We're now halfway through the first season of HBO's Looking. Sunday's episode "Looking For $220/Hour" introduced some soapier elements and (finally) some real conflict for our leads. It's the best writing we've seen on the show yet, and, if the back half of the season continues the momentum, it could salvage the show and keep me interested in a second season.
Four episodes deep may not be the best time to start getting interesting, but I'm glad to see the show's principle stories finally picking up some steam.
For many viewers, it may just be too little, too late. That's a shame, because I think tonight's episode finally struck the right balance between the show's much-touted realism (some might call it "overly-touted") and some really nice storytelling.
Let's dive deeper into what made last night's installment work, AFTER THE JUMP …
- Dom (Murray Bartlett)'s lunch with Lynn (Scott Bakula) hit like a punch to the gut. You could feel the gravity around that table change once Lynn realized this wasn't a date. The pangs of discomfort surfaced again when Lynn called him out for his flirty dinner date suggestion. It's hard not to compare their dynamic with Patrick (Jonathan Groff)'s failed efforts in previous dates. Whereas Patrick's persistent inability to keep his foot out of his mouth made those scenes frustrating, these moments with Dom were hard to watch because they were so much more relatable, so easily understood.
- Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez)'s little white lie about CJ (T.J. Linnard)'s interest in his project is the kind of thread that you just know is the first to be pulled as his relationship comes apart. It's the kind of non-truth that has the potential to snowball into grander and grander deception, but, for now, it was just an off-handed fib in a bar. Without a dramatic close-up or change in soundtrack to cue us in to THIS IS A THING THAT WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER, the show uses it's understated approach to trust viewers to make these connections.
- Is it just me, or does it feel like there's no good way for this to end for Richie (Raul Castillo)? Patrick seemed like he was more motivated to atone for his atrocious date than he was pursuing a genuine attraction or connection to Richie. It feels much less likely that Patrick genuinely falls for Richie than it does he'll stick with him long enough to convince Richie he's a good person, before realizing they wouldn't work together in the long term. Patrick has revealed himself to be pretty self-absorbed, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Richie become collateral damage on his journey of self-discovery.
- I really enjoyed how meat was used throughout the episode to represent temptation. Agustín took a bite out of his Rentboy's bratwurst, despite being a vegetarian, before hiring him for his art project. Dom offered Lynn a taste of his chicken. And, most notably, it was Kevin (Russell Tovey)'s request to indulge in the fried chicken his partner never lets him have that finally made it clear to Patrick that, while he's asking about chicken, what Kevin really wants is a surrogate to play out the things he isn't getting at home. It's things like this that never line up so neatly in real life, and that's exactly the sort of writing magic that I've been eager to see more of among the "realism."
I'm committed to seeing how the series shakes out over the next few episodes, and I'm feeling optimistic about where it's heading.
What did you think of the episode?
University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam has come out of the closet in an interview with the NYT:
Coaches at the University of Missouri divided players into small groups at a preseason football practice last year for a team-building exercise. One by one, players were asked to talk about themselves — where they grew up, why they chose Missouri and what others might not know about them.
As Michael Sam, a defensive lineman, began to speak, he balled up a piece of paper in his hands. “I’m gay,” he said. With that, Mr. Sam set himself on a path to become the first publicly gay player in the National Football League.
“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Mr. Sam said Sunday in an interview with The New York Times, the first time he spoke publicly about his sexual orientation.
Watch his (updated: extended) interview with the NYT, AFTER THE JUMP...
Sam, who was named a first-team all-American and the defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, as well as Missouri's MVP (as voted by the players) will likely become the first openly gay player in the NFL. He is eligible for the draft in May.
Sam also gave an interview to ESPN.
"I knew from a young age that I was attracted to guys. I didn't know if it was a phase ... I didn't want to say, 'Hey, I might be gay. I might be bi.' I just didn't know ... I wanted to find who I was and make sure I knew what was comfortable. So I didn't tell anyone growing up. I endured so much in my past: seeing my older brother killed from a gunshot wound, not knowing that my oldest sister died when she was a baby and I never got the chance to meet her. My second oldest brother went missing in 1998, and me and my little sister were the last ones to see him ... my other two brothers have been in and out of jail since 8th grade, currently both in jail...Telling the world I'm gay is nothing compared to that."
"I just want to go to the team who drafts me," he said, "because that team knows about me, knows that I'm gay, and also knows that I work hard. That's the team I want to go to."
"I told my mom and dad last week, and they just pretty much said, 'We knew and we love you and support you.' I'm their baby boy. I'm the first to go to college. I'm the first to graduate college. Something like this is just another milestone...And I love my hometown. I think when this story breaks, I think they're just going to love me even more for who I am."
Watch his interviews with NYT and ESPN, AFTER THE JUMP...
The NFL released a statement:
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward towelcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
Outsports has a behind-the-scenes story on how Sam came out:
Saturday afternoon, I sat with Sam and grilled him in a practice interview at Bragman's house. The next day he would be sitting down with ESPN and The New York Times. Bragman, Weiss and Barkett were the audience, critiquing Sam on his answers. When the topic was football he knew what to say, sharing playing experiences and his love of defense (he'd rather be the one hitting than being hit). When asked about his childhood, he opened up sharing intimate details about enduring abuse from his brothers, experiencing the pain of losing three siblings, and finding solace in football. He is the first person in his family to graduate from college. When questions turned to gay issues in that mock interview, Sam worked through the answers.
Saturday night, Bragman held a coming out party for Sam at his home in Los Angeles. It was a powerful collection of guests. Dave Kopay, the gay former NFL running back who blazed a trail when he came out publicly in 1975, was in high spirits. Former NFL players Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbedajo and Wade Davis, plus former Major Leaguer Billy Bean — the former San Diego Padre who came out over a decade ago — had come to lend their support. Outsports' Jim Buzinski and I were also in attendance.
UK’s Channel 4 Rebrands In Rainbow Colors, Wishes Olympic Athletes ‘Good Luck on Gay Mountain’ – VIDEO
During Friday’s opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, UK’s Channel 4 embraced the rainbow in a show of support for gay athletes and to protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws.
Check out the insanely catchy ad (complete with gay Putin cameo), AFTER THE JUMP…
Last week’s Google Doodle was a similarly rebranded rainbow in support of gay rights in Russia.
Villagers, an indie folk band from Dublin, Ireland, consisting of Conor O'Brien, Tommy McLaughlin, Danny Snow, James Byrne and Cormac Curran, are dedicating their latest video to the oppressed LGBT community in Sochi.
Writes the band: "To whom it may concern: In the advent of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, please find attached a song written for you, your mother, your father and your gay brothers and sisters in Russia."
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
Janet Napolitano, Caitlin Cahow, and Brian Boitano offer a few thoughts to gay journalist Charlie Cullen Walters from Sochi (which looks downright tropical!).
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
Austrian veteran ski jumper Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, who we neglected to include in the talley of openly gay Olympians we published last week, says she won't make any public protest of Russia's anti-gay laws, NZ Newswire reports:
The openly gay athlete, who got married last autumn, dominated the women's second training on the normal hill, showing she was ready to grab a historic first Olympic gold.
"I don't think it's a good idea to make protests here, no one cares," said the 30-year-old, who added her partner's name -- Stolz -- to hers upon marriage.
"To jump pretty good is also a statement."
"I'm together with my partner now and don't have any problems, not in Russia or with the Austrian federation. Ten years ago it was different," she recalled.
"I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future and we should give them time."