We're recapping Difficult People, episode by episode. Hey, you look homeschooled!
It's been slow going for Billy and Julie on season two of Difficult People. Between the two, they've failed at resolutions not to have anonymous sex at the gym, killed Nathan Lane, kept their porn to themselves, pretended to be from New Jersey, were cast as a balloonist called Patches, and learned to never take Sharon Stone's advice. Yet, come episode seven, they don't have much to show for it.
That's the problem with undoing the possibilities set forth in every episode: We end up nowhere. And it's also what episode seven gets right.
Instead of focusing on Billy and Julie's ineptitude/resistance/hatred of getting along with others, we get to see the two of them try (and succeed) at doing something they put a lot of effort into. "Carter" gives us a look at their weird, fun world when they actually care about something. Well, as much as one can care about a 24-hour musical about our 39th President.
So we begin, not with a president but with a pop star. Billy and Julie have taken to the street because they're opening a play during the New York Fringe Festival! It's called Swiftical: The Musical and they are poaching Hamilton audience hopefuls with flyers that exclaim praise from Lin-Manuel Miranda. Though the Midwestern mutants in line have no idea who that is; they just want to see Hamilton, guys.
Still, they persevere, chatting up the presumably home schooled who would love to see a play about their hero T-Swift, right? "It's also about Hamilton," Billy embellishes.
Billy and Julie decide this must be the closest many of these tourists have ever been to actual Jewish people. Well, save for the cinnamon raisin bagels they order at Einstein's, named for, Julie theorizes, the man focus groups found to be the least-hated Jew.
Then Dudio from the Best Show jets toward them with flyers of his own. "Haaaaay, do you guys like comedy??" he asks excitedly. "We used to," Julie replies. "Yeah," Billy says, "but now we do it."
At a fancy restaurant that is not Le Cirque because Marilyn couldn’t get reservations at Le Cirque but is more expensive than Le Cirque, Billy and Julie are dining with Mom and wondering if the time that Aviva Drescher took off her leg on Real Housewives of New York resulted in the restaurant confiscating it and repurposing the imitation limb as a fob for its bathroom key. Who knows! Though that would certainly ensure better company than the woman it had been attached to.
Mom, this is very generous of you, Marilyn says, with that corrective drawn out mom-guilt voice and eyes demandingly wide as saucers. They add up to a pretty good Ramona Singer impression now that we’re thinking about it. Julie says thanks for inviting them out to celebrate their play opening.
But actually no, that is not why Marilyn invited them out. She is the one with the good news. Bravo has tapped her to be an in-house psych consultant when they audition new cast members for RHONY, which honestly might be the scariest job we’ve ever heard of, knowing that Kelly Bensimons, Jill Zarins, and Vicki Gunvalsons are just out there running around, allowed to interact with other people in the world.
The plan is for Marilyn to be behind the scenes. She'll interview the women, judge whether they might have a breakdown, and determine whether that breakdown would make for good television. How did she get the gig? Who does she know at Bravo? Complicatedly and nobody. She sabotaged a friend who was trying to get the job.
Julie offers to give her mom a heads-up about the kinds of (lunatic, and we say that with love) women who are famous on that network. But Marilyn is not interested!
At the cafe, which we have been calling the restaurant but are now offfically switching to cafe, just so you know, Matthew is frittering about all happy that Billy cast him in Swiftical. Denise is like, yeah, well, I said he had to or he couldn’t have the night off. Which doesn’t make sense, does it? Because there are only like three servers who work there, and that ensures that not just one but two are out for the night but whatever we are not restaurateurs like Ramona Singer. What do we know? (How is her sports bar doing, btw?) Anyway, Denise says maybe this musical will be a hit like Hamilton. At hearing the three syllables, Nate turns around frowning. He reveals that he went to high school with Lin-Manuel. In the fourth grade, Nate was the one who presented a book report about Alexander Hamilton — and it rhymed.
Lola emerges from the back room freaking about how there are 12 cases of olive oil in there. Turns out, restaurant week starts tomorrow. Denise explains this is their only chance to undo the damage of Zagat's. And some 400 people are coming. So yeah, how is this gonna work again?
Over at Bravo, Marilyn is being asked to advise an executive on who’d be good for the show. But she, like a housewife, cannot stop bringing the conversation back to her wedding, her preferred sweeteners, why she is both strong and confident. In short, herself.
After reviewing 25 candidates at $1,000 a pop, it’s clear that this is not the best job for her, the exec says. “Well, fuck you, too," Marilyn calmly responds. "I’ve already invoiced you.”
But her colleague has an idea for someone as “self-inclined” as Marilyn. Essentially, she is a selfish bitch and we don’t get it in this scene, but clearly she’s gonna ask if Marilyn would consider being on the show. Our hearts flutter. What we would give to see her on a reunion giving Andy Cohen side eye and fighting in verbal circles of who did, said, and didn’t say or do what.
