This show has an allergy to the story arc. Every episode ends with Carrie deciding she’s taking a step forward of some kind, only for us to find her in much the same place the next week. Charlotte goes through nothing that isn’t over, complete, done, finito, at the end of every hour. Miranda was carting around empty bottles and drinking 24/7, and then quit in five minutes because she got one email from Amazon. That’s some powerful shit from Jeff Bezos. Basically, its vignette TV, which might work, if it were better at it, but it isn’t. The one story that was even close to giving us an open-ended reason to tune in again: Miranda dumping Steve and then manically gallivanting off to Cleveland to tell Che they could be together. It was too fast. We’ve been told Che doesn’t want a traditional relationship. It was a dumb idea to go. It was a quasi-cliffhanger. Miranda was the Price Is Right dude, merrily yodeling to the top of the hill, while we all winced and waited for her to drop over the edge into the chasm below because she didn’t know the cost of a box of Tide. So obviously, this week we pick up… an indeterminate amount of time after that, with no mention of Cleveland or anything that might have happened there. How did Che feel about being in a rom-com? Where does Miranda live now? Or, where does Steve live now? How does Brady feel? Oh, wait, Brady isn’t a character in any believable sense of the word. They didn’t write Brady; they wrote lines for a dude who could stand there and say he’s Brady. Listen, if this show doesn’t want to be This Is Us, or any traditional drama that at least tries to create character depth so that the emotional beats feel earned, okay. But it’s a real challenge to take big life issues and reduce them to something so small that we’re missing massive steps of the journey, simply because it wasn’t convenient to your outline that week. Most of the people watching this thing KNOW Miranda. They know Steve. They were watching when Miranda got pregnant, and when they had Brady. Those viewers were there from the beginning of this family, and some of them stuck around to see the first movie briefly crap on that family. For the spinoff to act like none of that matters is depressing. They’ve written the story of a woman who falls in love or lust with a new person, and pursuing it; they have not written the story of a wife and a mother falling in love or lust with a new person. Most married parents would have consequences beyond one conversation with their unreasonably patient soon-to-be-ex. There are no consequences for Miranda. It’s like she lives in a vacuum. When it suits the show, I’m sure it will invent some shit that happened off-camera to make it hard for Miranda for 45 minutes, but otherwise… what a waste.

The premise this week: It’s a little hard to break this one down into individual plots, but I’m gonna try, as believe it or not, it IS quicker. But the first scene provides a little framework for us. Carrie is going on her second date with Jon Tenney — well, she refers to it as a do-over, not a date, and she appears to be going into this with the same energy that I used to bring to my physics homework. Charlotte’s weekly squawk is about periods, because thinks she may finally have hit menopause (but don’t worry, no one will treat that with dignity or layers; it’s used as a punch line). She opens with reminding Carrie and Miranda that they stopped getting their periods long ago but she’s still been going and going, to which Carrie says, “It’s been so long since we’ve heard from Smug Charlotte. I was afraid she’d retired.” Charlotte takes that condescending joke-but-not-really with way better humor than I would have. Why does Charlotte spend a speck of time with either of these two? And it will all converge at a women’s shelter in Greenpoint. A few episodes ago, Nya mentioned opening this place to Miranda, and apparently Miranda has been helping her. So Miranda tells the ladies she needs a favor that involves manual labor and going to Brooklyn. “How can we say no?” Carrie says. Miranda is pleased. Carrie repeats, with different emphasis, “No, no. How can we say no.” Carrie would much rather write a check and go about her business of not caring about anything outside of herself and/or treating Brooklyn like the 8th circle of Hell. “You can’t be the white lady who just writes a check,” Miranda scolds her. I’m pretty sure all of them are or have been the white lady who just writes a check. And a check isn’t NOT useful. Carrie should still write that check no matter what she does with her hands. But it’s definitely on-brand shitty of Carrie not to be interested in expending any energy on anything community-oriented, or something important to her friends (Lily’s concert)(the big exception is the school gala, but Carrie only attended because she was an auction item). I ask again: Why are any of these women friends? I’d also like to point out that back in the day, Samantha Jones would have gone, worn overalls with nothing under them, and made sure some hot construction workers were on-hand to help. That shit would have gotten painted in record time and then she’d have gone home with all of them and had them paint her naked body.

