Episode Four, “What Normal People Do,” takes time at developing not just Jimmy and Gretchen, but Edgar and Lindsay as well. The very title of the episode goes against almost everything we see play out.
So we begin with Jimmy wearing Edgar’s uniform without his permission. This probably wouldn’t be a big deal if Jimmy only wore it around the house, but it turns out that Jimmy used it to get a veterans’ discount at a local restaurant. More aghast at this, however, is Gretchen for not being invited to breakfast. She appears miffed, which is strange, given how she just neglected to invite Jimmy to her own birthday celebration. What’s more, Jimmy doesn’t think it a giant deal, even when Gretchen says that the ‘thing’ between them could end as soon as tomorrow.
In fact, he’s so focused on the game that he doesn’t give Edgar the time of day when Edgar wants to talk about the war. Gretchen, trying to be a normal person, does try to listen, but stops the second that Edgar talked about his team finding four stray dogs fighting over a dead body. I can’t say that I blame her.
Lindsay’s subplot deals with her image and what she feels people think of her. She recently got her jaw wired shut because she’s trying to avoid putting anything bad in it, much to the surprise of Honey Nutz and Shit Stain. Despite Lindsay’s huge mouth, Paul only likes handjobs. Even if Lindsay manages to bring her weight under control, her ass would shrink, but Paul, surprisingly, is not an ass man. So, the two aspiring rappers wonder, why would someone buy a car if he didn’t even appreciate the features? We’ll return to this towards the end.
Gretchen’s plot point also kicks off here, as Sam needs to attract some media coverage that will feature his house. Why? Sam wants his house to deliver pussy to him. He knows that dating is scary for women because they can’t force men who live in fancy houses to visit them. If a woman declines an offer to come over, but instead wants the man to come to her place, the guy won’t do it because he can stay at his place and be comfortable.
For some women, he says, a pussy can be a dine-in only joint. No one would come and the woman in question would have to offer Groupons or have gatherings and parties to get people to join in. This, somehow, strikes a nerve with Gretchen, as we’ve only seen her at Jimmy’s place, not the other way around. She wonders, could she be a dine-in pussy, having to put out in order to get Jimmy to come over? Up until now, she’s never had to think about it since she and Jimmy just went with the flow. But, if the opportunity presented itself, would Jimmy even want to come to her place? She’s knows that he’s selfish enough to put his needs ahead of anything else.
Edgar, meanwhile, helps kick off a commemoration for war veterans and expects the audience to behave like normal people and honor his effort. However, Edgar acknowledges that he himself is not normal. It’s hard for him and countless other soldiers and veterans alike to readjust to society. It’s a genuine moment for Edgar to tell his story to what he hopes are willing listeners, but once he gets deep into his tale, the crowd turns its attention to the band. Why? They’re more high octane and energetic than some sad old veteran.
Since Jimmy and Gretchen don’t have high priorities in their daily lives, they spend it day drinking. Gretchen throws out the idea of them going to her place, which Jimmy isn’t really up for since they’d always gone to his place. They aren’t far along in this ‘thing’ they have, but each evening they’ve spent together has been at Jimmy’s. Gretchen wants to shake things up. Jimmy admits that he’s too self-absorbed to change, but he’s willing to give it a shot for her. For a thing that could end tomorrow, as Gretchen says, she sure gets a lot of work out of Jimmy, and Jimmy is willing to compromise.
The problem is that Gretchen’s apartment is a shithole, but she gives zero fucks about that because it’s her place. Jimmy, however, is completely aghast at the messy refrigerator, living room, unfinished food decorating the table, just about everything in Gretchen’s place Jimmy finds fault with. And he’s not doing to get back at Gretchen for anything she said- he legitimately is horrified by what he’s seen. Gretchen doesn’t even have a television. That isn’t too strange, but it is when Jimmy points out that Gretchen doesn’t really watch television, as she says, but just watches programs on a computer. That’s not watching TV, though they end up not watching because Gretchen gets a porn virus.
Back with Edgar, he manages to meet with soldiers who he believes have stories like him. He’s finally found a group of people to relate to, but it turns out that they’re just prepping for a film they’ve been making. Whoops.
We return to Gretchen, who admits to Jimmy that yes, her place isn’t great, but it’s still her home and doesn’t feel she needs to change anything, which sort of contradicts her telling Jimmy to change for her sake, but we’ll get to that in a second. This kicks off a conversation over who is leaving and why. Ordinarily, we’d just expect Jimmy to leave due to their argument and think no more of it, but Jimmy isn’t having that.
No, Jimmy feels he should stay, though he and Gretchen think about this much longer than usual. Gretchen tells Jimmy to not invent her wanting to go as a smokescreen for him wanting to leave. She won’t make him stay, but Jimmy now says that Gretchen is kicking him out. For a pair of people who recognize that what they have can end any time, they spend a considerable amount of time over how and why Jimmy has to leave.
Lindsay and Edgar finally meet up after Lindsay has Edgar examine her ass. He’s not falling over for it like most men probably would, but he does say that the size of her ass does not define her. It’s one of the most honest things that she’s heard all day, and it comes from someone who isn’t even that into her in that way. So why is Edgar outside anyway? He wanted to score some heroin, but had second thoughts. He has a third thought when Lindsay offers.
