What does the summer of 1985 hold for David and Skye, Wheeler and Misty and more of the couples on Amazon's new dramedy? And what's the story behind that body swap episode?
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for the first four episodes of Red Oaks: the pilot, "Doubles," "The Wedding" and "MDMA"]
In the first three shows of the new batch of Red Oaks episodes that began streaming on Friday, lead character David Myers (Craig Roberts) spent more time with Getty's mysterious daughter Skye (Alexandra Socha), bonding with her over art amidst her nude paintings and talking poolside about school and his accounting struggles (he's not very good at math, he reveals) and even fantasizing about the two of them making out. Meanwhile, some tension has developed between David and his girlfriend Karen (Gage Golightly) as she wants to model for country-club photographer Barry (Josh Meyers), who's been creepily pushing her to pose for him. And after her disastrous birthday celebration, Karen ditches David to check out Barry's art exhibit and he sends her a bouquet of roses that she looks at guiltily with David's more modest bouquet of flowers from his front yard sitting nearby.
Read more 'Red Oaks': TV Review
In other Red Oaks couples news, Wheeler (Oliver Cooper) teaches Misty (Alexandra Turshen) to parallel park, gets high with her in the back of a limo (where she reveals that she wants to marry someone rich) and has a supportive chat with her about school and her wanting to be a dental hygienist. And David's parents, whom his dad has revealed aren't happy together, are talking about their relationship in therapy and, in the season's fourth episode, tried to "find the connectedness they misplaced along the way" with the help of "empathy drug," MDMA.
So what do the remaining six episodes have in store for Red Oaks' many pairs and what's the story behind that unusual body swap episode, which reviewers and those who've watched further into the season have highlighted? The Hollywood Reporter talked to the cast and co-creators Gregory Jacobs and Joe Gangemi about what to expect for the rest of the summer of 1985.
Some elements of David's dad's tennis-court confession in the pilot have surfaced, including his attraction to Asian women, and his marital problems, some of which were highlighted in the MDMA-dispensing therapy session from Red Oaks' fourth episode. In that session, Judy (Jennifer Grey), reveals that she doesn't know who she is apart from a wife and mother. But what about David's dad thinking that Judy's "a lesbian or at least technically bisexual"?
Grey offered a teasing response when asked about what Richard Kind's character said.
"Aren't you curious? … Let's say that I might decide to investigate and experiment with women just in case it's not my husband that's the problem," Grey told THR on the red carpet at Red Oaks' premiere. "Maybe it's just men in general. For people that have been married a long time they don't know. Have I just married the wrong guy or am I playing on the wrong team?"
Even as David and Skye have spent more time together, her teasing attitude has left him and viewers wondering how she feels about him.
"I think she constantly outsmarts him in every situation, which he likes," Roberts says of Socha's character. "I think she tests him, and he tries to test her."
And she remains a bit of a mystery as the season goes on.
"We definitely wanted her to keep you guessing," Gangemi says. "We want you to be in David's shoes and he himself is wondering: Does she really like me? Is she just toying with me? Am I just a summer flirtation? Am I interested in her? Is she the kind of girl that I want to spend my life with?"
Jacobs adds: "She's also got stuff she's figuring out too, which in later episodes she reveals to him."
David's girlfriend Karen also explores a connection with someone else, in her case it's seemingly creepy club photographer Barry.
But while Barry may seem smarmy to viewers, Karen's "not at all" aware of that, Golightly told THR.
"She's a young child," Golightly said. "It's a comfort blanket. Somebody needing her, somebody wanting her. She just wants to be wanted."
She added: "I think Karen feels that [Barry]'s this much older, mature man as opposed to David, so I think it's just somebody who's mature and can give her what she needs. It's just that lure. But really his character is just not smarmy, but he tries to be because it's like a hook that he feels comfortable with, but really he's just a really sincere guy who's kind of insecure."
Wheeler and Misty have gotten closer even though she's still with her rock-star wannabe boyfriend Steve LeFevre, but things don't develop quite the way you might expect.
"I think that we start to have some sort of connection that is…deep and we really come to like each other beyond just a physical thing," Cooper says. "It isn't like your typical relationship, it doesn't turn into that on the show."
Turshen adds, "You get the sense that she is still finding her backbone and finding out the kind of person she wants to be and the kind of person she wants to be with — and finding her own sense of self worth. And I think you'll see throughout season one, Misty really grows up a lot with Wheeler and finds that she does deserve to be treated well by guys and that laughter is perhaps the most important part of her connection with someone. The moments she has with Wheeler are completely filled with laughter and just easy. I don't think Misty ever realized it could be so easy with somebody."
Red Oaks' seventh episode is titled "Body Swap" and indeed that half-hour is a full-on Freaky Friday-like switch in which two characters end up in each others bodies. Jacobs says the episode is an homage to a number of body-swap films from the '80s and they also saw it as "something that was sort of fun and bold to try."
Indeed, doing something so different is definitely an unusual choice for an episode in a series that people can binge watch, but some issues come to light as a result of two characters spending the day in each others' bodies.
"We definitely set ourselves a challenge that if we're going to do this body swap episode, it can't just seem separate from the rest of the series," Gangemi says. "It has to serve the same purpose as any other episode in moving the characters and their relationships forward. So that was our biggest challenge: [Do a] body swap episode but also have it serve as a chapter in the larger story that we were telling. … We wanted it to be funny and audacious, but we also wanted it to be touching and ultimately give us some insight into these characters."