. Also Ainsley is getting married, so Sofia and Nicholas help her figure out table seating with all of her family drama.

But this week we focus on a delightful Molly/Arthur plot that proves how truly wonderful Maya Rudolph and Nat Faxon are together. It’s Molly’s birthday and given that Loot began with a disastrous birthday party for her the previous year, Molly is not keen on doing any kind of celebration. The whole team discovers that John sent an over-the-top gift, complete with a hologram of himself singing to a very unamused Molly.

Even though Molly has improved a lot emotionally and has grown as a person, there is still one item of John’s she has yet to get rid of: his mega-yacht. So she enlists Arthur’s help to review the contract since she has a buyer — a Swedish billionaire named Emil (played by Academy Award winner and Nat Faxon’s writing partner, Jim Rash!). The two meet up with him and unfortunately for them, he wants to tour the yacht again for a few hours before he commits. 

Arthur decides that he and Molly should kill time at a nearby mall, and the rest is essentially ripped from the pages of a rom-com: The two talk, connect, laugh, and get in trouble by the mall security. Of course, Emil tells Molly that he’s done early; but Molly is having such a great time with Arthur that she lies and says they have to spend a few more hours at the mall. 

I honestly really love these two and the relationship they have; it’s such a charming relationship on the show to watch. This storyline specifically is so delightful because it allows both Arthur and Molly to have fun with one another and grow in their friendship. After Molly was sent an embarrassing amount of flowers — and equally embarrassing hologram — it’s so wonderful for her to be able to spend her birthday doing something that is low-key and actually makes her happy. The idea that she’s more excited by being at a mall than being on a yacht at this point says a lot about her growth as a person and her priorities. She’s not perfect and will continue to make mistakes throughout the rest of the season, but her heart is usually in the right place. Getting to share such a special and rather ordinary day (when she didn’t even want to celebrate) with Arthur makes Molly happy. And I love that for her.

Also just as an aside, I love that early on in the episode, Molly talks about how comforting she finds malls — no matter where you go, they’re basically all the same: same lights, same food courts, same kiosks, same smells and sounds. There’s something so simple and nostalgic about them — and so universal too. 

While enjoying Cinnabon at the food court, Molly and Arthur have a conversation about the moment they almost shared in Corsica last season before John showed up. When Molly wonders whether people think less of her for sleeping with John, Arthur reassures her by telling her how amazing, smart, and beautiful she is. It’s a lovely little moment punctuated by an equally lovely one where Molly watches from afar as Arthur helps an elderly woman throw away her food. It’s clear that she has real, genuine feelings for him that will continue to evolve as the season goes on.

While the pair have fun, they eventually get in trouble (Molly decides to steal a rideable toy animal that’s meant for children) and are sent to the back office of the mall. But don’t worry: their drama is short-lived because Molly decides to just purchase the mall! While it might seem like a quick-fix for their circumstances, it’s actually because Molly really does love the mall. She will keep everyone employed and the same — because, as she said, malls are awesome.

Elsewhere in the episode, Sofia has enlisted Nicholas, Howard, Ainsley, and Rhonda to help her go door-to-door in the community acquiring business owner signatures to show support for Space for Everyone. Ainsley decides they should make it a competition between the men and women, and very quickly it becomes evident to Howard that they will lose — and it’s due to Nicholas’ relationships with pretty much every store owner they meet. In summary, he ghosted them all when they assumed their relationships were serious. Nicholas’ response to their anger and frustration is initially self-centered (he doesn’t get why people are mad because everyone is obsessed with him!). But when Howard points out that he really did hurt the guys he dated and should apologize to them, Nicholas agrees.

Hilariously, once Nicholas begins opening up even a little bit to the guys he ghosted, he can’t stop and unloads years of repressed emotions and family trauma onto them. Hilariously, Howard observes this all happen and tries his best to steer Nicholas back on track. While Howard is obviously surprised by the tangent of processing Nicholas does on the spot, he’s ultimately proud of his friend for opening up and growing as a person. Yay character growth!

The episode ends with everyone back at the office, prepared to head to Las Vegas to see Mariah Carey, when Arthur gives the sweetest gift to Molly: an $30 engraved picture frame from Things Remembered that Molly wanted when she was younger. It’s such a kind, thoughtful gesture that Molly is truly taken aback with emotion. And it’s even more proof that Molly is really falling for Arthur and that Arthur would do anything to make Molly smile.

