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[Warning: spoilers ahead for this week’s episode of Looking, “Looking in the Mirror.”]
In the first moments of Looking‘s sixth episode, “Looking in the Mirror,” directed by Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies), Patrick (Jonathan Groff) lets the boyfriend label slip out to Richie (Raul Castillo). This comes after him anxiously going through the list of friends Richie will meet at Dom’s (Murray Bartlett) 40th birthday party. “It’s the first time they’re meeting my boyfriend,” he says. “Who said I was your boyfriend?” Richie responds playfully.
Beyond Patrick backpedaling out of a conversation, it’s a fun moment to hear his own take on the friend group (“They can be intense, particularly Agustin,” and “Doris will be there, and she’s, you know, a lot”) not to mention the confirmation that Patrick and Dom have hooked up, though we figured already. “I’m a little old for Dom at this point, if you know what I mean,” he tells Richie.
Flash forward a few scenes to Richie telling Patrick he’s on board with the boyfriend label and offers him to wear a scapular, a cultural tradition of Richie’s. “It would mean a lot to me,” he tells Patrick, putting it on him.
Dom and Lynn (Scott Bakula) are busy having dinner with potential investors for Dom’s restaurant and feed them a meal of Dom’s peri peri chicken. Meanwhile, Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) is in a huff over his CJ (T.J. Linnard) project, tearing down photos from his collage wall, much to the concern of his actually very nice and very caring boyfriend, Frank (O-T Fagbenle), though Agustin would never acknowledge that.
While cleaning up after dinner, Dom’s phone starts going off with birthday messages, his idea of the death knell. “At 40, Grindr emails you a death certificate,” he bemoans to Lynn. Of course Dom would know that. Lynn kindly reminds him that maybe he’s self-diagnosing his death certificate a little early.
A glowing Dom then gets the inquisition from Doris (Lauren Weedman) about Lynn. “Did he impregnate you?” she pokes at him. As sarcastic as she is, she really does hope Dom is on to something with Lynn and changing his relationship ways. “God forbid you actually f–k somebody who’s not half your age and could actually care about you,” she tells him.
Upon arrival to Dolores Park, Patrick introduces Richie as his boyfriend, which takes Agustin aback. He also notices the scapular. “What are you, accessorizing now?” he asks a little scathingly. Agustin revs up to being a complete jerk when he confronts Patrick, demanding to know what he’s doing with Richie. “It would be really shitty if you’re using this poor guy to prove something to us — or to yourself. You’re slumming.” Of course Richie overhears this last bit and tells Agustin off. Patrick remains conspicuously silent.
Patrick also doesn’t do a good job in front of his boss Kevin (Russell Tovey) when the long-distance boyfriend, Jon (Joseph Williamson) gets introduced and is long-distance no more. When Richie walks up, Patrick fumbles, forcing Kevin to introduce himself. “This is Richie,” Patrick says. That otherwise important boyfriend label suddenly drops off here. When Richie says he cuts hair and gets retorted with “for a living?” Patrick interjects and suggests Richie wants to eventually open his own place. Richie has not once mentioned that to Patrick.
Before this, there’s a rather bizarre conversation about gayness that happens among the group. They make fun of Patrick for having a gay-sounding voicemail. There’s a line to follow, which some viewers might take issue with: “It’s not gay. I sound completely normal.” Then Patrick launches into a whole song and dance of putting on an effeminate voice and prance. It’s an interesting choice for sure, considering a show that aims to normalize queerness. Granted, this is a group of guys, none of whom are entirely effeminate, and again emphasizes being a display of one gay experience, not all.
Dom gets a beautiful flower delivery from none other than Lynn, and Doris basically falls over in excitement. The smile that spreads across Dom’s face is also hard to ignore. As perfect juxtaposition, Dom gets hit on by a built young guy who holds up Dom’s Grindr profile to him: “This is you, right?” Resisting what must be such temptation for Dom, he decides instead to head over to Lynn’s after the party to thank him for the flowers. When Lynn tells Dom the investors weren’t interested, he then suggests they do a pop-up restaurant on their own to garner interest. “How would you feel about just us?” he asks. Dom is so infatuated, probably with both this idea and the fact this man cares enough about him to suggest it, that he goes in for a kiss. Lynn denies, telling Dom they can’t mix business and romance. “We’re friends, OK?” It’s a heartbreaking moment for Dom, especially considering he’s really trying to turn over a new leaf.
Back in Agustin’s world, he is fully aware of how mean he was to Patrick. But caring seems off the table for him as he also openly invited CJ to Dom’s birthday party. Sounds horrible, but Frank actually ends up hitting it off with CJ to the point where their after-party becomes them having sex back at Frank and Agustin’s place. Agustin knows — and is there recording it all with a camera — and as much as Frank may think it’s for his boyfriend’s art, the fact is Agustin hired a hooker, and as a result is becoming a harder character to sympathize with.
This episode is all about this trio finding out what they really want, and it comes to a head with Patrick’s intentions with Richie. He asks Patrick point-blank, “Are you embarrassed of me? I take this boyfriend thing very, very seriously.” Patrick responds with, “So do I,” but they’re likely on completely different planes. Written by JC Lee and Tanya Saracho, “Looking in the Mirror” is smart about peeling away Patrick and Richie’s layers to reveal a core cultural difference between them. Patrick’s uncertainty is relatable, and he overcompensates by then brashly inviting Richie to his sister’s wedding. It’s worth wondering what Patrick is trying to prove by progressing so quickly.
While looking in the mirror (ah, what an episode title), Patrick fiddles yet again with the scapular and gives an expression could easily be read as confusion about his desires. Maybe he really doesn’t know what he wants, and maybe, just maybe, he’s kidding himself after all.
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