Big and Little Emmys: Episode 3 of “Euphoria” Season 2

Filled with self-aware humor, budding threesomes and gun-toting children, Episode 3 pulls no punches.

Cassie looks into the mirror sadly

Deniz Orbay (HBO Max/Euphoria)

Cassie shows up to school with some questionable fashion choices. She’s not doing OK. Screenshot by Deniz Orbay (HBO Max/Euphoria)

Deniz Orbay, Staff Writer

This is by far my favorite episode of “Euphoria” so far, and I’m not even exaggerating for the sake of this article. Would I even do such a thing? Probably. But this time, I’m legitimately genuine, because there is no other episode that resonated with me as much as “Ruminations: Big and Little Bullys.”

The backstory sequence this time tells the story of resident pervert Cal Jacobs (Eric Dane), Nate’s father and arguably one of the most essential characters of the show. We watch as his high school self bonds with his best friend Derek (Henry Eikenberry)—and by bond I mean ignore the sexual tension that fills the air every time they hang out. They’re just two best friends that wrestle, see each other naked in the locker room and have sex with girls together. That’s not gay, right?

The backstory culminates in an incredibly touching kiss at a bar where the dancing pair realizes that their feelings had been mutual all along. This heartfelt sequence is followed by a sleepy Cal receiving a phone call in bed, a call that changes his entire life: Marsha (Rebecca Louise), Cal’s high school girlfriend and future wife, is pregnant with his child. Gone are the days of childhood,  innocence and fun, as is the possibility of anything happening between him and Derek.

We have to acknowledge, of course, that this sweet and tragic backstory does nothing to justify Cal’s current actions. He is a sociopath that thrives on power and has sex with minors. He is a bad husband and an even worse father.

This is why I hope Sam Levinson, creator of the show, gives additional background information in the following episodes regarding how Cal turned out to be the way he did. Because if he doesn’t, that would imply that he thinks it’s pretty self-explanatory how an innocent repressed queer person evolved into someone who should be put on the sex offender registry. For now, I’m going to assume we will see more of young Cal so as to not ruin the episode’s otherwise perfect intro with some pretty problematic subtext. The intro was perfect, though.

The rest of the episode didn’t have any problem matching the immaculate nature of the intro sequence, either, with some pretty entertaining and tense plotlines. Rue fills up most of the spotlight this time around, as we watch her essentially dig herself into a hole. Almost out of both drugs and money to buy more, our beloved addict decides to become an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, the entre- she is -preneuring is… you guessed it! Selling drugs. She approaches Laurie, the terrifyingly monotone teacher-turned-dealer we met back in the season premiere, with a business proposal. Laurie fronts her a suitcase filled with $10,000 worth of drugs and warns Rue of what she’s getting into.

“Rue, if you screw me, I’ll have you kidnapped and sold to some real sick people,” Laurie says. “I always find a way to make my money back.”

During this scene, it is revealed that the plan Rue has in mind involves multiple people. She hints at having leverage over three girls, which she gives the hypothetical names Jamie, Amy and Lanie, and how they can be blackmailed into selling drugs without the risk of snitching. I honestly have no idea what this plan entails, but it means a few other characters are going to get dragged into the Fez-Ashtray-Laurie-Rue entanglement. My guess is Lexi, because what better way to bring her closer to Fez, right? I have no idea what Rue could possibly have on her, though.

Rue, rolling the suitcase full of drugs behind her, strolls into a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in ironic fashion. Ali (Colman Domingo), the man we all love to love, notices what the presence of the suitcase implies and confronts her about it, much to Rue’s annoyance. She uses the sensitive secrets Ali shared on Christmas Eve against him and breaks his heart. 

Lexi gives an imaginary interview as the creator of her play
Lexi gives an imaginary interview as the creator of her play. Screenshot by Deniz Orbay (HBO Max/Euphoria) (Deniz Orbay (HBO Max/Euphoria))

For me and a lot of other viewers, Rue crossed a line. Ali is one of the few wholly well-intentioned people in the show, pushing Rue so she doesn’t turn into what he did back when he was an addict. I am aware that she isn’t currently sober and thus not her best self, but while that explains her actions it doesn’t justify it. I refuse to forgive Rue until I hear a heartfelt apology sent Ali’s direction.

