Because “Looking For Uncut” places each of the three guys in their own self-contained storylines—as it looks like will be the case going forward—the episode runs the risk of feeling disjointed. If A’s adventures are completely separate from B’s adventures, there should at least be some thematic connection justifying putting A and B’s adventures in the same episode. Even with disconnectedness, an episode can be forgiven as long as both storylines work. It’s not that separating Looking’s three protagonists up is necessarily a bad idea, it’s just a lot harder to pull off a really great episode that way. Each storyline has to succeed on its own merits. If there’s an episode with two spectacular stories and one that’s just so-so, the so-so story taints the episode. That’s the result here, as Dom has some exciting interactions, Patrick has some expected ones, and Augustin mostly sits around.
My favorite scene for the second week in a row involves Lauren Weedman. Her chemistry with Murray Bartlett feels so much more organic and genuine than the chemistry between any of the three main guys. Their dialogue feels ad-libbed in the best way. Doris calling Dom’s 28-year-old hookup a “teeny tiny little gumdrop” is by far my favorite line reading of the episode. Their banter is just some much quicker, suggesting a level of intimacy not always present in scenes between Dom, Augustin, and Patrick.
The character of Doris works well because her interactions with Dom actually provide context and propel his story forward. In the main threesome, Dom naturally fulfills the role of the wise daddy. To Augustin and Patrick, it seems like Dom’s done it all and decided on what he likes; to younger gay men, he’s a role model. To Doris, he’s a former Modesto redneck with insecurity issues who needs a little encouragement asking his narcissistic ex-boyfriend for his eight thousand dollars back. Also, it doesn’t hurt that she wanted to neck punch Ethan for ordering a refresh tea. With her help, Dom attempts to take control of his fate and confronts Ethan about the money he lent him. When it comes to sex, Dom feels completely in control, ordering up a twink on Grindr as if he were takeout. His professional life is a different matter: he’s a middle-aged waiter at a time when he expected to own his own restaurant. So, when Ethan refuses to pay him back the money to which he feels entitled—and throws a little shade at Dom for never changing—Dom makes a scene in front of Ethan’s clients. It’s a desperate act from a man who’s beginning to realize that the role of slutty gay waiter looks a lot sadder than it did twenty years earlier.
Dom’s scenes are so much more specific than the other two storylines, which is why they work better. Patrick exploring his wilder side while Augustin explores his domestic side feels more obligatory, more necessary than the darker path Dom goes down this week. We know from the pilot that each episode is likely to explore similar themes with Patrick and Augustin. Looking began with a catalyst for each of those characters: Augustin moving out of his San Francisco apartment with Patrick and into his Oakland apartment with his boyfriend, Frank. Patrick is using the change to experiment with being more promiscuous, and Augustin is trying to figure out what monogamy means for him and Frank; this is what to expect for the next seven episodes. Whereas we meet Patrick and Augustin at a crossroads, we meet Dom coasting down the same highway he’s been on for twenty years. He’s old enough to recognize that he’s a cliché—hooking up with men more than ten years his junior that he met on Grindr—but young enough to not really care. Obviously, going forward, Dom’s lifestyle will be a major theme, but it’s fun to revel in his promiscuousness now. From their first scenes, Patrick and Augustin began trying to change fundamental aspects of their behaviors. Dom is a nice counterbalance, their older friend who, unlike them, hasn’t suddenly decided to upend his life. He’s 41, so the gay midlife crisis is in full effect, but so far, it’s been treated a lot subtler than his friends’ quarter-life crises.
Dom’s scenes with his ex are cringe-inducing, more so than Patrick’s scenes because the outcome isn’t as telegraphed. From the short introduction of Richie in last week’s episode, it’s clear that he’s not going to be the uncut Mexican fuck buddy Patrick thinks he wants. Johnathan Groff turns on his “aw shucks I’m just a wide eyed, enthusiastic puppy dog” eyes and it’s clear that Richie isn’t going for it. He keeps a strained, bemused smile on his face throughout Patrick’s drunken antics, but the audience can tell from the beginning of their hookup that it won’t be ending happily. After Patrick shoves his foot in his mouth once he realizes there’s no uncut, Mexican penis to do it, Richie removes himself from the situation as gracefully as possible, stating that they’re “looking for different things.” There’s some great stuff in Patrick and Richie’s scenes—particularly Patrick’s overly enthusiastic dancing in the Castro—but mostly it’s a retread of his date from last week. His friends think that he’s too prudish, which makes him overcompensate, resulting in his date viewing him as too forward.
All of this is set up in the opening scene in which Dom and Patrick help Augustin move to Oakland. Unlike in the pilot, where their dialogue actually sounded like conversations gay friends would have, the “sex vs. intimacy” issue discussed in this episode seems inorganic. For friends who’ve known each other for eight years, it seems ridiculous to just now be having that conversation. “All men cheat” is a perfectly fine argument to have, but it can’t be the cornerstone of a season-long storyline. When Dom states that Patrick and Augustin will never agree about the issue, it’s hammering home the point too forcefully. It’s a way to set up the season’s themes before each boy sets off on his own solo adventures, but it doesn’t feel like an argument these people would have, at least at this point in their friendship.
Augustin’s limited screen time this week is relegated to establishing his new home life with Frank. He only gets a few small scenes, which get their point across, but nothing too exciting goes down in Oakland. For critics who’ve called the show too boring, watching Augustin and Frank eat pizza, watch bad drag queen movies, and argue about unicorn collages probably didn’t help. I’m fine with the show taking a slower pace, but when we know what’s likely in store for Augustin this season—trying and probably failing to stay monogamous—it makes his story drag out.
The worst thing Looking can become is three hit-or-miss stories. Developing a strong chemistry between the boys and throwing them into storylines together should be the one thing Looking learns from it’s far, far, far inferior pay-cable gay counterpart, Queer as Folk.