“Hello Ladies” Recap: The Date

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

In the third episode of Hello Ladies, Stuart sets aside the club-hopping scene long enough to explore the comedic highs and lows of a “normal” date with a woman he actually likes. Tapping into Stuart’s fears and desires, The Date might be the show’s funniest and most relatable episode thus far.

Stuart joins Jessica at yoga class, where it is revealed that he is known as the creepy foreign guy who hits on women. Only seconds after Jessica advises Stuart to lower his bar, she’s encouraging him to ask out Annie, the cute juice bar barista who clearly has a crush on him. Played by The Office’s Lindsey Broad, Annie is immediately likeable and we cross our fingers that Stuart doesn’t blow it. Somehow, Stuart hilariously overcomes falling into a beverage refrigerator and Annie agrees to go out on a date.

This episode is light on best bud Wade and even lighter on Kives (however, Kives’ genitals do get some screen time, a quick reminder that this is HBO). Wade’s story arc begins when he slips in the shower. Realizing that he could have died and nobody would have ever known, he decides that his friends should be required to text “AG” (short for “All Good”) every three hours. This is a cute and funny concept, but it’s never fully realized in these 28 minutes.  In retrospect, I could have done without the washed up wingmen altogether and I would have preferred to see the “AG” plot line saved for a later episode when it could be fully employed.

The absence of Wade does give Stuart’s story room to breath and allows for more interaction with Rory. Kyle Mooney continues to be terrific as Stuart’s biggest fan and socially awkward assistant. Watching Rory soak up Stuart’s terrible advice about texting with women is priceless and it reminds me of Dwight Schrute’s reverence of Michael Scott in The Office.

For the first date, Stuart takes Annie out to a fancy new restaurant. Stuart is giving it an honest effort and Annie seems genuinely into him. Unfortunately, the expensive menu overwhelms Stuart and he continually sneaks off to ask the waiter to pretend that they are out of certain items. The scene is awkward and gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable as it seems Stuart is about to self-sabotage the first decent date we’ve seen him on. Although Stuart is being a jerk to the waiter, his abrasive actions are somewhat forgiven because it is clear he is simply trying to save face around Annie. Stuart’s earnest post-date smile is so endearing that it makes me want to assume he gave that poor waiter a really good tip.

While things are going well for Stuart, Jessica has an unfortunate run in with her old acting rival, Amelia (Jenny Slate). In a very similar role to her character on Girls, Slate rubs her success in the face of Jessica, smiling her way through malicious backhanded compliments. Jenny Slate has been great in guest spot after guest spot and I’m looking forward to seeing her in an upcoming starring role alongside Jake Lacy in next year’s indie film Obvious Child.

Jessica’s failed actress plot line allots enough time for Christina Woods to shine. In an amusingly sad turn of events, we learn that the guy Jessica was sleeping with in the pilot is actually her agent (Sean Wing). She goes to him to demand better roles but all he can get her is an audition for a tampon commercial. This sets up a terrific scene where Jessica bumps into Amelia at the audition and tries to pretend that she is there to read for a Scorsese film. The episode doesn’t do much to remedy the actor stereotypes that were so prominent in The Limo, but this time it’s not really to the show’s detriment because the material surrounding the clichés is actually very funny.

Back on the dating front, Stuart can only play it cool for so long. When Annie doesn’t respond to his texts he begins to freak out, texting repeatedly and bringing his phone into the Verizon store to see if there is something wrong with it. There isn’t. With the reluctant help of Rory, Stuart composes an angry email. Annie texts back in the nick of time, apologizing for the delay and diffusing a nearly disastrous situation.

The second date doesn’t go quite as well. Annie continually texts and checks her phone throughout, making Stuart extremely paranoid. When Stuart gets a glimpse of Annie’s phone he notices she is texting with someone named Alex, a person he assumes to be another man (even though androgynous names in TV and film always wind up being the opposite). So, when Annie asks to be dropped off at a friend’s house, Stuart can’t help but spy on her. He sees that the friend is indeed a woman, but in the process he gets caught. This leads to Merchant’s best performance yet, as he attempts to explain himself in a refreshingly honest and incredibly charming monologue that wouldn’t be out of place in a Richard Curtis film.

The appeal works and for a moment we wonder how he could possibly mess this one up. Annie jokes that she’ll be bringing her friend on the next date and Stuart politely addresses the friend by saying, “Nice to meet you, Alex.” In a clever twist, the friend responds, “My name is Joanne.” In that moment, all of Stuart’s insecurities return, along with his mean spirited accusations. By the time he learns that Alex is actually the name of Annie’s brother, recently diagnosed with Leukemia, it’s too late. Stuart is once again a victim of his own self-sabotage. Driving home alone, he looks up at the unreachable “ideal woman” on the Four Seasons billboard, no closer to being happy on The Date than he was in The Limo.

Other Musings:

– Not a big deal, but if Stuart can afford to own a home in L.A. (he is a landlord and Jessica is his tenant) then he can probably afford one night out at a nice restaurant. I mean, we already saw him spend $800 on drinks in the pilot.

– Guest spots continue to be expertly cast by Allison Jones. This time, Evan Gaustad was fantastic in the role of the waiter forced to put up with Stuart’s unreasonable requests.

– I love the appropriately absurd smooth jazz music choices, like this episode’s closing track, Glen Frey’s “You Belong to the City.”

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J.T. Saroufim Joseph Tony Saroufim is a screenwriter and reviewer of film and television. He has worked as a staff writer in Vh1’s creative lab and in 2011 he won the best writing award at the New York Television Festival. Most recently he produced and co-wrote D-TEC, a television pilot that won Samsung’s Second Screen Storytellers competition. His favorite TV shows include Soap, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Veep. His favorite film is Holiday, starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.