Lexi, in a sudden revelation, decides to apply her observational non-interventionist personality to writing. She writes and writes and writes until finally she has a play in her hands. Here we see the epitome of the show’s usual meta moments with behind-the-scenes interviews of the characters in the show acting like performers in the play, as if they’re advertising it like actual celebrities. Confusing, I know.

While Lexi is doing half-fine focusing on her passion project, the other Howard sister is spiraling deeper down into madness every single day. Apparently Cassie has started waking up at 4 a.m every day to “focus on herself,” which basically means to impress Nate. She goes through her morning routine: showering, using ten different lotions, applying face masks, shaving … Every day she goes to school all dressed up with the hopes that Nate will give her attention, but it is all to no avail. She tries dressing like Maddy, then Jules, but nothing works. One day she arrives at school looking like she is about to audition for the play “Oklahoma,” per Kat. The rest of the gang agrees.

“Like a country music star,” Maddy says, telling her what she’s dressed like.

“In a good way or in a bad way?” Cassie asks, deliriously.

“Bitch, you better be joking,” Maddy replies.

The only thing keeping poor Cassie going is the secret meet-ups she has with Nate every Friday, where they have some not-so-silent sex. One time they’re so loud that Cal and Marsha hear a banging noise coming from upstairs. Marsha remarks on how she would love to be back in high school and Cal lets out a solemn sigh. Oh, what he wouldn’t give to be back in high school. If only you knew, Marsha.

At this point Cassie is entirely in Nate’s control, such that her entire week is just her waiting for the next time they meet. It is not hard to notice the parallels drawn here to Nate and Maddy’s secret weekly sessions last season.

I feel like their story is reaching a climax because of two things. One is Cassie’s imaginary breakdown in the “Oklahoma” incident, where we see her inner desire to scream and shout how happy she is with her life. Obviously, this is not true—she is going insane. The other is the big twist at the end of the episode, where we see Nate knock on a door with flowers in his hand. The door opens to reveal Maddy. Yep, they’re together again, I guess. The healing arc I anticipated for Maddy after last episode will have to wait for now.

Another love triangle is also brewing on the side: Jules, Rue and Elliot. Jules, still untrusting, interrogates Elliot about his interest in Rue, his sexuality and sexual history, but Elliot flips the situation to his advantage. He gets close to Jules, telling her how Rue is probably non-sexual but how Jules is extremely sexual. He compliments her excessively, while also implying how she and Rue are not compatible. He also admits that he has a crush on Rue. Every single word that comes out of his mouth in this episode is a curveball, both for Rue and Jules and for the viewer. He is turning out to be a master in manipulation and seems to be plotting to gain something from this trio. Does he want Rue? Jules? Both? We’ll find out.

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t talked about the fan favorite yet: the lovely Fez. Cal actually decides to pay him and Ashtray a visit to confront them on the missing CD after Nate lied to him at the end of the last episode. Obviously they know nothing about the CD, so the entire interaction turns into hilarious misunderstanding after misunderstanding. Cal accidentally reveals too much about his sexual crimes while repeatedly getting whacked in the head by Ashtray’s gun. Oh, and also Faye’s there. Hi Faye.

Kat also does some stuff this episode, like meeting Ethan’s parents and making a fool of herself, but I don’t care, so let’s move on.

Let me reiterate; this episode is my favorite so far. It’s witty, tense, self-aware, meta and funny. The cinematography is insane and the camerawork feels like they’re just showing off at this point. The dialogue is snappy, snarky and filled with hidden meaning. I sure hope the next episode is more like Episode 3 than Episode 2. Just like Cassie spends her entire week waiting to see Nate, I spend my entire week waiting for more “Euphoria” content.

New “Euphoria” episodes come out at 8 p.m. CST every Sunday on HBO Max.