From here, we can spin out into the individual plots.

Carrie: Bag Boots the downstairs neighbor knocks on Carrie’s door and gives her a piece of jewelry for free, in the hopes that Carrie will promote it on her social media, which she would know is basically nonexistent if she ever Googled Carrie. Bag Boots drops ScarJo’s name and then insists having to do that grosses her out, but that she’s relying on the jewelry biz to keep her from going back to modeling. Carrie makes an eyeroll-y crack to Seema about this later, like we’re supposed to think it’s a real “cry me a river” situation, but real talk, being an actual hustling model has NEVER looked fun or healthy to me. That industry is toxic and there is nothing wrong with her trying to design her way out of being a commodity, so SIT DOWN, CARRIE. Ahem. Carrie hopes Bag Boots lowers her expectations: “I’m just a lowly writer.” And here is where I regret to inform you we learn that Bag Boots is a dangerous sociopath. Because she replies, “Hardly. I’m obsessed with your podcast.” RUN, CARRIE. She’s clearly deranged! No one is obsessed with that smoking dung pile of a podcast! (And if she were, she’d be giving her jewelry to Che, because Che is the person on the podcast who actually has a public face.) Bag Boots then admires Carrie’s wedding ring, which she is still wearing, so Carrie gets to tell someone that her husband is dead. I think that’s her happy place.

Carrie goes to a club with Seema, and while they’re waiting in line to get in, Carrie has Seema take some photos of her wearing Bag Boots’s ring. But they’re posed photos where Carrie is standing in front of random people and smiling directly at the camera. So Carrie has Instagram but doesn’t know the influencer code? You have to put your hand on your shoulder, hunch forward slightly, and look to the right and pretend to laugh with a wide-open mouth, all in front of the most attractive wall you can find. Bonus points if one leg is bent behind you so that your foot is on the wall while you lean your butt against it. Do it during the day, not the dark of night, and then filter the bejeesus out of it. No wonder she’s bad at social media. Anyway, Carrie asks Seema if she should take off her wedding ring. “No idea. No priors,” Seema says, wiggling her bare finger, and that’s all the oxygen she gives to that. I sort of respect that Seema is giving Carrie the tender loving friend attention that Carrie gives everyone else, which is to say, none. Instead, she prepares to bribe the doorman to get them inside, because it turns out that it’s her birthday. So Carrie offers to handle this. They both walk up to the bouncer — so much for their place in line — and Carrie gives this excruciating and smug (SMUG CARRIE in the house) speech about how they’ve all seen the movie where the heroine tries to get the bouncer to let her into the cool club, so they should just skip that part… and then she tries to convince him to let her into the cool club. Her big strategy is to say it’s Seema’s birthday and she just wants to dance. It does not work. It was the worst plan. Is Carrie new? ARE they Unfrozen Caveman New Yorkers? At the very least, invent a freak menstrual emergency that requires a bathroom. Men do not like freak menstrual emergencies. When Seema’s bribe fails too, they leave. But Carrie! Aren’t you famous? What if he’s a huge fan of your podcast????

Later, Carrie puts her ring away by nesting it with Big’s in the jewelry box. Then she changes her mind and puts them both on her finger. Cut to: She walks up to a restaurant where Jon Tenney is waiting. My notes say, “Jon thinks Carrie’s face looks weird,” which made me laugh, but it just refers to her expression. Because, yes, Carrie showed up at her date… to cancel her date. She burbles that she didn’t want to text him about this, I guess because… that feels both impersonal and as if it is personal, and she says it really truly isn’t about him. I mean, it sort of is about him, in that moment, because HE CAME ALL THE WAY TO A RESTAURANT. If someone dragged me out of my warm house and sweatpants just to tell me they didn’t want to see my face, I would rage. If only there was a way — hear me out on this — for her to take that same device she might have used to text, but somehow telecommunicate with him instead, using her voice. Bananas, I know. Carrie explains about the wedding rings, and how she went from taking hers off, to wearing both of them and affixing them to her finger with a Band-Aid. Jon metaphors, “Maybe this dating thing is a Band-Aid, too, for both of us.” Jon’s personality so far is “math teacher with mild pulse” — I’m not kidding, he IS a math teacher — which is not a personality at all. He tells her that he hasn’t deleted his wife’s last voice mail because he keeps wanting to hear it, and then smiles that this is strike two for them. “One more and we’re out,” he smiles. I mean, yeah, you should both be out, you are not ready for this. Carrie hugs him and they part. Then he calls out to her, “That was the best rejection ever.” WAS IT THOUGH. YOU ARE AT THE RESTAURANT. And he doesn’t even go inside and feast alone with a magazine, or while texting his friends about the woman who just canceled their date AT THEIR DATE. Where are HIS friends? Can he call Seema? She needs friends. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

