Wednesday, January 31, 2018

REVIEW: 'Grown-ish' - Zoey Must Make a Big Decision About the Future of Her Relationship in 'Cashin' Out'

Freeform's Grown-ish - Episode 1.06 "Cashin' Out"

When Zoey is put on the spot on national television, she's faced with a difficult decision that may change her future.

When a character opens an episode giving a long monologue about how much they are in love with someone more than anything they have ever loved before, it's typically a sign that hardships are about to descend upon this couple. Unsurprisingly, that's exactly what happens to Zoey and Cash in "Cashin' Out." At times, it feels like Grown-ish is moving very quickly with this relationship. This is only the third episode with Cash in it. But he already feels like a significant character on the show. He has certainly had more development than some in the supporting ensemble. That's somewhat problematic because it's somewhat clear that he isn't going to be sticking around longterm. That's the issue that pops up here. It's not a discussion about whether or not Zoey should have sex with Cash. That happens offscreen and largely feels like a missed opportunity for the show to have a frank conversation about having sex for the first time and the awkwardness that surrounds all of that buildup. But instead, it happens offscreen and everyone in the audience is a little disappointed. Zoey can tell Ana some vague details about it being wonderful and now she's in love with Cash more than ever before. But it also loses power because it's something being told to the audience after the fact instead of living in the moment itself and how Zoey actually handled the pressure. Instead, the big conflict of the week comes from Cash going on television and proclaiming that he would go anywhere to play basketball as long as Zoey goes with him. That's an important conversation they need to have about the future of their relationship. But it still feels like the show is rushing a couple of things here.

Of course, that's also the point. Right now, it's important that Zoey is prioritizing her relationship with Cash more than anything else. She's not there for her friends and their problems at all. Whenever she does hang out with Ana, Nomi and company, it's to talk about her relationship problems. She does enjoy making things about herself a lot of the time. The others aren't wrong to say that she is the selfish friend in their group. Only one of them seems to care though. Nomi is the only one who is unable to talk about her problems with her friends. Well, she's the only one that the show actively points out here. Sky and Jazz have their problems as well. But they exist largely outside of Zoey for this week. They operate independent of her and everything that she is going through. But Nomi is still in Zoey's orbit. She's still someone who needs a supportive friend who will listen to her concerns about her own recent breakup and her insecure feelings about it. Zoey isn't there for her. Even in the end, it's Nomi who is making the first move towards reconciliation by recognizing that Zoey is in a more vulnerable place. It mostly proves that Nomi is a better person than Zoey right now. Before Cash arrived, Zoey has ready to call it quits on pursuing love in order to prioritize her female friendships. That lasted for all of two seconds before Cash. Now, he defines her entire story.

And so, "Cashin' Out" opens with Zoey declaring her strong feelings for Cash to the audience. She is simply walking through the commons sharing these personal details to us. She doesn't confirm that she has had sex with Cash until Ana starts pressing her for more details about her night with him. But it's still a sequence that proves this is a happy and healthy relationship solely through Cash giving Zoey the food she also loves. It's in that moment that proves he cares about her and has been listening to her. He cares about what she likes and her dreams for the future. And yet, he still acts impulsively. That's been a defining characteristic of his throughout this story. He lives on the public stage because he is a star basketball player. Everyone is looking at him expecting greatness. They want to know his plans for the future. Right now, he just wants to enjoy the simplicity and happiness of dating Zoey. And yet, he's not afforded that luxury because of the pressure from his career. He has to be looking to the immediate future to decide if he's going to continue playing college basketball or try to go pro. It's a decision that could change his life. It's him looking at the future of his career. He wants Zoey to be a part of it. But that means having to ask her if she will follow him around no matter where his career goes and possibly at the risk of her own dreams and career.

