Relationships Revive (And Maybe End?) on a Jam-Packed “Insecure”

Insecure: Season 4 Episode 9 "Lowkey Trying" – Recap/ Review with ...
Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) need to talk. (Photo from Wherever-i-look.com.)

On “Lowkey Trying,” tonight’s episode of Insecure, relationships are center stage — some on the verge of dissolving, others beginning anew. After last week’s dreamily romantic capsule episode, love is in the air. This episode opens with a blissful montage of Issa and Lawrence: kissing, sharing takeout, laughing at TV, having tons of sex. They gaze into each other’s eyes and work on laptops side by side.

Issa gets a text from Nathan while at Lawrence’s place. Issa tells Lawrence that she and Nathan used to date. Now they’re just friends. But he asked her to help him move into his new apartment. Painfully aware of the infidelity and hiding that ruined her relationships with Lawrence before, Issa decides to be upfront. She reveals the moving request to Lawrence. “But I don’t have to,” she offers, “if it makes you uncomfortable.” She clearly doesn’t want to risk repeating old patterns.

“I just want to be honest,” Issa says. “‘Cause I don’t wanna mess this up — whatever this is. What is it again?”

Lawrence answers the question with a question.

“What do you want it to be?”

That question becomes even more salient later, when Issa goes to help Nathan move. At first, she awkwardly avoids any physical contact with Nathan. But after a few minutes, she fesses up about seeing Lawrence again. Nathan is visibly bruised. But he has something he needs to reveal, too. Issa finally learns why he ghosted her after Nathan reveals a life-altering diagnosis.

Meanwhile, Molly is back seeing her therapist, Dr. Rhonda. During the session, Molly rehashes the drama with Issa. Molly explains that she feels her relationships is stressful enough already without Issa complicating things further. Dr. Rhonda asks, “Is there anything you feel like you could’ve done differently?”

“Honestly… no,” Molly answers. “Issa was out of line.” Dr. Rhonda points out that the same could be said of Torian, Dro, and Molly’s father — all men. What’s clear is that Molly still A) still sees herself as blameless, with Issa totally in the wrong and B) apparently sees no problem with ruining the event that her best friend had worked for months on. (Reminder: when someone mistakenly thought Molly had a gun, the result was a near-stampede, with people running in terror from the block party like rats from a leaky boat.)

But her therapist correctly figures that Molly is more focused on being right than on her friend. Dr. Rhonda asks Molly, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be in relationships?” No answer. Then Dr. Rhonda follows up: “Does the relationship still serve you?” When Molly hesitates, she adds: “Let me put it another way: Do you want to do the work of repairing the relationship?” Molly has no answer. But just as she’s leaving therapy, she receives a voicemail from Issa. It’s a message inviting her to brunch.

At the diner, the two make awkward small talk, then slowly fall into familiar rhythms. Before long, they’re laughing and joking like before. Issa pays for brunch (“I probably owe you a decade of fringe”), and Molly accepts. They leave laughing. They hug at the end. But they never talk about their fight at the block party — the one that threatens to sever their friendship permanently.

Molly later describes the brunch as “superficial” to Andrew. He asks why Molly didn’t address the block party or her feelings about it. Molly answers, “I made myself open to whatever she had to say. What more was I supposed to do?” Andrew suggests meeting her halfway. “Obviously, I am on your side,” Andrew says, smartly tiptoeing around Molly’s feelings. “But I know you miss her.”

“The only person I miss is LaToya,” Molly shoots back, referring to the fictional mystery show “Looking for LaToya”. (Each season of Insecure features “a show within a show” that the characters are invested in.)

Andrew suggests she should’ve tried harder. A miffed Molly is further annoyed by Andrew telling her that his brother is back in town. He’s bought tickets for a Clippers game with Andrew and Molly “as a peace offering”, Andrew says. But Molly, still smarting from the tense argument in the pool on last month’s vacation, demurs.

“You should go,” she says. “I don’t want to get in the way of whatever you guys have going on.” That’s a flimsy pretext for the real issue: Molly doesn’t want to do the repair work with Andrew’s brother — or with any of her relationships. Andrew accepts the excuse and goes alone, but is clearly bothered. When Molly later comes home with Chinese food (instead of the Indian food he wanted), Andrew brings it up again. He tells her that it was awkward at the game without her, that his brother had invited them. Molly doesn’t get it. “You could at least try,” Andrew tells her, clearly annoyed.

Just then, Issa and Nathan show up to collect more of Nathan’s stuff. They end up staying for dinner. The result is an initially fun group night that turns awkward after a misplaced text. Outside the house, Molly and Issa have a tearful confrontation; they now face a painful crossroads in their friendship.

After last week’s capsule episode, which just focused on Issa and Lawrence, Insecure returns to the usual format. In this case, that means juggling multiple storylines at once. And this jam-packed episode (directed by Kerry Washington!) does so admirably. Written by Grace Edwards and Eli Wilson Pelton, the screenplay deftly balances developments in Issa’s relationship, and Molly’s, while simultaneously keeping focused on the frustrating, circular dynamic between Issa and Molly.

The result is a show about relationships — Issa and Lawrence’s budding new bond contrasts with Molly and Issa’s drain-circling friendship. Molly and Andrew’s increasingly complicated coupledom bleeds into Nathan’s lingering vibe with Issa. All those plotlines (and more) will come to a head on next Sunday’s season finale.

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