At the painting event, Carrie shows up in her white overalls and ridiculous silver shoes. I enjoyed looking back at my captions on that post, because you really DON’T wear that if you actually have an interest in working, and indeed Carrie doesn’t. To make a long story short, Carrie steps in a paint tray, and when she tries to scrub it off her silver sandals, her rings slip off and go down the drain. She practically hyperventilates until Steve (we’ll get to him) rescues them for her. When they talk about it, Steve says his rings are never coming off, no matter what Miranda does: “Til death do us part.” Carrie wonders whether he’s holding out hope to meet someone else, and he sadly says, “Never coming off.” They have that whole conversation while squatting, when there is a perfectly good floor right there to sit on AND she has a surgically repaired hip, but okay. Presumably Carrie decides from this that Steve is tragic and a bad example, because she goes home and puts the rings away and texts Jon Tenney to ask if he’s ready for strike three. Then she and Seema go out dancing and she says, “And just like that… I was up for a dance.” See? Every episode ends on this same basic note.

Seema: Y’all. I’m concerned about Seema. It’s her 53rd birthday and she has no friend to celebrate with other than Carrie, whom she met like five minutes ago. Worse, she offers Carrie a matinee theatre ticket for Saturday, but Carrie can’t go because she’s going to be very busy at the women’s shelter going through the motions. (Carrie: “It’s an all-day affair… it’s so far that the subway has to go through three time zones to get there.” Dude. It’s in Greenpoint. From what I understand, that is considered a lovely area. Don’t be such a fucking Preston, Carrie.) Seema’s response is… to ditch the tickets and drive Carrie to Brooklyn so that Carrie doesn’t have to take the subway. I’m worried Seema is co-dependent. She shows up to the shelter paint-a-thon dressed to the nines, announces she WILL just write a check, and then sits outside smoking and looking glamorous while everyone else works. So rather than go to the theatre alone, or scare up ONE other person to go with her (hello, her parents live there!), Seema would rather… go to Brooklyn and wait for Carrie to finish living her life. Seema needs other friends. Can we please introduce her to Lisa Todd Wexley? She shows up here but does not cross orbits with Seema, and that’s a shame. The point of all this in the show is so that a snooty European club owner can drive up and complain about all the crap on the street blocking the entrance to his club — that crap being, things people are using to build a women’s shelter, you absolute jackwagon — and then flirt with Seema, before later letting her and Carrie skip the line to get into his place. He also calls Seema “Boss,” which has real “Rambo” energy to it. We have heard Seema talk a lot about longing to meet her man, and frankly, this one seems unworthy of her.

Nya: I like Karen Pittman a lot. I like LeRoy McClain, who plays her husband. But writing the exact same scene over and over again for them does not a story make. We have known since episode 1 that Nya is ambivalent-to-negative about having a baby, and that Adorable Andre is dying for one. It’s the conversation they have every single time we see them. Even Nya is kind of like, “Did we not already decide this?” Here, Andre is watching Herbert Wexley paint with his kids, moping longingly at all that fathering going on: “That’s the stuff of life.” Nya points out that they probably also have three nannies and definitely aren’t renting their penthouse, and he huffs, “Way to ruin the vibe.” What vibe? You’re alone in a half-painted room with Miranda hovering half a wall away. This leads to him confessing that he isn’t 100 percent sure he doesn’t want a baby, and Nya is like, “It’s a hard no from me,” and expresses disappointment that he’s ruining the miracle of them having found each other in this lifetime. He sadly says that he just isn’t sure he should be trying to hard to talk himself out of fatherhood, and walks off. I assume this is leading to Nya finding out she’s pregnant next week in the finale? Or is that too sensible an assumption? Either way, we’ve been in this exact emotional place all season, even if the words they’re saying are different.

