The Beans Watch: Selfie, Ep 5 & 6
I am officially on board with this show. Even though my friends are making fun of me for being such a fan. And even though the ratings are still an uphill battle and ABC’s holding out on renewing like a sexually frustrated Henry Higgs who can’t seal the deal. And even though I’m always staying up way past my bedtime to write these posts … Selfie is just plain hilarious. And I can’t get over how much I love John Cho and Karen Gillan on screen together.
But enough of this gushing. Ain’t nobody got time. We have two, count ‘em, TWO episodes to talk about tonight, and they were both great. Lots to pick apart here.
Selfie, Ep 5: Even Hell Has Two Bars
I’m going to call it now: This was THE episode. The one that, if all our prayers are answered and this show gets picked up for a full season, everyone will point to and say: That’s when I became a legit fan. It’s the episode where we stop talking about how much potential Selfie has and can unabashedly say, “This is an effing good show.” Why? Because the comedy was on point. Because the chemistry between Eliza and Henry knocked our socks off. Because the costume and set design was gorgeous. And because J-Animals! (Seriously, how cute was Karen Gillan as a purple unicorn?)
The setup: Henry finally receives a super-exclusive invite to the big boss’ estate in Santa Barbara for a weekend getaway, which is a sure sign that he’s up for a promotion. Eliza receives an invite too, which starts the episode off with a great tête-à-tête about whose star is rising higher. It’s a smart approach to giving Eliza just a little more power to stand on in both their professional and “extracurricular” relationships. It’s clear the writers are invested in giving the two equal footing as they inch us toward a romance. I can appreciate that. Especially since Eliza and Henry’s discussion includes many many seconds of Eliza dancing to “We Dem Boyz.” (Eliza dancing = win. Always.) If anyone needs a primer on how to be sexy and goofy at the same time, just watch her.
Even though Henry agrees that Eliza deserves a promotion, he thinks it’s more likely that she’s been invited as his plus one. This hits a little too close to home for Eliza, and she launches into a spiel about how she is “VIP, bitches.” In the middle of her tirade, we get a clever cut from the office to the two of them pulling up to Rancho de Saperstein in a horse and carriage, all while Eliza lists off the parties she’s been invited to over the years. Great editing, but first, let’s pause for a moment and check out that hat. So so lovely. Nice work, costume department. (Perhaps it might be a slight nod to this? —>)
Between finding out that she is in fact a plus one and that there’s no wifi connection for the weekend, Eliza’s pretty ready to leave, but thankfully the swag and amenities keep her on board. Among the list of tongue-in-cheek treatments: aromatic mammograms! Whoo. Sounds like a fun time.
As would be expected, Henry has put way too much preparation into this weekend (three years and $16,000 learning to ride a horse, talk about advance planning), while Eliza’s fun-loving nature derails the itinerary – including the horseback riding. Oops!
The writers take a bit of a sitcom shortcut, but next thing we know, Henry’s convinced he’s blown his chance at a promotion and is blowing up at Eliza for ruining the weekend. She, of course, storms off and he has to face Saperstein alone after soiling Mrs. Saperstein’s nature reserve with an ill-fated cannonball (his one attempt at doing something fun, per Eliza’s suggestion). Not surprisingly, Saperstein was looking for Henry to fall apart, and applauds him for it, then gives him the promotion anyway.
By now, all signs are pointing to the “chase her to the airport” cliche, and I was seriously holding my breath. I was so scared that all the great comedic work was going to pay off in a too-sweet rom-com ending. But I should have had more faith in the Selfie crew. They love their characters even more than I do, and they stay true to them. Yes, Henry rides up to Eliza in a white horse, but then he gets off and tells her that between his career and their friendship, “It’s a tie.” And when Eliza presses him, trying to get him to admit that he worships her, he grudgingly admits, “I have grown accustomed to your face.” That’s probably my favorite line ever. And yet. And yet! Even with the dialogue pushing against romance, John Cho and Karen Gillan are selling the love hard with those smoldering eyes, those sparks. I wasn’t 100% sold on the Eliza/Henry hookup, but after watching those two in that scene I don’t think I can resist anymore. Better start working on the couple nickname. #Heliza?
As if the layers built into Henry and Eliza’s relationship weren’t enough to earn the writers some props, they balance yet another thought on top of that and point back to what the show is all about: the true nature of connectedness. The reason the sparks don’t fully ignite between the two is because, just as they’re having their Moment, a signal shows up on their cellphones. Freddy’s sending Eliza nudes, and Henry’s getting texts from Charlie. So telling. So sad. Both are being haunted by their own bad habits, their flawed ways of finding worth in themselves. It made me wonder how many moments I miss with my husband or my kid when I check my Instagram notifications. In fact, I bet a lot of people identified with that moment. It’s an oft-represented problem in all sorts of media today, but this bittersweet moment in tonight’s episode cut through the noise in a very real way.
So let’s recap. Tonight, Selfie brought us through another great dance scene, an awesome hat and unicorn pajamas, hilarious comedy, strong ensemble work, tangible romantic tension, and an elegant comment on the show’s core theme. That’s a lot of work for a sitcom to do in one episode. You see what I’m saying here? These guys are good.
