Coming right out the gate with Nathan (Robbie Amell) finding out that his business partner/best friend in life Jamie has passed out and coupling that with Nathan’s first nosebleed raises the stakes immediately, piling even more questions on. It’s a smart move for the first minute or so to get the blood pumping as he and Nora (Andy Allo) proceed to their next location, the Charlie Munger Reduced Circumstance Housing.
Inside, the environs are an amalgam of dorm room efficiency with real-world “Lake View 2 Gig Status”. There, they see Nathan’s mom Viv (Jessica Tuck). It’s “CyberDiscountDay”, which seems to be treated mainly like Thanksgiving. Fingers crossed that keeping in line with the traditional American holiday, our bellies will be full by the end of this episode through in-fighting, miscommunication, and overall drama juicier than bird cooked by Gordon Ramsay.
The romance between Nathan’s mom and Mauricio (Peter James Smith) is a bit too close for comfort, somehow more so than the ensuing sleeping arrangements. I’ve never had a family member bring a new romantic interest to Turkey Day dinner, however, I’m sure this hits more than close to home for more than just a few people, so that’s a nice inclusion. While Viv and Mauricio’s romance may seem random as fuck at first, I believe it totally fits into the hilariously uncomfortable beats of a Greg Daniels series.
My main problem with the episode presents itself when we head on into Lake View. If you didn’t get from the title that this was going to be a grotesque self-suck, the party inside the afterlife joins the club and then beats you over the head with it. Now, I love a fake holiday just as much as any television watcher. From Festivus to Galentine’s Day (Festivus and Treat Yo’ Self Day are in a whole other echelon), I’m a fan of supplanting real holidays with proxies. If done well, a made-up holiday for a television series will share the happiest bullet points with its real-life counterpart (which thankfully means extricating any imperious religious angles from it). If written right, it’s something that sticks in your memory. This shit just sticks in my craw. CyberDiscountDay is depressingly too close to our own reality that there’s nothing to divorce us from the grim reality that we’re fucking consumers. I mean, we’re watching a goddamn show on Amazon, whose holiday is their own. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s attempting to be a satire on the power of Amazon, but it’s not barbed enough to work.
That being said, what could work is giving Nathan 2.0’s girlfriend a bit more of a character facelift. Having Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) financially powerless is a step up in beefing up her character by taking away her safety blanket. For the time being, her having to think without dollar signs in her eyes is giving me hope.
But then it’s lost again, dropped like Matteo. Yeah, pretty happy he didn’t survive. Ironically, that’s giving me life. Ingrid still hating on Luke is more reductive to a trait of jealousy that can be mined so much more. It’s a very abrupt tug that seems a little harsh for someone I’m still trying to be on the side of. Writing an anti-hero is interesting ground, which is what I’d label her as. She’s not on the side of evil, but her morality in the balance can be a tricky thing to write, I’d reckon. I personally fucking love writing morally gray characters into my scripts, but for all the subtly between Nathan and Nora, hell, even Luke and Aleesha, Ingrid’s path, for the moment seems to just be circling everybody else. Her coming clean to Nathan seems more like it’ll come sooner than later, hence that hairpin turns with her. I suppose, for effectiveness, it’ll appease those who want a saccharine fix. At this point, it’s up to Allegra to carry this. We’ve seen her do it before in that poker episode.
Aleesha (Zainab Johnson) has plenty on her CyberDiscountDay plate. A disappointed family is definitely a staple at Thanksgiving dinners, so another uncomfortable necessity makes for a good tension riser. Her mother takes an immediate shine to Luke while her sister isn’t so fond of anything. Lucy (Andrea Rosen) keeping her newly promoted on a “Leeshy” this holiday is most likely the most ‘barbed’ this script will ever get. To be fair, you can only say Aleesha is overworked, not underpaid, as she’s promoted, so the script puts in a failsafe from truly being anything great.
At best, it sets up a decent conflict while ‘getting one over on the man.’ The rub is, whereas “Strawberry” was too garishly preachy for its own good, the only “ballsy” move thus far in the episode is the wall massaging joke. Moments like that dial me back in, so sincere kudos. Aleesha scolding A.I. (Owen Daniels) for taking a rest on the busiest day of the year may be getting a bit closer to what I feel this episode could achieve in regards to sending a message about Amazon, their practices and consumerism all around, but that was never the main objective. The main objective is to provide an entertaining, funny, thought-provoking script.
Luke (Kevin Bigley) and his pedagogy with the A.I. are giving hints that the real teacher in this season isn’t the person paid to do it, but rather the person who lacks a sense of purpose that was born to do it. This is a nice throughline I want to see more of because Nathan as a garbage picker because of his ‘undocumented’ status isn’t really doing much for me momentum-wise. I get it though. Keeping him separated from Nora as she researches more on downloads gives us just enough of a score to drive a wedge between the two, especially with her newfound knowledge of Nathan 2.0.
In Lake View, Nora this season looks stately and radiant, if only for the moment. She’s spying on Nathan, sure, but the excitement on her face belies the seldom spoken foible when it comes to the long-distance relationship: the fantasy vs. the reality. Lake View was their breeding ground for romance, the incubator of emotions. The distance keeps the fantasy alive as opposed to the smelly, cramped reality beyond the headset: relationships, in reality, can be complicated.
Speaking of which, Lake View Ingrid’s story isn’t much more storybook than her concurrent real-world one. She’s working retail at a Hug Suit Store just for the access to Nathan and seems refreshingly down-to-earth. Sadly, Allegra’s awesome sobering performance of someone humbled is short-lived. Just when it feels as though we’re going to get another dimension to Ingrid, the script has a problem with making certain we know that she’s “not good.” Shit, we already have big conglomerates as the big boss, Lucy, and the underlings as mere imps; do we really need another person to rally against? Keeping Ingrid a bad egg is one thing, but her capriciousness is so herky-jerky, that it just seems out alien in the grand scheme of things. We get it, her unhealthy obsession with Nathan is an easy move, but it toes trite eye-rolling territory and overshadows something more compelling, which is her quest for self-respect. What I am thankful for though is Allegra’s acting, as it shows flashes of brilliance when she’s playing it more nuanced. Sadly, the script only gives her flashes and immediately wrests them away.
The episode ends with Nathan 2.0 calling. A great moment when the “L” word is mentioned by Nora, setting off that faucet of blood Nathan calls a nose. It’s a very strong beat to an episode that seemed more pageantry and fanfare than anything else. Though we do have a nice warm and tender moment between Luke, Aleesha, and A.I. at their dinner, “CyberDiscountDay” for me isn’t going to be remembered like “Snowflake Day” from Clone High, as a creative spin on something universally separated.
“CyberDiscountDay” is going to be remembered for giving me dyspepsia, so I suppose that it nailed that Thanksgiving beat perfectly.