“A 3.95 GPA?” And Other Thoughts We Had During Euphoria Season 2, Episode 3

Beauty

Look, Zendaya did try to warn us. We knew episode 3 of Euphoria‘s increasingly erratic season 2 would be, as the actress put it, “chaotic lol.” But, after separating the various storylines at play here, it’s fair to call that foreshadowing an understatement.

Episode 3 begins with a sweetly innocuous flashback—except that it features Cal Jacobs, which lends that aforementioned sweetness a metallic aftertaste. Back in high school, a young Cal explores his sexuality with a new girlfriend, Marsha, while pining (secretly, of course) for his best friend, Derek. After graduation, the two sneak out to a gay bar, where they twirl on a neon-lit dance floor to INXS before finally, finally going in for that long-awaited kiss. We get the sense Cal might have turned out a very different person had Marsha not called him the next morning with news: After taking three back-to-back tests, she’s positive she’s pregnant. Cal hangs up, collapses into his pillow and shakes with sobs.

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Still, we don’t have much time to feel sorry for Cal before Rue’s got us in the throes of a present-day drug mania. As she plops refrigerated Pop-Tarts into the toaster and chugs milk from the jug, serenading herself with a rendition of “Call Me Irresponsible,” her little sister, Gia, breaks through the fugue. “Rue, are you high?”

Cut to one of Euphoria‘s winking classroom scenes, in which a pantsuited Zendaya addresses the camera directly. Today’s lesson: How to be a drug addict without getting caught. Solution No. 1 is, apparently, to have a “cover drug.” In Rue’s case, that drug is marijuana. She tells Gia, casually, that she’s thinking about smoking weed again, only as a means to manage her panic attacks. Gia’s furious with this idea, so Rue tops off the gaslighting sundae with a guilt-tripping cherry: She’s trying to keep herself from committing suicide, and weed seems to help. Finally cowed, Gia demands a promise, that “it’s just going to be weed and nothing more.”

Meanwhile, Lexi’s still recovering from the incident at the gas station with Fez and Cal. As such, she’s accepted her personality—or, perhaps, her position—as “an observer.” Lying in bed alone, she thinks of her life as someone else’s movie, which Euphoria director Sam Levinson uses as a clever framing device: We watch Lexi exit her family dining room onto a film set, where she bleats at an assistant to acquire Nicorette and complains about Rue running late. Her mother, Suze, “isn’t wearing her wedding ring,” a cameraman informs her. “Okay, that’s a props question,” she replies, telling us all we need to know about Lexi’s disassociation from her own life.

Channeling that energy into the real world, Lexi spends hours writing a play, in which a girl named “Grace” lives in the shadow of her older sister, “Hallie,” whom Lexi directs to be “sluttier,” “tackier,” and “sloppier.” IRL, Hallie—sorry, Cassie—is apparently taking this edict personally, as she wakes at 4 a.m. every morning to spend hours jade-rolling her face and heatless-curling her blonde tresses. During each of these precious morning hours, she thinks only of Nate, who later breezes by her in the hallway without a glance in her direction.

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Her desperation becomes all but tangible by the time Rue wanders into the school bathroom, where Cassie’s in a plunging gingham top that, apparently, wandered off the set of Oklahoma! Maddy confirms Cassie could pass as Shirley Jones’s understudy, and Cassie, leaking tears, launches into a hair-raising scream-ologue, in which she admits to everything—having sex with Nate, betraying her best friend—before Rue pulls us back from the ledge. Psych, everyone. Cassie never broke down. Instead, she ignored Maddy and stared at her reflection in the mirror, a country Barbie doll with a plastic smile.

After school, Rue has a plan to re-stock her drug supply. Dressed in matching blazer and slacks, she seeks out Laurie, the nonchalant drug dealer Fez and co. visited last episode, and tells her she has a 3.95 GPA (hmm) and a bunch of friends with GPAs over 3.7 (hmm?). These are girls “that you would never expect in a million years to be selling,” she alleges. They’ll be Laurie’s new network of dealers, and as collateral, Rue will confiscate their phones and upload their secrets to the cloud. Laurie, apparently enamored with this plan, agrees to front her a suitcase stuffed with $10,000 worth of drugs. But if Rue snitches or screws her over? Well, she’ll sell Rue.

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Fez might be worried about such idiocy, if he weren’t busy at his own place, watching Ashtray hold a shotgun to Cal’s head. See, Cal’s been stalking their home for a few days now, in pursuit of his sex tape with Jules—something Fez, bless him, knows nothing about. All this back-and-forth culminates in one of the funniest moments of the season so far, in which Fez lets slip that, no, he knows nothing about a tape, but yeah, he knows Nate’s in love with Jules.

“What kind of weird-ass father-son shit is goin’ on around here, bro?” Fez asks, voicing the thoughts of the audience.

After a beat, Cal agrees. “I’m extremely confused.”

“You’re confused. I’m fuckin’ confused, bro.”

“Do you mind if I just leave?”

Sure! Why not. After agreeing never to threaten Jules, Rue or Fez himelf again, Cal staggers home with blood pouring from his scalp, courtesy of a beating from middle-school drug-pusher Ashtray.

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Although Jules doesn’t get much screen time this episode, she earns her own small epiphany during a conversation with Rue’s new friend, Elliot. She’s slowly succumbed to his charms, though her guard’s still up by the time he admits to his crush on Rue. But he has no plans to act on it, as he doesn’t see Rue as a particularly “sexual” being. Jules protests, but he calls her bluff, and she relents: “No, she’s not, like, the most sexual person ever.” Here, it’s tough to decipher whether Elliot means to be manipulative or earnest, as he launches into a laundry list of compliments, praising Jules’s “fuckability.” Such comments shift the dynamic between them, and there’s an edge to his voice as he says, “But I’m sure Rue told you all that. You guys are in love, right?”

Maybe, but Rue’s too busy with her suitcase of drugs to concern herself with an erstwhile girlfriend. She brings the carry-on to her N.A. meeting, where Ali immediately suspects she’s not shuttling around a spare set of clothes. He confronts her about the package outside, and in a nasty attempt to evade his pseudo-paternal lectures, she snaps, “Good thing nobody’s really looking to you to be a fucking parent.” (You’ll remember, Ali’s not on stellar terms with his two daughters.) Ali reels back, as if he’s been slapped. And when he raises his own fist, Rue only provokes him further. “Or what, Ali? You going to hit me?” Equal parts livid and horrified, Ali backs off, leaving her alone and peerless. Actor Colman Domingo and Zendaya have always shared a brilliant rapport as Ali and Rue, but this scene might be their best so far. Quick but brutal, it practically stings as the camera turns away.

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After Rue takes a taste of her own stash—the equivalent of breaking the first rule of Fight Club—we learn Nate had no intentions of meeting up with Cassie that night. Instead, he heads directly to Maddy’s house with a bouquet of flowers in his passenger seat. Looks as though everyone’s caught up in old, toxic cycles. And if Cal’s backstory is any indication, those patterns have a habit of sticking around.

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