Overall, “Mally’s” is such a delightful episode that sets the stage for the rest of the season’s Arthur/Molly relationship! What did you all think?

Notes & Quotes:

  • I know I already said it above, but as a website that began devoted to Community reviews, it delighted me to no end to see Jim Rash in this episode.
  • Ainsley and Howard singing “A Whole New World” was adorable.
  • “Men: we are childish. But also violent and stupid.”
  • “I don’t like American wind.”
  • “I do like to win, because it’s the only way to get people to like you.”
  • “Claire’s! I got so many rashes from their jewelry.”
  • “This is a pity ice cream that’s coming in a cup with no toppings.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Loot 2x03 Recap: "Vengeance Falls" (Family Drama) [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

“Vengeance Falls”
Original Airdate: April 10, 2024

This week’s Loot focuses on Nicholas, and it’s the perfect opportunity for Joel Kim Booster’s comedic and emotional talents to shine. (Relatedly, go watch his film Fire Island on Hulu if you haven’t yet. I’ll wait.)

“Vengeance Falls” is the name of a provocative play that Nicholas was cast in and is incredibly excited about. The episode opens with Molly running lines of dialogue with him while asking who he invited to see his play. When he makes an excuse about not inviting his parents, Molly takes it upon herself to invite them on Nicholas’ behalf. It doesn’t go well: he butchers his lines in the play on purpose because he doesn’t want his conservative Midwestern parents to feel uncomfortable. But in the end, everyone feels uncomfortable anyway.

The fact that Nicholas censors himself and his life around his parents is paralleled by the awkwardness they feel about being out of their comfort zone around him. They don’t dramatically fight but that’s almost worse — instead of connecting, they stick to surface level conversations with the things they’re not saying to one another bubbling just underneath every comment (they do not understand his choice to be an actor; he refuses to return to Indiana to farm). Molly tries her hardest to praise Nicholas and to get some sort of enthusiastic reaction or approval from his parents. Molly would even have been fine with some sort of minor enthusiasm. But with every praise of Nicholas, his parents change the subject; and with every subject change about their Indiana town, Nicholas gets more and more irritated.

When Molly confronts him about his relationship with his parents, Nicholas asserts that his relationship with them is just fine... if they don’t stray from approved, safe, surface level topics. They don’t approve or understand why he moved away and is pursuing acting. Molly tells Nicholas that his attitude isn’t healthy and that he should put in the emotional work with them — just like she is by being alone and self-sufficient. But Nicolas astutely points out that Molly actually doesn’t often put in work to be alone. She has teams of people who do things for her, including him; she’s never truly alone. This leads to a minor fight in which Molly very defiantly tells Nicholas that she can be alone — without the help of anyone who works for her.

Molly actually does pretty well with this, until a smoke detector begins chirping its low battery alert and she can’t figure out how to get it to stop. She tries everything, eventually ripping it off the wall, throwing it into her safe, and then accidentally locking herself in her panic room. (And in a hilarious turn of events, the alarm on the wall in the panic room also begins chirping.) Nicholas shows up after an alert tips him off that the panic room is locked and Molly confesses that she feels embarrassed about not being able to do things by herself. But Nicholas praises her for the fact that even when she doesn’t get it right, at least she’s trying. And he admits that she was right about his parents — they don’t talk about their emotions or feelings and instead repress both.

The two embrace and Molly emphasizes that she’ll always be there for Nicholas. It’s a sweet, quiet little moment between the two that is so subtle and well-acted by Maya Rudolph and Joel Kim Booster. And it’s also the exact thing Nicholas needs to hear in order to go to the hotel where his parents are staying and extend an invitation for them to have dinner with them at a local diner. Though the conversation doesn’t immediately fix all of their issues, it’s a little step forward — Nicholas is vulnerable about his acting job in a commercial and his parents agree to go out to dinner.

From what Joel Kim Booster has shared about his own upbringing being raised by his adoptive white evangelical parents, this week’s Loot storyline really parallels his own story. Joel’s performance is so good in this episode because he’s lived a similar story to Nicholas, and it’s that kind of longing for love and understanding that makes it both an incredibly specific story and also an intensely universal one.

