“Looking” Recap 2.04: Kickstart My Heart

Hello, guys and dolls! Welcome back to Looking, everyone’s favorite show about bears in San Francisco until I can get my web series Grizzlies in Ghirardelli Square off the ground. When last we left our Three Musketeers, they were watching Romy and Michele, finding the Russell Tovey within, and lamenting the fact that I didn’t recap the season premiere and thus missed out on a stellar “rollin’ on the river” pun.

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“Looking Down the Road” opens the same way as each of my post-recap dreams: with Patrick (Jonathan Groff) standing in the kitchen in his underwear. He finishes up a phone call. I think we’re supposed to wonder who he’s talking to, but it’s hard to focus when Kevin (Russell Tovey) is cooking breakfast in nothing but an apron and his skivvies. Which, incidentally, is usually how those post-recap dreams end.

Kevin sets down a plate saying, “This will give you a heart attack.” As if you haven’t already given us one, you white stallion. Patrick worries about getting fat again, because he was teased for his weight when he was little. Patrick worries about a lot of things. Next on the list in an actually relevant concern: Kevin’s boyfriend Jon (Joe Williamson). Patrick asks how Kevin feels going home to him every night and seems somewhat relieved that they both feel awful about it. Yeah, that and a quarter will get you a gumball, Patty.

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Kevin says that he doesn’t have the same fiery passion with Jon that he does with Patrick. His closing statement (“this will sort itself out”) could use a little work, but he does backtrack a little bit and very slightly takes on some of the blame. Well, it’s a start.

Over at Eddie’s (Daniel Franzese) apartment, Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) admires an “I Heart Anal” mug that is definitely going in the gift bags at my next birthday party. Eddie takes his medication before heading off to work and Augie asks if he can stick around. until he is released from sweaty British sexile. Eddie says no way and that he should just go to the library. The library doesn’t have the proper amount of facial hair and existential gloom to support Agustín’s lifestyle, so he decides to follow Eddie to work instead.

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Meanwhile, Doris (Lauren Weedman) walks into Dom’s (Murray Bartlett) room with an open laptop. I’m pretty sure this is the first time since the premiere that all three men have actually made an appearance during the first five minutes of the show.

Anyway, Doris wants Dom to come up with a password for the Kickstarter she’s creating for his restaurant. Wake up and smell the 2015. Dom argues that food doesn’t work that way, but Doris suggests that Lynn (Scott Bakula) has gotten into his head. You know, with all that talk about needing a steady job and working your way up to the top. Typical bourgeois nonsense. In all fairness, I support Dom and his peri-peri marinated dreams, but Lynn shouldn’t be painted as the bad guy for expressing his concerns.

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We visit the youth shelter for about five seconds so Patrick can call Agustín and tell him that he’s meeting up with Richie (Raúl Castillo). Apparently he was the guy on the other end of the phone call I can hazily remember through the fog of Kevin’s back muscles. Agustín bails on the call because Eddie waves him over and he contractually can’t be on the screen for more than a fifth of the time that Patrick’s storyline takes.

Richie and Patrick decide to go get ice cream. They discuss the benefits of waiting in line for something expensive because it’s a better experience. Richie talks about how a lot of customers pass his salon by in favor of the fancier places down the street. Patrick vows to become a long-term customer, but Richie says he should remain loyal to his stylist. Nothing in this conversation isn’t a veiled metaphor.

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Richie reveals that he’s seeing someone. A ginger someone. Bam. I called it. He asks why they should try to be friends if they were never friends before. Patrick attempts to smooth things over by revealing a little too much information about his relationship with Kevin. He spills so much tea that Richie might as well be the Boston Harbor. Richie doesn’t hide his disappointment that Patrick has become a homewrecker.

Patrick weakly tries to defend Kevin’s side, but quickly realizes that his efforts are useless. Richie warns him not to be in deeper than the person he’s with. Gee, I wonder how he gained that pearl of wisdom.

