Tuesday, July 31, 2018

REVIEW: 'Love Is ___' - Family and Friends Are Concerned About Nuri and Yasir's Relationship in 'Not Valentine's Day'

OWN's Love Is ___ - Episode 1.07 "Not Valentine's Day"

Yasir meets Nuri's mother for the first time. Yasir and Nuri disagree over the importance of Valentine's Day.

Yasir and Nuri are both capable of proclaiming their love for each other. They are willing to share it with everyone in their lives. But their words and their actions aren't lining up with each other. In fact, they still feel like a new couple who are just discovering each other. They want to put so much blind trust and faith in this relationship. The show has been able to get away with a lot because it has had the reassurance from the future that all of this will ultimately work out. But it's also important for both of them to be hit with reality checks that they are sending mixed messages and causing the other to feel insecure. A relationship is ultimately about love and balance. They need to feel safe and secure with one another. Right now, Nuri loves how charming and decisive Yasir is while Yasir loves how beautiful and accomplished Nuri is. But those feelings also lead to the exposure of some crucial insecurities that threaten to build until they destroy this relationship. They are still trying to do the right thing. They have already seemingly skipped over a bunch of steps in dating. They were saying "I love you" after their first date. They are already essentially living together after only a few weeks. They want to keep each other a secret even though friends and family want to meet the person who has captured their respective hearts. There is so much love and trust in this relationship. And yet, the show is also pointing out that they are young adults who don't fully understand the scope and consequences of their actions. They want to believe in the fantasy of this relationship. But they aren't putting in the work to make it lasting not only for themselves but for their families. They have almost been blinded by the love. They think they can just live in the bubble and be ignorant about how the rest of the world perceives their relationship. That's simply not true at all. Yasir and Nuri need to be comfortable with each other in all aspects of their lives. That means they first have to be honest. But it also means they have to grow up and have some difficult conversations with the other people who are important to them as well.

It's so significant and rewarding that Yasir finally gets a job this week. It's not a huge break in his career though. It just means he is no longer unemployed. He is going to be working at a bookstore. He resents the term "diversity hire" as he absolutely should. Both versions of the character are able to denounce the connotations of that phrase. He believes that's the only reason he is being considered for this job. But he still makes the effort to actually get it. Sure, his interview is lackluster. But his charming personality and people skills are what ultimately get it for him. Again, it's just a minimum wage job where he is mostly just cleaning up this store. But it's a start on his journey. It's a step up from where he had been. Now, it seems like he's on the road to a whole new life. He has a new job and a new girlfriend. That's exciting for him. It means that things are finally happening. He is making them happen. And yet, he only had this drive because of Nuri and he doesn't really wish to fully thank her for that. He is willing to show his appreciation because it's a religious holiday. He is very much into his faith and seeking the rewards of the universe for his observance. He believes things are finally going his way. However, Ruby prepared him for the life he currently has. The two of them may not have been able to work as a couple. That was clear from the first episode of the series. And yet, Yasir is doing nothing but tease her along with the possibility that he can still be promising her a more fulfilling life. He keeps coming back into her world with the understanding that nothing has changed. Of course, things have. They are changing for the better. Yasir wants to believe that's good for both of them. It could serve as inspiration for Ruby. And yet, their relationship is still too complicated and intense. They want to be friends but there's still too much teasing of other possibilities that make it confusing for both of them.

Yasir believes he is being very clear with what he wants. This is his apartment too for the next few weeks. That's the arrangement that he and Ruby agreed to a handful of episode ago. He was there for her when she really needed it following her surgery. He still wants to do right by her. But he's still flaunting his success in her face by choosing when and why to spend time with her. Every day he is making the choice of where to sleep. He still has a couch with Ruby. That's still an option for him. But he also has a key to Nuri's house. That's where he is spending the majority of his time. His presence is the easiest way to prove his love. When he is choosing to be with someone at a specific moment, he is sharing that he loves them. Right now, that means so much to Nuri. It's profound because their connection is special. And yet, things can't just be so nonchalant with Ruby. Yasir doesn't want to address that there has been a major shift in their dynamic. He believes it's more than acceptable for him to continue crashing at this apartment. He is making things happen for himself. He still feels incredibly insecure about his life because Nuri is making decisions that he doesn't know how to comprehend at the moment. He sees her as the adult in the relationship. He's the child still learning the ways of the world. But Yasir is an adult. His actions have consequences. And so, it's meaningful that he has been keeping Nuri away from his friends and family. He hasn't wanted to open his life up to the woman he loves. That's a significant problem especially when he's asking her to change so much in order to be with him.

