Broad City Treats Serious Feelings...Seriously?
It's weird. But it works! ...It is weird, though.
When last week's Broad City let relations between Abbi and Trey progress past some tipsy kissing and on to actual sex, I had a lot of questions about where the story might go. What hideous fandom would Trey espouse, turning Abbi off completely? Would his sexual technique bear a too-close resemblance to his manner whilst training clients? Would he try plying her with a Luna Bar as an aphrodisiac? Basically, I assumed that when things got screwed up between Trey and Abbi -- never doubting that they would get screwed up -- it would be Trey's fault, and it would be hilarious. Never once did I think it would end up being Abbi's fault, and that it would be really touching and sad!
As we rejoin the pair this week, it seems that while Abbi is too embarrassed by Trey to have told Ilana she's boning him, she's not so embarrassed that she's stopped.
Abbi's also been refining strategies to make this arrangement work for her.
Trey's got his own ideas for how things should go, and they start by making a real date, for dinner, at a nice restaurant, Trey's treat, where he hopes they'll fulfill his dream of having a conversation. Abbi accepts, but with a plan already in mind to steer him, as kindly as she can, away from the idea that they're going to be a couple...ever; when he toasts "To new beginnings," she replies, "Yeaaaaaah, but also, to how it is, now. Presently." "Yes!" agrees Trey enthusiastically. "To the present! To being present!" Oh dear.
Things get worse when it turns out that, of all the restaurants in Manhattan, Ilana's parents have chosen the very same one in which Abbi and Trey are dining to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and when Ilana sees Abbi creeping to the bathroom to escape Trey's vulnerability for a few moments, she assumes Abbi's there to surprise the family. Abbi can't correct Ilana's mistaken impression without admitting that she's there on a date with Trey, and therefore must start making excuses to leave first one table and then the other, and if you'd ever wondered what it would be like if a Broad City writer did a spec script for Three's Company, now you have your answer.
Every time Abbi returns to Trey's table, though, he opens up a little more.
He's brought her a corsage, because he remembered that she told him she never went to prom: "It's kind of a joke, but it's also real." He tells her he's qualified for American Ninja Warrior, getting Abbi as excited as she's been all night because she loves the show; when he invites her to come to the taping and stretch him out, she enthusiastically agrees. She even more enthusiastically grabs him by the head and starts aggressively frenching him, though he has no idea it's because she's trying to hide her face from Ilana, walking past on her way to an illicit tryst in the bathroom. Trey shows her a photo of his sisters and talks about his family, which gets so real Abbi has to fake a doctor's phone call to get away (plus she can see she's wanted back at the Wexler table for an anniversary toast). She gets so turned around that when she comes back from there to Trey, she blurts, "Happy anniversary"...which thrills him since he never thought she'd remember it's the four-week anniversary of their first kiss. Her last excuse for escaping the table is that she's getting emotional, "when I think about us." The connection over American Ninja Warrior is a lifetime ago. Abbi's in survival mode, and she'll say anything to escape an awkward moment, including making it even more awkward in the long term.
Speaking of survival: the next thing that happens is that Ilana's mother chokes on a lychee in her martini. There's no more time to be cute: Abbi screams for Trey, who springs into action and Heimlichs the shit out of Mrs. Wexler.
Shock bubbles around the table. Who's Trey?
How did Abbi know Trey was there? Trey proudly says that he and Abbi are on a date, and Ilana, horrified and betrayed, puts together that the condom she found in Abbi's room formerly sheathed Steele. Ilana runs outside to try to deal with what's just occurred, and Abbi follows, babbling excuses.
This is BRUTAL because we know Abbi doesn't even mean what she's saying. Trey might have bad taste in movies and especially TV, and his references are a decade old. (Never mind "bazinga"; when Abbi accepts his dinner invitation, he drops an "awesomesauce.") But he's sweet and caring and he's been paying attention to Abbi in a way no one in her life does other than Ilana. I mean, the corsage! Abbi's love for Ilana is blinding her to the truth, which Trey, with tears in his eyes, lays out with heartbreaking (and heartbroken) simplicity.
And THAT is the moment when this show turns into something deeper, more sincere, and more real than it ever has been before. Don't get me wrong: I love how bizarre and disgusting Broad City can get. I would defend with my dying breath its producers' decision to let an entire episode revolve around the mystery of who pooped in a shoe. But not just evolving into a vehicle in which true, emotional moments are possible but giving the most poignant line to the character we first met when he was cheerfully sending Abbi to clean up pubes is very brave. (And yes, Ilana is in the middle of succumbing to her own broken heart -- Lincoln's new girlfriend wants to be exclusive, so he's ended his relationship with Ilana altogether on the grounds that they probably couldn't just be friends -- but somehow even this die-hard Lincoln/Ilana shipper was more moved by Trey's moist eyes than by Ilana's helpless sobbing...maybe because I feel pretty confident that Lincoln and Ilana will find their way back to each other before too long. Whoever this new broad is, she's no Ilana.)
As we end on Abbi trying and failing to get Trey to respond to her voicemails and texts, I'm still empathetically feeling Trey's hurt, and eager to see whether the show commits to this new mode of storytelling. Because now that we have proof it can not just work but DESTROY the viewer -- and do it within the same half-hour we also see a swamp-assed Ilana completely drenched in Abbi's clean pee.