Author’s Note: If you missed the first two seasons of “Please Like Me,” they are now available on Hulu. Also, spoilers ahead!
“Croquembouche” operates on a familiar narrative fabric, one that seamlessly weaves A, B, and C plotlines into an organic episode filled with pivotal anticlimactic moments and subdued climactic revelations. The majority of the episode focuses on Arnold coming out to his parents, Bruce (Geoff Morell) and Donna (Gina Riley), while the subplots casually glance at Alan dealing with his solitude following the revelation of Mae’s affair, and Rose taking a phone call from her former flame, Stuart (Bob Franklin).
The episode immediately opens with the opening credits montage by showing Alan’s inner turmoil (him showering, him looking out at things, him staying inside Tom’s bedroom). Though Alan’s opening is brief, it gives Josh and Tom a moment to connect with the depressed father. Josh rallies the group to all say “Everything’s gonna be okay!” and Alan subtly (and heartbreakingly) flashes a brief smile. The rest of Alan’s plot line is defined by his interactions with animals: he talks to John about mortality, and he chases Adele for his masculinity (he gets somewhat mad that Adele is a rooster, not a chicken).
Rose forces Hannah to get out of the house after Hannah gives a slew of excuses not to go to Arnold’s birthday party (e.g. Arnold’s coming out is going to be a terrible idea). The scene is brief, but it sets up Hannah as the transitional character between the various plotlines (anytime the story shifts to another plotline, there is an image of Hannah awkwardly walking around the estate). Rose’s plotline involves a telephone call with Stuart, who informs Rose that he is divorced. Their relationship is reconciled in order to potentially set up future plotlines.
Rose and Alan’s plotlines do not directly interact or influence Arnold’s party (save for the end of the episode, when the characters reunite with these downtrodden maternal and paternal figures). The party itself is an entity that combines a comedy of manners with a coming out story. Arnold’s eccentric parents try to connect with our colorful characters: Bruce offers Josh a bevy of backhanded compliments regarding Josh’s coffee business, Donna tries (and fails) to connect with the antisocial Hannah, and Bruce offers advice to Tom (who was offered $5,000 by his boss in order to keep him from accusing her of sexual harassment).
The penultimate moment before Arnold’s coming out involves a gaffe with Donna’s wedding ring. Josh attempts to joke around by putting on Donna’s wedding ring, but it gets stuck on his finger. Arnold’s anxiety slowly climbs the charts as characters, one by one, come into the room to offer advice on removing the ring. Donna writes off the moment by saying “Josh is funny,” but Arnold is the only one who remedies the situation by googling the predicament and finding out that cold water contracts the finger.
The ring debacle transitions to Arnold’s coming out speech, which is both predictable and unpredictable. Instead of declaring his sexuality in an overt fashion, Arnold hesitates and rambles his way toward gaining courage. Before he can even muster the words, Steve blurts out that Arnold is coming out. Donna and Steve are completely unfazed by the reveal because they knew in one way or another. Bruce, on the other hand, is overwhelmed by his inability to know (he accuses Arnold of lying). Bruce smacks the titular croquembouche before kicking Arnold out (or rather, saying that he doesn’t want Arnold to be there when he returns).
The (anti)climactic party transitions to poignant reunions between the characters. Josh, Arnold, Tom, and Alan have a roof-side chat about their situations and feelings. Arnold seems happier about coming out now that the burden of his secret is off his shoulders. Josh and Alan try to rationalize their relationship and connect over their attempts to do their best (Josh as a son, Alan as a father and lover). Meanwhile, Rose and Hannah connect over their disdain for medication. Hannah reveals her problems with self-inflicted pain, which remanifested when she stopped medicating, but as Hannah terms it, she will turn “beige” once the meds start kicking in.
The episode is a moment of quiet reflection for all the characters who are able to laugh, cry, and admit that their problems are sometimes more than they can bear. Once they admit this, the weight of the world seems to be lifted off their shoulders and they are able to function and rationalize their situation (though these moments of clarity could possibly be fleeting or temporary). Arnold feels better now that he has come out, and says that it’s his dad’s problem. Alan is able to address his feelings, which have been bottling up since the last episode. And Hannah is able to confess a trait of herself that she has been keeping secret from her friends. It is the calm before the storm as each character is preparing him/herself to return to a sense of normality and move on with their lives.
ROSE: Do you want to be a sad, lezzie dope your whole life?
HANNAH: I’m just so good at it.
TOM: Josh wants to know if he’s allowed to be gay.
ARNOLD: You can be gay.
TOM: Should I be straight?
ARNOLD: You can be whatever you like.
HANNAH: What about me? Should I have worn a dress?
ARNOLD: Ok, let’s just go in, okay.
JOSH: If I can be whatever I like, I’m gonna be…I’m gonna tell them that I’m an investment banker. “Good afternoon. Would you like a prime mortgage? How about some cocaine?”
STEVE: Yeah, bro, we know. I used to have to delete your porn off your computer.
TOM: You used to delete it?
TOM: That’s sweet.
DONNA: I knew. I read your diary.
DONNA: Go stay at Josh’s for a while and be as gay as you like. Shower yourself in dick and glitter.