Guilt. The word is guilt.
While Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Lindsay (Kether Donohue) struggling to name the feeling creates one of the season’s funniest lines—I’m ordering T-shirts printed with “Carsick. Hard fart. Murder.” as soon as I finish this review—I’m not certain that “guilt” describes what’s happening here. “Residual murder feelings” comes closer, though as Jimmy (Chris Geere) points out, Gretchen has already cycled through rage and revenge sex; “gauche” is perfect, but only for Lindsay’s wild new work persona and Boone’s (Colin Ferguson) adolescent bullying of his ex-wife’s beau. (Please pause here to light a candle for the underutilized Anne Dudek, whose talents have only been done justice by Mad Men and, most especially, House.) “Gout” sounds about right, as it happens: “There’s Always a Back Door” finds You’re the Worst at its most arthritic, unable to pivot among its subplots effectively, much less bring them together into a satisfying whole. Even the flashes of painful insight for which the series is rightly known start to seem superimposed on the characters, last-ditch efforts to give the episode shape. We, like the characters, want to be wanted, and “There’s Always a Back Door” barely puts up a fight.
For instance: I’m all for throwing punches (verbal and literal) at men’s rights activists—any series that takes a swing at Richard Spencer is A-OK in my book—but I’m having a hard time seeing how drinking with Jimmy, Vernon (Todd Robert Hamilton) and Paul (Allan McLeod) is what sends Edgar (Desmin Borges) over the top. It can’t be Jimmy’s resistance to their friendship—that’s as old as the series itself. It can’t be Paul’s “reformed cuckold” cosplay—Edgar himself has dallied in “pickup artist” bullshit, turning the practice of “negging” into his primary dating strategy. The entire sequence in the bar (“We look like the poster from Rounders. So tight!”) is a gag for gag’s sake that’s supposed to produce some kind of epiphany, and like Lindsay’s sudden interest in her co-workers’ affection, it feels like a placeholder: the “TK TK” one inserts into copy until a solution presents itself.
I’m afraid it appears that You’re the Worst hit publish without making revisions. Maybe the punning on “guilt” backed the episode into a corner—Gretchen’s correct that “it’s like ‘bad,’ but involves other people,” yet this is most assuredly not what she’s feeling. When she eventually gets around to an explanation, “There’s Always a Back Door” puts rather a fine point on it: The object of Gretchen’s upset is Gretchen, desperate to convince herself there’s no future with Boone so she can’t be disappointed when it doesn’t work out. Jimmy certainly doesn’t seem to feel “guilty” about pulling the Runaway Bride routine, either: He’s not sorry that he pushed her away, he’s sorry that she hasn’t come back. Lindsay might harbor “guilt” over her leather-clad dance routine—although, why would she? That was awesome—and her off-color pedophile joke, but the way her face falls when she sees her colleagues singing karaoke through the window suggests that she’s just bummed about being left out.
Perhaps this is the back door of the episode’s title, the roundabout way into what it’s “about,” but this is too charitable, even for me. I feel a little bit guilty, to be honest: for wishing the series had found a more clever way for Lindsay and Edgar to admit their connection; for thinking all the MRA stuff is getting a bit icky; for allowing Gretchen’s “exactly” to undermine the bracing, sudden darkness of “No one ever fights for me.” I feel a little bit guilty for focusing more on the disappointments of the episode, as Edgar’s friend points out, than “the small, good things” that “balance it out.” “There’s Always a Back Door” nonetheless skids into what has always been the series’ most frustrating register, and whether or not it’s delivered with a knowing wink, it still reads as a misfire at this point in the season.
Self-pity. The word you’re looking for is “self-pity,” Gretchen, and other people have nothing to do with it.
Matt Brennan is the TV editor of Paste Magazine. He tweets about what he’s watching @thefilmgoer.