Mrs. Fletcher S1E5 (“Invisible Fence”): A Tale of Two Parties

Eve stands on a NYC sidewalk at night looking satisfied
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

To my surprise and delight, this week’s episode was actually kind of happy. I was hoping for the best for Margo and Curtis, but I didn’t have much faith in Brendan’s progress with Chloe or Eve’s progress with, well, anything really. I was pleasantly surprised by Mrs. Fletcher S1E5 (“Invisible Fence,” written by Elle McLeland and directed by Carrie Brownstein), and it gave me hope that the series, while it may not have a happy ending, at least won’t be horribly depressing. After all, what is the point of a limited series where the characters show absolutely zero growth or development?

As far as Brendan’s (Jackson White) development goes, we actually see him making some changes, however small. After last week’s nightmarish parents’ weekend experience, Brendan is feeling more alone than he ever has in his life. It’s become pretty clear to him that his roommate Zach (Cameron Boyce) doesn’t like him and that he has no friends. Chloe (Jasmine Cephas Jones) is a friend to some extent, but Brendan wants more from that relationship and Chloe hasn’t fully decided what she wants.

Chloe is torn because she is physically attracted to Brendan even though she knows that he is kind of the worst. She is almost ashamed of the fact that she’s got a crush on him when she brings it up to her coworker at the coffee shop, Kat (Erica Nicole Lance). Kat seems to think that Chloe has a type—“basic white guys with big dicks”—and Chloe doesn’t argue the point. Brendan shows up, Chloe finally agrees to go on a date with him, and Kat can’t let it go without teasing her for it. Chloe is well aware of who Brendan is but she can’t ignore her physical attraction to him. Whether she considers him a serious relationship candidate as a bit of a fixer-upper, or whether she just wants to have a casual sexual relationship with him is not yet clear (though events later in the episode lean towards the former).

Chloe stands behind the counter at the coffee shop flirting with Brendan, who stands on the other side

The date Chloe and Brendan are going on turns out to be attending a body-positivity party. Brendan, to no one’s surprise, is unfamiliar with the concept of body positivity, so Chloe breaks it down for him in a way he can understand: “it’s just naked people who wanna hook up.” Her attempting to actually explain the concept of body positivity to Brendan would likely end the date before it began so I can see why she would go this route. Inside, they strip down to their underwear and join the fray of nearly naked coeds dancing and drinking and just generally having a grand time.

This was the first of several points in “Invisible Fence” where I was pleasantly surprised by Brendan’s behavior. Given what we’ve seen of him thus far, I was fully expecting him to start body-shaming people at the party, but he doesn’t. He just gets into it and focuses on having a good time with Chloe. When he sees Zach at the party, dancing and kissing Chloe’s friend Harrison (Brett Temple), he doesn’t react the way I would have expected either. Brendan strikes me as a guy with homophobic tendencies—not anything particularly aggressive or violent, but I do think he’s the type to use the word gay as an insult (and probably the F slur as well). I would also have assumed that having a roommate who is attracted to men would be something that would make Brendan incredibly uncomfortable. But, as it turns out, Zach is far more uncomfortable with Brendan around than Brendan is being around Zach and Harrison.

I completely understand Zach’s reservations in sharing his sexual orientation with Brendan, as Zach knows exactly the type of jerk that Brendan can be and would assume (as I did) that he is homophobic. It’s likely that Zach has heard some of those words I mentioned above come out of Brendan’s mouth at some point, too.

Zach smiles at Harrison as they stand on the dance floor at a party

As it turns out, Brendan is actually hurt by the fact that Zach didn’t feel like he could be honest with him. As the group has a post-party dinner, Brendan finds out that the rest of them went to Foxwoods to gamble at some point and he’s hurt that he wasn’t invited. Of course, Brendan has thus far done himself no favors in this department. If he wants to be included in things, he needs to act more inclusive himself. It makes perfect sense that Zach wouldn’t have told him about or invited him on the Foxwoods trip because at no point has Brendan done anything to deserve being included. His attitude and his behavior are the reason why he is excluded, and that’s no one’s fault but his own.

