‘You’re The Worst’ Keeps Jimmy And Gretchen Apart For ‘It’s Been’

You’re the Worst is back for a fourth season, and I have a review of the premiere coming up just as soon as I refer to s’mores as “fluffergrams”…

The third season of You’re the Worst was an uneven one that for the first time in the series’ run had me questioning if Gretchen and Jimmy’s extreme damage and dysfunction was enough to override the inherent challenges of making an ongoing comedy about a couple in a relatively happy relationship(*). But the finale was terrific, and having Jimmy flee Gretchen only moments after she had accepted his marriage proposal showed that even Stephen Falk knew the relationship, and the series, needed a shake-up.

(*) No, happy couples do not ruin TV shows. They just require more effort and imagination than stories about single people pining for each other.

The two-part “It’s Been” — smartly aired on the same night so the audience could get some concentrated alone time with Jimmy, and then Gretchen, before their stories start to converge again — got the new phase of the series off to a very promising start. The Jimmy half evoked previous YTW short story-style episodes like the one about Edgar’s PTSD, or Gretchen stalking the neighbors, while Gretchen’s was a slightly more traditional outing, set in LA and featuring several members of the larger ensemble(*), even if all the roles are now reversed, with Lindsay and Edgar having good jobs while Gretchen is a hot mess who smokes crack and stays indoors for months on end.

(*) That episode and the one airing next week suggest you should be prepared for many elaborate excuses for why Honey Nutz isn’t with Sam and Shitstain in a particular scene, since Allen Maldonado is now very busy (with a schedule that includes a regular role on Tracy Morgan’s new TBS comedy).

It’s a nice one-two combo, with different locales and tones to represent how differently the two are dealing with the break-up. As the one who did the breaking up, and knows why he did it, Jimmy’s doing as splendidly as he can: he has a friend in Bert (played by Arlo Givens himself, Raymond J. Barry), has plenty of old TV shows on DVD to watch, has become genuinely handy after his treehouse work, has developed a routine with the locals at the trailer park and in town, and seems at peace with being unplugged and away from the world. Obviously, some of this is a put-on — he’s hiding from the fallout of his decision, and from other mistakes he’s made — but there’s a lightness and confidence that we only occasionally glimpse in Jimmy when he’s down in LA.

There’s some comedy in that half — Jimmy and Bert walking in slow-mo with golf clubs to get what’s theirs, for instance — but it’s more on the wistful, bittersweet side of things, and even has something of a happy ending for cranky old Bert, who accepts that he shouldn’t drive anymore and makes more of an effort to reach out to Gail and the other neighbors.

The Gretchen “It’s Been” is by far the funnier one, and not just for the moment when the episode’s title is finally explained by Gretchen launching into a terrifying recitation of the lyrics to Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week.”(*) The Lindsay take on a triumphant single girl in the city montage was a delight, because even when she’s being responsible and grown-up, she’s also still Lindsay, which means she’s going to eat other people’s lunches with her bare hands, you know? Like the breakup itself, having Lindsay and Gretchen swap roles — along with Edgar becoming a more successful writer than Jimmy (albeit a very different kind of writer) — feels like a smart way to shake up the show. Lindsay as braindead sponge had almost certainly outlived its comic usefulness, as had Edgar as life’s punching bag, and I’m pleased that they’ve finally gotten together not as some epic Ross and Rachel-style romance, but as a sex buddy thing they stumble into without even realizing at first that they’re doing it, as part of their mockery of Gretchen and Jimmy (complete with Kether Donohue busting out an excellent Aya Cash impression).

(*) In part because I liked to annoy my family by singing along with the section about Snickers and Akira Kurosawa, I asked Falk if they filmed significantly more of Aya Cash performing the song than made the final cut. “I think she got through about ‘Leanne Rimes,'” he replied.

All in all, I liked this re-entry point a lot, and next week’s episode — which picks up where we left off, with Gretchen’s decision to get back with Ty, the guy she was sleeping with early in season one — has me all in on the new direction, whether it’s a permanent status quo or, more likely, an ugly but amusing bump on the road to these two idiots giving couplehood another try.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast.