Every week, grown-ish just seems more and more confident of who it is. Last week, that was with genuinely funny bits for heroine Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi), which were mixed in with complex commentary on bi-erasure and the dark financial arts of the NCAA. This week, in Wu-Tang reference by way of a Cash Mooney (Da'Vinchi) pun "C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)," it’s with a seriously complicated look at our attitudes towards sex, virginity, “branding,” and the wild pressures of all three. And, somehow, we all still leave the episode feeling like we’re watching a modern-day comedy and not an after school special from 1884.
Let’s figure out how grown-ish managed those thematic gymnastics.
We enter “C.R.E.A.M.” with the assurance Zoey and college basketball phenom Cash are now officially booed up after the tension of “Starboy.” Like the Hiddleswift of yore, they pose for “candid” paparazzi photos on the street and take adorable “private” pics with friends. Everyone around them is aware of their love and jealous. Naturally, Zoey couldn’t be happier. Except, things go sour when the haters and losers begin trolling Zoey in Cash’s comments, calling her “fat”and a “ho.” One jerk takes things too far, writing of Cash’s WCW, “I smashed,” while another eloquently adds, “Queen eats [enter eggplant emoji here].” Lovely.
This is why the true golden rule of the internet is, “Never, ever, read the comments.”
Unfortunately, Cash doesn’t listen to my pristine advice, and fires back, “My bae is pure! #Virgin. #Thin.” In less than 10 seconds, Cash has completely dashed Zoey’s trust and shared her sexual history with the world. Yes, even though said sexual history is non-existent, it’s still an egregious breach of confidence. It doesn’t matter if Zoey has slept with 0 people or 1,000 people, giving the entire world that information without permission is a no-go.
So, Zoey is rightly angry, especially since #TheVirginZoey is now trending on Twitter. The Fosters sisters (Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey) think their friend should tell Cash “Boy, bye” and show him the box to the left. Luca Hall (Luka Sabbat) is, as usual, wondering why Zoey is so pressed about being embarrassed. Poor Vivek Shah (Jordan Buhat) simply doesn’t want Zoey to end things with the Big Man On Campus before his own upcoming birthday party.
Amid all of this relationship chaos, Luca informs Zoey that Cash is going through a much bigger crisis than his girlfriend ignoring his text messages. On top of that, his estranged father is also auctioning off Cash’s possessions for, well, cash and it’s turned into a major media storm. In an attempt to be a good girlfriend and human person, Zoey proves she’s literally a ride-or-die and hops in the car for Cash’s trip to confront his father.
Now trapped in a moving car, this is hypothetically where both parties would put away their anger to have a good, heartfelt conversation amid an emotional catastrophe. But, we’re dealing with people who were at prom approximately 10 days ago. So, they first give each other an impossibly long silent treatment — opening up a chance for a cameo from black-ish dad Andre Jonhson (Anthony Anderson) to prove Zoey excels at the awkward pauses — before finally sharing their feelings. What comes from this conversation is one of grown-ish’s greatest moments yet.
In a conversation far more honest and introspective than I ever had at 18-and-a-half-years-old, everyone admits they’re using their new partner, yet still seriously cares about the other person. Cash reveals he purposefully leaked Zoey’s virginity story because it would be “good for his brand.” Zoey correctly stops, drops, and rolls out of a moving vehicle to get away from someone who would manipulate her private information in such an appalling way. But, Cash convinces Zoey to, in the words of Rebecca Pearson, “get back in the car” by telling his girlfriend his genuinely sad life story.
“You fit inside what I want to be … You’re also good on paper. You’re pretty, you’re smart, you come from a good family. And then you got the virgin thing?” he admits. “I come from nowhere. The bottom.” To prove this autobiography, Cash explains they’re driving to buy back the athlete’s own memorabilia before his father sells it all for drug money. This is the same dad who will later shove Cash and leave either a trail of blood or snot pouring out of his son’s nose.
While this doesn’t excuse Cash’s exploitive behavior, we can all see how an 18-year-old like Zoey would fall for this kind of vulnerable sob story or go on to say the baller defending her honor makes the teen feel “special.”
Yeah, but would Cash still want to be with Zoey if she wasn’t a virgin who fit into his burgeoning brand? He’s not sure. This is when Zoey herself gets shockingly honest, saying she’s not sure she would want to be with Cash, and his many airplane hangars of baggage, if he wasn’t The Man. These two both fit into each other’s increasingly exaggerated self image, and now we all know it. At least everyone is being honest.
To lighten up the mood, Zoey returns to the bright, warm embrace of California U and her friends after watching her boyfriend get assaulted by his own money-hungry father. We learn Vivek's worst nightmare came true, as no one came to his birthday party without a celebrity draw. With the entire crew annoyed, the group attempts to drag Cash to Zoey's face, but, now that she knows the truth about Cash’s life, she reads every single one of her pals so filthily she blacks out. Vivek is what the kids call “shooketh.” It’s another great set piece for Yara Shahidi to show off her comedy chops.
The episode closes with Zoey bouncing out of the empty bash in favor of tracking Cash down at his dorm. There, our teen lovebirds confirm they have real feelings for each other and they’re a team from here on out. The pair retire to Cash’s room… and fade to black.
Even with this happily ever after ending, next week’s episode title spells trouble. “Cashin’ Out” does not sound good.
This week's Drone Class lesson: Words — they mean stuff. Also, please don’t try to abduct Iron Man unless you want to end up doing 10 years in Pelican Bay.
Read These Stories Next: