But I’m certain something weirder is happening. It seems important that Henry — who hates to talk about his past — grew up in Waco, Tex., and that he insists there’s nothing left for him there. If, as we learn this week, he’s almost 30, then he would have been around 5 years old when government forces lay siege to a Branch Davidian compound outside the city, which ended with the deaths of nearly 80 people. Could his parents have been cult members? Now that’s commitment!
For the Shokranis, conversations about commitment always come back to Islam. This week, Farid confides in Layla that Ramon’s visions are disturbing him — not least because his birthday is Nov. 11 and because he really did once see his mother with four gashes in her cheek. She asks if he’s off his unnamed medication and says she’s afraid of his becoming “erratic” and “disappearing” around Navid; surely we’ll hear more about that tendency in later episodes. But the conversation ends with their bickering about her decision to fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and his taunting her with his conspicuous snacking.
Navid’s fasting sparks a more serious conversation about religion, as Kristen scarfs down tacos and he abstains. When she confesses that she doesn’t really have any spiritual beliefs, he points out how depressing it is to believe only in what you can see in front of you when there’s so much pain in the physical world. “What’s in front of us is awful,” he says. “There has to be something better.” At the same time, they’re getting closer and closer to discussing Navid’s sexuality. As she inflicts on him her feminist justification of watching gay porn, he informs her that the boy who humiliated her last week actually likes guys. You have to wonder: How does he know?
Kristen and Navid’s talk mirrors another exchange about religion, between Ashley and Jamila (Kelly Jenrette), the mother of Haley’s new, black preschool classmate. Ashley catches shade for not being part of a church congregation, as well as for working in the ostensibly vapid fashion industry, for not carrying lotion for her daughter’s dry skin and for not knowing that her hometown was founded as a “white utopia.” Over dinner at Jamila’s place, Malcolm mentions that Ashley’s parents are white, and Jamila says, “That makes sense.”
The implication is, as usual, that Ashley isn’t committed enough to black identity — even though, as she tells Greg earlier in the episode, the fact that her parents could never understand her experience as a black woman has made her acutely sensitive to racial dynamics. It’s refreshing to hear her insist, “Not every problem I have has to do with being black,” in the same conversation with her dad. I just wish “Here and Now” would listen to its own dialogue and give Ashley a substantial story line or two that doesn’t boil down to her discomfort with her identity.
Of course, no one ends the episode with more doubts about her place in the world than Audrey. The woman of faith opens her husband’s laptop, discovers that he has been unfaithful and panics. (Has anyone ever been worse at cheating than Greg? First he leaves a sex toy lying in his car, then he fails to delete his web browser history.)
After visiting her fabulously wealthy, recently divorced old admirer Steve Benjamin (Tim DeKay) and giving him a timely lecture on how politically engaged today’s kids can be, she confronts Greg. He responds in the worst possible way, with more lies. We hear their screams, and his departure, through Kristen’s door. The stage seems set for the fiercely devoted Audrey to detach herself from her husband, perhaps when she sees Steve again to pitch the Empathy Initiative to his company’s board.
Despite Audrey and Greg’s marital shake-up, this episode felt like the eye of the storm that started with Ramon’s vision of his mother last week. “Here and Now” seems to be slowing down in anticipation of some kind of bombshell, and when it hits, we may have some sense of where this show is heading — and whether it’s worth continuing along for the ride.