Starstruck Recap: New Year’s Kiss



Starstruck

Housewarming

Season 2

Episode 3

Editor’s Rating

5 stars

Starstruck

Housewarming

Season 2

Episode 3

Editor’s Rating

5 stars

Photo: Pete Dadds/HBO Max

Happy New Year’s Eve, everybody! It’s a special occasion on Starstruck because yes, it is also Tom’s birthday, but more importantly (sorry, dude, that probably happens a lot), it is the anniversary of the day Tom and Jessie met. They don’t explicitly state that in the episode, but I will because I’m devoted to these two in what is admittedly an unhealthy way. James, James Bond, indeed!

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To celebrate this year, Tom is throwing a NYE-birthday-housewarming party in his new digs, which are gorgeous. Sure, Jessie tells him that it’ll really look great once he moves all of his stuff in there and he tells her he already has, but never mind that. The place is perfect just as it is. And it’s great for a party! Jessie shows up early, looking very cute in her li’l tuxedo but also a little bit like a waiter. You can already guess that at least one person is going to mistake her for the help this evening, which, unfortunately, seems to be a running theme in Jessie and Tom’s courtship. She does bring him a cute gift, which is a complete upgrade from the mints, old pen, and receipt she gave him for Christmas: She had that caricature artist add Tom on a jet ski to the portrait she had done at the street fair. Tom loves it! All signs seem to point to this evening — their first in public together, together — being a really positive, great step forward for Jessie and Tom as a couple.

If only it were that easy. Things careen downhill pretty fast, and it’s almost exclusively because of Jessie. I know me pointing to her insecurities again probably feels repetitive, but honestly, those insecurities are like the third person in this central relationship. I love that we got a shot of Jessie outside of Tom’s house before she arrives in which we can see how nervous she is before she puts that jokey guard up once she walks in because it’s just another great reminder of what is really going on in her head throughout this entire party. It doesn’t help that she has to meet Tom’s fancy and very touchy-feely friends who are hedge-fund managers or that people are handing her their empty glasses, and it certainly doesn’t help things when Cath shows up.

At this point, Jessie has sought refuge in an empty room on a couch. When Cath comes in, she knows exactly who Jessie is and is automatically annoyed. She looks at that caricature portrait Jessie gave Tom, and suddenly, Jessie seems sheepish about it. She knows it doesn’t really fit in, she says. The two engage in an entire conversation where they are both laughing but also possibly very seriously talking about Jessie needing to sign an NDA and how much money she would accept to sign something like that, and no one really knows if it’s a joke or one or both of them is being serious. It’s wonderful. Cath also manages to sow some doubts about how fast actors move in relationships, really implying that Jessie might be in over her head here. “Well, you asked for it, honey,” she tells her. “Wow, a sentence every woman loves to hear,” Jessie responds, really capping off the perfect interaction for these two characters. When Tom pops in to run interference, Jessie gets out of there as fast as possible.

Unfortunately, it’s at this moment that Jessie runs into Tom’s brother, Vinay, for the first time. Vinay arrived at the party uninvited and super-super-drunk. So much so that Tom orders him to stay in his bedroom. When Vinay asks if he can meet Tom’s girlfriend, he says that she isn’t at the party. He’s trying to save Jessie from the disaster of a human Vinay is at the moment. When Jessie and Vinay, who has escaped, do find themselves in the same space, not knowing who the other is, it goes sour fast. She wants to be left alone, he is still wasted and he makes fun of her outfit and ends up calling her a bitch.

When Tom formally introduces them later on the dance floor, Jessie is extremely high — thank you sir who agrees with her that you should be proud of your A.I. children — plus she recognizes Vinay from before, so she has her back up before the conversation even starts. When Vinay blurts out that Tom lied and said Jessie wasn’t at the party, she takes it to mean that Tom didn’t want them to meet because he’s embarrassed of Jessie, and she takes off. The two end up arguing about it. He tries to explain that it was the other way around and he was embarrassed by how drunk Vinay was, but Jessie refuses to believe that. Everything about this party has only shown her that she doesn’t belong here, in this world. You can see Tom is exhausted by this, so as the New Year’s countdown begins, he asks her point blank: “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” Her maybe-too-quick response is “Maybe.” Well, that’s not good at all.

Jessie spends the rest of the party hiding out on Tom’s bed. Surprisingly, it’s Vinay who ends up talking Jessie out of this particular spiral. Is he only there because he has to pee so bad? Yes. But he still not only offers Jessie an apology for being a dick but tells her that he can see that Tom really likes her. He’s only had about three girlfriends in his life, so the fact that he’s introducing Jessie to his family and calling her his girlfriend means a lot. It might also mean he’s kind of a nerd, but it points to the fact that he’s really putting himself out there for Jessie in ways he wouldn’t for just anyone. This is the first episode where I fully buy that Tom has legit moved past any hesitations he had last season. Sure, there was the whole plane ticket-buying fiasco, but that seemed more like bad judgment than Tom freaking out about his own feelings. Everything else Tom’s done since Jessie stayed in London for him — invited her to come home with him for Christmas, had her and her friends come to this party with his friends, proudly display that caricature — aren’t the actions of someone embarrassed by who he’s dating. At this point, imploding this fledgling relationship seems squarely on Jessie’s shoulders.

The next morning, Jessie — who wakes up to a glass of water, meds, and a sandwich on her nightstand, holy hell, Tom is such a dreamboat I can’t stand it — realizes this. She finds Tom cleaning downstairs (again! dream! boat!) and knows she owes him an apology for attempting to start a conga line at his party and for being “a liability of a girlfriend.” And then they both finally agree, out loud, to each other that yes, they really are boyfriend and girlfriend. Jessie tries to re-create the countdown so Tom can have a New Year’s kiss but then realizes her breath is terrible and they go brush their teeth together, and it is all just so freaking cute it physically pains me.

• Thank God Tom invited Jessie’s friends to his party because I’m obsessed with them all. From Ian taking requests on the piano to Amelia insisting to multiple people, including Cath, that she could easily be an actress, they are all the most special. And if anyone wanted to do a show in which Cath is Amelia’s agent, I would watch it.

• The highlight is, without a doubt, the whole George Clooney situation. The actor Shivani is trying to hook up with attempts to tell an impressive story about how while filming a movie with George Clooney, George spent the whole time pranking him so hard, but Kate hears that story and has to inform the poor guy that it actually sounds like George Clooney was bullying him. It sends his whole world into a tailspin. “I’m sorry, but a man married to a human-rights lawyer should know better.”

• When Kate figures out that Jessie is super-high, her advice is simply to “stay hydrated and enjoy it.” Also, for the record, Kate tried to talk Jessie out of the tuxedo. She’s a true friend.

• Hey, shout out to Scrumpy Hands, or as I knew it, Edward Fortyhands. If you, too, knew what Jessie was talking about here, I bet you had some pretty visceral flashbacks!!

• Half of me really wants to know why Amelia was peeling potatoes at the party, and the other half never does.

• “I’m with him, the hat.”

Starstruck Recap: New Year’s Kiss

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