This is part of the 5 Favorite Episodes of 2017 Series. Check out the previous entries here. This is the subjective countdown of my favorite episodes that aired in 2017. Articles include SPOILERS.
You’re The Worst is all about growing up. Jimmy and Gretchen are children in more ways than one: stunted adolescents. The show itself has been about trying to grow up while still remaining who you are, and not just trying to fit into a box. This season put both characters through a lot of growing pains, but its biggest lesson came in the solo-Gretchen episode “Not a Great Bet.”
Gretchen returns to her hometown, conceivably for the birth of her niece, but instead spends the entire episode avoiding her family. Instead she wanders through her house, looking at memories and finding hidden booze and cigarettes before reconnecting with a childhood friend. But in this episode, all of the shine of the past is faded. Gretchen’s list of things to do before she turns 30 remains largely undone. Her old high school teacher has been fired for taking upskirt photos of students. The roller rink that she dreamed of buying is hemorrhaging money. A mall full of memories has been long abandoned, and the teenagers inside are full of anxiety, far from the thrill seeking that Gretchen got into in high school.
Most of all, Gretchen’s friendship with childhood friend Heidi (played by guest star Zosia Mamet) is nothing like she remembers. Heidi didn’t die of cancer as a child, and as it turns out, she never really cared that Gretchen didn’t visit her in the hospital. They weren’t really that close after eighth grade anyway. Gretchen didn’t ghost her, Heidi had already given up on their friendship. This episode is all about revisiting your past and placing it in your life, deciding who you are, who you were, and who you want to be. For Gretchen, she thought home would always be there for her at some level, as I think we all do. It’s not.
Gretchen has always been a bit of a chameleon, just as Heidi points out towards the end of the episode, being able to change to match her environment. She can even slide back into being a teenager, playing truth and dare, sharing sex conquests, and drinking with teenagers, but it’s all a defense mechanism. When Heidi calls her out for it, she kicks it into overdrive, offering to blow a minor if he eats a can of cat food. The whole point is to hide who she really is, from her vulnerabilities and insecurities.
“Everyone liked you or wanted you, but no one knew you,” Heidi tells Gretchen. It turns out that Gretchen is, as the episode title would suggest, not a great bet to invest in. At some point that malleable defense mechanism might as well be who you are, as opposed to a cover. It’s a powerful message to be delivered by Heidi, who Gretchen has viewed as being left behind. She’s still in the same town, at the same roller rink, and wearing a children’s hat. But she’s built a life for herself, which is more than Gretchen can say.
In the end, Gretchen runs away, yet again, not just from Heidi but from her family, leaving without seeing any of them, but this time with the knowledge that this is not where she belongs. This is no longer her home or a place she can fall back on. This place knows her and her tricks too well to be fooled, and she is stuck with the knowledge that if she doesn’t grow up, the same thing will happen no matter where she is. The problem isn’t with her situation, her job, or her relationship, it’s with her.