Tuesday, July 17, 2018

REVIEW: 'Love Is ___' - Nuri Remains Lost Throughout Her Ski Trip With Keith in 'Acceptance'

OWN's Love Is ___ - Episode 1.05 "Acceptance"

Nuri leaves for the ski trip with Keith, where he later makes a surprising confession. After she returns to L.A., Nuri and Yasir have a fight about her going on the ski trip that explodes into the ultimate connection.

"Acceptance" features a type of storytelling that wasn't utilized in the first four episodes and should make the audience worried about the effectiveness of the framing device. The hour starts with Yasir confronting Nuri at her house just as she's about to go on a ski trip with Keith. It was this big moment that closed out last week's episode. Here, she decides to go on the trip with Keith only to then run after Yasir and kiss him in the middle of the street. It's a sweeping romantic moment that proves she can be just as inspiring and spontaneous as Yasir. But then, it's revealed to be a complete fake out. It's simply a dramatization of what wiser Nuri wished happened at that time. It's important for the audience to always be reminded of the fact that this story is simply the memory of the two individuals in love as they experienced it thirty years ago. The show is choosing to depict the story as the wiser versions of Nuri and Yasir dictate it. As such, it could be charming and unexpected to see Nuri just blatantly lie about what happened in the moment. It allows for things to be more charming and teasing during those direct-to-camera addresses that Wendy Davis and Clarke Peters get to do. And yet, it also feels very manipulative and shouldn't be a device that the show leans too hard on. The heart of the show is still in seeing Nuri and Yasir fall in love with each other in 1997. That's where the prime focus of the story needs to be. The audience shouldn't be worried about whether or not what we are seeing is truthful to the actual story. That's another layer of complications that just isn't necessary whatsoever. Of course, the emotions are still the ones the show wishes to evoke in this hour. That moment at the top of the episode highlights how these feelings were present in that very moment even though it took the two of them spending more time apart for them to genuinely understand their feelings for one another. But that also just affords the opportunity for the two of them to get into a fight so that it is passionate once they do make up. That final moment shows that they are willing to rush into the next stage of their relationship. They genuinely care about each other. But there's also the fear that the rest of the season will follow the same exact pattern as the first five episodes with Nuri and Yasir going back and forth on whether they are actually in love. That has simply gotten too exhausting. I would rather spend time on how their relationship is now affecting their respective careers.

Of course, "Acceptance" also highlights how Nuri is just a more sympathetic and empathetic character. She is the one who is primarily driving the story forward because she has so much going on in her life. Yasir doesn't really have anything. After he walks away from Nuri, he doesn't really have anything to do. He is just moping around with Sean. Their story is essentially nothing. It shows how Sean is just trying to create a bunch of random jobs for himself in the hopes of actually building something. But it's mostly just minor here and allows the two of them to talk with an undocumented worker who believes that Yasir should follow and trust his heart no matter what. Sean wants Yasir to get over Nuri as quickly as possible because she broke his heart by going on the ski trip. That's what Yasir is mostly hung up on here. He doesn't really care that he was withholding information from her. He doesn't care that it took a couple of days for her to figure out if that was okay. She needs to be completely willing to be a part of every aspect of his life and not just the fantasy that their romance has frequently operated within. He doesn't understand that. That proves him to be mostly a selfish and prideful man. That quality doesn't really seem to go away over the years either. He is still like that in 2027 as well. Nuri still finds it charming because she can stand up for herself. And yet, he's talking about the difficulties of being with an independent woman. None of it is really all that interesting or compelling to watch. It's mostly just an old man being stuck in his ways despite the culture of the world expecting him to change. That's awkward because Yasir has always been billed as a progressive who wants to use his platform to produce meaningful stories about his experience in the world.

Meanwhile, the ski trip was always going to be about sex. Keith invited Nuri with the expectation that they would be having it if she went along with him. He is introducing her to his friends. To him, that's a big step forward that also proves that they are willing to grow even more intimate with one another. She is still asserting herself as a free and independent woman who can do whatever she wants. She shouldn't feel shackled or judged simply because she wants to be dating a couple of guys at the same time. But it's still a competition once Keith and Yasir meet each other. That's all that they see this as. They basically look at Nuri as a prize to be won. That's how Nuri feels about how they've been acting as well. She is making her own independent choices in this world. The men she is choosing to be with shouldn't be concerned with everything else that she is currently doing. She wants that respect because she is willing to give it to them. This whole convention for her is being upheaved though because she wants to be closer with Yasir. Right now, she is choosing him but stuck on this ski trip. She made that decision in the heat of the moment even though she really didn't mean it. So, she is in this environment where she is simply seen as Keith's girlfriend. She doesn't want to be possessed like that. She doesn't want the world around her to perceive her solely through a relationship with a man. She wants to be more than that. She wishes to stand out at work because of the quality of her writing and the passion for her job. In this instance, she doesn't want to be the girlfriend who is going to have sex during this weekend because it's what's expected of her. She only wants to have sex with a guy if it's a meaningful relationship. She doesn't quite feel that way about Keith. And so, every aspect of this story is slightly creepy with the fear that any moment is about to turn to tragedy with her being hurt in some way.

