And yes, it was a real treat. With “Manhattan Love Story” pulled from the schedule, Selfie got a bonus episode for an hour-long back to back event. “Even Hell Has Two Bars” and “Never Block Cookies” were the first episodes of the show I thoroughly enjoyed. After an uncertain start, I finally committed to considering myself a devoted fan of Selfie after this week’s episodes, only to be met with the news that ABC has decided to cancel the show. Just my luck. As of now, it seems that Selfie will air its remaining episodes of the season, but the network has not ordered any more.
“Even Hell Has Two Bars” first. In the past, I’ve had problems with the focus of the episodes, and I wasn’t quite sure why. Now, I know. Usually, an episode’s format is divided between what Eliza is doing, and what Henry is doing, with their stories occasionally overlapping. In this episode, Eliza and Henry are both invited to their boss Sam’s ranch party. Henry is excited because it means that Sam is eyeing him for a promotion, and Eliza is livid because she was invited as a plus-one. “I’m nobody’s plus-one. I’m VIP, bitches.” To which Henry replied, “Just me, one bitch.” The jokes and dialogue in this episode really stepped it up a notch. Added examples:
- Kegel excercises
- “You discriminate against hot redheads.”
- Sam’s kama sutra room
- Eliza’s broken gasp at “no network”
- Jaminals, the wearable stuffed animals
- “Michelle Obama the First Lady of nonstop riding my jock”
Anyways, the point is that this episode excelled because it had no split narrative. Henry and Eliza were in the same place, at the same time, experiencing the same situation but from different perspectives. And it was a rare episode where Henry was the one in need of coaching from Eliza, because he was making a complete idiot out of himself trying to impress Sam. Allowing Henry and Eliza to share the same space not only dramatically improves their development but also frees up a lot of time to explore side characters. Which has been another big issue for Selfie, because many of the supporting characters feel like tacked-on stock characters.
Something important to address though: Henry and Eliza’s relationship is clearly starting to accelerate. Henry and Eliza had a falling out where very real feelings were obviously hurt. Henry flips out because he thinks Eliza is ruining his chances of getting the promotion by trying to help. (Even though Henry completely misinterpreted her advice by jumping buck-naked into a preserved lake.) Henry tries to apologize to Sam and his family for ruining the weekend, but Sam instead says that he was glad to see Henry’s wild side and that was the reason he invited Eliza. She brings out the fun side of him, and Sam insists again that they’re the perfect duo. Henry realizes Sam’s right, and he mounts a horse and chases after Eliza, who is aimlessly hunting for cell phone reception. The following scene surprised me in its depth, subtlety, and humor. Henry tells Eliza that in a contest between his work, and his (awkward pause) friendship with her, it’s a “tie”. Eliza banters and coyly laughs, denying that it’s a tie and that he wouldn’t have picked the “least majestic horse in the stable” to come apologize if it was. “Admit it, you worship me.” Henry stutters, finding words, denying her accusation but saying “I’ve grown accustomed to your face.” Suddenly, Eliza and Henry realize what kind of moment they’re having, and so do the viewers. The raw chemistry between Gillan and Cho made the interaction so believably real, and as sappy as it is to admit this, I had real butterflies in my stomach. To be honest, their relationship is exactly the kind I appreciate. They’re smart together, snappy and witty, but they both have big heads and constantly play-fight in a way that neither of them are sure is more play or more fight.
The episode ends with all returning home, Henry getting his promotion, and Eliza getting a selfie with him on the ranch for Instagram. While she’s in bed with her boy toy Freddy, he playfully asks who’s in that picture with her, and if he “should be worried”. After a moment of thought in which you think will be some sort of lovestruck realization, Eliza plays it down and says that the picture didn’t get any likes so she’ll probably delete it. As the camera pans away, a notification pops up on her phone, showing Henry liked it. I’m sorry, but that just got to me. That’s so cute.
“Never Block Cookies” continues the examination of Henry and Eliza’s relationship. At the very beginning of the episode, Henry derides Eliza for sending selfies to Freddy while at work, and more or less ridicules their relationship. Here, I was thinking that Henry is obviously jealous. And Eliza immediately has the same thought, “Somebody needs to get laid.” The quest of the episode is thus Eliza trying to get Henry some action and relieve his pent up sexual frustration. She enlists the help of Charmonique, and they try to set him up with a cute (and noticeably Asian) barista downstairs who asked about Henry. They get him to take a coffee trip and watch as he “blocks” himself, completely oblivious to the fact that the barista is trying to give him a free cookie because she likes him. He declines the cookie because it would mess up her inventory and completely misses the chance, proving that Eliza’s mission will be more difficult than she expected.
The two then break into Henry’s computer to find out what things he likes so they can make a dating profile for him. Sam catches them, and is subsequently enlisted for a hilarious bathroom scene where Henry walks in on Sam using the urinal, attempts to walk out, but Sam insists “Join me.” Again, I want to point out this episode merges Eliza and Henry’s storylines together, which allows time to explore the relationship between Sam and his son-in-law Terence, played by Freaks and Geeks star Samm Levine. Levine’s character appeared briefly for a work-place gag a few episodes ago, and I was hoping he’d become a larger presence.
Eliza, deciding Henry is too awkward to pull off the date she’s about to set him up on, shows up at his house to enroll him in a “touching exercise.” She tells him that as they’re talking, he needs to find little excuses to touch her in small ways here and there. Henry is extremely resistant to her exercise but as she advances on him in an effort to loosen him up, he suddenly grabs her around the waist and pulls her in close. They both freeze, and as they look at each other the TV radiates waves of raw sexual tension. Like, jaw-dropping “holy crap” tension. They break very quickly, and Eliza awkwardly applauds him on his performance saying that he’s done a very, very good job and leaves Henry to feel terrible about the move he made. The two of them are illustrating a very real depiction of a friendship that starts to dance on the line between platonic and romantic. Neither are sure how they feel about it, but it’s become very hard to deny that it’s there.
Eliza and Charmonique’s plan culminates in leading Henry to a bar filled with their top picks from dating sites for him. Noticeably, half the crowd are skinny redheads and the other half are full-formed black women. Henry is highly offended and disgusted with what they’ve done, and says that they both have some very big problems. Henry’s indignant attitude isn’t a result of insecurity. He is just honestly comfortable with the lifestyle he leads, and also adds “I do okay” in terms of dating. It’s interesting though, because it really was wrong for Eliza to put him in this awkward situation. I sensed a potential double standard, with the way Henry treats Eliza, but upon closer examination, that’s not the case. While Henry encourages Eliza to foster close connections with other people and exude professionalism, he never blindly throws her into new uncomfortable situations and he never exactly shames her for her choices. Or her lifestyle. In a way, that’s what Eliza’s done without realizing it.
So Henry leaves, and then has a cute interaction with a woman trying to catch a cab. She’s “if Henry was a girl”, and as Eliza watches, he’s about to let her slip by, but with a quick encouragement from Eliza he gets in the cab too. As they drive off, Eliza narrates that it was bittersweet to watch and we’re left to wonder if that’s because Henry is going off to be with someone else, or because him getting laid wasn’t a direct result of her efforts.
We know now that there are six episodes left of Selfie (potentially less if the show continues to perform so poorly that they yannk it off the schedule) so I really hope that we end on some kind of resolution for Henry and Eliza’s relationship. I would be happy that way, because it wouldn’t feel like Selfie ended prematurely. While I was never particularly attached to the show, now that I know it’s ending I’m really dying to see an endgame for Eliza and Henry.
*Afterthought: No sight of Bryn and the gang for awhile. Good.