So, it’s no secret that I’m not in love with this show, but please don’t feel shamed if you do like it — that’s what makes the world interesting. I don’t always quit shows I am mixed on, or which I don’t like (or wanted to like but can’t), because it’s a good exercise for me to think critically about what isn’t working for me, and why, versus which parts are successful (see also: Outlander). This episode of And Just Like That was an improvement, I think, because a few plotlines finally moved forward. But it dragged enough in places that I was surprised the runtime was only 38 minutes and change, and I wrote several times in my notes, “Do we need Carrie here?” I couldn’t help but wonder: Would Carrie Bradshaw’s show be better without Carrie Bradshaw?

Carrie: I tried to start with Miranda, but a lot of her story is pegged to things she has to do for or around Carrie, so here we are. Carrie’s hip is bothering her, and she finds out she needs surgery. This plotline explains all the photos of her sitting around in Birkenstocks she would otherwise never touch, and being carried into her building by one of Anthony’s hot bread dudes. (Anthony, by the way, is now sitting in for Stanford who was sitting in for Samantha at lunch.) This is the part where I guess we’re all lightly confronted with our own mortality, and it is indeed incredibly depressing — in a selfish SUNRISE, SUNSET, O WOE, THE PASSAGE OF TIME  way — to be watching a show that was all spunky fun in my youth, and having it be about physical therapy and canes and being helped to the bathroom. This episode was brought to you by Salonpas, which Carrie brandished and loudly proclaimed were BRILLIANT, in a way that reminded me of that time on Everwood when Hannah got a new car and she sat in it and showed all its cool features to Bright while they had a marginal conversation about their relationship.

Post-surgery, Carrie goes to a hot physical therapist, and when she finds out her insurance will only cover the totally pleasant and friendly looking dude who looks more like Donal Logue crossed with a Chris Farley character, she says she’ll pony up for the hot man. First, I feel like she and Big probably paid massive amounts of money for insurance that will do whatever they want it to, but second: While this feels like something Rich Carrie might do, it screams Samantha Jones to me. She would absolutely get out her checkbook, and it WOULD be a checkbook, to pay for therapeutic massage from the dreamboat. Carrie will never go full Samantha in other ways, but she is a bajillionaire now, so… if a hot physical therapist actually gets you to GO to physical therapy, and you can afford him, great, pay up and live your life. The guy probably makes more money from people who pay out of pocket anyway. Everyone wins. (A decade ago, Samantha would have paid for ALL of them to go. Even if they didn’t need it. I miss her.)

We also get a ton of scenes of Carrie strung out on pain meds, having to be helped to the massive hospital bathroom that’s all granite and nicer than any single room in my own house, having to be lowered onto the toilet, being unaware she’s urinating, podcasting while hospital-high, etc. I could have done without them; none of them were funny enough. But while in their thirties it would be Samantha Jones heaving Carrie to the toilet and waiting with her, in their fifties it makes sense that it’s Charlotte, who is very maternal now and unfazed by bodily fluids. The main point of these is that Carrie, in a haze, hops on Zoom in a hat to do her podcast and tells everyone that her pal Samantha Jones once dug Carrie’s stuck diaphragm out of her body (if you missed the original show, yes, that’s a real reference). Charlotte tells her she needs to alert Samantha that she’s been mentioned in this way, in case she finds out from someone else, which… I guess? But does anyone care about this terrible podcast? Carrie does text Samantha, who of course says that it was her finest hour and “I’m glad your vagina is getting air time” and all that, but when Carrie says, “I miss you,” Samantha ghosts again. Maybe Samantha doesn’t miss Carrie! And honestly, this week, I felt like I wouldn’t, either. She was here to pin a few storylines together, but mostly her plot played as a dull-ish metaphor for her grief: She feels hobbled, until she does the work, and by the end of the episode we jump three months and she’s back in heels in a slinky sequined striped dress. Back to herself. So maybe next week that haze of grief through which SJP still plays her will have lifted.

Miranda: The biggest movement comes from her this week. It begins with more run-of-the-mill suggestions for midday drinking, met by shocked eyes from Charlotte, followed by Miranda unboxing a pile of Amazon orders and finding a copy of Quit Like a Woman. She assumes Charlotte sent it to her, and goes on a rant to Carrie about how stupid the title is and how rude it is of Charlotte to Amazon-bomb her like that; after a lot more snide digs at the book title from both, Carrie asks if Miranda thinks she ought to quit drinking, and Miranda defensively insists she is fine. Carrie accepts that, presumably because she’s having hip surgery and can’t hold two people’s problems in her mind at once. (Carrie, in this episode, is the person people talk to because the script and call sheet demand it, but is the last person I would talk to about anything.)

