Looking, Season 2, Episode 5, “Looking for Truth”
Sunday, February 15, 2015, 10:00 PM (EST), HBO
In Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, Glen (Chris New) works on an art project that has him interviewing his hook-ups. He explains to his latest conquest, Russell (Tom Cullen) that the purpose of the project is to catch these men in the in-between period, where they strip themselves of pretenses and facades – or as he terms it, as a “blank canvas.” Last night’s episode of Looking, “Looking for Truth,” explores how the characters of the show turn themselves into a “blank canvas” for their friends, crushes, and former flames.
The episode – directed by Haigh himself – opens at an office party where a miserable Patrick has to endure Kevin’s happiness over the success of their company’s latest video game. Kevin sees Patrick leaving and tries to stop him, but Patrick turns stone cold. Patrick exclaims that Kevin “chose Jon” and that there is nothing left for them. As Kevin returns back to the party, Patrick returns home to masturbate.
From this point on, the episode diverts into two story lines (I will forestall telling the main story arc in favor of following the smaller story arc first). Agustin’s story finds him taking care of a “sick” Eddie, who is actually just playing hooky from work. Their day-long vacation is filled with matzo ball soup, Cece Peniston, and Barbara Walters-esque inquiries into Eddie’s HIV status. Their innocent foreplay turns into an amorous game in which Eddie has the upper hand (he constantly gives misinformation or diverts attention away from his feelings in order to reveal Agustin’s desire/pride). When the two finally do kiss, Eddie pretends that he is uninterested, only to tell the dejected Agustin that he “give(s) up too easily.” Eddie destroys and rebuilds these facades, both as a defense and an offense in relation to Agustin. It’s an arduous game, one that seemingly has an ambiguous end point.
Patrick, on the other hand, answers a Facebook appeal from Richie, who asks for a favor from a friend with a driver’s license. The two travel to Richie’s hometown in order to pick up a beat-up ice cream truck (Richie and his cousin have a side business of flipping junk cars). The entire journey echoes “Looking for the Future,” only on a more platonic scale. It complicates the image we created in our minds of the Patrick-Richie courtship by constantly referencing and filling in missing pieces of the puzzle. We meet Ceci (Tanya Saracho), Richie’s cousin, who discloses that Richie borrowed $200 to pay for a wedding tux. We meet Hector (Jesse Garcia), who harangues Richie over his tumultuous relationship with his father. And finally, there is Patrick, who confesses that he hooked up with Kevin right before Richie broke things off. Richie, visibly hurt by the confession, tells Patrick that it is “in the past” and that he would be hurt if Patrick wasn’t in his life in one way or another.
In spite of the broad strokes with which Haigh and writer Tanya Saracho paint Richie’s hometown (Ceci is characterized as a chola, they constantly eat at Mexican restaurants, and almost EVERY character in this town is Hispanic), the episode placates our need for a Richie-Patrick reunion. Even though there is no immediate/foreseeable romantic reconciliation, there is the solace that they can exist (or at least try to) exist as friends. The final image suggests a subtext to their friendship: Patrick and Richie separated by a windshield partition. Though they hang out together, there is a constant divide that is keeping them from being together. The truth is that we can never exist as a “blank canvas” because we always have baggage and guards that we carry with us. Yet these characters try to make the most of their lot and come forward with their feelings, while others (cough, cough, Kevin, cough, cough) try to overcome their past by ignoring it. “Looking for Truth” is a sweet episode, one whose climax ultimately proves fruitful for its central characters. Though some of us may still expect something to happen between Richie and Patrick, you can still find pleasure in the fact that the two are able to come to terms with their convoluted past.
Though writer/actress Saracho creates overwhelming Hispanic specificity for Richie’s hometown, the writing and direction of the episode still provide one of the series’ more endearing episodes (rivaled primarily by last season’s “Looking for the Future”).