SWIFTIE TIME

Elsewhere, in what is perhaps the silliest storyline that this show does that falls quite squarely into my bucket of interests, Howard suspects that Sofia is a Swiftie and decides to try his hardest throughout the entire episode to uncover the truth (while she just tries to get him to do a PowerPoint assignment he was supposed to do). Eventually after lying about it, Sofia tells Howard that she is, indeed, a fan of the pop artist, showing him where she hides her Taylor Swift vinyls in the cases of other artists. 

Sofia admits that she hides her love for Taylor Swift because she is a young Afro-Latina woman navigating a leadership role. She doesn’t want to give the world any reason to question her authority and unfortunately, being a vocal Swiftie would possibly make people think less of her or take her less seriously. So she hides her vinyls and her excitement in order to try and navigate the world. And it sadly makes sense that she would feel the need to do this. Howard admits that he never thought about it from that perspective before.

But to Howard, this news just makes her more relatable to him. He already saw her as someone to look up to and admire — a fact that he earnestly tells her in this episode — and now, even though she will still hide her love of Taylor Swift from the world, she has a way to connect with him. Howard tells her that he spent eight years working alongside her and feels like he does not really know her. You can see that Sofia is slightly taken aback by that comment. But there is truth there: she keeps her life so private and hidden typically, and it’s sweet to see her start to open up to others this season. Sharing a mutual love of Taylor Swift with Howard was a nice little way to do just that. And the episode ends with them preparing to listen to the Midnights vinyl together while swapping Swiftie theories.

And that’s all for this week’s Loot! What did you think of “Vengeance Falls”?

Notes & Quotes:

  • “Every time I read the script, I have more questions. That’s gotta be a good sign, right?”
  • “I listen to podcasts about systemic racism and urban decay.”
  • “That’s not mine. I’m holding it for a friend. Her name is Dakota. ... She is white.”
  • “No one has a great aunt. They only exist when you’re trying to get out of work or a term paper.”
  • Who did the funnier storyline with an incessantly beeping smoke detector: Phoebe Buffay in Friends or Molly Wells in Loot?

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Loot 2x01 and 2x02 Recaps: "Space for Everyone" & "Clueless" (We're All Just Doing Our Best) [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

“Space for Everyone”
Original Airdate: April 3, 2024

Welcome back to Loot, friends! To recap where we left off in season 1: Molly committed to giving away all of her money to charity at the Silver Moon Summit. But we officially ended the season with Arthur wanting to tell Molly how he feels about her — only to discover that Molly slept with John.

I’ve gotten the chance to see all of Loot’s second season and I can tell you that you’re in for a funny, wild ride over the next few episodes! But to kick things off, let’s unpack all that happened in “Space for Everyone.” The episode opens with a fun take on Molly’s “73 Questions” for Vogue, which she’s getting roasted for online because it makes her life still look opulent (and it is). Really, Molly’s trajectory this episode is focused on her desire for people to like her. As someone who is trying to reinvent herself but is still quite out of touch with a non-billionaire life, Molly spends most of the episode trying to focus on being a better person and helping the foundation.

Meanwhile, Molly has decided to put her romantic life on pause and is annoyed that John keeps sending her gifts and trying to connect with her. She tells him that their night together was a mistake and that she has no interest in reconnecting with him. Meanwhile, John continues to disregard her wishes, convinced he can win his ex-wife back. (Culminating in an act at the end of the episode that sets Molly into a rage.)

Molly tells John that she doesn’t just want to be his ex-wife and wants her own identity. She also tells Arthur this later, who insists that she’s not just someone’s ex-wife — she is better than she gives herself credit for. And I really do think that so many of Molly’s insecurities and struggles come from a place of doubting her ability to stand on her own and carve out her own name for herself that isn’t dependent on John, his money, or his fame. Molly and Arthur’s scene is sweet because he affirms things that are true within her, and she confesses that she always feels better after talking with him. They banter a little bit and I really have to point out how great the chemistry between Maya Rudolph and Nat Faxon is.

