Last night’s episode of The L.A. Complex had a lot of painful moments designed to make viewers grimace, from awkward sexual encounters to mean-spirited jokes to the shocking twist at the end involving one character. But what was almost disturbing — in a way that signifies good writing and plotting — was how by the end of 1×03 “Who You Know” we saw two seemingly good guys turn nasty.
Only now, in writing this recap, am I seeing the pattern and gradual buildup of painful moments. It started with Abby hoping to surprise Connor on-set before her guest spot on Cause of Death, only to walk in on him screwing his co-star in the trailer. (Because as we remember in the last episode, Connor couldn’t get either Abby or Raquel, and this boy obviously craves attention and validation.) Mortified and hurt, Abby rushed out, only to catch her hooker heels on the stairs to his trailer and smack her head. I literally winced when that happened.
Later in the episode, Nick picked up a girl named Megan at the bar after yet another failed comedy set. He figured he had nothing else to do with his night, and he couldn’t go home since Abby was staying with him and things were awkward since he tried to kiss her last week. But poor, poor Nick was doomed to yet another awkward sexual encounter: Megan demands that he choke her in bed, and when he does, she passes out. Worried, he sleeps over, only for her to scream at him in the morning and accuse him of trying to rape her when she was passed out.
Then, in a beautiful bit of comeuppance, Nick uses this as material. See, the next time he’s performing Megan is at the bar laughing about his inability to sex her up right… but he turns the tables and calls her out for demanding this kink and then being a bitch to him. And lo and behold, the venue erupts in laughter.
There’s a brief moment, however, where we see Abby watching the set, and while she’s snickering along with the others, she looks uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because Nick throws a joke about her in there, too, or perhaps it’s that moment of realization that your seemingly nice friend gets just as frustrated and angry and nasty as anyone else. It was certainly jarring to see Nick so mercenary, but at the same time he’s endured so much abuse from the fairer sex already. Anyway, next week’s promo shows her and Nick possibly hooking up, so maybe Abby is into that.
Speaking of another nice-seeming guy with a pretty face… We visit Connor on the set of Critical Unit and see how everything falls apart over the course of the day. Despite getting some action from his co-star (Radio Free Roscoe alum Kate Todd!), Connor seems to be failing everywhere else: He can’t keep up with the line rewrites, and he can’t muster up enough emotion to cry in a scene and has to endure the embarrassment of a PA rubbing a menthol stick under his eyes to force tears.
At the end of the episode, he calls Raquel, Abby, and Nick looking for companionship and attention, but they’re all busy. Resigned, he starts boiling some hot water in a kettle and pulls out a towel and moisturizer. As Porpoise of Life points out, it seems to be the makings of some sort of masturbation pity party… until Connor instead pours the scalding water on his arm!
This I was not expecting. Self-harm is often depicted on television as overdramatic and instigated by teenage girls. I’m sorry to say I never took it seriously on Degrassi when Adam would heat up one of “Gracie’s” barrettes and press it into his arms, because it seemed so hyperbolic. But the resigned calm with which Connor hurts himself — and seems to get some sort of release out of it — was eerie enough to stick with me. Here you have this ugly self-loathing hiding behind a pretty face… good metaphor for LA, huh?
In minor roles following the same theme, you had Raquel bullying her way into agencies and pretending to be an alcoholic so she could pitch these up-and-coming writers’ script at AA. But when the guys tell her they’re also talking to other management — and considering the younger, hotter Canadian Ellen Page for the lead — Raquel very nearly threatens them even though she has no power. As grating as the character is, it’s a fascinating arc. And of course, what we thought would be the episode’s most scandalous plotline: Alicia contemplating making a sex tape with Rick. They eventually go through with it, though it’s a tender scene where he’s all nervous about getting the lighting right and making it convincing, and so she takes the camera and just gets things rolling.
Yep, still a fan of this show.