Meanwhile, back at the shelter, Agustín is mobbed by a crowd of trans youths who want the dirt on the new guy. They ask if he’s trans. “Do I look trans?” Well, it’s good to know that his arc from “snobby douchebag” to “anything else” isn’t totally complete yet. We’ve still got half a season ahead of us.

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After work, Eddie points out that there’s an opening at the shelter. Augie decides to apply for the job, which is great because I’m pretty sure he hasn’t actually paid rent since he was forcibly evicted from his mother’s uterus. They go off to find something to eat. Eddie suggests a bag of dicks. If he’s not already your favorite character on this show, I’d better see some dissertation-level counterarguments in the comments.

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Over at Lynn’s place, Dom can’t find the spare key. I suspect it’s because those fake rocks aren’t fooling anybody anymore, but the real reason is about to answer the door buck naked. Get ready… It’s good ol’ Soapy Joe (Matthew Risch) from the rugby showers!

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He brings Dom into the backyard, where he and Lynn are enjoying a soak in the hot tub. Joe flashes his mudflaps on the way in. Dom quickly grows uncomfortable and leaves to get a drink from the kitchen, exposing his own mudflaps as he gets out. Is there some sort of ass toll required for hot tub entry in San Francisco? That law needs to go national.

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Back at Peppermint Patty’s apartment, he and Agustín eat Chinese food. He gets a text from Kevin. The scene is over before it even begins, because if HBO spends more than 20 seconds with any set of characters, it might seem like they’re actually friends.

And so we return to the hot tub. But let’s face it, do we really want to be anywhere else? Soapy Joe calls Dom daddy. He is not amused, but awkwardly works his discomfort into banter before they kiss. It’s hot. When the Twelve-Second Scene Rule kicks in, it’s not so funny this time.

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Teleport to the Farmer’s Market, where Dom and Patrick are doing some shopping while they banter about Soapy Joe being a power bottom. (Inquiring minds want to know: average length, but ample girth. Perfect for an evening on the town.) Patrick launches into a self-serving tangent about coming into his own as a “power top”, but is thankfully cut short when he sees Kevin and Jon a few stalls down. He double takes so hard, his fragile little porcelain neck snaps and his head flops wildly around his shoulders as Dom drags him away.

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Back at the office, Patrick storms up to Kevin and drags him to the roof for a long overdue conversation. They’re not even pretending to be discreet about their workplace romance anymore. It’s beyond water cooler gossip at this point. Their co-workers probably have a weekly break room discussion group about it. Owen can be club president. Goodness knows he hasn’t been given enough to do so far.

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Anyway, down to brass tacks. Just like every other time Richie reappears in his life, Patrick has begun to doubt Kevin’s intentions. Seeing him and Jon together has finally burst the bubble on Patty’s tidy little fantasy, and he realizes that the future he is imagining with Kevin is impossible. Also he brings up the gay Top Trumps app, because apparently that’s still a thing. If that becomes a major subplot instead of Russell Tovey’s buns, my esteem for this show will sink like a stone.

Kevin says that he’s building a fantasy future too (hopefully an app-less one), but he’s afraid of telling Jon because it will wreck him. Apparently he’s hoping that he can live his double life forever, never facing the consequences. But this ain’t Hannah Montana. Things have got to change, and he vows that he’ll break the news to his terminally oblivious boo.

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Over at the shelter, Agustín begins his first day of work and asks Eddie what he’s doing tonight. And before anybody can do anything gross and unseemly like emotionally invest in this subplot, we cut away again. Agustín can’t catch a break. He always gets the short end of the stick. Let’s hope the girth makes up for it.

Over at Lynn’s flower shop (Hey, remember that? I don’t), Dom confronts him about Soapy Joe. He thinks that Lynn is closing himself off from experiencing true emotional intimacy. Lynn says that, after the death of his partner of 20 years, there’s only so much of himself he can give. He says that he hopes Dom finds someone like that one day. The fact that Lynn clearly doesn’t see himself as that person cuts Dom like a knife.

