The Bear S2E2 — S2E9 Recap: Arrivals and Departures

Sweeps, Natalie, Jimmy, Sydney, Carmy, and Richie talk about the restaurant opening
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

The following recap contains spoilers for The Bear S2E2 — S2E9 created by Christopher Storer and directed by Christopher Storer and Joanna Calo)

Just like Carmy texting Sydney in the Season 1 finale of The Bear, I need to admit that my behavior was not okay. Coming into the highly anticipated Season 2 of the FX on Hulu hit show, I questioned a couple of things. First, I wondered if the writers and directors of The Bear would be able to deliver on the same strong drama, tension, and character arcs that swelled up in Season 1 when they were all forced into a newfound family in the tight confines in the back of The Beef restaurant. And second, I second-guessed the motives of Michael hiding the $300,000 Uncle Jimmy loan when he knew all along that Carmy would be able to use that cash in a far greater and more meaningful way than Michael ever could.

I never should have doubted for a second that The Bear Season 2 would serve up one of the best menu of dishes possible.

Series showrunners Christopher Storer and Joanna Calo took those two questions, combined them with some fresh perspectives on the purpose of each of the primary characters on this show, threw in a dash of flashback family trauma, and created a chaos menu of plot movement and story arcs that make this season one of—in my mind—the best follow-ups to a premiere season in recent history.

In my write-up of Episode 1, “Beef,” I wondered if Riche’s questions to Carmy about purpose and finding a place to belong would be a harbinger of what would come in the new season, and that inevitably turned out to be true. Each of our characters would spend time either discovering or questioning their purpose (and sometimes both) in this lens-widening, ten-episode tour de force that gave each of the main players a chance to shine.

Carmy and Richie survey work that must be done at the restaurant
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

After having debates and conversations about the structure of many of the episodes that fall in the 2–9 range, it’s true these were not “bottle episodes” in the traditional sense of the word, but rather what Kathryn VanArendonk described as “departure episodes” that might pull us mostly away from the complete main cast, but still connect us to the overarching plot in creative and innovative ways. Just as each character was given a chance to shine in the meaty, middle-of-the-beef-sandwich episodes of this Episode 2–9 stretch, each one deserves their own analysis of their journey.


When Richie talks with Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto at the beginning of Episode 1, and he tells Carmy “you love this shit. It’s fun for you,” Carmy has to correct him that, no, in fact, it isn’t fun. And that while he may love what he is doing he has never found it fun. That leads us to the opening of Episode 2 when Carmy is back attending Al-Anon meetings and he tells the group he recently Googled what “fun” means because he had no answer for Richie when he asked Carmy what is actually fun.

Coming into Season 2, Carmy may seem like the man in charge, the guy with a plan, and even the visionary. But all these things he wants to do and must do with a new restaurant are just actions, tasks, and directives. We learn throughout the end of Season 1 and into Season 2 that Carmy has buried his head so far in his cooking at whatever his current restaurant is so he doesn’t have to think about family trauma, the loss of normalcy, and that nothing in his life can be considered “fun,” much less joyful or meaningful. Cooking, to Carmy, is a tedious process that requires laser focus and hyper-precision. But even if you get it 100% right one night, that work is consumed, so you have to turn right around and do it again the next night.

Carmy and Sydney work on the new menu
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

That type of work is easy to get lost in which is why the accidental running into his old high school flame Claire gives Carmy a potential outlet to try and find out what fun really could be. Is it going to parties with people you went to high school with 12 years ago and pretending you are someone else? Is it taking a mundane car ride to drop off a liquor license and letting it evolve into a time to bond with someone? Is it finally connecting with someone on such a deep level that you want to share with them the thing you find most meaningful, such as when Carmy makes his “girlfriend” Claire a pasta dinner in Episode 8, “Bolognese?”

By the time the door unlocks to The Bear’s friends and family meal at the end of Episode 9, Carmy’s unrelenting drive to create the perfect restaurant is still hovering over all aspects of this risky venture. But he has cultivated something that is much more about “we than me.” But then there’s Claire. Claire clearly represents the thing that is supposed to be “fun” for Carmy. Something of a normal life. A healthy relationship. Just a break from being inside a restaurant all day. But just as she did in Episode 3’s “Sundae,” Claire might also just represent the thing that can distract Carmy from fully realizing his goal.

After Sydney points out that fact and Carmy confesses to her that she deserves his “full focus,” Carmy ignores a call and voicemail from Claire. Full focus to Sydney and the staff or divide focus with Claire? That’s the monster lurking outside the door of the finale when The Bear finally opens for the first time.


Also towards the end of Episode 9 (“Omelette”), we learn two interesting details about former sous chef Sydney who has risen to the role of Chef de Cuisine at the new restaurant. As she and Carmy fix unleveled tables together just minutes before opening, she tells Carmy that the best part of her day was when she got to make Natalie an omelet. It was chock full of Boursin, chives, and sour cream and onion potato chips. They both know it was delicious, but that’s what convinces Carmy it was the best part of Sydney’s day.

