This week’s episode of CASUAL is called “Such Good Friends,” and it’s about exactly that, but not in the way you would think. Casual isn’t my favorite show, and sometimes things that I don’t like about the show I feel that truer fans might find in good humor. But I do think the show is a masterclass in character relationships. Every single character is treated as having goals, desires, quirks and rationales. To outright assume a character is “good” or “bad” for certain actions will leave you questioning their motive minutes later. Per the name of the show, most of the time Casual is about romantic relationships, but recently we’ve taken a turn into friendships. And what the characters are learning (or already know) is that the lines are a little more blurred between the two than they might have thought.
The episode starts off with very defined character goals. Alex wants to save his company/dating app Snooger from liquidation. Laura needs to get started with her coop homeschool plan, and Valerie needs a friend. They also all know how to get it done. Alex needs to talk some sense into his business partner Paul. Laura needs to attend a meeting/interview to join a local homeschool coop. And Valerie needs to have lunch with her new floormate Jennifer. But in classic fashion none of it goes as planned.
Alex meets with Paul, but Paul won’t budge. A venture capitalist is very interested in the company and Paul thinks they should sell. Alex says the problem is the app itself, if they can just make a better algorithm things will be fine. But Paul could care less, to him the only thing that matters is the money. And they’re losing lots of money.
Laura and Valerie go to the coop interview and it’s really weird. The questions are bizarre, forcing Laura to look beyond her life into the future. Laura doesn’t have a good answer for this question and she shouldn’t. She’s too young, and the info is pretty pointless even if she did know. Too often we focus on the future, and try to get kids to do the same, when they should focus on what’s in front of them. But Laura does well enough that they invite them to a coop potluck so Val and Laura can meet the rest of their homeschool family.
Valerie has a “friend-crush” on Jennifer. She’s overdressed, eager to make a good impression and in awe of how “effortless” Jen is. Jennifer also went through a divorce, albeit five years ago, and Valerie is open to all the advice Jen’s giving her. In a lot of ways it feels like a first date. A lot of emotions are packed into this scene, and Jennifer teaching Valerie about divorce and getting over it, really makes Valerie fall for her. But like most first dates, it’s disappointing. Jennifer has to head out when she has a client emergency, leaving Valerie with two lunches and a stomach full of sad butterflies. When Valerie comes home she asks Alex how to make friends, and when Alex describes it like a relationship she checks out. But there is a point to be made there, and Valerie is already in the thick of it.
Alex and Paul meet the venture capitalist. Alex’s plan is to convince the moneyman that he can make a better app. But he’s surprised to find out from the venture capitalist that Snooger has the highest successful match rate. And in it there lies the problem. Success doesn’t mean repeat customers. When Alex asks if he’s asking him to make a worse app, the venture capitalist responds by saying it’s not a worse app he wants, but a different type of happiness. Maybe happiness isn’t a lifelong commitment, but being able to go on a bunch of fun, casual, dates. This gives Alex something to ponder and throughout the rest of the episode he asks people if they’re happier before or after their marriage. Obviously most people are taken aback by it, but the result seems to have a profound enough effect on Alex that he ends up signing the company over to the venture capitalist.
Laura, Valerie and Alex make their way to the coop potluck and it’s honestly full of the worst people I can imagine. One mom tells Valerie not to say “good job” because “she should just want her kid to enjoy the process.” It’s full of bullshit like this and no one is a fan. But there is an interesting moment. When Laura finally musters up the courage to talk to her new classmates, she’s says that she can’t wait to be done with high school and move on to the real world. The reaction is very awkward. At first you think, “Oh it’s because these kids are homeschooled cowards,” but then you realize it’s actually Laura who’s the coward. Unable to make anything of a real connection, Laura throws out some tongue-in-cheek bullshit in the hopes of garnering approval. When Laura and her family get ready to leave, one of the students stops her in the hallway and questions why Laura chose not to say “anything real.” This interaction not only has a profound effect on her, but it’s also the crux of the entire episode.
Valerie decides to accept Alex’s help. She hears from Jennifer that she’s going to go to a wine bar tonight. She wants to impress her (how is this not a romantic relationship) so she has Alex bring some cool friends (Leon and girls with tattoos) to make Valerie look cool. Although nervous, Valerie ends up having a great time mainly because Alex is carrying her through the conversation, talking up Valerie and funding the group’s alcohol. As soon as Valerie gives up hope that Jennifer will show up, she does, and is impressed by how cool Valerie is. She invites Valerie over to hang out with her and her friends and Valerie casually accepts.
Most people would look at this scene and say “Valerie got what she wants,” but she didn’t. Like Laura, Valerie chose not to be real. This Valerie walking up to Jennifer’s group of friends is wine drunk and cool, nothing like who Valerie actually is. We often wonder why what we perceive as close friendships and romantic relationships fall apart a handful of months in, but so often do we completely change our characters to what we think the other person wants in order to entice them in the first place. By the time we settle into who we really are, we forget who we pretended to be in the past. Jennifer wasn’t privy enough to pick it up, but Laura’s classmate was. Maybe homeschool is legit.
Season 2, Episode 3 (S02E03)
Series Title airs Tuesdays on Hulu
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Arman Mohazzabfar | Contributor