Please Like Me, Season 3 Episode 9: “Champagne”

The Observation Wheel is the perfect location to set a bottle episode. The Observation Wheel is Melbourne’s attempt at The London Eye, which was part of a larger urban planning scheme for redevelopment in the area now known as the Docklands. The State government knew that Melbourne’s population was growing, so it sold land to developers, who built high-rise apartments. They were super expensive, and also there was nothing in the Docklands other than housing. The Observation Wheel was designed for tourists (it used to be called the Melbourne Star) to see the city, and then not long after it opened, it was taken down and rebuilt more than once due to structural failures. “Champagne” is a vast improvement on last week’s “Amoxycillin” for a number of reasons, but I really wanted to highlight the Observation Wheel. Please Like Me is a very Melbourne show, and I love seeing the places around my city. Now onto, “Champagne,” which was a return to form for Please Like Me, after last week felt particularly sitcom-y.

The bottle episode in which the characters learn each others’ secrets is another common sitcom trope, and Please Like Me does a good job. It doesn’t surpass the trope, but that’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, given how common it is. What sets it apart is that most of the secrets were told before they got into enclosed spaces, rather than after. The main problem I have with this storyline is that Josh Thomas and Tom Ward decided to keep Ben’s character around. I thought the hookup between Josh and Ben worked really well as Josh’s first foray into the open part of an open relationship, but it turned out that they wanted to use Ben’s aneurysm as a device to create conflict between Josh and Arnold. It works, but it’s one of those things where you can see the strings, and Please Like Me is capable of so much more than that.

Where it works is in the relationships; I have issues with the strings here, but what comes out of it is good. Josh acts exactly the way someone would if someone they barely knew wanted them to visit before major surgery, down to bringing your dad for moral support. I’ve had family members go into surgery (not brain surgery though), and no matter how safe you know the procedure is thanks to modern medicine, you can’t help but worry. The call or text you get to know that someone is okay is a relief, and now that Josh and Arnold have solidified their relationship on the Observation Wheel, everyone is a little more relaxed. Despite being the one who suggested the idea of an open relationship, Arnold is understandably concerned that Josh went to visit his hookup before brain surgery, and his anxiety doesn’t help. Josh knows Arnold so well that he knows how to calm him down from a panic attack. Do the maths, it’s that simple. He gets Arnold to calculate the probability that the two of them would fall in love, and Arnold realises that Josh really does care about him. You can say that you love someone, but if you put it like that, it means more. Out of all the interactions you have with people every day, there’s a miniscule probability that you’ll want to get to know them better and then eventually fall in love. It’s pretty great.

Meanwhile Tom is being the absolute worst by badgering Claire about the secret she and Josh are keeping from him. Claire tells him, and Tom demands to know why she didn’t tell him. In a rare moment of unity, Ella and Claire unite against the patriarchy; Claire doesn’t have to tell Tom her every secret, and Ella shouldn’t just not go on the observation wheel because Tom doesn’t want to. Of course when Claire tells Tom that she was worried he’d fall in love with her again, Ella gets concerned. As a character, Ella doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think the actress is great, but we don’t know anything about her outside of her insecurities. Please Like Me is a great show when it comes to letting people be insecure, but Ella’s a mystery to me. If she sticks around, I’d like to know a little more about her. The Claire and Tom kiss comes out, and Tom tells Ella that he loves Claire as much as he loves Josh and a foodstuff I can’t remember, and it’s a beautiful moment. What Please Like Me tells us is that everything’s going to be okay. The premise was quite sitcom-y, but at least its characters behaved like real humans, and everything that came from that felt organic. Also, I really love the fact that it was set at the Observation Wheel.

Other thoughts:

  • “Champagne” aired back to back with the season finale, titled “Christmas Trifle” over in the US on Pivot. I won’t be seeing “Christmas Trifle” until next Friday when it’s available on iview (I have choir on Thursday nights).
  • Hannah’s ex wants her blender back, so Hannah and Rose have to clean the kitchen and end up just leaving the dirty blender on the porch. I don’t know how I feel about this kitchen storyline, I’ll see how it plays out next week.
  • Josh and Tom are friends because they both have saviour complexes. That doesn’t really explain Jeffrey (but he was just super hot – the name was inspired by a person who got a brief appearance in Josh’s standup show Surprise!), and it definitely doesn’t explain Niamh. Ella wants to know if she needs saving, and that’s a fair question.
  • I knew Alan was rich and probably had a fancy apartment somewhere in the city, but of course he lives in the Docklands (there’s nothing wrong with the Docklands, it’s just perfectly in character). The moment where he ran out and tried to wave to Josh would have been the highlight of the episode if it hadn’t been for Claire and Ella uniting against Tom and his patriarchy.
  • The guess that finally got Claire to tell Tom the truth was his questioning if Claire and Josh were having a baby together. I find Tom fascinating – as a white man, he’s the most privileged of the group, but he’s also feeling left out by whatever’s going on with Claire, and when something like that happens, it can be disappointing that your friend won’t confide in you.

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