It’s been a few weeks since we first started wondering where it is that Gretchen goes when she sneaks out of bed in the middle of the night. Last week we learned where she went (to cry in her car while playing Snake), but not why. All Jimmy knew was that it wasn’t because of him, and she wasn’t cheating on him, so that means everything’s good, right?
Yes, both Jimmy and Gretchen seem perfectly happy to ignore whatever’s going on. Until last night’s brilliant bottle episode, that is, which had everyone (and I mean EVERYONE— Jimmy, Gretchen, Edgar, Edgar’s improv “rando” girlfriend Dorothy, Lindsay, and even Vernon) trapped inside because of the LA Marathon, which really does cut the city in half. It’s worse than the Oscars, though not always as bad as when Obama comes to town.
Through the whole episode (which doesn’t show the passing of time as well as it could have, but we can gather is supposed to span multiple hours), Gretchen is a tightly wound ball of pure tension. She tries drinking, dancing, and finally yelling her anxiety away. We don’t know why, but she clearly can’t stand being in her own skin, let alone in that house (which she only lives in “due to completely beyond [her] control wiring issues for which there WILL be a lawsuit”).
So where did these crying fits and this episode’s outburst come from? As Gretchen finally, reluctantly tells Jimmy, she’s clinically depressed. Which is not a new thing for her. When Lindsay asks her if “it’s back,” she makes reference to their sophomore year of college, when Gretchen spent a few weeks wearing the same Hoobastank t-shirt and only ate Special K Red Berries.
There’s a running joke through the episode that may feel out of place at first: that Jimmy has somehow never seen the movie The Lion King, and thinks that the phrase “hakuna matata” is some original wisdom, passed to him by a deli owner. The dismissive simplicity of the idea of “no worries,” along with Jimmy’s translation (also the title of the episode), “there is not currently a problem” are upsettingly poignant. With severe depression, it’s hard to explain what the problem is, but it’s there, tearing up your brain, or it’s hovering just around the corner, forever.
The most heartbreaking moment of the episode was when Gretchen, after being so afraid to tell him her “brain is broken,” finally does let him it. To do that, she goes into what Stephen Falk calls her “PR mode,” laying everything out factually and calmly, with a positive spin. (It’s like a mental adventure!) She tells him about her history, and what happens, and that she doesn’t know why or when it will strike. She also tells him that he can be there for her, but he can’t fix her. To which Jimmy responds:
Yup, that’s the look of some guaranteed conflict in episodes to come. Because of course he wants to fix her, and when you love someone who feels “broken,” you really think you can. And if Gretchen has been dealing with depression her whole life, she’s probably had at least a few people try and she knows it just isn’t possible. There are no reasonable answers or solutions or explanations. The fixer is left feeling impotent in the face of this disease and the fixee usually ends up feeling worse, guilty for not being fixable. This is dark, uncomfortable subject matter for a TV comedy to be taking on. But if this episode is any indication, they are more than qualified to do it in a way that will break our hearts.