And yet, that's not the twist that the show ultimately pursues. Instead, it builds to this moment where Keith makes a shocking confession after he's been drinking and high on mushrooms. Nuri is very wise to avoid taking those drugs. That's the moment where it seems like she is being pressured to conform and this whole story is about to end in tragedy. But she's actually the caretaker to Keith. He's still incredibly forceful in his desire to have sex with Nuri. And yet, he does ultimately break down with a confession. He is so torn up about having so much success in his career but not having the one thing he wants more than anything else. This entire relationship is nothing but a ruse. He is actually gay and just trying to put on a show for his friends. He wants to conform to the heteronormative narrative that his friends have already found so much happiness with. He is feeling pressure to present himself in that way too. He wants to bring a girl to this ski trip so that he can proudly give her the jacket that labels her as his. That's the story that he wants for his life. And yet, it takes getting drunk and high for him to actually be honest about what he wants. Sure, he adamantly denies it as soon as he is sober. Nuri still works with him after all. When she sees him at the run through of the latest sitcom episode, she wants to check in to see how he's doing. She wants to know that he was genuine in his confession. It could be the first step towards them actually being great and honest friends. It certainly adds more dimension to him as a character instead of simply being the guy who is the rival to Yasir for Nuri's affections. This is the type of reveal that signals future importance and development for him. It means that he should be sticking around because this is an important story that needs to be told. It's highlighting the struggle of being a closeted black man in 1990s Hollywood. He is so afraid of being honest that he refuses to be honest with himself about his desires. That's compelling even though it's such a minor part here.

Plus, it doesn't take long before the focus shifts back on Nuri and her desire to have a conversation with Yasir once more. She leaves work once again in order to explore this connection with him. She fears that if she doesn't speak with him as soon as possible he will just completely disappear from her life. That is the fear that has defined so much of this story so far. Neither Nuri nor Yasir want to lose this connection. And yet, their personal feelings have the potential to push each other away. When she does finally track him down at the cafe, they aren't able to have a genuine and considerate conversation. Instead, it's this huge fight that everyone in the building is witnessing. Yasir simply doesn't understand how Nuri could say that she loves him and then go on a ski trip with another guy who was expecting sex. He doesn't even care that she didn't have sex with Keith. It's a betrayal just because she went. She understands that and is sorry for it. But she also needs him to understand that her risking her job twice in order to explore things with him is the biggest sacrifice she could make. That shows her devotion to him. For him to then say that he doesn't care about her job is so completely gutting. It also may create problems for how the audience sees this central romance. These episodes have made the audience invested in Nuri's career. We have the understanding that her job means so much to her. She is stepping up and getting noticed. Big things are happening for her. She is getting more responsibility at work even though she'd rather ditch rewriting with Norman to go find Yasir. If Yasir doesn't understand the importance of Nuri's job, then how can he be seen as a viable love interest for her? Her job may not seem like a big deal in the context of this fight. But it's huge because the show has pointed out just how invested Nuri actually is in it. Yasir needs to walk away with that understanding as well. Of course, the hour still ends with the two of them back together. In fact, they take a huge step forward by having sex even though it's not technically in Nuri's new house. She made a rule to only have sex there with her future husband. The audience knows that Yasir is going to be that guy. But it's also a fun detail to note that they are having sex outside even when it starts raining on them. It's in those specific moments that highlight just how special and different this relationship actually is.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Acceptance" was written by Michelle Listenbee Brown and directed by Oz Scott.
  • Wiser Yasir cracks up at the thought of Nuri walking around in a jacket that labeled her Keith's girl. He knows that's not something that she would enjoy. And yet, he revels in the moment as well. He even wants to know if she still has it. She even says that she does. That is further indication that this story with Keith is far from over. It should be intriguing to see how their relationship evolves considering Nuri knows this truth about him.
  • Nuri and Ruby meet for the first time. It's a moment filled with complete tension because Ruby previously warned Nuri to never insert herself into her life ever again. Nuri is willing to tempt fate just to get ahold of Yasir. And yet, she doesn't want to hurt Ruby in the process either. So instead, she simply says that she's lost - which is still true because she doesn't know what she wants or where to find Yasir.
  • Norman is aware that it's odd that the network has no notes on the latest script. That mostly just sends him spinning about how he needs to make the episode even funnier and more provocative. Him getting that feedback from the network is his way of knowing that they are still interested in the stories that he is telling. If they say nothing, he interprets that as the network having no interest in the show and will soon cancel it.
  • Of course, it's odd that Norman is freaking out about cancellation just a week after he was plotting a potential spinoff with Angela and Nuri. Sure, that was all unofficial. But he was certainly operating with that confidence. It's weird and shows just how tumultuous this business can be. But Norman is also very superstitious and even seeks advice from Nuri's mother. Though Nuri mostly just calls her in order to escape from this room.
  • Nuri is absolutely right to be angry and worried about Yasir not having a job. She needs to understand that he is passionate about something as well. She has to know that he has purpose in his life and he isn't just wandering around homeless. This season should definitely pursue professional opportunities for Yasir as well. Hopefully, that is coming sooner rather than later.