Otis and Eric go on an enlightening camping trip with Remi. Relationships begin failing left and right.
On Sex Education Season 2 Episode 5, Otis’s father takes the boys for a camping trip. Jackson helps Viv catch the eye of her crush, and Maeve gets a closer look at her neighbor. Meanwhile, no relationship is safe from destruction.
Jackson and Viv
Last episode, Jackson went to his tutor Viv for help with his Shakespeare lines. She was reluctant to spend any additional time helping him, until Jackson came up with an offer. If she helps him learn Shakespeare, he will help her catch the eye of her crush. Dex is another student in the school’s aptitude scheme, nerdy and intelligent to an insufferable degree. Viv is infatuated with him, even though she admits that he barely knows her name, and has only spoken to her twenty-six times.
In Sex Education Season 2 Episode 5, Jackson lays out a plan. Together he and Viv venture to the videogame store where Dex works. He keeps an arm around her shoulders, coaches her to laugh at what he says. It’s an age-old jealousy tactic in fiction, and it works every time. Dex comes running over, intrigued and suddenly longing for Viv’s attention. In a matter of minutes, he’s asking for her phone number.
While the game store scene was funny, my favorite part was when Jackson walked Viv home. They talk about the rules of playing hard to get, and what it means to actually like someone. Jackson candidly admits that he misses Maeve, and even quotes some Shakespeare himself. Viv talks about how girls like her are never “seen,” and Jackson reassures her. The two of them are just really honest with each other, which was a sweet thing to see. Jackson and Viv are quickly developing one of my favorite friendships on the show.
Maeve’s mother, Erin, convinces Maeve to come along to an AA meeting, so she can see the progress her mother’s made. Amidst all the stories of addiction and loss, Erin makes her own speech about forgiveness. She hopes Maeve can understand why she did all the things she did when Maeve was young. She was simply doing the best with what she had, despite the bad things that happened to her. Maeve storms out, infuriated by her mother’s inability to take responsibility for her bad choices.
While she’s at the community center, she bumps into her neighbors, Isaac and Joe. Isaac is partially paralyzed, and doesn’t seem to have a problem using his wheelchair to manipulate people around him. He purposely drops a pile of records he’s holding so Maeve will pick them up, and convinces her to accompany him inside. As it turns out, the brothers run a dancing club for the elderly, which Maeve is reluctantly roped into.
After the lesson, Isaac and Maeve have some time to themselves to talk. We learn that Isaac and Joe grew up in the foster system, bouncing around frequently due to Isaac’s disability. But much like Maeve, Isaac despises pity. He’s also bitterly cynical, and feels no shame voicing his doubt when the conversation turns to Erin and her sobriety. Despite her own doubts, Maeve promptly tells Isaac off and storms away once more.
I have no trouble saying that I don’t like Isaac. He’s manipulative without a shred of shame, and his cynicism is far less charming than Maeve’s. He does apologize for his comments later, but it seems more to keep the peace than out of actual regret. It’s clear he has an interest in Maeve, and I am not looking forward to exploring that. At all.
Parents Aren’t Perfect
Maeve’s mother isn’t the only one having trouble in this episode. Maureen Groff has been visiting Dr. Milburn for treatment and advice over the last few episodes. As it turns out, Headmaster Groff is a terrible husband in addition to being a terrible father. He belittles his wife, refuses to touch her, and critiques her at every turn. As soon as Maureen discovers the joys of using a vibrator, she promptly tells her husband that she wants a divorce. Happy as I am for her, I can’t help but worry that this will come back to affect Jean later in the season.
Jean isn’t doing so well herself. Her relationship with Jakob has reached a critical tipping point. When Jakob pointed ignores her instructions about home renovations, Jean loses it. She yells about how he doesn’t listen to her, how he leaves his things all over her house, how he’s overstepping her boundaries. Then she admits that she kissed her ex-husband. Jakob packs up his belongings and goes, which feels frighteningly final.
