It’s not hyperbole to say that the last few episodes of You’re The Worst have been absolutely devastating, and especially so in a way that sitcoms rarely are. The arc about Gretchen’s depression has been handled beautifully and strangely — in a good way — and “LCD Soundsystem” keeps it rolling.
Some of the internal battles that come along with depression are constantly wondering why you are the way you are, wondering if there is something “broken” within you (and if there is, how do you fix it?), and wondering if you would feel better if your outside circumstances (job, relationship, family, even pet ownership) would make you feel better. There are never any real answers, just endless speculation that swirls around in your brain repeatedly, getting increasingly loud and confusing and sometimes, unfortunately, ultimately hopeless. You can try to change: You can quit your job, you can date someone new, you can call (or stop calling) your mother, you can adopt a mutt from a shelter who looks as sad as you feel. It might make you feel better for a few hours, or a few days, but if there is faulty wiring in your brain, it won’t stick.
That’s one of the lessons in “LCD Soundsystem,” an absolutely stellar episode of television. It is structurally the oddest episode of You’re The Worst thus far, beginning with a cold open that doesn’t focus on our main characters (in fact, Lindsay doesn’t show, Edgar is only in one scene, and Jimmy in about three) but instead on a couple that we’ve never seen before: Rob (Justin Kirk) and Lexi (Tara Summers). We immediately get the feel and rhythms of their apparently-comfortable relationship. They have morning sex, they hang out together in the kitchen with their daughter Harper, they talk about liberal politics, they walk their adorable dog named Sandwiches (Sandwiches! How perfect; how bland), they reminisce about their hard-partying days. They smoke pot and Rob plays in a terrible, nameless garage band and have a Pixies poster framed on the wall to denote their suburban coolness. But they also fret about an upcoming interview Harper has with one of those prestigious pre-schools, they have a nanny, and they spend their nights debating whether or not to watch another episode of the mindless show they’re currently binge-watching together.
Gretchen, who closely follows the couple up the street and spies on them through the window from the bushes, can only see the good things. These are the things she doesn’t have: the quiet nights, the comfort of a long relationship, the daughter, the dog. The happiness. She openly wonders if and how her life would be different if she had just made one different choice. It’s something that everyone wonders, and it’s impossible to know the answer. So Gretchen decides to try it out. She wants what Rob and Lexi have, at least superficially, which causes her to follow the nanny into a drugstore and take over Harper while the nanny deals with a spill. Gretchen holds Harper as if she’s her own child, smiling and cooing and talking, before giving the child back to Harper’s understandably distraught caretaker. Gretchen had a small taste of a different life; she wants a bigger one.
Gretchen takes Sandwiches, the most adorable pug in the entire universe, and pretends he’s her own pet. The montage is utterly heartbreaking as Gretchen mimics what she’s seen in Rob and Lexi, parroting the lines she’s heard as if they are her own thoughts, and trying out someone else’s lives as a way to both ignore her own life and to see if the differences will make her feel better. Maybe it does — at least temporarily — because she certainly looks happier than she has in past episodes (it’s impossible not to be happy in a dog park, though). When she returns Sandwiches and hangs out with the couple (with Jimmy eventually tagging along; look at how confused he is at her uncharacteristically draping her arm around his shoulders like a “real” couple, and the (possibly) subconscious mirroring Gretchen is doing), Gretchen gets a closer look at Rob and Lexi’s faults.
Nothing is ever as it seems, and that goes doubly so for the way we perceive people’s relationships when they’re not behind closed doors. Rob isn’t totally happy with his life and wants desperately to be young and cool again, to hang out with Gretchen and Jimmy on one of their bar nights rather than sit in and discuss preschools with his wife. There are hints of brokenness throughout the entire act, and makes Gretchen comes to the realization that this couple isn’t perfect. Mimicking their life won’t save her and, based on her crumpling face as she walks away, she doesn’t know what will.