When we first met Ryan Wheeler, he seemed like a lonely guy, full of regret, doing everything he could to get his life back on track. But the more we heard about his past, the more we heard about this other, diva-esque side to him. And if anything has brought out that other side, it’s the fight against Jay. For much of this season, Ryan’s ego has been on full display — and in losing the fight to Jay, he’s feeling more vulnerable than ever, which means he turns into an even bigger pain in the ass.
But what I love about this episode, for those of us who found Ryan perhaps a bit frustrating this season, is that this hour puts it all into perspective. It reminds you this guy lost his father and, quite simply, feels alone. Many of his actions come as much from a place of loneliness as they do a place of pride. And in the first three minutes of this episode, which feature Ryan attempting to visit Alicia at the gym only to realize he’s all alone once again, we get a very visual representation of how Ryan’s been feeling. He’s constnatly looking for someone, but no one’s there.
Ryan’s journey then continues as we see him seek counseling — a scene that takes me back to the end of the pilot, when he told the group what he’d done to his father (also known as the moment I knew Matt Lauria was going to do great things with this character). Ryan admits he’s having a hard time controlling his anger, and when asked to whom he turns for emotional support, he recognizes Alvey, his teammates, and Keith before eventually coming around to the realization, “I mostly keep my own council.” That’s why he’s looking for help. As he explains, “I don’t want to go back to the way I was.” Just like that, we’re taken back to the guy we first met, a man who’s struggling but who really does want to better himself. Ryan never wants to be the worst version of himself. But it’s not as if his life makes things easy for him.
Elsewhere, Alicia is enjoying her slow morning at Alvey’s house while he spends some time with Roxanne, who’s decided they can’t have sex again tonight because she draws the line at three nights in a row. Instead, she agrees to dinner sans sleepover.
With that to look forward to, Alvey meets Ryan and Garo at the gym. Unable to get in touch with Jay — who they assume is pissed about Mario Goldsmith’s article on how Jay’s win “comes with an asterisk” — they discuss the terms of a rematch. Alvey tries to shake Garo down for more money, but the bottom line is Ryan lost the fight. However, Garo does agree to give Ryan a bonus if he wins. And at this point, Ryan just wants the fight, so he’s in.
Garo then asks about Alicia and offers to bump another fighter to get her on an upcoming card in Pasadena. And I just have to say this: Anything that comes out of Bryan Callen’s mouth as Garo is gold. I love that he’s having a bit more fun with his scenes this year.
Speaking to Jay’s whereabouts, he and Ava have been shacked up at the house for four days, and it’s clear Christina’s not exactly a fan of their current lifestyle (or Ava in general). She figured Jay would be back in the gym by this point, but Jay claims he’s taking some time off. However, after Christina heads off to volunteer at the needle exchange, Jay’s time off is interrupted when Jason decides it’s a good idea to show up at the house and apologize to Christina.
Immediately recognizing Jason as the man who assaulted his mother, Jay knocks him out cold and asks Ava to go spend the day with her sister so he can get to the bottom of things. With a juice box in one hand and a cigarette in the other, Jay sits down to have a talk with a tied-up Jason.
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In a scene that’s nothing if not a showcase for Jonathan Tucker’s ownership of this character, Jay asks Jason to walk him through his relationship with his mother. It seems Christina and Jason started sleeping together as early as one week into her stay. Trying to explain himself, Jason makes the misstep of claiming that Christina manipulated him. And in a moment of brilliance, Jay raises his hand.
When Jason calls on him — again, let’s take a second to appreciate this moment — Jay asks for the purpose of Jason’s visit. Of course, Jason claims he’s here to apologize. As for what Jay’s plan is, well, he needs a moment to process all of this information.