Odds and ends:
-This show has its sight gags DOWN. Two excellent examples this week: 1) The Emoji covering Henry’s “secret places” when he cannonballs, and 2) Henry lying next to the pool in full riding gear.
-David Harewood is a gem. Who knew that all that comedic talent was being wasted while he was pissing off Carrie Mathison on Homeland?
-“The Split Bamboo.” Gold, pure gold. How on earth did Henry sleep in a room with a huge painting of his boss and his boss’ wife doing that? (And how did ABC get away with airing that on prime time?)
-“You know what they say about corporate tax rates!”
-Saperstein decides to wear his “strolling culottes.” Kapnek is a master at making fun of luxury.
-Apparently Eliza thought of everything before Michelle Obama – including bangs, childhood obesity and baring one’s arms – making the President’s wife the “First Lady of non-stop riding my jock.”
-A nice tip of the hat to John Cho’s early claim to fame when Yasmin Saperstein is honored as “MILF of the Moment” by Montecito Monthly.
-Glad to see Samm Levine is becoming more of a staple on the show, subservient though he may be. I guess expecting him to be curmudgeonly a la Neal from Freaks and Geeks might be unfair. But he’s such a good curmudgeon!
Selfie, Ep 6: Never Block Cookies
I didn’t quite love “Never Block Cookies” quite as much as I loved “Even Hell Has Two Bars,” but it was still a solid episode with some great comedic moments.
It’s another episode framed by Eliza helping Henry (rather than the other way around, per the My Fair Lady tradition). He’s entirely too daft about women hitting on him, so Eliza and Charmonique take matters into their own hands and sign him up for every online dating service known to man. They intend to get him in a room with all his potential matches at once, so he can take his pick and stop being so damn lonely already.
The highlights of this episodes are threefold:
1) Watching Charmonique and Eliza team up again (#Charliza is definitely a thing)
2) David Harewood all day err day
3) The waist grab (duh duh duh!!!!)
While the plot of this episode relies on some pretty straightforward sitcom shenanigans, the entire hunt for Henry’s other half is spurred on by his crankiness toward Eliza and Freddy’s relationship. This, of course, sets up all sorts of subtext for his true feelings for Eliza.
NOTE: There are some continuity issues (which I mention in the “Odds and ends” below), so I’m not convinced that the events in this episode take place after the weekend in Rancho de Saperstein within the Selfie universe. We’ll have to see where they pick up next week.
But on the surface, we get a lot of fun and games as Eliza and Charmonique sneak into Henry’s office and guess his password (“Henry69,” snicker snicker) in order to collect information for his online dating profiles. My absolute favorite Charliza moment so far is when Charmonique tells Eliza she needs to go Mr. Miyagi on Henry and teach him a little “wax on, wax-dat-ass.” Oh, but they don’t just stop at the clever words. Eliza follows suit with hand motions that end in a cupping flourish while Char chimes in with a “whoopsshhhh.” I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for juvenile humor.
Lucky for me, there’s more. Soon, Sam Saperstein joins in on the data collection and interviews Henry in the men’s bathroom about STDs. “You ever contract the Shebola virus? Gotten a rotten Richard? Downloaded a bad episode of Burn Notice?” Hah! Burn Notice! Get it? <grins> No? I thought it was hilarious.
But of course there’s the part everyone’s going to be talking about: The Waist Grab. When Eliza surreptitiously tries to teach Henry how to flirt by finding ways to make contact with a woman when she’s talking to him, he misreads the situation and pulls her against him. Again, insane chemistry between the two, and I continue to be impressed by how the show teases us with these moments without manipulating the characters and their motivations. Eliza’s reaction – surprise, and a sudden flight response – makes sense given her fear of getting “the feels.”
Episode 6 wasn’t quite a powerhouse like Episode 5, but it’s still supremely confident. The two principles as well as the ensemble are hitting a very sure stride and I sincerely hope ABC gives them a little more runway to work with. Watch the show, friends! Live Tweet! Invite people over for chicken nuggets and viewings! OK, I’ll stop.
Odds and ends:
-Continuity: Strangely enough, Henry asked Terrence (Samm Levine) about his new job in Customer Service at the start of Episode 5, but only in Episode 6 are we learning that he got the job. Did they decide to switch the order of the episodes? A good call, since Episode 5 was definitely the stronger of the two. But confusing for those of us paying close attention to plot points.
-Cookie girl was played by John Cho’s real-life wife, Kerri Higuchi.
-Henry’s response to his password: “That was a reference to the moon landing! And you had no right to be in my office!” Sure, Henry, sure.
-Sam thinks Terrence is perfect for Customer Service because “verbal abuse passes right through your pale, clammy skin!”
-Larry took his cousin to the prom! And they did more than just slow dance! *shudder*
-Saperstein had hoped his daughter would marry a blue collar worker who turned out to be the Prince of Zamunda. Did that remind anyone of a certain movie? (Man, the writers of this show must be big Eddie Murphy fans.)
-Saperstein singing his employees’ names into songs. What a beautiful voice!
-Golden Girls come in three kinds: dumb, man, and slut. Hah!
-“You can’t make love to a salad.”