Meanwhile, Remi takes Otis and Eric out camping in the woods, ready to be a manly man and spend time with his son. Only Remi is not a manly man, knows nothing about camping, and didn’t come back to England to spend time with Otis. He first tells Otis that his second wife has left him for another man. But the truth quickly comes out, and Otis realizes that his father was caught cheating again. He only came to see Otis because he’d been kicked out with nowhere to go.
The realization pushes Otis to make a rash decision. He doesn’t want to be like his father, to cheat and fail his relationships. So he texts Maeve to tell her that he can’t be friends with her anymore.
When their camping trip gets rained out, Otis and Eric share a hotel room, which gives them the privacy they need to talk about an important issue. Eric has been declining Rahim’s calls, still conflicted about being his boyfriend. When Otis pushes the subject, Eric is forced to tell him the truth about his detention at the end of last term. He’s been seeing Adam since he came home, kissing and going on late night walks. Eric is clearly excited, but Otis doesn’t feel the same.
Otis’s opinion is the same one I’ve been struggling with myself. And that is that, regardless of his sexuality, Adam was a bully who verbally and physically hurt Eric in the past. Giving Eric a blowjob doesn’t make up for those years of abuse. And even if it did, being in a hidden relationship with Adam isn’t what Eric deserves. Especially when Eric has a sweet boy like Rahim who wants to date him.
The boys argue, but apologize the next day. Otis assures Eric that he doesn’t want him to get hurt, but if he believes Adam’s changed, Otis will support him. Unfortunately, after their conversation, Eric’s not so sure. When they return to town, he goes to see Rahim and accepts his offer to be boyfriends. And when Adam comes by Eric’s window that night, he’s ignored.
I was glad the show took the time to address this issue. The openly gay character dating his former bully is a pretty common trope in media, and it’s rarely done well. It runs the risk of excusing homophobia because of repressed sexuality. It’s easy to get caught up in romance, but the simple fact remains. If a relationship between Adam and Eric is going to work, Adam has to work on redeeming himself first.
While Otis is off camping, Ola is doing some soul searching of her own. She has a raunchy dream, and is surprised to find that it’s not Otis she’s thinking of. Instead, she’s dreaming about kissing Lily. Suddenly uncertain of her sexuality, she turns to the most unlikely character for help—Adam. Their frank conversation at the convenience store was funny if only because it seemed like such a massive overshare. It was certainly an alarming jump start to a friendship.
Ola takes an online quiz to discover that she is pansexual. On the show, it’s defined as being “about the connection you have with the human being, not with their genitalia.” Sexuality is a complicated thing, and everyone uses and defines labels differently. But personally, I didn’t love this shorthand description. It struck me as limiting, especially with consideration to the bisexual and transgender communities. I wish there’d been more time to discuss it.
When Otis returns, he and Ola have a heart to heart. When Otis tries to tell her that he loves her, Ola actually laughs. More than ever, she sees crystal clear that they don’t love each other, and that maybe they were just meant to be friends. This is a colossal problem for Otis, seeing as he ended his friendship with Maeve before checking where he stood with Ola. Just another reason why ultimatums are an incredibly bad way of handling things. But it’s not even addressed as Ola leaves Otis to his moping.
Instead, Ola goes to visit Lily and kisses her on her doorstep. But she does not get the same reaction she did in her dream. Lily panics, and with a lame excuse, retreats inside. Ola is left on the stoop, crying and more than a bit heartbroken.
It’s tough to watch this episode when so many subplots are hitting their low points. I don’t like seeing these characters I’ve come to love unhappy. And the problem with so many subplots is that all of them are unhappy at the same time! Almost everyone got their heart broken in one way or another, which makes Sex Education Season 2 Episode 5 tough to watch.
At the same time, the episode navigates some tough topics and interesting relationships. I’m really rooting for Jackson and Viv’s relationship, and anticipating the demise of Headmaster Groff’s. I love the attention that’s being paid to the toxic nature of Eric’s relationship with Adam. And while I don’t love all the descriptions the show gives to certain sexualities, I appreciate the dedication to including a diverse spectrum in the main cast.
All episodes of Sex Education are available for streaming on Netflix.