Lisa Todd Wexley: Carrie has known Miranda for her entire adulthood, or close to it, and had to be scolded into attending this thing. Lisa Todd Wexley only really knows Charlotte, but she brought: her husband and children, for painting; her camera, so that she can take photographs of the work they’re doing that could be used to promote the project on social media and with the local press; and this hilarious outfit. At the time I likened it to a socialite who goes on deeply inauthentic safari experiences, and honestly, it’s possible that a trip to Greenpoint to paint a women’s shelter IS what some socialites would consider a safari. Further, Nya has already come out lamenting that their caterer has cancelled, so she can’t feed any of these volunteers. Carrie, who is a billionaire, just sort of nodded sympathetically, as if there wasnothing she could possibly do to help. Lisa Todd Wexley, meanwhile, rolls up in her giant stretch limo — she claims she tried to order a 10-seater van; it’s a dumb detail — and gets wind of the food issue, promises to take care of it, gets on the phone, and calls in some food trucks that she pays for. What do Carrie and Miranda do while this is happening? Crack wise about LTW and her limo and her camera under their breath. GO AWAY. Lisa Todd Wexley does not particularly come off like a real person, but she is also one of the only people on this show with whom I’d willingly go to lunch, and she seems to be a stellar friend. It makes sense that this would threaten Carrie, as she does not know how to be that herself.

Charlotte: Rock is at home practicing their Torah reading, and complains that they don’t want a Bat mitzvah. Charlotte replies, I think, “That’s why you’re having a B’nei mitzvah.” I apologize if I got what she said wrong**; the closed-captions bailed on me entirely. When I searched about this, I found that “B’nei mitzvah” can be used when the group is a mix of boys and girls, and has been adopted for gender-neutral ones as well. What an instructive and interesting story that could have been, as part of this young person’s gender identity journey, so obviously instead it’s reduced to two lines of exposition. Next, Charlotte takes a call from Anthony, and as it’s ending, she hears a bloodcurdling scream, and I dared to think for just a second that it was going to be Rock getting their period and having to cope with what that uniquely female biological moment means when you don’t identify as a girl. What an instructive and interesting story that could have been, as part of this young person’s gender identity journey. But no. Why not? Well, because we need to spend the ENTIRE EPISODE on Lily learning how to use tampons. YOU HEARD ME. Please imagine all the other scenes we have craved that might give nuance to this madness, and then delete every single one of them from your brain and replace them with the word “tampon.” ** Apparently she said “they-mitzvah,” which… is unspeakably cringe, considering a word already exists for what they were trying to say and it took 15 seconds for me to Google it, so why couldn’t the writers? (The answer is that they didn’t want to; they clearly just wanted to be cutesy. At least Rock seemed as underwhelmed by this as I am.)

The commotion is because Lily has realized she’s going to have her period during her friend’s Hamptons pool party. She curses a blue streak, and I am sincerely surprised Charlotte does nothing about it. Instead, she perkily tells Lily she has two choices: learn to use a tampon, or skip the party. No, Charlotte. Those are not her choices. She could go to the party and hang out on a deck chair all day. Or, she could look into the period underwear companies that also make bathing suits. (Sincerely, those are quite amazing, especially for girls and women who have needs that mean tampons and/or their cycles are not manageable. Pass it on!) Tampons are not miracle workers! It’s 2022! There are other answers! This story feels like one of the writers has been dying to use a story from her own life, but like… honestly, I feel her, I had zero interest in tampons until I was much older. I want to make very clear that I’m not saying it’s unrealistic for Lily to be disinterested in them, or even intimidated. But I DO think the story they spun out of it is bananas. When I decided to try them, do you know how I handled it? I checked the instructions briefly and figured it out my damn self. And now there are a hundred other resources you could use other than making your mom shout you advice from across the bathroom. Charlotte should give Lily a hug, a kind word of encouragement, a box of tampons, some privacy, and an iPad in case YouTube needs to help. Instead, we have to endure the LONGEST montage of Charlotte trying to explain tampons to Lily, who looks at them like she cannot possibly fathom how they work or where they go, and then her sitting in the bathroom while Lily tries to put it in, coaxing her and cheering her and yelling at her and demonstrating angles and techniques and everything (clothed). They do finally try a couple YouTube videos, but Charlotte yaps over them, and Lily looks at the damn things like she’s being asked to solve for X when X is A and A is Z and Z is pi times the sine of B and B is actual pie. It’s excruciating, and goes on forever, and is not clever. And THEN Charlotte makes some snotty cracks about how long it took.