At the cafe, Denise and Nate are setting up, talking dirty, and wondering where their vegetable delivery is. Which is not good. Nor is accidentally sexily telling a veggie dealer to pull your plug.
Billy and Julie are being cats and rehearsing Swiftical. Taylor Swift's adopted cats, who are about to sing a song called “Let Me Shit Alone in a Box."
Julie checks ticket sales and notices that their show is almost sold out, which would be a first for both of them. Call it “success by association,” Julie guesses. You know, since they manufactured a Miranda quote and plastered it on their flyer. Billy admits he was kinda worried at first about the whole lying on a massive level thing, but now he knows they were doing the right thing. He is wearing pink and white cat ears tied atop his head with a ribbon.
A guy who is definitely serving them papers comes to the stage. They assume he is a gay fan and that he is named Bryce and what can they sign for you, Bryce? Julie takes the envelope from Bryce and opens it to find a letter from Shake It Off Incorporated.
“You’ve been served,” Bryce says. They have. It’s a cease-and-desist order from that litigious musician herself.
Here we cut to Marilyn, being asked to appear on RHONY.
Nate hears that the vegetable truck just hit a costume shop. Aka, no veggies are coming.
How does Marilyn feel about being the Countess’ new shrink?
“We can’t do Swiftical,” Julie says distraught.
Then we get Billy, Marilyn, and Denise in spilt third screens. Billy and Denise scream "fuck!" While Marilyn, in the middle, folds her hands into a smiley “terrific!”
The only upside, Billy says, is that he gets to fire Matthew. So they make their way to the Fringe Festival headquarters to cancel their kitten musical. And they bump into Andrea Mumford. Don't remember her? Neither do they. But she was in last season's Moth episode, delivering spoken-word poetry about her horrible uncle.
"Listen lady, we meet a lot of people," Billy says.
Andrea explains she’s doing a one-woman version of Snowpiercer. But she keeps having to add dates because demand is so high. Also, it’s already won Obies and it’s not even in previews. Fine, Andrea. We get it. We got it. We’re good.
But Billy and Julie aren't gonna take it. They tell her their piece sold out in record time and, actually, it's a lot like Hamilton. Basically exactly like it, in fact, because it’s about another less-known president and it’s a musical and there’s dancing. And here, the idea for Carter is born.
So instead of canceling because they have verbally trapped themselves into performing a musical about Jimmy Carter, Billy and Julie tell the Fringe boss that they have simply changed the name of their piece. It’s Carter. Formerly known as Swiftical: Carter.
Back at her apartment, Julie cannot for the life of her grasp why they lied to Andrea, who said she's definitely getting a ticket to their show. So they really have to do it: They have to make up a show in a matter of hours.
Arthur suggests using the same material and editing the subject matter. But Julie is not interested in his take.
“Please leave the art to the artists and the farts to the fartists," she says.
Then Billy says exactly what Arthur just said: Let’s Weird Al the musical and change the Swift specifics to Carter ones. And they're off.
They’re working Carter trivia into songs (he did a lot of stuff, guys!) and having Arthur check their historical facts. They’re even going to credit him as advisor on their “very creative” script. Though he’d rather they didn’t. Arthur is ordered to make them breakfast and find New York’s last remaining Kinkos. He won’t go quietly though: “Just because Jimmy Carter is from Georgia does not mean he knew Nene Leakes."
Julie wails: “Why can’t you support me?”
At the theater, Marilyn meets up with Julie and likens the space to the Silence of the Lambs cellar — without the weight loss. She shares that Bravo wants her on RHONY as Countess Luann’s therapist, in a long line of Housewives therapists who do ethically questionable things and may or may not mean well. “They were looking for someone who felt the benefits of television exposure outweighed the slippery slope of patient confidentiality," she says.
Et voilà! Job.
Julie isn’t happy for her and declines to give her mom advice. The aspiring actress will have to come to grips with the fact that her mom is going to be on TV before her, and that Julie’s introduction to the world, the most notable thing about her, will be that she is the daughter of a reality star. The star part makes Marilyn excited, and she asks Julie for that advice she offered earlier. But Julie doesn’t care. Her musical is in less than 11 hours and she has to rehearse.
Billy has arrived at the theater with a box of costumes covered in glitter that he found in the street that are clearly the casualties of the earlier costume shop-vegetable truck fiasco he is unaware of. Turns out, the accident was near the last remaining Kinkos, where Billy made fliers for Carter. It's yet another show by Billy and Julie show that Lin-Manuel Miranda also loves. They resolve to work in as many of the costumes (including a human-size peanut) into the show as possible.