Zoey isn't stupid. She's a feminist who has set goals for her life. She wants to be a fashion designer. She wants to work at Vogue. She has a plan for her life. But she has also never felt this way about a boy before. She finds herself willing to conquer the world with him. It has gotten so serious very quickly. These feelings are real and personal. They developed quickly because they needed to because of the high stakes of their relationship. Cash is a star and only has so much time he can spend with Zoey. She is falling in love and completely willing to follow him despite the loneliness that could create with her as she travels away from her friends and family. She's willing to follow a boy no matter where it leads. Her friends and family are telling her this is a bad idea. That happens in back-to-back scenes. First, Ana and Vivek are telling her not to make this decision with Nomi telling her to be self-centered somewhere else. And then, Bow stops by to check up on her daughter and this very public situation she has found herself in. It may seem like a rash reaction on Bow's part. Zoey only declined a couple of her calls - before the big interview even happened. But it's thematically fitting as well. Zoey can only worry about the consequences of moving away from her family if her family is actually seen having an impact on her life now. And so, Tracee Ellis Ross shows up and the comedy immediately ramps up. She's a delight to watch as she is processing so many emotions about her daughter having sex. It's a very funny scene that still ultimately pivots back to Zoey needing to be mature enough to make this decision for her life right now.

Zoey believes she has all the clarity and wisdom she needs in order to make this decision. She believes she is willing to go with Cash no matter where he ends up. Cash forced her to make that decision now. And so, she makes it. Then, he's the one who freaks out about the uncertainty of the future. It's a rough final sequence for the episode. It's rough because it does ultimately lead to the two of them breaking up. It highlights just how immature both of them are as well. They believe they are smart and healthy enough to make this kind of decision and be okay with whatever the consequences may be. And yet, they are still two teenagers being forced to make big decisions about their future when they are still scared of the unknown. They wish life could be easier. They wish it was already a year from now knowing exactly how things turned out. But life isn't as simple as that. They have to be willing to take big risks hoping that they eventually pay off. Odds are they probably won't. Zoey is still chasing after a guy because she's in love with him. She has fallen hard and fast for Cash. She prioritized him over everything else in her life. As such, it's tragic when she's left all alone crying in her dorm room. Then, it's immediately rewarding when Nomi walks in and comforts her even though she's mad at Zoey for not being a good friend. It's a strong message that no matter what these friends will be there for Zoey. That's still the type of bond she needs right now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Cashin' Out" was written by Chris Spencer and directed by Todd Biermann.
  • Of course, the audience may also wonder if this truly was a breakup for Zoey and Cash. It was certainly a big fight. Zoey may be equating fighting with breaking up simply because this is her first real relationship. She's still naive to a lot of the world. Cash may see it the same way. It's a huge issue that they would need to work out. But Zoey definitively says breakup to Nomi when the actions in the scene prior made it a little more unclear.
  • For a relationship that didn't exist onscreen for very long, a lot has been said about Nomi and Dave. It's been a background story for a few episodes with the theme being hit over and over again about Nomi not doing well but having no one to talk to about her feelings. She needs that support from Zoey. Until Zoey is in a better place emotionally, she won't be able to give it. But that also runs the risk of making Nomi a one-note character.
  • Aaron and Vivek encourage Sky and Jazz to find their own side hustle so that they can actually have some money to spend. It feels like a story that could talk about the financial realities of college nowadays. But it's mostly just an amusing subplot where the twins sell their gear and get caught quickly thereafter because they enjoy spending the money too much. As soon as they get money, they spend it. That could be an amusing focus in the future too.
  • Is the show ever going to tell separate stories with Sky and Jazz? In the premiere, it was stated that they are always defined as being twins. And yet, they desperately want to be seen as individuals. But the show never gives them that opportunity. Instead, they are always lumped together because it's more amusing and fitting to any given situation that way.
  • Do Zoey and Ana just leave their dorm room unlocked and that's how Bow was waiting for her daughter in there? If so, that's potentially dangerous as anyone could walk in and steal their things. Or is this just not something anyone in the audience should be worried about? The focus should instead be on Bow surprising Zoey because they need to have this honest conversation about her relationship with Cash.