Still, he wants to clear the air with Zach and he follows him to the bathroom to ask him why he wasn’t open with him about his sexuality. At this point, as Chloe notes later, it isn’t clear whether Zach is gay or bisexual or not interested in labels at all. Brendan is obviously assuming that Zach is gay, because Brendan isn’t really capable of understanding the nuances of sexuality, and Zach just isn’t interested in talking to him about it. Whether he doesn’t know himself or just doesn’t want to discuss it with Brendan is unclear, but it is clear that Brendan is actually truly hurt by it. He believes that Zach is his friend, but Zach doesn’t see things the same way.

As Chloe and Brendan walk home, we finally hear Brendan expressing himself about how alone he feels. He can’t understand how he has gone from being the popular guy in high school to being deemed “a straight cis white boy” and excluded from social life at college. Chloe notes that, for the first time in his life, he feels uncomfortable, which is how many people feel all the time. Brendan actually seems to get it this time, and I hope that somewhere in his mind he is thinking about how he bullied Julian. In order for Brendan to grow as a person, he is going to need to make the connection in his head that the way he is feeling now—like an outsider—is the way that he made Julian (and probably many others) feel in high school. I really really hope that he gets there, and soon.

One of several happy moments in “Invisible Fence” comes when Brendan ends his evening with a relatively chaste kiss from Chloe. The old Brendan would probably have been annoyed that she wouldn’t sleep with him, but here we see that Brendan is perfectly content to share a PG-13 moment with Chloe, a girl that he actually likes, as opposed to an X-rated night with a girl he barely knows. There may be hope for Brendan yet (and hats off to Chloe for tolerating him long enough to get him to this point).

Chloe and Brendan have a talk on their way back to Brendan's dorm
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

Mrs. Fletcher S1E5 finally gave me what I have been wanting to see from Eve (Kathryn Hahn): some sort of positive result coming from all the porn watching. She has been using the porn to try and figure out what she wants, but thus far it has only had negative real-world consequences. Instead of helping her, it has isolated her because she has not been able to take it and translate it into any form of healthy sexual expression. There’s the whole mess with Julian (Owen Teague), as well as her choice to drunkenly kiss her coworker Amanda (Katie Kershaw).

Eve is still mortified that she did that and knows it was wrong, not only because she did it without any form of consent from Amanda but because they work together, and she isn’t actually interested in Amanda as anything more than a friend and confidant. Luckily for Eve, Amanda is incredibly chill about the whole situation and is completely willing to just forget about it and pretend it never happened. When Eve calls in and fakes an illness to get out of work, Amanda fully knows it is because of the kiss and makes sure Eve knows that things are all good between them. Amanda is a good friend to Eve, and she can see that she’s lost and lonely.

Eve uses her day off to explore a bit of S&M on the Internet, particularly spanking videos. Her attempts to spank herself—playing both the sadist and the masochist role—are incredibly entertaining but, in the end, she decides that she doesn’t particularly care for it. She finds no sexual gratification in physical pain, but (as we see later) she is intrigued by the power dynamic of the Dominant/Submissive (D/s).

Eve is struggling with her personal essay, staring at that all-too-familiar blank page in her notebook. Unable to get anything down, she decides to get a pedicure with Jane (Casey Wilson), who is having some marital issues. She tells Eve that she and her husband are in a bit of a dry spell, which for Jane means one year without sex and for Eve means three years. I was actually surprised that Eve’s number was so low as I had been assuming she hadn’t been with anyone since her divorce. Her character’s journey makes a lot more sense if that were the case, but it would seem that Eve was dating someone at some point. I’m curious about that relationship but I doubt I’m going to get any real answers there.

Eve tells Jane about the essay she’s having trouble writing; it’s supposed to be about a turning point in her life when she had to make a decision that led her to be the person that she is today. Eve hasn’t been able to pinpoint that moment, which is essentially the moment when things went wrong for her. Instead of being supportive and trying to talk her through it, Jane finds the whole thing depressing and is more focused on her nails than on Eve’s struggles. Jane may be a good friend to complain with over a bottle of wine, but when it comes to deeper conversation, she’s not the greatest. It’s no wonder that Eve feels alone.

