And how not-well her on-screen family deals with them

By Michaela Watkins
Updated June 13, 2016 at 10:09 PM EDT
Dale Robinette​


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Every week the cast and crew of Hulu’s dark comedy Casual will be taking EW behind the scenes: For each episode, one member will be recapping and sharing their thoughts on what went down in addition to walking us through the ins-and-outs of the show. Director and EP Jason Reitman walked us through the premiere and second episode, and now, star Michaela Watkins sheds some light on episode 3, “Such Good Friends”…

“Why do we want the ones who aren’t that interested in us?” You know who famously said that? Any guesses? Okay, I’ll tell you: Every single slightly maladjusted person in the world. So basically, everyone.

Welcome to the third episode of season 2 of Casual — another beauty of a script written by our stellar show creator, Zander Lehman.

If season 1 left off with Valerie detonating an emotional bomb that tore our family trio asunder, season 2’s first episodes would sensibly have everyone picking the residual shrapnel out of their hair. But this is Hulu’s Casual, which means no one is doing what conventional television or common sense would have them do. Instead, our ensemble is now looking to fill their seemingly aimless, undefined lives with something bigger, cooler, shinier. Basically anything that might not remind them of, well, themselves.

Laura (the lovely Tara Lynn Barr) and Valerie (um, me?) court a new homeschool/co-op program. Perhaps they will discover a new tribe they can call all their own. “We are just one big happy family,” says the punishingly earnest mom and ringleader, Judy (Rebecca Avery). Sounds nice, right? Who doesn’t like new things?

Alex doesn’t. Just look at his retro-designed bachelor home. Alex (the delightful Tommy Dewey) prefers his environment to be comfortably familiar. Comfortable even in the dysfunction. Take his company, Snooger, for example. Normally, tech start-ups are chomping at the bit for a some of that Venture Capitalist Action Jackson to swoop in and save the day, but Alex sees change as a pariah. A dark force that will upset his emotional balance, which is about as evenly keeled as a medicated tight rope walker…with peripheral neuropathy…balancing a burning pinecone…on his left nipple. Or something.

Familiarity is his touchstone, and perhaps why he’s willing to choose, say, his sister, over possible lasting romantic love, or his ailing company over a new VC (Vincent Kartheiser) with a financial life raft. Change is not his trusted friend. (Blame the parents for that.) When his sister and niece look outside of themselves to find stimulation, Alex falls inward, plotting ways to keep his family close and exploiting the need to be needed. But (!) he’s growing, and nothing stays the same. And that includes Alex.

Val, like Laura, is similarly looking for her new tribe. Adults who have their sh-t together (at least more so than Val) have never been so appealing. Out with the old friends (who, by the way, kinda put her by the curb for pickup anyway) and in with the new! Be it in the form of the very sassy, self-reliant therapist at work (Katie Aselton Duplass) or the nauseatingly welcoming nerd-brigade at the co-op school. If only Jennifer had noticed Valerie trading up her usual burlap sack of an office skirt in exchange of a mighty pencil skirt! We have a friend crush, folks!

However, to my first point, the episode is riddled with everyone looking to be validated by those who couldn’t give a rat’s ass, either consciously or not. See below:

-Valerie and Laura reject Alex’s help, which makes him attempt to prove his worth to them even more.

-Laura’s disaffected introduction to her potential peers drives one to chase after her, and challenge Laura on being more authentic.

-The more Alex is resistant to bringing on an investor, the harder this investor dances for him.

-Valerie behaves like an obsessed teenager in the wake of Jennifer’s apathy. Meanwhile, the co-op group she’s repelled by, attempts to suffocate her in a welcome-wagon hellfire.

-Even the mystery woman throwing herself at Alex gets brushed aside.

Luckily our characters are not stuck in a revolving door of regression, frozen in their pathology. Laura bravely leads the charge, of course, by returning to the school despite it’s unknown set of factors. Val follows suit, letting her determined brother help her secure some self worth, and Alex, buoyed by his sense of value in the world, agrees to sell part of Snooger. Because of this, they are all rewarded in their small quiet ways. Except Alex, whose reward is waiting for him in his bedroom. A not so quiet reward…

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