Then, at Paint-a-Palooza, Lily I guess goes to remove or change her tampon, and can’t find the string. So Charlotte stands outside a port-a-potty yelling suggestions for where the string might be hiding. I know you will not be able to sleep tonight until I reassure you that the string did indeed turn up, but it was lost for like 20 minutes. THEN she asks Charlotte to pull it out for her because “it feels like I’m pulling out my insides.” I’m sorry, but no. If this girl freaks out this much about tampons in general, there is no way she suddenly wants her MOTHER to come in there and reach up and swipe it for her. You can justify that Lily is naive and nervous and doesn’t know her way around her own body, but she absolutely would not suddenly ask her mother to get up in her business, and certainly not while she is STANDING IN A PORT-A-POTTY which Charlotte cannot fit into and therefore they would be doing all this with the door open. And just like that, EVERYTHING IS DUMB. This show is becoming the lost tampon of my life. I cannot get it out.

Charlotte marches back out to her friends and complains about what a demanding baby Lily is being about this whole thing — in front of Nya, who certainly does not know her or care — and then turns around mid-rant, and now we know why she’s wearing white coveralls. It’s so she can get her period messily all over the back. As Carrie wraps a sweater around Charlotte’s waist, Miranda half-assedly explains that it’s a flash period yada yada menopause yada I’m glossing over it because you are not coming to this show for helpful information about The Change. Which is good, because you’re not getting any; Miranda has a horror story of her own about this, but she and Carrie still kind of snicker at Charlotte (although they do also help her cover it). Charlotte was incredibly casual and chipper about the fact that she might have gone into menopause, which was nice if possibly also unrealistic given how major it is, but then they found the hidden tampon string and yanked it and produced a punch line instead.

Miranda: She and Che had a great time in Cleveland. They went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and did a Drew Carey Show tour and saw the house from A Christmas Story and took in a museum and OH WAIT never mind, the word “Cleveland” never comes up. Miranda ditched Steve for The Cleve and we didn’t even get to see it play out. We join them at dinner, gazing moonily at each other. Che slobbers, “You look ESPECIALLY pretty tonight.” Miranda replies, “And you look especially… whatever acceptable non-polarizing gender-positive compliment you feel comfortable with.” Have you tried “hot,” Miranda? “Sexy”? “Alluring”? Plenty of words! Che cracks up and announces that Miranda is a lot of fun, so I guess Che and Bag Boots are BOTH dangerous compulsive liars. Some fans come over for a picture with Che, which Miranda takes, while calling herself “the girlfriend.” Che seems to bump on that, but says nothing, and no direct discussion comes of it either which surprised me. The fans rattle off a list of friends they know who’ve slept with Che on the road — Che very obviously does not recall any of them — and to everyone’s credit Miranda does not start spiraling about how Che is the Kansas City Chiefs of hooking up and she is the Cleveland Browns.

Oh, but she does spiral about something, don’t worry. She surprises Che at home with some cookies, and Che is clearly thrown for a loop and stammers, “This is awkward,” and Miranda assumes it means someone is there. “Yes. Me. I am in the middle of writing and I wish you would have texted or called,” Che says. Wait. Che WRITES all that tedious stuff they say on-stage? Like, ahead of time? I thought they just went to HomeGoods and wrote down the best stuff they saw printed on the wooden signs and dish towels. Miranda completely flips and runs off, and Che chases her — I still, for the record, do not buy Che being interested enough to go to ANY of this trouble, but here we are — and shouts, “What the fuck?” Miranda is mortified at herself: “I shouldn’t have come. Who am I? Meg Ryan?… If you were a guy I’d just started seeing, I would never show up at your doorstep with cookies unannounced!” Che sighs that this isn’t going to work. “NO NO NO THIS HAS TO WORK!” Miranda shrieks, as six red flags sprout from her skull and wave in Che’s face. Che, though, apparently likes amusement parks and only meant that Miranda needs to let go of “limiting relationship tropes.” They say, “I’m not a guy, you’re not my girlfriend, we’re not dating.” This would have been a great time to bring up that Miranda self-identified as Che’s girlfriend in front of those fans, but no, nobody does. Che soothes her by saying they’re getting to know each other, and Miranda moans that she was trying to ditch the script and do some improv, or some other metaphor that makes both me and Che groan. Che then says they are not sleeping with anyone else, and they kiss. Che invites Miranda up, but Miranda leaves to give them their space. She coyly keeps the cookies. I know she’s doing some weird flirting here, but withholding dessert? That is cold as a Cleveland winter. At least open the box and give Che two of them.