Jane shows Eve pictures on her phone as they sit in neighboring pedicure chairs
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

In contrast to Jane, Eve is able to speak much more freely with Margo (Jen Richards), who is going through a bit of a crisis of her own. Last week’s date with Curtis (Ifádansi Rashad) did not go as she had hoped, especially when she asked him to go to a party with her. He didn’t exactly say no, but he told her that Wednesdays aren’t good for him, which she immediately took as a rejection. In Mrs. Fletcher S1E5, we see that Margo is second-guessing her take on what happened with Curtis. Her initial assumption was that he was having an “existential crisis of masculinity” after finding himself attracted to a trans woman. This is, sadly, not uncommon, and I can’t blame her for jumping to that conclusion. However, Eve sees that she is doing just that and asks her if that is actually what is going on, and Margo admits that she really doesn’t know. She also delivers the single most relatable line on Mrs. Fletcher thus far: “This is why I’m a writer. I cannot tell the difference between what’s in my head and what’s out here.”

Same, Margo. Same.

Since Curtis (seemingly) turned down Margo’s invitation, Eve decides that she wants to go to the party with her in Brooklyn. She’s ready to step outside her comfort zone and try to actually connect with someone. The Brooklyn party is the polar opposite of the raucous college party. It is a bit stuffy and pretentious and filled with hipsters, and it’s just generally not a vibe that Eve is feeling. She and Margo are the oldest people there—that is until Curtis shows up. Eve goes off on her own, which gives Margo the opportunity to clear the air with Curtis.

Curtis and Margo get drinks at the bar at the Brooklyn house party

As I suspected last week, Margo and Curtis have a talk about whether he is comfortable dating a trans woman. He says that, while he hasn’t dated a trans person before, he has no hang-ups about it. He then asks Margo whether she’s ever dated a Black person before (she has) and makes it clear to her that he very much does like her. He drove an hour and a half to Brooklyn on a weeknight just to see her. I am a person who absolutely hates having to trek to Brooklyn for any reason, so if that’s not love, I don’t know what is. Here is another actual happy moment in Mrs. Fletcher S1E5, and I couldn’t be more pleased about it.

Eve’s night takes a more risqué turn as she meets a random guy at the party and decides to have a one-night stand with him. Eve’s experimentation with the D/s dynamic takes shape as she acts incredibly out of character here. With the freedom of being a complete stranger to this man, she is able to explore being sexually aggressive and dominant in both their flirtation and their sexual encounter later that night.

Eve flirts with a random guy at a Brooklyn house party

Things take an entertaining turn when the guy, who is initially super into being the submissive, actually ends up being more dominant. Instead of allowing Eve to tell him what to do, he tells her to tell him what to do. Eve isn’t into the whole topping from the bottom thing since part of the pleasure she was getting out of it was playing the dominant role. She was enjoying feeling like she was in charge and powerful—something she has not felt in a long time—and when the guy turns it around on her in that way, she loses interest. They finish up with some hilariously bad missionary, during which her one-night stand partner satisfies only himself, and she leaves.

But instead of being upset about it, Eve feels liberated. Sure, she had some bad sex on a one-night stand, but at least she tried something new. She made an attempt to meet someone and fulfill her desires outside of the confines of her empty house and without pornographic assistance. She put herself out there in a new way, and she finds a great deal of satisfaction in that even though she did not get the sexual satisfaction she wanted. This is what I have been waiting for: the moment where Eve’s experimentation with porn actually translates into a healthy form of sexual expression as opposed to a series of bad decisions. Eve has finally passed through the invisible fence that has been holding her back for so long. With the episode ending with a text from Julian saying how he can’t stop thinking about her, I have to hope that she’ll stay on the right side of that fence.

Join me next week for a look at the sixth episode of Mrs. Fletcher, “Solar Glow.”

Written by Alison Morretta

In addition to her position as Senior Editor and Writer for TVObs, Ali is a freelance editorial consultant and author of numerous nonfiction reference books for middle school and high school students. In her spare time, she enjoys obsessing over various television shows, especially Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When not overanalyzing TV shows, she is wrangling her hyperactive Corgi, who is inarguably the cutest dog that has ever existed.

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