And then, holy mother of God of Jesus of Travolta’s guy, there she is: the countess. Marilyn is sipping tea in the former royal’s penthouse. There’s a new Bravo exec named Allison running things here because Cheryl, who hired Marilyn, had a nervous breakdown in Thailand, where their euthanasia law has probably left her dead.
Silver lining: Allison is producing the segment.
Marilyn isn’t sure how to proceed, as she’s never counseled a patient in their home and in front of cameras and lighting. But they dig in. Luann wants to talk about her fight with Sonja/Sun-ya. Marilyn doesn’t know what camera to look at. This is where Julie could’ve been helpful, Marilyn says. Then talks with Luann about their relationships to their daughters — and how Marilyn and Julie fight all the time and whose session is this again?
Luann had told Sonja that she’s writing another book, a toaster-oven cookbook. Sonja, she of promised toaster-oven empires, apparently checked out and now they’re in a fight. Marilyn posits that Sonja feels like Luann is trying to one-up her in her realm … kinda how Julie must feel. So Marilyn suggests that they all go see Julie’s play.
At the theater, Billy and Julie see their full house. Billy gives a psych-up speech: “Now we’re just gonna put on our wigs and play make-believe, just as John Travolta and Kelly Preston say to each other every morning.” Then they pray to Father Guido Sarducci, and thank him for the audience.
The show opens with Matthew in the aforementioned peanut costume speaking in a Southern accent about how he’s going to tell the story of a peanut farmer who became president. First, he must put down these kitten skins. Up get numerous audience members.
Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinem are building a humanity habitat for “poors” when Marilyn comes in with a camera crew and Luann, who does not want to sit with Sonja. No way. Marilyn resolves to sit between the two, as Billy raps about making Palestine his valentine like Greg meeting Dharma. We love this, and would contribute to a Kickstarter for an entire production. Quibbling in the audience, Luann delivers the line that will go down in history as her greatest: Just be cool. Don't be all like uncool. Doesn't work though: The housewives hate each other.
At the cafe, Denise and Nate are prepping vegetables of unknown provenance. Denise gets to wondering why they have a family restaurant but no family. When they’re gone, it'll be turned into a CVS or Chase Bank. She wants to adopt a baby — even though she hates kids. Besides Matthew, that is. Nate is game, as he’s been suggesting they have kids ever since we went to a Yo Gabba Gabba! concert solo and was detained by security. She wants to adopt from Connecticut, like a reverse white people adopting from Africa thing. “Fuck restaurant week. Fuck these vegetables.” Aw!
Matthew’s back on stage being Ronald Reagan and singing about how he ignored AIDS. Sonja and Luann are mystified as to why they are here and what this play even is. They leave together and make up and want to go somewhere they might be recognized. Even though they’re out, Marilyn tells the crew to keep shooting.
Billy takes the stage as Gene Simmons and Julie is now David Bowie. They work in an Aaron Carter dis, which we appreciate, though we strongly dislike his being lumped in with Queen Bey. The show ends with them posing and singing: “Carter, now we know about you.”
Denise comes backstage to tell Matthew he’s gonna be a big brother. He pitches a fit and says no, resolutely.
Marilyn comes backstage and says she brought the camera crew, which Julie already knew because she has eyes. Allison comes backstage to fire Marilyn because the Sonja-Luann fight was supposed to drive the whole season and now she has to start shit with Bethenny. Oof.
Julie tells Marilyn she should've given her advice when she asked, and they make up.
Billy's tidying up the theater when Lin-Manuel Miranda was in, pissed that there are flyers quoting him saying he liked this show. Billy asks for tickets to Hamilton, but that's not gonna happen.
Nate, again with the good timing, walks in with a "Well, well well. Lin-Man-well, well, well." He asks if he's stolen any fourth-grade book reports lately. Lin-Manuel says, "Fuck, dude. I'm sorry." Nate accepts the apology. It was all he wanted, and he hopes that his former schoolmate enjoys his Tonys. Miranda says he does. Sometimes he even makes them kiss.
As Miranda's leaving, Billy gives it one last shot: Can he be in Hamilton? Miranda says, sure, rehearsals are Monday.
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Outside the theater, Arthur says he loved the play. Andrea is also there and says she loved it, too. She hits on Arthur, is disgusted to find that he's dating Julie, and says when he's ready for "some A-plus pussy," he should give her a call.
Wait, Billy grows a twinge concerned. Where did Matthew go? And we cut to Times Square, where he's continuing to flail his arms about and whine in his chonies. Just then, Dudio returns to ask if he likes comedy.
To paraphrase Danielle Schneider, cohost of Real Housewives podcast Bitch Sesh: We want a TV show to succeed. In particular, we want Difficult People to hit a rhythm, and find a balance between its influences and its creators' voices. And here, they've done it.