Speaking of Arthur: he is trying to reinvent himself as a result of what happened (or didn’t happen) in Corsica. So he buys a leather bracelet — that hilariously everyone roasts him about throughout the episode — and Nicholas and Howard confront him over his new attitude. He tells them that he’s doing a new thing where he goes after what he wants and doesn’t hesitate (an overcorrection after not going after Molly last season that the two friends point out). I do love that these three have a friendship and notice when something is off with one of them.

Sofia, meanwhile, is upset because a project for unhoused people that The Wells Foundation had been working on for seven years was shelved by the mayor’s office — even though it was supposed to be announced the following day. So the team tries to work together to figure out a solution that can’t be stopped by bureaucracy and doesn’t require them building anything.

They decide to contact Noah Hope-DeVore, a young billionaire who designed an online philanthropy platform that uses an algorithm to help the greatest number of people in cost-effective ways. Everything seems to be going great — the team meets with him at Molly’s home, he agrees to invest... and then he gets arrested by the FBI for wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracies, security fraud and money laundering. Turns out, he was a fraud who stole about $50 billion!

Everyone is crushed, understandably, at this revelation — and they have no clue what to do next. But something unexpected gives Molly an idea that actually ends up being pretty great (and earns her a hug from Sofia in the process): After discovering that Howard is living in the guest house of her mansion because he and Tanya broke up, she moved out, and he couldn’t afford rent alone, Molly formulates a way to use the money she has to do something good. What if the way to help unhoused people didn’t have to involve building new spaces but utilizing ones they already had that were empty?

So Molly decides to buy up hotels in downtown L.A. and help turn them into a “Space for Everyone” — free housing with amenities, career centers, childcare, and anything else someone might need to get back on their feet. I loved that Molly was incredibly proud of her idea because it shows that she has passion for doing good in the world with her money and connections. She smiles as she reads through positive comments on social media about Space for Everyone, and truly rides that high... for a few minutes.

Unfortunately, Molly’s good mood is undercut when John reveals that he’s giving Molly space — and by that, he means LITERAL space. He announces on TV that he’s going into space as part of a new initiative for his tech company. And Molly fumes.

“Space for Everyone” does what any good season premiere will do: reminds the viewers of where we’ve been and begins laying the foundation for what’s to come. Molly really is trying to do better — in life, with people, with her money — and it isn’t always a linear path. But then again, growth rarely is. Maya Rudolph continues to shine, not only in her comedic moments but also in these very earnest, sincere scenes where we get the chance to see her vulnerabilities (more on that next episode). Loot’s second season is off to a solid start!

Notes & Quotes:

  • Welcome to Loot recaps, everyone! Are we excited for season two? Trust me when I say there are a LOT of fun and chaotic things ahead.
  • As someone who adores Adam Scott in Parks and Recreation, it is quite fun to have him play a character in this show that we all hate.
  • “What makes you angry?” “Injustice. And drawstring pants. End of list.”
  • “Okay! We are agreeing even though we are yelling at each other!”
  • “I want you to get everyone into the conference room for a gathering... thing... you know, like a group talk session...” “Are you trying to say the word ‘meeting’?”

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

“Clueless”
Original Airdate: April 3, 2024

I could watch Clueless on repeat, just like Molly Wells. As Nicholas points out, Cher reminds him of Molly — and the similarities (given that Clueless is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma) are there that it makes sense for Molly to adore the film. The iconic 90s comedy opens the show and becomes its theme, as Molly decides to forgo work in favor of playing matchmaker for Sofia.

With a hotel purchased that can house 600 people, Molly and the rest of the Wells Foundation crew are ready to celebrate — but not Sofia. The hotel is nowhere near ready to open to residents since it’s been abandoned for years and needs a lot of work. She immediately squashes the celebration, insisting that everyone get back to work.

With Sofia in full prep mode, Molly and Nicholas watch Clueless together and are annoyed by Sofia texting them after work about all the things they need to do. Sofia even sends Molly a PDF (and the latter refuses to learn what that is, let alone open it). The next day, the trio go to the hotel Molly purchased to wait for the architect she hired: Isaac.

Sofia is ticked off that Isaac is late, and her Type A personality clashes immediately with his more laid-back, artistic one. But while he focuses on the beauty of the space, Sofia is hyper-focused on the details and functionality. She gets slightly flustered when Isaac challenges her — shouldn’t something be beautiful as well as functional for people who have been unhoused?

