Alice goes missing this week on Apple TV+ hit comedy Shrinking, and Jimmy, Paul and Brian are on the case. After exposing Alice to the awkwardness of a social curveball, Jimmy and Gaby alienate her so much that she decides to act out like her dad has been doing for so long.
Meanwhile, Gaby needs to face down a big challenge as she prepares to maybe move on from her divorce. And Brian must confess something to Jimmy that’s going to be painful — and chooses the worst time to do it. All in all, it’s an above-average episode of a very tiresome sitcom.
Shrinking recap: ‘Boop’
Season 1, episode 8: In the episode, entitled “Boop,” Paul (played by Harrison Ford) is feeling bad, and it’s not just because of Parkinson’s disease. He told his daughter Meg (Lily Rabe) that he didn’t want to live with her, her husband and her son. Which of course means that he’s potentially turning down the chance to spend the last good years of his life with a family he abandoned. He tries to call her, but the family has orders from Meg to tell her dad that she’s not around.
Jimmy (Jason Segel) is frustrated because, while his estranged patient Grace (Heidi Gardner) is back for sessions, she’s still putting up with all the terrible, abusive behavior her husband Donny (Tilky Jones) is throwing at her. Jimmy suggests some passive resistance. Maybe knock over his coffee one day.
He also confesses that he’s going to have to live with some of his decisions, too. Specifically, the one to sleep with Gaby (Jessica Williams), his colleague who just happens to be his deceased wife’s best friend. His daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell), finds out and now she’s livid with the two of them, though they try to have an adult conversation with her about the situation. Alice tries to talk to Paul about it, but he’s too wrapped up in his own issues to be very helpful.
Hitched or ditched?
And then there’s Charlie (Devin Kawaoka) and Brian (Michael Urie). They plan to get married soon, and years ago Jimmy promised to officiate their wedding, because Brian officiated his and Tia’s back when. However, now Charlie and Brian are having second thoughts. Jimmy already ruined their engagement party, after all. They don’t want him to ruin their wedding, too.
When Charlie comes over to tell Jimmy about their decision, he gets cold feet but winds up saved by the bell. Alice left with the car, despite not having a license, so they need to find her ASAP. Brian’s request is going to have to wait. Alice confessed to Paul that she was thinking of going to an underage drinking party at the botanical gardens. So he, Brian and Jimmy pack into the car to go find her. Brian finally confesses that Jimmy’s gonna be too sensitive to handle the wedding.
There are bad decisions, and then there are bad decisions
Elsewhere, Gaby heads to her ex-husband Nico’s (Adam Foster Ballard) art show. Afraid to go alone, she enlists Sean (Luke Tennie) and Liz (Christa Miller) to accompany her for moral support. While they’re mingling, Sean brings up the idea of opening a catering company to Liz, who insists she’d invest. Gaby is mad that Nico is thriving since the divorce. She can’t help but want him to miss her more, and to be a mess since they left, but she also wants him to be happy.
Finally, Brian, Paul and Jimmy find Alice in a University of Southern California dorm prepared to make bad decisions. They take her home, making a big display of their anger. (There’s a reasonably funny joke when they tell the guy she’s with that she’s 12 years old.)
Paul suggests Jimmy should punish her, which he wasn’t planning on doing. So her dad grounds her. Alice storms off, furious, but he knows he had to do it. Sure, he lived without boundaries for a long time, but look what it did to him. Maybe she needs boundaries.
You tell me if this is funny
I hate that Shrinking is the kind of show that would call an episode “Boop,” and I’m watching it. I mean, what else do you have to say? Tell that to anyone, and you’ll know right away whether they’ll enjoy Shrinking. There are jokes about Gaby putting her fingers in her ex-husband’s rectum, too. Never not funny, amirite? I’m still laughing now, look at me go, just laughing till I’m blue in the face.
Still, this is a perfectly OK episode, despite the last-minute “I’m not kink-shaming but …” addition to the script, because what’s funnier than non-missionary sex between adults? Gaby trying to deal with her divorce is a decent use of Williams, who’s usually just here to say “Mhmmm,” because no one knows how to write her character as anything but a sassy myna bird for the rest of the cast.
Jimmy and Paul getting along again, and trying to own up to their mistakes, is a good use of both actors, although Segel is painfully self-conscious in this part. Ford doesn’t need to do any heavy lifting like he did last week, which is a shame, but I won’t complain that they’ve got his character back in comic-relief mode.
Jimmy finally having the upper hand with both Brian and Alice makes Segel straighten up a little, which is a nice change of pace. Shrinking usually seems more than happy to let him play a simpering goon. So to finally give him the high ground kind of reminds you why anyone wanted to make this show in the first place.
They’re going to need to do a lot better than this, but this is probably the best the show’s been on a whole (i.e. when Ford isn’t breaking his spine carrying everything).
Watch Shrinking on Apple TV+
New episodes of Shrinking arrive every Friday on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.