You can sense the repression in AJ the first time he speaks. In the opening montage, he talks like he dresses and acts: like a man who’s terrified of giving away anything of his true self. Once we delve a little deeper, he’s instantly likeable. In the safety of his friends’ company, he’s far more relaxed, making the Fab Five’s mission clear. This is a guy who needs to move past the blockage that separates public AJ from private AJ and marry the two into someone who feels a lot more comfortable in their own skin.
I can completely appreciate the role that grief has to play in AJ’s life. It’s almost as if the fact that he never came out to his father has left him stuck in stasis, afraid to move on and begin a life that’s different to the one he lived when his dad was still alive. There’s no assurance that his father would have accepted him as a gay man, but he never gave him the opportunity to and that’s a big regret to move past. He dresses like his dad and lives in an apartment that feels like a physical manifestation of a mind in turmoil. Stack this one up against the people who are just too lazy or clueless and you can see that there’s a huge task ahead.
It’s telling that his direction to Tan is to steer away from anything too feminine. Just moments before that, he talks to Karamo about how it’s hard to be accepted as a gay man, nevermind a gay black man. “You’ve already got a couple of strikes against you,” AJ says. It’s a sad fact that the pressure on young black men to conform to a damaging stereotype of masculinity is immense and AJ is walking proof of that. Nobody says that every gay man secretly wants to be Jonathan, but it’s sad that AJ worried that the condition of coming out was to go in the complete opposite direction. It comes up again when they’re shopping, so it’s lovely to have Antoni there to show him how being gay doesn’t have to mean flamboyant.
Karamo takes AJ to a ziplining place to help him “conquer his fears”. Ok, Karamo, whatever you say. I do feel sorry for him. His remit seems the least clearly defined and beyond being encouraging and sincere, he often doesn’t have much to do. You would have thought this makeover was made for Karamo, so it’s a shame we get him pushing AJ off a cliff, rather than just having a beer and a chat. Not everything needs to be a metaphor. Jonathan’s vision for his look is right on the money though. It’s a subtle change but the effect is remarkable.
Not to be shallow, but Bobby’s role in all this was the one that excited me the most. AJ’s apartment looked damn cool, even when covered with dirty clothes. I had high hopes, but this is the one that should go on Bobby’s portfolio. Hell, it should go on his gravestone, it’s that good.
This episode was a moving one, but nothing prepared me for the party and AJ’s chat with his stepmom. I’ve watched this episode twice and both time been a complete mess by the time he finishes reading the letter to her. Her reaction starts at “Ok, that’s cool. No big deal” and progresses to complete emotional acceptance. God, it’s just too damn lovely. And then it gets a bit too uncomfortable and you start feeling like you’re imposing and they should have cut about five minutes ago. Also, when she said “I know you’re going to be there for me,” a part of my brain wondered if she was about to ask him for a kidney. Further proof that I can’t handle any extreme emotion without making a really bad joke.
Jonathan highlight: “Oh my God, Princess Diana. I’m still not over it. I’M NOT OVER IT.”
Antoni smell test: Nothing. There was crusty underwear right in front of him and he didn’t even sniff in its direction. Total let down.
Fab fives out of five: Five. The tears. The unstoppable tears.
Epilogue: AJ and Andre got married! Oh God, here come the tears again.