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Happily Never After

On the latest episode of ‘Broad City,’ Abbi and Ilana’s love lives come into sharp focus

Sara Ivry
April 07, 2016

As uzhe, I watched Broad City pre-dawn and it was semi-melancholic, not only because life’s been tough lately (last weekend, my little boy asserted “I hate you” for the first time, and while he hasn’t any idea what that means, me got sad). It also didn’t help that I had semi-obsessively listened to Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet,” one of the all-time best love songs, which might have something to do with how affected I was by the newfound depth and complexity of the show’s characters.

There was an honesty of emotion on display in this latest episode, “Burning Bridges.” Lincoln ends things with Ilana, and Abbi humiliates Trey, by accident, natch, since malice and she are completely unrelated. Consider Abbi. Trey asks her on a real date, with clothes on and conversation and everything, and she’s hard-pressed to say “no” though she evidently wants to. Forthrightness—not her forte. Her ambivalence is a mixture of refusing to recognize her own developing crush and her embarrassment that he’s the object of her desire; though he’s sweet, his intermittent dorkiness casts a shadow. (We’ve all been there, amirite?) Abbi’s a little tortured by that bit of her own superficiality. What’s more, she hasn’t told Ilana about Trey, not since they first shared a kiss while sitting on yoga balance balls at Soulstice after getting drunk on Kombucha (a scene which suggest perhaps Abbi herself is not entirely dork-free). But why hasn’t she told Ilana? Is it embarrassment? Or fear of upending the balance between them?

As for Ilana, minutes into the episode, she skips down the street intoning: Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana with a buoyancy that descends directly from That Girl and Mary Tyler Moore. At a park with Abbi, Ilana senses intel being withheld and asserts with deep earnestness, “It would kill me if I felt any distance here.” The guilt, it’s thick; the assertion, it’s surprisingly authentic.

Then, Lincoln, avec murse and a transparent backpack of items he’s returning to Ilana, approaches. Ilana quips about watching Abbi walk away and it feels, again, like self-protection. She steeling herself for bad news she knows is en route. Monogamy now, he says. But with another. And friendship’s impossible. Later.

She’s crushed. I am too. Is this the end of Lincoln? The end of the Lincoln Town Car? Please god, no. I love his slightly off-beat line delivery, his corny jokes, his easy-going vibe. Ilana laughs off the break-off, but her vulnerability is unmistakeable. In this show’s history, she’s never been so metaphorically naked.

During a celebratory dinner with her family for her folks’ 35th anniversary, Ilana sneaks to the bathroom for a quickie with another restaurant patron who turns out to be married. The wife, he says, is “pumping and dumping” down the hall. Ilana’s scandalized. Is theirs an open relationship? No, he says, astounded by her naïveté. “Open relationships are unstable. Cheating is victimless.” Tell that to…uhhh, never mind.

“We’re just going to have to toast to honesty,” her mother says back at the table. It’s the theme, really (h/t to Chekhov, too). While there’s no gun at the start, there is a lie and it reverberates at the conclusion. Ilana then finds out about Abbi and Trey, and splits. Outside the restaurant, she’s crying, repeating, again, her mantra, “Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana”—this time in agony.

“I was embarrassed, dude,” Abbi says to Ilana in attempted consolation. “He doesn’t mean anything to me, he’s a guilty pleasure. He’s like a joke.” That is stone cold, dude. Sweet, innocent Trey overhears her. “I’m not a joke, Abbi, I thought we were having fun.”

Not too much of it this week, though. There’s nary a gag in sight, and I’m left wanting some kind of happy ever after for all of us.

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.