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Looking at Looking, Week One
Ellen Cushing | Photo: Courtesy HBO | January 20, 2014
Al fresco coitus and slutty jalapeños: A recap.
Golden Gate Park, daytime. Birds chirping, etc. And lo! Jonathan Groff cuts through the brush like an uncommonly clean looking backpacker, which is appropriate because it becomes very clear very quickly that he is on an expedition for outdoor sex—a sexpedition, if you will. (We later find out that Patrick is new to al fresco coitus and this is some weed-fueled experiment. Side note: I can't remember the last time smoking weed made me want to do anything other than watch The Good Wife and eat hot wings in bed. But I guess this is what they mean by the magic of television.) And then: A guy who looks a bit like a lumberjack-ier version of the love interest from Bridesmaids cuts into the frame and makes an impressively seamless dive for J Groff's crotch. J Groff—whose character is actually a 29-year-old video game designer named Patrick—asks for lumberjack's name and is rebuffed. TENSION. Lumberjack instructs Groff to stop talking, which he does for approximately eleven seconds before recoiling at the lumberjack's cold hands. And then his phone rings and he scampers off to take it, but not before dropping it into a veritable sea of used condoms. Cute!
And we're off! So to speak. Welcome to Looking, which I will be recapping all season long. So get ready. (Having seen this episode more than a half dozen times at this point, I could practically write for the show.)
Cut to Patrick walking through the Mission flanked by an impressively bearded Dom (Murray Bartlett) and an impressively jorted Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez). Patrick describes the hand job ("very small") and its administrator ("gym-teacher hairy") with clinical detail and not-insignificant superficial bitchery. Then Agustin makes some reference to Patrick being "a pervert now," which is a joke because if Patrick is a pervert he is horrible at it.
Then they get on Muni. (Take a shot!) Then the three of them are sitting in a backyard, smoking a joint. We find out that Patrick's ex and his new boyfriend are getting married after just four months of dating. "How does that even happen?," Patrick asks, half incredulous and half sad. Like the opening park scene, which is played for laughs more than anything, this choice—to make gay marriage a given a mere three minutes into the show—is at once notably contemporary and contemporarily unnotable. Patrick ropes Dom into coming to the bachelor party with the promise of an open bar.
Cut to the morning in Patrick's (amazing) apartment. In the next room, Agustin and his boyfriend, Frank, are having sex, briefly, and then Frank convinces Agustin to move in with him in Oakland, apparently largely by calling him his "Cubano sandwich." (To be fair, if someone as attractive as Frank compared me to a sandwich, I would probably do anything he wanted). Cut to Patrick in an extremely be-succulented kitchen, eating breakfast and browsing OkCupid. There is a joke about Instagram filters and lazy eyes. Agustin breaks the news to Patrick that he's moving out and Patrick congratulates him.
Next, we're at home with Dom and his sassy female friend™. Dom reveals that he's been "looking" (get it?!?) at his ex on Facebook, which is not necessarily great, because as SFF™ explains, said ex tried to kill Dom. Dom tells his friend that he wasn't successful, which, uh, is obvious by the fact that Dom himself is speaking, but it's a nice reminder. We find out that Dom and SFF™ used to date, and also that they're former "Modesto rednecks." One of the people I'm watching with remarks that if she weren't from the Bay Area she'd have no clue what was going on, which is probably true, but I appreciate the Modesto reference—it's a nice moment of cultural specificity that really helps you understand something about where Dom is coming from.
Now: Patrick's office, which looks impressively like Google. Patrick is browsing OkCupid with an assist from his sassy straight friend; very quickly, Patrick sets up a date at Press Club, which his friend correctly deems "very heterosexual." Patrick sends his future date a winky smiley face because he is earnest, you see? Meanwhile, Agustin, an artist's assistant, is screwing together a hideous chair-sculpture thing-y when a very attractive man fellow named Scotty comes to help. WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN?
Cut to Zuni (shot!), where Dom is waiting on some "tech assholes" who for some reason are a) not 25 and b) wearing suits. A rosy-cheeked young waiter tells Dom to "put good energy into the universe," which makes Dom want to have sex with him. The magic of television once again!
Patrick is walking through the TL on the way to his date. He checks his hair in a window only to get a smirk from a guy sitting behind said window. It's the kind of moment that makes this show great—downplayed and drily funny, but also pretty revealing about Patrick's (clueless, mostly benign) narcissism. At Press Club, he endures an excruciating date with a very condescending oncologist named Ben. It's a little predictably on-trend at a moment when seemingly all prestige TV about attractive young people traffics in cringeworthy OkCupid date set pieces, but it's well-done—Patrick's silent panic and Dr. Ben's coolly patronizing tone, a kind of underplayed humor that's about three notches less obvious than that of Girls and a couple above real life, the realistic way in which you don't quite realize things are flying off the rails until it's too late.
For some reason Patrick decides to take Muni from Press Club to El Rio, but his poor transportation choices are rewarded because on the bus he gets picked up by a be-Giants-capped Richie, who we learn is a hairdresser and occasional doorman. Patrick visibly judges him for his inability to pronounce the word oncology—again, a tiny moment that reveals quite a lot, in this case about Patrick's character—but he's obviously intrigued.
Back at the house of horrible chair-sculptures, Agustin and cute Scotty have been joined by Frank. Cute Scotty reveals that a) he once dressed up as a "slutty jalapeño" for a Cinco de Mayo party, and b) that he has a tattoo of Dolly Parton's signature, and then I fall madly and irrevocably in love with him. So does Agustin, apparently, because he starts making out with cute Scotty as Frank looks on. The three of them then presumably have a threesome under a canopy of chair art, though the camera cuts away before we really see anything. You can tell Frank is a little apprehensive about the whole thing, or at least more apprehensive than Agustin.
Dom hits on Mr. Rosy Cheeks and is shot down. We soon find out has literally never happened to him before, and also that Patrick and Dom have slept together. The two of them meet up at El Rio for the aforementioned bachelor party, which involves lots of very attractive bearded men and also an adult dressed up as a teddy bear. Patrick has a somewhat awkward encounter with his ex in the bathroom, after which he asks Dom why he goes on so many bad dates. Dom tells him to stop giving a shit about what other people think, which is excellent advice. At Frank's place in Oakland, it's clear that trouble's a-brewing between him and Agustin over the threesome, but it's hard to tell what'll happen. The show closes on Patrick walking into Esta Noche to find Richie. More intrigue! See you next week!