He knows Sydney is passionate about two things. First, Sydney loves taking care of people. She makes Natalie an omelet because Natalie is quite pregnant and hasn’t eaten all day. It’s that compassion and empathy that has driven Sydney to rally the staff, not bail on Tina and the rest of the crew when they wanted to bail on her in Season 1, and still make sure she has time for her widower father.

The second thing Sydney is passionate about is details. Whether it’s crumbling the right amount of potato chips on an omelet or sampling every haute cuisine dish Chicago has to offer (Episode 3, “Pasta”), she wants to know what it takes to make things right. More importantly, she wants to know what makes things great, or even miraculous.

Sydney creates new dishes in her kitchen
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

That’s why she spends all season reading Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s book Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life and watching highlights of Duke University’s “Miracle Minute” when they came back from 10 points down in the final minute of a game against the University of Maryland in 2001 to win in overtime. It’s the right decisions at the right times—when to call a timeout versus let the game play out, when to press on defense versus when to back off, when to shoot a three versus when to shoot a two—that can take a team from good to great and then to borderline miraculous.

Sydney wants that for this team, no, she NEEDS that for this team. After so many restaurants and a failed catering business and a father who supports her but wants to know if she is really up for the fight again, she needs to prove that she has the passion for people and the attention to detail that can help this restaurant rise above all the other joints the Sydney sees close their doors for good as she walks the streets of Chicago.


One thing Richie has never been one to care about is the details. He cares about tradition, family, and his daughter, probably in that order. And that might be the entire list. So when we hear Richie talk about purpose in Episode 1 and confess to Carmy that he is “trying to get on board with all this new shit…trying to learn about who am I to my history,” it’s almost heartbreaking to know that every piece of Richie’s life is now thrown in the meat grinder as the season opens. He is struggling with identity and how his low-class life fits into a new high-class restaurant.

One of the themes of the season is that all the members of Carmy and Sydney’s team must find ways to elevate their skills and talents in order to transform from cooks at a beef restaurant to chefs at a restaurant with their eyes on a Michelin star. But at least all but Richie start with a kind of baseline talent level. Richie has his personality and not much else.

Richie talks about acts of service with Garrett
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

That background is what makes Episode 7, “Forks,” perhaps the best episode in the entire two-season run of The Bear. Richie is sent for a week to stage in one of the best restaurants in the world. He quickly realizes that a stage’s first week is spent doing nothing but polishing forks. Tiring, monotonous, unending work of cleaning streaks off forks. Richie’s first thought is this was a punishment assignment from Carmy, intended to make Richie look like a “jagoff.” But along the way, Richie ingests several lessons about being part of a team, it never being too late to start over, and what it means to perform acts of service over and over again at a level that people might not ever experience again.

By the time he has his final chat with Garrett, the head of the waitstaff, and Terry (Olivia Colman), the Executive Chef, Richie understands that his skills with people combined with oversized acts of service can be the purpose Richie has been searching for since The Beef closed its doors.

He asks Garrett for a job at this establishment he now loves, even though he knows there isn’t one for him. Richie knows he has a new job to do, and as he tells Garrett before leaving, “I’m needed elsewhere.”

Bringing his new suit of “armor” with him to The Bear, Richie has a newfound purpose of service to his team, his family, and every diner that steps foot into the restaurant.


Even before we see the “purpose” conversation between Richie and Carmy, Season 2 opens with Marcus tending to his sick mother. His emotional care for her is a reminder that this cast of characters has real lives with real problems outside of the daunting task of building a new restaurant. Every hour each of them puts into building something new is an hour they take away from something—or someone—else.

When Carmy decides to send Marcus to train under Chef Luca (Will Poulter) at Noma in Copenhagen (Episode 3, “Honeydew’), it presents the two strongest forces in Marcus’ life pulling him in tremendously opposite directions. Marcus can finally get focused, positively-reinforced training to raise his pastry skills at one of the best restaurants in the world. Unlike what Richie saw with his forks, Marcus is going to get the opportunity to raise his already high baking levels to new heights. There’s no one at this restaurant to throw Marcus’ donuts on the ground, just an exacting and inspiring chef who can focus Marcus’ efforts on the quality of desserts Marcus may not thought were possible.

Luca and Marcus prepare desserts
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

In perhaps the vocal expression of the tension Marcus is constantly feeling, Luca tells Marcus at one point, “You can spend all the time in the world in here, but if you don’t spend enough time out there. Helps to have good people around you, too.”

Much like Carmy and Sydney, Marcus has exceptional skills and has been able to now fine-tune them under some of the best mentors in the world. But Marcus also has priorities that have arisen outside of tweezing hazelnuts at the right angle on a gelatin dessert. Eventually, those competing forces will come head to head for Marcus and he will have to choose a path.

Both of the restaurants where Richie and Marcus spend their training have signs up that read “Every Second Counts.” That certainly is true in the most elegant and high-functioning kitchens. But what seconds are sacrificed when most of yours are spent rolling dough and creating the perfect donut?

Tina and Ebraheim

I’m on the record as saying Tina’s acceptance of the sous chef role is the most emotional moment from Episode 1 of this season. And while her story arc didn’t come with the fanfare of “Honeydew” or “Forks,” what Tina overcomes as an inexperienced, fish-out-of-water new (but older) chef in culinary school is just as satisfying.