And that sparks a very Cher Horowitz idea within Molly: She should set up Isaac and Sofia. So she does by telling them both there’s an emergency on the hotel roof and then leaving them there to have drinks amid a very romantic ambiance.

Despite their initial conflict, Isaac and Sofia actually do hit it off, discovering that they’re both from places (Newark, NJ and Wembley, England) that are often overlooked in favor of larger cities. They both love chain restaurants, and actually enjoy talking to one another. I love that we get a love story for Sofia this season because it is something that challenges her character. She is used to taking charge, of thinking practically, and compartmentalizing emotions. But while her workaholic tendencies may help her on the job, they hinder her personal life. Getting the chance to see her more relaxed and at ease in her conversation with Isaac was a treat.

After a lovely evening, Sofia tells Molly and Nicholas that Isaac didn’t ask for her number. They encourage her to ask him out instead, and it... well, it goes awry pretty quickly when they realize Sofia is an over-texter. (Sidenote: Michaela JaĆ© Rodriguez is hilarious in this scene as she frantically tries to justify her texts but then quickly realizes, with horror, what she’s really done.)

Molly decides to help her friend out and discovers that Isaac is actually at a local bar. Fuming at the fact that he ghosted her, Sofia shows up to confront him... only to realize that he’s at a memorial for a friend he lost five years ago. Whoops.

As it turns out, Sofia was texting Isaac’s work phone number, not his personal one. He tells her that he didn’t want to cross boundaries with her, even though he wanted to text her, which surprises Sofia. She actually met a man who respects her space, her job, and doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize either. Sofia is awed by this revelation.

So instead of making an excuse to leave or focusing, in that moment, on work, Sofia stays at the memorial birthday. She even gets up on stage to do karaoke! And she sends a video to Molly (who is watching the rest of Clueless), who is thrilled by her friend’s happiness. But what’s really heartbreaking and beautiful is the subtle camera direction in this final scene: We cut back to the romantic conclusion of Clueless and slowly pan over to Molly watching — at first with the kind of heartwarming glance that we all have watching rom-coms. Her face then shifts ever-so-slightly (a testament to Maya Rudolph’s acting) and instead of joy, we now see her face fall into a slightly pained expression.

Because as much as Molly loves setting people up and pretending to be Cher Horowitz, and as much as she claims she’s swearing off men, in this moment we see her loneliness clearly in a way that she doesn’t allow anyone else to see. It’s so subtle and sad, and such a poignant way to end the episode.

Elsewhere in “Clueless,” we get some plot development that will carry throughout the remainder of the season: Howard confides his financial woes to Arthur (remember, he’s living with Molly in her guest house), who takes the opportunity to help his friend by taking a look over his financial assets to see where he can cut back and save.

Since they can’t find places to cut back, Arthur challenges Howard to take a look at his assets — and they realize Howard has a pretty valuable collection of wrestling memorabilia he’s collected since he was a kid. At a wrestling match, Howard and Arthur attempt to sell some of the memorabilia; but when Arthur realizes how valuable it all is to Howard, they come up with a better plan: Arthur is going to invest in Howard to start his own wrestling league to ensure that favorites of his get their time in the spotlight and also make the money they deserve.

I really love when we get Arthur and Howard moments, and this storyline is so great to be able to showcase the growth we’ll see in Howard this season. He’s someone who has a specific passion and has never believed that he could turn it into anything more than just a hobby. But with Arthur’s support and confidence in his friend’s abilities, Howard is going to pursue an avenue he didn’t initially think was possible. It’s going to be a fun story throughout the rest of the season so stay tuned!

Notes & Quotes:

  • Have I mentioned how much I love Clueless? Because I do.
  • The show still doesn’t really know what to do with Rhonda or Ainsley in season two, which might be my only critique of the series as a whole. It feels like we only needed one of these characters since their jokes are a bit repetitive to me. 
  • “What flavor is this?” “Gin.”
  • “I am so sorry about Sofia’s personality.”
  • “It’s exactly how I act when I watch Stanley Tucci eat a cannoli.” This will not be the last Stanley Tucci reference this season and I, for one, am here for it.

What did you all think about the Loot season 2 premiere? Sound off in the comments below!