By Jose Gallegos | /Bent August 16, 2014 at 1:13PM
This week’s episode (entitled “Ham”) follows up on the events of the previous episode, specifically concerning Rose’s mental state. Josh visits his hospitalized mother in the ICU, but unbeknownst to Rose, Josh is actually there to transport her to a mental institution. Rose pleads for Josh to take her home, but her elevated state keeps her from understanding the gravity of the situation (she laughs when the nurse explains her various options). This moment segues into – you guessed it – the theme song. The credits and song are set to images of nurses divvying up colorful pills into various cups. The rapid editing creates a montage of patients downing their pills, giving a new meaning to the lyric, “I’ll be fine.”
Rose seems to enjoy her new room and tries to create some idle chatter with her son but Josh explains to his mother that he has to leave and prepare for Patrick’s birthday party (he is cooking a ham). After making fun of her son’s crush on Patrick, Rose invites Josh to come later that night for dinner
As Josh is perusing the supermarket for cooking supplies, he receives a call from Rose, who asks him for coins for a vending machine. Josh promises to bring them the next day, but Rose interrupts him by saying he can “just cut out the middleman” and bring her chocolate.
While setting up for the party, Josh and the roommates meet Arnold (Keegan Joyce), an early arrival. Arnold tries to apologize for coming early, but Josh invites him to relax with some elderflower gin spritzer.
With the party in full swing, the awkward chatter covers a range of topics, including Tom’s “big penis” (which he measured with a toilet paper roll). Tom’s penis conversation attracts the attention of Jenny (Charlotte Nicdao), an 18 year-old high school student who casually flirts with the well-endowed roommate. While Tom and Jenny get to know one another, Josh attempts to save his frog costume from Arnold’s brother, Steve (Nick Cody). Meanwhile, Rose, who is bored with her surroundings, takes an opportunity (her roommate trying to hang herself with a hair dryer) to escape and make her way to Josh’s place.
The party serves to establish a wide variety of new relationships for the characters: the friendship between Steve and Patrick, the budding relationship between Jenny and Tom, and the potential chemistry between Arnold and Josh. In particular, the conversations between Arnold and Josh take an interesting turn as the two preoccupy themselves by revealing their insecurities and respective situations. In a lovely moment, Josh stumbles upon Arnold sitting on the floor/playing with John (Josh’s dog). Arnold talks about being adopted and “mental,” while Josh talks about how he institutionalized his mother earlier that morning. It is a wonderful/childlike moment whose intimacy is exacerbated by the low camera angles.
Later on, the roommates and new friends play an intense game of beer pong, with team members slinging insults back and forth. Arnold throws out a quip about Josh dealing with his mom, while Josh (who wins the game) calls Arnold an “orphan.” Tensions mount as Patrick and Steve try to shame Josh for his comments (even though Arnold says that the comments were funny/okay). Patrick tries to alleviate the situation by telling Arnold and his team that they don’t have to drink the cups, but Arnold and Tom are more than happy to have an excuse to drink. Patrick storms off, leaving Josh to awkwardly address the crowd of people.
Tensions ease when Patrick and Steve try to make a peace offering by dragging Josh toward the “spa” (aka the Jacuzzi). Rose arrives before anything happens and tells the boys to unhand her son. Confused as to how his mother escaped the hospital, Josh tells Rose that he is taking her back. He rushes inside and grabs a box of chocolates, with Arnold trailing behind and asking if everything is fine. Josh replies by telling Arnold to Facebook him, but when Arnold reveals that he doesn’t have a Facebook, Josh says that he doesn’t have the time to “indulge” him on the choice he made.
This week’s episode, like the premiere episode, ends with an intriguing moment that mixes serious drama with nuanced comedy: Josh and Rose share their chocolates with two other patients named Ginger (Denise Drysdale) and Hannah (Hannah Gadsby). When there is only one chocolate left, Rose proposes a game (in the vain of Notting Hill) that the person with the worst losing-your-virginity story will win the chocolate. Josh recounts how his girl had an asthma attack (he thought he was doing a good job), Rose talks about her first time with Josh’s father, Ginger discusses her vengeful sex with her ex-boyfriend’s best friend, and Hannah simply states that she was raped. Realizing she is about to lose the chocolate, Ginger – who is manifesting the signs of a pathological liar – claims she was raped as well. No one believes her, so Ginger steals the chocolate anyway. Hannah tells Josh that he owes her a chocolate.
“Ham” isn’t as great as the premiere episode, but it still boasts some brilliant moments. One of the more intriguing elements of the episode is the balancing act Josh Thomas performs with the comedic and dramatic aspects of serious issues like mental illness, rape, suicide, and adoption. He handles these topics with a matter-of-fact attitude, challenging the patronizing nature of characters like Steve and Patrick. Even though these issues have an emotional weight that bears down on the characters, Thomas gives a refreshing take by treating the characters more as functioning (if not flawed) humans rather than victims. I’m curious as to how these characters will develop further in the series, and I am especially intrigued by how Arnold will play into the narrative fabric of the season.