Yasir meeting Nuri's mother is a complete accident as well. It wasn't some planned meeting. They just both happened to be at the house at the same time. It was a very informative meeting for both of them. Carol was able to see how charming and attractive Yasir was after hearing all of the stories from Nuri. Yasir is able to meet Nuri's mother and make a solid first impression on the family by how he wants to continue to do right by her. And yet, this overall story highlights how Nuri may feel insecure and willing to go along with anything Yasir says because he says it with confidence. Yasir never really lets on how much he is hurting. He keeps things so close and internalized. That's not healthy. Even in the future, he struggles with the weight of these feelings. And yet, he is able to make a compelling argument against Valentine's Day. He doesn't want to buy into a corporate holiday. It doesn't mean anything to him. He doesn't want to feel pressured into proving that he loves Nuri. He would rather do that by supporting her and being with her throughout her life. But she is still willing to completely change her life around for him. She is so susceptible to his suggestions and his view on the world. She should feel empowered right now because she has the education and the career that he envies. She already has so much in her life. But instead, she gets trapped in this tirade against Valentine's Day even though Yasir isn't making any kind of original take on the holiday. It's the same opinion that millions of people also have. It's mostly just used as a way for him to control her. This day should feel special. They don't have to celebrate it in the way that society deems appropriate to show love. But an effort still needs to be made to ensure that the love is present and actually felt. Right now, there is the fear that it is too contained and destructive for this relationship.

Carol and her family want to knock some sense into Nuri. Angela still can't believe all that she's willing to do and change for Yasir. Meanwhile, Ruby and Sean are trying to get Yasir to understand just how powerful his actions can be to these women. The optics are never great in this situation. But the love is still present. Nuri and Yasir love each other. They trust this connection. They wish to attack anyone who questions it. Nuri believes her mother is fixating on the issues that were also present in her marriage to Nuri's father. That wasn't a healthy relationship at all. Carol has emerged stronger and wiser because of it. She won't tolerate any man who is just trying to use her daughter. But she actually has to witness that love and support firsthand to know that Yasir is better. He's not trying to change Nuri and compromise her dreams. He wants to encourage them. He just needs to be more aware that he has hurt people. Even though he doesn't celebrate Valentine's Day, he needs to spend the evening with Nuri. It's simply the right thing to do. He may fear the financial responsibilities of this holiday. He feels the pressure to be a man in society who supports his woman. But Nuri isn't putting any of that pressure on him. She trusts that he is going to love her and isn't cheating on her with his ex-girlfriend whom he still lives with. She has been present in this relationship. She deserves to meet the important people in Yasir's life. That's what the next step needs to be for the two of them. As such, it's a little odd that everything comes together with the two of them being happy as they dance to their song. It's enough to bring them together while leaving the audience aware that these won't be easy fixes for them to make moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Not Valentine's Day" was written by Mara Brock Akil & Jerron Horton and directed by Salli Richardson.
  • At first, the reference to Game of Thrones in the book store seemed random and forced. And yet, the first book in that series by George R.R. Martin was released in 1996. It technically could have been something that was fresh on the shelves and being discussed by the people who came into this store. It's just not something Yasir is interested in. Plus, it also happens to be a topical reference for the audience.
  • The timeline is off if the writers room is seriously considering writing a Valentine's Day episode about the conversation that Norman and Nuri have here. This episode seems to take place only over a couple of days. Now, the show has never really explained the timeline of production for Nuri on the sitcom. But the story of a Valentine's Day episode would have been discussed and plotting out long before the week of the actual holiday. As such, it mostly just seems like they are messing with her.
  • At first, there is mystery as to where Angela is because she's not in the writers room while all the guys are telling Nuri about Valentine's Day for them. And then, there is more sneaking around because she has a secret admirer. That is then followed by Nuri actually walking in on her having sex in the space where she typically goes when she is dealing with stress. But again, this stress isn't all that original and Angela doesn't have time for it.
  • Of course, the show depicts the extremes of this specific holiday as well. It highlights how most people are expecting big proclamations of love through extravagant gifts. That's what Norman does for his wife. He surprises her on the lot of the show. He does so in order to be rewarded afterwards. It's a false expectation to have because only a few people can ever live up to it. As such, it's still rewarding just to spend a night in with those you love.
  • Up until this point, Nuri's mother was the only person from her family who has also had an onscreen presence this season. And now, her aunt and grandmother are introduced as well with a sister being mentioned. The four of them typically spend this day together celebrating being single. And yet, it took the conversation about Yasir in order for them to be honest in saying that it's just a sad declaration for their lives.