Season 5, Episode 5: ‘Surviving, Okay?!’
We all have a friend who is obsessed with control. They are the ones who ask who is invited to a party before agreeing to attend. They make all the reservations. In “Insecure,” that friend is Molly.
Molly needs to know who, what, where and why before she even picks out an outfit. She has gotten better about this as the show has progressed, but this week the control freak returns. This episode, which was directed by Kerry Washington, starts out near the end of a tryst, when suddenly Molly’s phone gets a flurry of incoming messages. Her mother, Carol, has been hospitalized.
Yes, Molly showed up to the hospital in her freakum dress, but in her defense, she left in a rush. After the doctor first confuses Carol with another, much older Black woman, the family finally finds her. It was only slightly comical — there are plenty of real-life reports that suggest that doctors give less consideration to Black patients.
Molly’s mother has had a stroke and is unresponsive. It has caught Molly, Ms. In Control, off guard. Throughout the episode, the Carter family waits to see how much the stroke has affected Carol. Molly doesn’t leave the hospital, and soon Issa stops by to offer support and help.
Issa had just woken up in Nathan’s bed, to a cup of coffee, when she got the news about Carol. She asks Nathan to take her to the hospital, where she offers to bring Molly a more appropriate outfit. In the meantime, she gives Molly the clothes off her back so that she can be more comfortable while tending to her family — that kind of sisterhood and care is beautiful to see onscreen. (Issa is also a vision in that dress.)
After Molly and Issa exchange clothes, they look at themselves together in the mirror. It is briefly as if each has become the other — Issa in the party dress and Molly in the killer sweatshirt and jeans. It’s nice to see the relationship reach this level of quiet, shared love, where a nod and a hug communicates more than words can.
At the hospital, Molly, her brothers, Curtis and Jerome, and her father, David, are all shocked to see their matriarch in such bad shape. David is incapable of even speaking to the nurse but Molly picks up the ball, asking the nurse to keep her updated.
Before this emergency hospitalization, Molly’s parents had omitted key details about her mother’s health, including the fact that Carol had had a stroke before. Molly is shocked and her sense of control takes another hit — she didn’t even know what all was going on with her own parents.
Meanwhile, Issa has her own, less profound problems: She loses Molly’s dog, Flavor Flav, during a walk. She had been distracted by Nathan, who had just met her mother over FaceTime, when the dog got loose. They set out to find him with a bizarre lack of urgency: They were basically just kicking it and hoping Flav would come back to them, which I found strange. But eventually he did.
After Issa essentially hangs up on her mother, who was doing the most, she explains to Nathan that it is OK if he thinks it’s too soon for them to be meeting one another’s parents. But Nathan says no, with that darling smile. Their bond is deepening and soon Issa is learning more about Nathan’s family, though as is often the case with his past, it’s pretty dark. (His father sounds at least somewhat abusive.)
Almost as soon as they stop looking for Flav and take a break on a bench, he finds them on his own. (In Los Angeles?!) Nathan sees an opportunity for a metaphor.
“Smarter than you gave him credit for,” he says to Issa, who doubted the dog would make it back. But really he is talking about himself.
“I honestly could not have done today without you. You’re so patient with me, that’s why I love you,” Issa says to Nathan, almost accidentally. It’s another unplanned step forward in their relationship and again Nathan responds favorably, this time with a warm kiss.
After returning Flavor Flav, Issa heads back to the hospital, where Molly had just been informed that her mother will likely be at least partially paralyzed by the stroke. Though the doctor offers to inform the family, Molly volunteers to do it herself. It seemed like an effort to recover some semblance of the control she is used to having.
Talking to Issa, Molly beats herself up, as if allowing herself to have a good time was somehow linked to her mother’s affliction.
“I was hooking up with some random guy when my mom was busy having a stroke,” she says.
“All of this stuff is out of our control anyway,” Issa replies.
The truth of Issa’s own words is almost immediately demonstrated to her, when she unexpectedly glimpses Lawrence with his new family. Heading out for coffee, Issa sees him with Condola and Elijah — they are at the hospital, presumably for a pediatric appointment. Issa looks at the baby’s face and then at Lawrence’s. It’s the image of a life she once was ready to have, but one that is distant from who she is today.
Lawrence looks up and they lock eyes. (Condola does not notice.) Then Issa slips down the hall and Lawrence heads into his appointment. They both saw what could have been and had to walk past it, Lawrence with disappointment on his face.
Issa stops when she gets out of view, frozen by what she has seen until the episode cuts to black. I hope that she is strong enough to look at what could have been and walk toward what is.