With Jimmy gone, Gretchen goes back to lounging by herself, but has quite the revealing conversation with the jovial pizza man. He’s not in the most revered of jobs, but he’s happy because he gets to just drive around with pizza. If he gets bored, he’ll pull over, eat a pizza, and just say he’s been robbed. He has no real aspirations and is fine where he is. Just Gretchen’s idea about having his own place gets him excited…until he realizes that would involve too much, and you can’t have anything ruining your flow.
The B story with Lindsay and Edgar continues with Edgar managing to remove Lindsay’s wiring. The two accept that they’re perceived strangely by other people because Edgar is too obsessed with talking about war when he doesn’t need to be, and Lindsay is obsessed with how other people thinks she looks. Edgar, the honest man that he is, calls Lindsay a free loving sort of person who should be happy with who she is.
In the end, Jimmy and Gretchen also arrive at their own conclusions when they accept that they’re set in their own ways and prefer things on their terms. In effect, they haven’t learned a thing. It took a day for them to just go with what they already knew, but they have realized that they need to stop comparing themselves to normal people since they’re beyond normal. After all, if they’re comfortable with who they are, there should be no reason to want to be normal.
Once again, Jimmy and Gretchen arrive at a fairly simple conclusion, but what makes this effective in my eyes is that they stay right where they are. Sure, some would call that a lack of character development, but what makes this work is that they were willing to take a chance.
The problem is that Jimmy and Gretchen aren’t used to change just yet. It’s the same reason they refuse to say that they’re in a relationship, but continue referring to it as “it.” Jimmy and Gretchen see themselves as rational compared to everyone else, but society would see them as abnormal, strange, and, Becca says, poison. They take pride in that, though. Jimmy happily accepts it when Gretchen says that he wants things on his own terms, and Gretchen admits this only after she tries to invite Jimmy over.
Having never been in a relationship, I can only assume that the parties involved eventually go through some form of change instead of both staying the same. It would be too easy for everyone to just go about their business without compromise- which Jimmy does decide to do when he apologizes to Gretchen for not inviting her to breakfast. It’s no problem if they’re comfortable with who they are, but, like Gretchen says, that self-awareness means nothing if they don’t change it. What makes this complicated is that they don’t want to change, and it took Jimmy deriding Gretchen’s living space for Gretchen to arrive at this conclusion.
Gretchen doesn’t want to be the type of woman who never has men visit her, but that’s because she’s spent all this time considering Sam’s words about women who have to force people to visit them. She bluntly tells Jimmy that “I need you to come eat me out at my apartment,” but that ends up being a disaster. She sees no issue with her home because it’s her space. She sees no need to change things up, which is exactly what she’s asking Jimmy to do.
As with this thing that the two have, Jimmy and Gretchen are afraid of change because they’d be turning into the very people that they ridicule for going by traditional romantic standards, which the two desperately want to avoid. It’s what makes their argument about being kicked out stand out more because if Jimmy is going to leave, why put so much thought into why he’s leaving when they already both know that he thinks Gretchen’s place is a dump? It wouldn’t matter if he left of his own accord or Gretchen kicked him out, but they make it a bigger deal than necessary. But, again, Jimmy and Gretchen are not normal people. Like the pizza man, they’d rather go through life the way things are instead of potentially putting in work for something worthwhile than their current lots in life.
Even the lives these ‘veterans’ live are all lies because they’re more interested in fame. They take advantage of Edgar because he’s gullible enough to believe they’re actual soldiers, but also because he’s in a vulnerable state and wants someone to hear him out.
We have a real chance to explore Edgar’s psychology and what he’s feeling when he has dreams about combat, but it’s spoiled when others try to take advantage of his story. Though, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun to watch Edgar slowly figure it out, especially when one of the veterans showed that he wasn’t an amputee when two women offered him a chance to sign his name between their breasts. It’d be hard to turn that down, really.
Though Jimmy and Gretchen don’t have any sort of change by episode’s end, Lindsay and Edgar end up realizing that they don’t need to try and act out to win friends. They just need to realize that they’re fine just the way they are. Lindsay only has an image issue because she feels she needs other people’s validation. Edgar, straightforward as he is, tells her that she should be happy with her body.
I haven’t said much about the performance behind the character, but Kether Donohue is just damn gorgeous and sweet as Lindsay. For the record, the fact that she’s big doesn’t make her any less attractive and though Paul would be lucky to even have her, he also deserves someone more faithful, as we’ll see. Hell, I think the fact that she’s a larger woman makes her even more attractive.
As much as I like Aya Cash, I think I may prefer Kether Donohue just a bit more, but they’re both great in their roles. Honey Nutz and Shit Stain probably could have picked a better comparison for Lindsay besides a car, but the meaning is still there: why commit to someone in your life if you’re always trying to change them? Paul, in their minds, should appreciate what Lindsay has instead of trying to change her into something she’s not. This is what Gretchen tries to do with Jimmy, but realizes that she’s just as unflinching as she is.
So all in all, “What Normal People Do,” didn’t so much advance storylines as much as it did confirm what our characters have already known: they need to accept who they are and spend less time worrying what everyone else thinks of them. And luckily, these lessons don’t come from some character oozing with sage-like wisdom. It’s nothing grandiose or some life-shattering lesson, but I enjoyed it: simple and practical lesson at the same time. Now, if Gretchen would just tidy up a bit, we can get somewhere, like the next episode.