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Although Dom’s relationship with Lynn has been progressing at breakneck speed through a relatively short amount of time, it’s been interesting to watch his transition from swinging single to wounded, lovesick dove. Lynn clearly means much more to Dom than a mere boyfriend. But he’s having a tough time reconciling his sex drive, his idolatry of this older man, and the realities of Lynn’s past with Brian. It’s a character-driven subplot worthy of deeper exploration, though I fear that it might be end a little too quickly. You know, just like every other scene in Looking. It’s really the Autobahn of TV shows.

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Finally, everybody meets up at Richie’s club, Esta Noche. Richie brings along his boyfriend, Ginger Roger, who writes gay-interest pieces for the Weekly. Eddie gets along with him famously, much like he does with any human being who isn’t Agustín. Doris skids by, double-fisting beers. She sits down with Dom and instantly notices that something is off.

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They duck outside and he tells her about Lynn. She consoles him and says that she’ll always be there for him. I don’t even have a joke for this, it’s just too sweet. I love their friendship. Even if it means that the world will soon face the wrath of the peri-peri Kickstarter campaign.

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After Dom and Doris ditch the joint, Kevin arrives in a state of disrepair. He kisses Patrick. Hard. Richie proves that he has what it takes to win the gold in Olympic-level Side-Eyeing. After so many episodes of poking at the hornet’s nest and hoping butterflies will come out, Patty finally sees through Kevin’s pity-me cloud of crap. He asks him directly what happened between him and his boyfriend.

Kevin reveals that he couldn’t bring himself to tell Jon about the affair and Patrick storms out, eyes brimming with manly, power-top tears.

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Fin.

Grade: I genuinely enjoyed this episode. We were served breakfast with a generous side portion of beefcake. We got some sudsy hot tub action. Things are finally heating up in all three core relationships. And Patrick is finally shedding his naiveté and transitioning from hapless puppy dog to actual, decisive human being.

But as I’ve vigorously stated throughout this recap, everything about Looking feels brief and ephemeral. An hour’s worth of content is crammed into a half-hour slot, and no scene lasts longer than the flavor in a stick of chewing gum. So much happened this episode, but it feels like so little. When everything is packaged into tiny bite-sized portions, it’s hard to really enjoy the subtle flavors of the piece as a whole. It’s like eating 100 skittles versus a juicy burger. It’s not bad, but it could be a more complete, savory experience. I’m excited to see how the show moves on from this point, but I dearly hope that they stop to smell the roses. It’ll be so much better that way.

B+

MVG (Most Valuable Gay): I’m not immune to pity. This one goes to Agustín, if only because he was robbed of his deserved screentime and he’s actually attempting to pay rent now.

Champion Dialogue: “This is so we can rent your chicken window.” – Doris on Kickstarter

Assorted Nuts

*That “I Heart Anal” mug is going straight onto my Amazon wish list. You know… For research purposes.

*Doris suggests that Dom hand out sexual favors as Kickstarter incentives. I’m betting Season Three is gonna be a real doozy.

*Soapy Joe is 2 for 2 on appearing dripping wet and naked in back-to-back episodes. Let’s hope he goes for a hat trick.

*Is “power topping” really a thing? Isn’t that kind of the point?

*The editing in this episode was a little wonky. Richie and Patrick talk about going to Esta Noche that night, but a full day passes before they finally meet up. Or did the hot tub threesome scene only exist in Dom’s head? Maybe the entire show takes place inside a Lego set in his bedroom. Who knows.

*A Liza Minelli drag queen in the background becomes the second extra to scope out Jonathan Groff’s ass. The background casting agency really needs to get things under control.

*If you want to download Patrick’s “storming out” song, it’s “So This is Goodbye” by Junior Boys. Thank me later.

*I’ve gotta hand it to you guys. The comments sections on these past few recaps have been largely cordial and very insightful. I’m so proud of TheBacklot readers for fostering a positive Internet discussion environment. Your reward? More Russell Tovey gifs, of course.

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So what do you all think? Is Season Two of Looking finally getting somewhere worth following? Or does it play too fast and loose with its plot threads? Please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!

Brennan Klein grew up in Anaheim, California. Living so close to Disneyland, he found comfort in the arms of horror movies, synthpop, camp TV and offbeat musicals.