Awkward. continues its season three creative resurgence by returning back to basics: exploring the delicate politics of relationships. The key difference here is that nearly every character is given something to do (even Jessica Lu’s Ming!)
Let’s bitch it out…
One of the elements that most strained S2 was the preoccupation with bouncing Jenna (Ashley Rickards) back and forth between Matty (Beau Mirchoff) and Jake (Brett Davern). It was too much, too often. What’s different about “A Little Less Conversation” is that the boys are being used in contrast – so it’s not an issue of choosing who is better, it’s an opportunity to explore what is lacking in Jenna’s current relationship.
After the pregnancy scare (and subsequent confiding in Jake), it’s clear that Jenna and Matty have issues that they need to address. But let’s be honest: talking things out has never been this couple’s strong suit.Therefore it makes sense that they dodge “the talk” until episode’s end – not only because it makes for stronger comedic elements (though your mileage may vary), but also because it underscores the physicality of their relationship.
The Chinese fire-drill (sorry Henry) is a perfect example of this. In their desperation to get closer or further away from one other, they force everyone in their gravitational sphere to accommodate them by physically moving and/or providing roadblocks. It’s a clever (albeit obvious) visual metaphor for Jenna and Matty’s relationship up to this point. The charades bit is similar, though here it is used to highlight what worked well between Jake and Jenna – to the detriment of her current relationship and his.
This emphasis on physicality (and the juvenile hoops Jenna jumps through for the duration of the episode) makes the conversation that they have that much more poignant. Awkward. works well as a teen farce (for a smart teen, Jenna sure is stupid sometimes!), but the broad physical comedy is also frequently used to disarm us so that we are unprepared for the emotional wallop that follows. When Jenna confides in Matty that her friendship with Jake can’t be replicated with him because she still worries he’ll bail out of embarrassment of her, it’s a heavy emotional moment. I do wish that the show had done more than simply allow Matty to shrug it off, because Jenna is 100% right in this suggestion. Matty’s unwillingness to be seen with her was a core conflict back in S1: it ultimately led Jenna to go to Prom with Jake and initiate a relationship with him instead of Matty. So points for emotional realism on Jenna’s behalf and points off for letting Matty get away with dismissing it.
- What’s funny about Jenna’s belief that Matty doesn’t talk is that he has no problem opening up to – and supporting – Sadie (Molly Tarlov). In the strongest scene of the night, Tarlov once again demonstrates why she’s Awkward.’s secret weapon. She completely owns her confession to Matty that she’s afraid of being alone. For a moment you almost want Matty to leave Jenna and go to Sadie, with whom he’s always shared something special. I wouldn’t put it past this show to one day hook them up, though if that does occur, I hope it’s more than the jokey punchline it was the last time
- The comparison between Jake and Matty also serves to reinforce what’s working in Jake’s relationship with Tamara (Jillian Rose-Reed). Last week I was on the fence, finding the couple a little unbelievable. This week, I’m all in. I totally buy Tamara’s legitimate concern over the special relationship her BF shares with her BFF on the BFGFBFF. Verbalizing that they work as a couple because they’re both “the girl” is (slightly misogynistic and) quite truthful. Jake has never been afraid of feelings or talking things out. It’s one of the reasons that he and Jenna would have never worked in the long run. He’s not afraid of a little conversation and she is…at least with other people
- It’s great fun to see repeat appearances by Becca (Jessika Van) and Fred Wu (Kelly Sry). I’m hopeful that the term “asian bitching” doesn’t become a thing, but it is nice that the series is trying to do a little bit more with Ming, including allowing her to finally be a sexual creature! Yay Ming
- I have to laugh at Matty using Jenna’s favourite candy to lure her into his Escalade, which she then refers to as “stranger danger.” Love it!
- Finally, what’s more gross: Val’s (Desi Lydic) “nut check” on Matty in the hallway (not just inappropriate, but nasty) or Lacey’s (Nikki DeLoach) description of BFF Ally’s jealousy-fueled prune-cocktail back during their BFGFBFF days?
- Sadie (explaining why she’s so anxious): “I haven’t outed anyone, made anyone transfer or said the word hamfisted in three days”
- Sadie (to Val, explaining she’ll sue if forced to take a viriginity test): “You two can bad cop, worse cop on the unemployment line.”
What did you think of Jenna’s return to the land of insecurity? Did you laugh during the Chine fire-drill scene? Which conversation was more heartfelt: Jenna and Matty or Sadie and Matty? Do you buy Tamara and Jake more as a couple now? Sound off below
Awkward. airs on Tuesdays at 10pm EST on MTV