NEXT: Christina returns home
Back at the gym, Alicia makes the mistake of telling Ryan she’s staying at Alvey’s, which he quickly brings to his coach. Once again flipping that diva switch, Ryan asks if Alvey has an answer as to whether he’s going to be his coach for the rematch. But Alvey knows how to handle Ryan, and needless to say, he’s not one to be pushed around. He tells Ryan to give him more time to figure it out, but when Ryan brings up Alicia, Alvey realizes he has to make a change.
After Alicia reconnects with Ava — who brings her flowers and apologizes for not seeing much of her – Alvey tells her the good and bad news. First, Garo has a fight for her. But also, she’s going to have to move out of his house. Luckily, Alicia takes the news like a champ and promises to get her stuff out by the end of the day.
Alvey then gets back to training Alicia when Ryan stops by. Already regretting his actions, Ryan apologizes for pressuring Alvey about making a decision. He promises to give him some space, and in a heartbreaking moment, he asks if Alvey’s free to grab a drink — but Alvey has plans with Roxanne. Once again, Ryan’s looking at a night spent alone.
By the time Alvey meets up with Roxanne, he learns the fate of his case: He’s going to have to pay $150,000 to settle because there’s an eyewitness – no, not Keith — and Roxanne advises him to take it. Roxanne then drops another verdict on him: They’re still not sleeping together tonight. As she puts it, she doesn’t know him well enough to sleep with him four nights in a row. Alvey tells her to ask him anything, which naturally leads to a question about Christina, the woman whose name is tattooed on his chest. Alvey assures her that’s over, but what Roxanne doesn’t ask/know about…is Lisa.
Focusing back on Christina, she arrives home to find Jay loading a gun, which he quickly puts to Jason’s cheek. Taking her son aside into the kitchen, she begs him to let Jason go. “I’m finally healthy because of you,” she tells him. “We’ve come so far.” Christina wants to look forward, but when she tries to take the gun, Jay has one final stipulation before it’s put away. They need to hear what Jason has to say.
Turning his back on the conversation, Jay allows Jason to apologize to Christina, which is really just Jason’s excuse for trying to convince himself he’s not like the other men who’ve taken advantage of Christina. He swears he fell in love with her and “wanted to heal” her, but Christina’s not having it. She simply tells him, “You’re not like all those other men. You’re worse,” before telling Jay to get him out of their house.
Walking him out to his car, Jay issues one final threat before Jason drives away. And by the time he returns to the house, it’s Christina’s turn to talk. She tells Jay she can’t be around him if he’s going to get high. “I’m not strong enough,” she says, adding, “And I don’t like Ava. I don’t think she’s good for you.” But knowing Christina can’t live alone, Jay decides he’ll move out…only temporarily. He promises to stop using drugs soon, “just not right now.” He asks her to tell Nate that he’ll “be home soon.”
Just like that, we watch Ava and Jay check themselves into a room at the Pink Motel, fully isolating themselves from everyone who loves them. They’ve created a bubble, and now we’re left to wonder if they’ll find a way out of it.
During all of this, Nate is off in Studio City taking an important step by going on a date with Will. It’s not much of a date — Nate spends most of it listening to Will talk — but we do learn Bob did the same thing to Will that he did to Nate. But after Bob throws enough money at you, “he’ll own you,” Will says, hence the fact that Will now works for the guy.
But regardless of Nate saying next to nothing on the date, Will wants to see him again. (That one joke must’ve won him over.) Will understands Nate isn’t out yet, but that doesn’t bother him, so Nate agrees to call him after his fight. For now, though, this date was a big enough step for him.
And as we end the episode, Alvey ignores a call from Ryan, who’s sitting alone, wondering if his coach wants to go over some tape. With no one to talk to, Ryan heads back inside, facing another night of loneliness.
The thing I love most is how understated Ryan’s struggle is in this episode. That’s not to say it’s simplified. It’s still a very deep, dark struggle, but it’s not being thrown in our faces. For most of these scenes, all we have is Lauria’s performence — the look on Ryan’s face — to tell us what he’s feeling, and it tells us everything we need to know.