Awkward. review – 2×06: ‘What Comes First: Sex Or Love?’

Courtesy of MTV

And there it is, folks: the Awkward. I’ve been waiting for since it began its sophomore run. In its first season, the show was smart, flirty and maybe even a little dirty, but the second season made it seem like a bit of a fluke. And then sex came back into the picture and Awkward. suddenly found its way again.

Let’s bitch it out…For the first time in six weeks, Awkward. finally clicks everything into place. Jenna (Ashley Rickards) isn’t an idiot, we get just enough Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) and Ricky (Matthew Fahey) to satisfy and the jokes are flying fast and furious (see the ‘Best Lines’ section for proof).

As the title of the episode suggests, everyone is obsessing about love and sex. Only a day has passed since the V-Day massacre (captured in last week’s episode) and Jenna is sweating over her response to Jake’s (Brett Davern) confession of love. In the true spirit of teen movies everywhere, sex is the key: Tamara and Ming (Jessica Lu) isolate the fact when Jenna confesses that she knew she loved Matty (Beau Mirchoff) after they did the deed. It’s a question, however, whether her residual feelings for Matty are interfering with her feelings for Jake. The fact that she doesn’t “know” about Jake (whereas she did with Matty) is Awkward.‘s code for slowly pulling the plug on the Jenna-Jake romance, but for now, it lives on. Despite all of the shenanigans involved (the PA announcement, the drunken trio of hens and even her own doubts) by episode’s end the couple is shacking up in Jake’s Moonlight Romance scented van.

What distinguishes this episode from last week’s is the strength of its writing. The aural match-ons (the word “do” early in the episode) help to transition between scenes seamlessly and the ‘A’ story (Jenna and Jake) and the ‘B’ storyline (Molly Tarlov’s torrid make-out/repulsion with Ricky) are highly complimentary. The jokes are dirtier, but sharper, too – whereas the “opposite couple/same restaurant” narrative from last week felt stale and cliched, with nothing new to bring to the table, the introduction of sex is both universal and incredibly subjective. It’s the reason why the obviousness of Jenna accidentally telegraphing her intent to bone her beau to everyone at school doesn’t feel like a groaner moment: it opens Jenna back up to a slight embarassment (reminiscent of S1′s perceived suicide attempt) but also introduces a subject that everyone has an opinion about.

It also helps to bring out the best in Desi Lydic’s performance as Valerie. The former guidance counselor, now vice-principal (as she constantly reminds Jenna and us) is at her best in small doses, but even these can feel mismatched due to their outrageous nature. It’s one thing for Tamara to be over the top because she’s a teenager in high school. We’re frequently asked to suspend our disbelief in Valerie’s antics, but the request only works when the character is used properly. And as we learn in ‘What Comes First…’ what works best is Drunken Valerie.

Courtesy of MTV

The scene in which Lacey (Nikki Deloach), Valerie and Lacey’s BFF, Ally (Barret Swatek) drunkenly confess the ins-and-outs of sex in front of Jenna and Sadie is the high point of the episode comedically. It’s vulgar, shallow, biting (especially in the painfully authentic insults between future in-laws Sadie and Ally), but it also has the authentic ring of women at different points in their lives searching for different things. Ally, the slutty gold-digging blonde stereotype has long represented the dangers of an unloved, unmarried woman (see her intro episode 1×08 ‘The Adventures of Aunt Ally and Lil’Bitch’) whereas Lacey’s mini-breakdown over absent husband Kevin is the polar opposite. Plus anytime that you throw five hilarious, bitchy women into a scene with alcohol and borderline-offensive dialogue, you know that it’s a good time!

Other Observations:

  • Case in point: Valerie’s interpretation of a large va-jay-jay, which looks eerily similar to a turtle head poking out of its shell.
  • The Sadie storyline has gone in a very different direction than I’d imagined after the second season premiere, but I’m enjoying her shrill, abrasive reaction to Ricky nonetheless. I only hope that he truly is “in love” as the Asian Mafia intel from last week suggested, and not simply stringing her along like he did with Tamara.
  • Ming is still flushed over her night with Fred Wu at last week’s Black Heart Party. Yay Ming!
  • Liking: the joking between Jenna and Matty. Not liking: Dialogue like “The case was closed. Matty and I were friends” which, of course, means the opposite
  • Matty espouses the high school rhetoric that “I love you” is the carrot that you dangle to get laid. And yet, as dumb as Matty often is and as poorly as he treated Jenna for most of S1, we never saw him stoop to this low. Proof that he really did care for Jenna? Proof that he still does: the hurt look on his face when Jake responds to his critique that he only says that because he’s never been in love. Don’t get too comfortable, Courtney – your dates with Matty McKibben are not long for this world!

Best Lines:

  • Jenna (after Ally discusses how she fell in love with Dan): “It was a supportive eye roll because now you don’t have to get a job.”
  • Sadie (to Ricky): “I like it when you don’t speak.”
  • Jenna (in v.o. after clicking on the school’s PA system accidentally): “So I had megaphoned my mission to bang my beau.”
  • Sadie (putting money in Jenna’s bra): “What’s up suicidal slut? Get used to it. Sex is going to pay your way through college. You’re welcome.”
  • Hallway guy (to Jenna and Tamara): “If it isn’t info-nympho and peed-her pants.”
  • Valerie (after Jenna questions whether Valerie’s mom really gave her sex advice): “Actually it might have been Usher”
  • Valerie (about hanging out with Jenna’s mom): “Don’t worry, I won’t let her know that you’re a ho-bag”
  • Ally (talking about Dan’s back-hair): “The man might be part bear”
  • Valerie (to Lacey): “You know if you drink enough wine, it tastes like love.”
  • Jake (jokingly, to Jenna after she calls out his sex plans): “Damn you’ve foiled my surprise hijacking of your virginity”

And with that’s we’re past the halfway point of the season. Who was funniest this week: Valerie (my vote), Sadie, or maybe even Jenna herself? Are you excited at the prospect of Jenna and Sadie being “related”? Do you think Ricky’s decision to quit band and pledge his love for Sadie is phoney? And do you think Jenna made a mistake jumping into bed (or rather van) with Jake without being more certain? Hit the comments with your thoughts.

Awkward. airs Thursdays at 10:30pm EST on MTV

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

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