At Paint-a-Palooza, Miranda is talking to Carrie about how little Carrie wants to be there, when suddenly Steve and Brady arrive. Carrie is surprised. Yes, Carrie, I too am surprised that Steve — who just got dumped — came to this more willingly and with a better attitude than you did. Miranda says they promised to do this event as a family, and they are still a family. “Impressive,” Carrie says. “So is Steve,” replies Miranda. Yes. Yes he is. Maybe Brady would be too, if he had any character traits or been given any point of view in this scenario. As they draw near, Brady sees Carrie’s overalls and says, “Hey, Farmer Joe,” possibly because he could count on one thumb the number of times they’ve interacted and therefore he probably doesn’t know which one she is. Carrie does a VERY awkward fake-laugh and then pretends to want to hug him hello, even though she could probably count on two thumbs the number of times she’s even said his name out loud. Everyone apparently has to pair off to paint these rooms, for absolutely no good reason at all, so Steve picks Carrie and Brady picks his girlfriend who I guess is also there? From what we’ve seen, it’s incredibly out of character for the girlfriend not to come up to Miranda and say something overly familiar — maybe about the split and Che and whatnot — so I guess they just didn’t want to pay her to be in this episode. This leaves Miranda alone. ALONE I TELL YOU. Alone, like the Cleveland Browns at the bottom of the AFC North standings. (Just kidding, they tied with the Ravens this season, but they always FEEL like they are alone in last, even when they are in first. I’m sure this is also a metaphor we could apply to Miranda somewhere.) Miranda ends up floating into a convo with Nya after her husband freaks out, in which Nya says he seems to accept their decision until he sees an ad for a minivan, and it’s like he’s brainwashed. Miranda is all, “We’re all programmed! I’m programmed to be a girlfriend,” constantly checking to see if her paramour has texted, etc. Then we get waylaid by Lily’s goddamn tampon (now opening for Haim, it’s Lily’s Goddamn Tampon) until Miranda gets a call from Che and decides not to take it because she’s trying to unclench and be cool, like a late September breeze off Lake Erie. Seriously, what happened in Cleveland? WHERE ARE SOME HACKY HOT IN CLEVELAND JOKES, I ASK YOU.

Steve: He uses his time painting with Carrie to try and get information about Miranda, like how long Carrie has known, and whether Miranda had ever expressed an interest in women before. Aren’t these all questions he would have asked Miranda, during that chat we didn’t see where she broke the news about Che? Steve says, “It’s all coming at me fast here,” so not THAT much time can have passed for Miranda to feel like such a smug — SMUG MIRANDA in the literal house — princess about how functional and great their family still is. Steve’s questions are forlorn and there aren’t very many. He just seems confused. Carrie is so uncomfortable that she can barely string a coherent sentence together. Before she steps in the paint pan, she manages to say that Miranda did tell her it wasn’t about women (that is the word the used in the scene; I know Che is non-binary) so much as it was specifically about Che. It would have been interesting here for Steve to reflect on his own infidelity, but this show doesn’t do reflections. Instead, Carrie stumbles backward into the pan, he rescues her ring from the sink, and then he says the thing about how he’s never taking his off. Poor Steve will have to come to terms with the fact that it’s not about his gender or his genitals; it’s not that he no longer qualifies for his job. It’s that Miranda wants another person, full stop, more than she wants him, which makes it harder to accept. And we will all hate that journey for him, until the show lets him run off with Seema to Bora Bora for a bangfest. If they even remotely try to have Miranda crawl back to him… what is the point of having Steve pine for his marriage if not to keep him as an option on the table? FREE STEVE. SAVE STEVE. I will let Tom and Lorenzo have the final word here.

Hero of the Week: The tampon string that tried really, really hard to get away from all this.