Sweetbitter Episode 6: Careful What You Wish For

Photo: Courtesy of Starz.
An entire week has passed between Sasha (Daniyar) and Tess’ (Ella Purnell) drug-fuelled episode and tonight’s season finale, but it might as well have been 30 seconds for the characters. We open in the hospital, with the two still hugging on Sasha’s hospital bed. It’s a sweet moment and shows just how far these two have come from their rocky start.
Perhaps feeling protective of his little Baby Monster, and realising just how young and naive Tess still is, Sasha tells her to return to her hometown. We still have no idea where Tess is from, why she left, who she left behind, or what she ran away from. A flurry of questions rushes through my mind, but Heather (Jasmine Mathews) and Ari (Eden Epstein) rush into the room before I can dwell on it.
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Tess leaves to go to her apartment. She has a big day ahead of her: her final rounds at the restaurant are later that evening, and she has an actual written test to take before service. What follows is what I’d like to call Sweetbitter’s take on the Rocky workout montage: Tess takes a cold shower, Tess moves heavy workout gear around the apartment — seriously, where’s her roommate? — Tess studies the restaurant table layout and even cracks open Simone’s (Caitlin FitzGerald) wine books. It looks like she’s gearing up for a college final.
After a real multiple-choice exam from Howard (Paul Sparks), she prepares for dinner service. Simone and Jake (Tom Sturridge) are back from their Cape Cod adventure and, as per usual, they’re completely engrossed in their hushed conversation in the corner. Jake walks up to greet Tess and...nothing happens. The music doesn’t change, Tess doesn’t get flashes and images of the ocean. In fact, she couldn’t give less of a damn about Jake’s hometown visit or his sexy raspy voice. “This game is boring, I have too much to do today,” she hurls at him. His expression is incredulous. Tess has done some growing in the 30-something hours since he last saw her. In this tête-à-tête we find out that Tess is from Dayton, Ohio (2006 population: 156,930).
Fred, one half of the soigne couple from a few episodes back, is making a scene at the bar, yelling at Jake and demanding to see Simone. He’s drunk and irate. “You and Simone deserve each other,” he slurs. Jake later explains the whole kerfuffle to Tess: It turns out Fred is having an affair with Simone. I truly did not see that coming. I guess we now know who sent those fancy flowers Tess and Simone ripped up.
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Jake clearly wasn’t supposed to spill the beans to a person he has exchanged MAYBE 100 words with, and an enraged Simone really lays it into Jake later. Tess overhears the two arguing, but it’s more than that, Simone is blatantly emotionally manipulating Jake. “One day I’m going to be done with you,” she threatens him. “No one else will ever know you the way that I do. I have been carrying you since you were 8,” she hisses, before adding “I forgive you.”
This scene is so uncomfortable to watch. Shoulders slumped, Jake looks like a little child getting reprimanded. Everything starts to make sense. All those canceled dates; Simone always getting her way; Simone demanding he go up north with her; Simone telling Tess to stay away from Jake. She feels some sort of ownership over his life. And any other woman that comes close to stealing her place must be dealt with right away.
Later, a brief meeting between Howard, Simone, and Will (Evan Jonigkeit) determines Tess’ future at the restaurant. Will vouches for her, not taking this moment alone with Howard to seek revenge for his bruised ego. But as soon as he leaves the room, Simone tells Howard that Will is sleeping with Tess, not hiding the fact that she’s doing everything she can to make sure Tess does not get the job. Howard then threatens to fire Jake for being unprofessional in his handling of Fred, questioning Simone’s choice of lover in the process.
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Simone dishes it right back, making a low blow comment about Howard sleeping with Becky (Katerina Tannenbaum) and how much it cost him to make it all go away. Howard excuses his dalliance, saying he has been lonely after his wife’s passing, and that he is always discreet. That is a poor, disgusting, obnoxious excuse for taking advantage of his position of power to exploit the women that work for him. He’s clearly not as smart or as discreet as he thinks, as all the servers have been making comments all season long about Howard sleeping with Becky.
We don’t see how the final decision unfolds, but Simone somehow convinces Howard to keep Jake at the restaurant — my suspicion is that she slept with Howard, but it’s not clear. Nevertheless, Tess gets a full-time job in the process, earning her new backwaiter title.
In a scene that mirrors one from the pilot, Simone stands behind Tess and fixes her hair. This time, the goal is to intimidate and maybe even scare Tess away. She insinuates that Tess only got the job because Howard finds her attractive. HISSS. Every ounce of a maternal warmth is gone as Simone levels an unmistakable threat at Tess: “Since it looks like you’ll be staying with us for a while, I hope you’ll be careful.”
No one, not even a snakey Simone can ruin this moment for Tess. She loves this job, she feels at home, and she’s happy to walk through the restaurant doors every day. She also found a small family, albeit dysfunctional at times, in her colleagues. The camera stays on Tess, standing still with plates of food in her hands. She worked so hard to get this job, but does she want to stay? Is this the place for her? Is Simone threatening her? Is Jake worth her attention? What will happen to Sasha?
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The camera pans away, and we cut to black.
Highlights & Thoughts:
Shout out to Scottie (Jimmie Saito) for this hilarious line that had me laughing out loud: “Salmon one, salmon two, salmon three, salmon four. Let me guess, white people?”
Best Sasha Quote: “I just needed more attention. Give me kisses!”
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