On another front, Che brings dinner to Carrie’s hospital room, but Carrie doesn’t want to be seen, so Miranda ends up eating with them instead in the cafeteria. It has first-date vibes. Che does a thing where they connect an old diverticulitis diagnosis to how they felt emotionally constipated in their life before they opened up about who they are, and Miranda is all, “I can relate. I felt trapped… at my law firm,” and they both know that’s not the whole story but Che lets it pass. No constipation pun intended. Later, when Miranda is supervising Carrie at her apartment, she answers the door to Che carrying tequila and a home podcast mic for Carrie. But Carrie is napping, so Miranda and Che do shots together and this predictably ends in Che giving Miranda a mind-blowing orgasm. It’s a great scene — it manages to be hot while also showcasing respect for boundaries. Che takes the lead, pulls Miranda against them, repeatedly asks Miranda if this is what she wants, and asks permission to touch her, with it all flowing very organically from their obvious desire. Sara Ramirez is so watchable, and in this part it REALLY works when they are not asked to be “on” as a comedian. Naturally, Carrie wakes up in the middle of all this to half-heartedly call for Miranda, because she can’t get herself to the bathroom, and catches sight of Miranda and Che reflected in a mirror. So as Miranda builds up to her release, Carrie struggles with hers, and it ends with Carrie peeing in a Snapple bottle that she spills all over her bed. When Che leaves, Miranda walks in and uses the bathroom and Carrie shouts in to confront her; Miranda tries to fixate on needing to change Carrie’s sheets, but Carrie is hopping mad: “What are you doing? What is going on with you? You said you would be here for me and you weren’t. I was alone,” etc., in a way that recognizes Miranda’s actions but does make them about Carrie first. (I mean, she’s still grieving — the “I was alone” is our tell — and she couldn’t get to the bathroom; Miranda was definitely being a bad babysitter, but I would encourage Carrie to shout more next time.) Carrie repeatedly points out that Miranda is married and having sex with Carrie’s boss in Carrie’s kitchen, and Miranda finally admits that she hates her life, and has forever. Carrie doesn’t believe it, or else surely Miranda would have said something. “What would I say? That I don’t want to be this person anymore? That this isn’t enough?” Miranda wails. Carrie is like, “Yes, that.” Although, a breath before that, Carrie was being the friend whose reaction to Miranda’s obvious flailing was, “No, that’s not true, that’s not how you feel,” which also may explain why Miranda never said anything to her. Carrie also glares at her through this entire confrontation and it’s surprisingly cold, considering that it’s a moment of important catharsis for Miranda. Cynthia Nixon is emoting at a human blast chiller.

Anyway, Miranda isn’t sure she wants to give up what she just experienced with Che. But she IS going to give up booze, because while making a negroni and listening to some of Che’s prior podcasts or comedy (“comedy”) recordings or whatever, she gets an email from Amazon asking if she is enjoying her book order of Quit Like a Woman. “What else did I drunk order?” she wonders, appalled, and she dumps her booze. If that’s all she drunk ordered, then she’s doing okay.

Charlotte: This week we jump back into Rose’s life — or rather, Rock’s. Charlotte finds out on a PTA Zoom that her child has asked everyone at school to start calling them “Rock” and to use new pronouns, and all the other parents know but she and Harry don’t. Rock says that they did tell them, in a TikTok, via a very cringey rap (they are 12; it probably tracks). The school is super supportive, which is great. As far as her friends go, Charlotte does ask Miranda if she was a “tomboy” but stops short of explaining why she’s asking, so the only person she had opened up to about this in any way was Anthony — until she accompanies Carrie to PT and confesses what’s happening, and likens it to that time she got a perm in 7th grade because everyone else did. That analogy is very, very Charlotte. Gender isn’t an issue of peer pressure but I think a lot of parents probably want it to be, because it makes things simple and everyone wants life to be easy for their kids even though we all know that’s impossible. It boils down to: Harry and Charlotte love their child and want to do right by them, and struggle with whether you can overreact or underreact to what a still-developing 12-year old is expressing. As cringey as Charlotte’s attempts can be — at everything — I think she is undeniably intended as a viewer proxy for a large swath of Sex and the City fans who similarly want to or need to adjust their thinking as they get older and the world evolves, and situations where they mean well and want to DO well, but are also maybe a little clueless. In fact, I am not always sure how to talk about her; with the dinner party stuff in the last episode, for example, I squirmed at Charlotte appearing to tokenize people and didn’t want to validate what felt like empty gestures, and I really wanted Lisa Todd Wexley to do more than squeeze her hand and give her an A. But, in doing that, I was also necessarily coming from within my own limited experience and my own well-meaning cluelessness, and I appreciated and respect the feedback from people of color who’ve been inside those situations and had a different perspective. If Charlotte doing her thing — however awkward — is encouraging people to think a bit more, is that a win? Or is there still room for the show’s well-meaning efforts to feel a little less like they’re giving head-pats for Doing The Least? Can “good enough” be good? With the Rock story, too, many fans who are now Charlotte’s age might be having these conversations within their families, and the way Charlotte is coming at it with love is important, even if her perm analogy was shallow. What I do wish — and hopefully it’s coming — is that Rock would get a proper, fully realized voice in all this, in a way I don’t think LTW has had. Alexa Swinton No Relation is a good actress. Let’s give Rock the mic.

Seema: They essentially shoehorned her into the Salonpas product placement scene and I want Seema to have her own shit to do. She’s here this week solely to look gorgeous, and get Carrie in with her orthopedist. And then she actually literally hangs out in the exam room with Carrie. Huh? She also points out what looks like a nasty spot on Carrie’s ceiling and says her people can take care of it, and Carrie waves it off. CARRIE. Do not let this apartment fall apart around you.

Hero of the Week: Charlotte’s daughter Lily seems extremely cool and close with Rock, and was totally unfazed by the conversation happening around her about Rock’s name change. I would love to see more of them together.

Honestly, that’s partly where I started to feel like the show no longer needs Carrie. Her advice is not great, her plots are meh, her grief doesn’t even feel fully realized, and her very Carrieness feels anachronistic at times. There’s enough show developing around Charlotte and Miranda that it grinds to a halt for me when we’re with Carrie. I wish we could go back, leave out Carrie and Big entirely, and spend more time developing this stuff and less on Carrie stalking Natasha and planning the world’s chilliest funeral.