Tina and Ebraheim reconnect after Ebraheim went missing
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

Tina, unlike Ebraheim, thrives at culinary school, both professionally and personally. Attendance is part of the grade, of course, as Tina continues to put every effort to live up to the faith Sydney put in her when giving her the promotion. But Sydney didn’t require Tina to follow her classmates to a karaoke bar and sing an English-Spanish rendition of “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender.

“I’ll be there anytime

You need me by your side

To drive away every teardrop that you cried”

She’ll need those lyrics when she finally reunites with Ebraheim who fled culinary school and was missing in action for a number of weeks. Ebraheim is a man who knew his place and understood where he fit into the brigade of The Beef’s kitchen hierarchy. That made sense to him after his service in the Somalian army, but branching out from making beef sandwiches and learning a whole new set of skills might as well be entering another country all over again.

But Tina and Ebraheim are destined to be together, just like Chicago and Italian beef sandwiches, so Tina is able to convince her partner in cooking to come back and run the eventual sandwich window that The Bear will offer for the “OG” customers. With the team back together, all that Ebraheim needs to do to play his part is a quick, overnight training in kitchen health and safety, an expedited certificate of completion from Uncle Jimmy Cicero, and an understanding that he is part of the team. Everyone on the team has a role.

The Berzatto Extended Family

When Carmy delivers his powerful monologue towards the beginning of the Season 1 finale, we are led to believe that Carmy’s decision to envelop himself in his cooking and his training was because of the irreparable riff between him and Michael. But what the powerful and efficacious Episode 6, “Fishes” helps us understand, however, is that there was much more to the story of why Carmy fled his Chicago family for Copenhagen and New York.

Once the viewer gets past the initial distraction of the sheer number of cameos in his episode (Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Odenkirk, Jon Bernthal, John Mulaney, Sarah Paulson, and Gillian Jacobs all play family or extended family in their own provocative ways), this seminal and celebrated episode of the second season serves as a case study for why it’s always going to be the right answer to find an excuse to not fly home for your extended family Christmas every year.  And it also serves as a psychological awakening that gives us almost complete insight into why Carmy is the person he has become.

Carmy, Natalie, and Michael discuss their mother and her problems
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

The nuance used in this episode to make every piece of tension and stress heightened was simply masterful. There is marinara sauce everywhere. Alarms are going off every few minutes. Pots are constantly threatening to boil over. Richie’s wife, Tiff, has gotten ill because of her pregnancy. Jamie Lee Curtis’s Donna is shaky and moaning the entire episode. The soundtrack is a slightly darker version of your typical family holiday playlist. All of it is stewed together in a pot that provides the setting for the antithesis of what a holiday dinner should be.

We want our holiday gatherings to be a time of relaxation, peace, and catching up. But even when they are far from that—as this Berzatto family Christmas certainly was—we still feel an obligation to be there, just as Carmy did this time. He came in from Copenhagen to re-witness the dysfunction and hysteria he left behind. His only moment of solace comes, ironically, in a quiet moment with Michael when he asks Carmy to tell him just three things about Copenhagen. Michael wants to be able to live in just a small slice of that world for a few minutes, and it makes Carmy realize that what he has outside of the family is the thing that probably all of them would trade for in a second if given the chance.

He realizes that what his career and all the asshole chefs offer is controlled chaos or purposeful chaos. It’s chaos but with a goal or reason propping it up from behind. His family, on the other hand, has devolved into just simply chaos, and that’s long before Michael throws multiple forks and physically fights with Uncle Lee.

And it’s with this in mind that we understand how Carmy can be so hyper-focused on starting a new restaurant from basically zero. The chaos of the three months of work has a purpose and a meaning behind it. There is a day, a service, a moment that it is all pointing towards, so it is controlled chaos. Most importantly, and unlike his family, Carmy can control it. And he has his partner, Sydney, by his side.

What unanticipated pieces are thrown into the controlled chaos dish is the primary question heading into the finale. What does Carmy do about Claire? Does Carmy and Sugar’s mom actually come to the dinner? And how do our key players of Sydney, Richie, and Marcus handle the spotlight? We know it’s a chaos menu, but will chaos actually be part of the upcoming menu of the finale?

The answer is almost certainly, “Yes, chef!”

Written by Ryan Kirksey


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  1. The Bear 2.6
    This shook me out of the controlled calm of a Friday evening watching a really good TV program.
    Christmas apparitions from my own family rose from the chaotic shadows, emotional violence and booze excesses of the Berzattos to threaten my own 70 years long paper thin compensations and high wire balancing acts that are my own personality…
    It’s likely I’ve seen other films or shows like this episode that I was too high or loaded to remember…but this story brought the whole extended family holiday mess right into my Friday evening managed calm…mom, cousins, uncles, aunts, sisters, brother … yelling threatening, trying to sweep it all back under the rug….but now as so long ago ultimately the desperation rears up and throws over the table…throwing all of the effort to find love onto the broken shards of hope…strangling everyone with despair and exhaustion…

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