Broad City Asks: Can Open Relationships End Without Heartbreak?

Photo: Courtesy of Comedy Central.
Heartbreak has come to Broad City. After two and a half seasons of being Ilana's sex friend, chill dentist Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) tells her he's ending things. Per the terms of their open relationship, he's been seeing another woman and that woman has become his girlfriend.

Ilana, of course, knew that he'd been having sex with someone else. In fact, she encouraged it. She even rejoiced. (Rejoicing for Ilana means attempting to climb a very small tree.) She didn't consider that it might mean Lincoln would no longer be available to her.

But Lincoln always wanted something more out of his relationship with Ilana than she was willing to give him. Back in the first season, when he was fixing her broken veneer and she was conveniently passed out on nitrous oxide, he divulged his true feelings. "You know, Ilana, we've been hanging for a while, and the arrangement we have now is cool, the whole sex buddies thing," he said. "I love it, it's dope because I get to bone a lot, but you ever thought what it would be like to be in a real relationship, boyfriend-girlfriend? It could be great." Ilana, incapacitated, couldn't respond, but she wouldn't have given him the response he wanted anyway.

When he breaks the news to Ilana that he wants to be monogamous, she immediately thinks he wants to be monogamous with her. He tells her that's not the case, and you can see her bravado shatter. "We want different things so I've got to move on," he says. She ventures that they can still hang out as friends. "I don't think we're just friends, so, no," he replies. She desperately tries to keep her emotions at bay as she gets up to leave. Just before she goes, she turns around. "Lincoln, wait," she says, softly. Is this going to be her big rom com moment? No. She makes a farting noise and points at him.
Throughout the rest of the episode, Ilana tries to mask her disappointment with bluster. She catcalls men and women on the street. She makes eyes at a man in the restaurant where she's having dinner with her parents for their anniversary. They arrange to go to the bathroom for a quickie. As they are making out he gleefully declares that his wife is "totally pumping and dumping like 40 feet away." Ilana recoils. She asks if he and his wife have an open relationship. He responds: "What are you, retarded? Open relationships are unstable. Cheating is victimless." Ilana freaks out and leaves.

Meanwhile, Abbi is trying desperately to conceal her hookup with Trey (Paul W. Downs) from Ilana. You see, Abbi and Trey are on a date at the same restaurant where the Wexler family is dining. Abbi tries to hop between the two dinners without each party realizing. (Yes, this was an "homage" to Mrs. Doubtfire. Yes, it's still funny.) Ultimately, Ilana's mom (Susie Essman) chokes on a lychee, and Trey has to come to the rescue. The jig is up. Ilana realizes Abbi has been keeping this from her. She exits the restaurant and breaks down. She is shocked by Abbi's deception, but her tears aren't really about that.

Though the bathroom hookup dude was a douche, his point about open relationships being "unstable" may have hit a little too close to home for Ilana. Lincoln was a constant in her life, but she took his presence for granted. It's not just that he wanted a relationship with her; he wanted a relationship, period. She didn't consider that until it was too late. "He doesn't even want to be friends," she tells Abbi, sobbing. "He never really did. I just never heard it."

It's not that Broad City is necessarily coming down in favor of or against open relationships. Instead, it's showing how Ilana's self-centered approach to the subject backfired. Her situation with Lincoln was "perfect" for her, but not for him, a fact which she chose to ignore. Ilana may not have wanted to be exclusive with Lincoln, but she wanted him to always be there for her.

The intense confidence Ilana displays in nearly every episode is admirable. She's the type of person who lumps herself in with Madonna and Rihanna. ("Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana," she repeats to herself in this episode even at her most upset.) I certainly wish I could have some of her yas kween attitude. However, it's also refreshing to see her portrayed as someone who can get hurt. Relationships constantly fall apart in unexpected ways, and the parties involved are frequently devastated by those turn of events. But most often that kind of heartbreak leads to personal growth. That's what will hopefully happen to Ilana. Of course, some important things remain static. The episode ends with Abbi and Ilana smoking weed in a tub.

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