'Hello Ladies' Recap: It's a Lonely Limo to the Top
Dejected faces. The ability to soldier on without so much as a shot in hell. A creepy kind of charisma coupled with zero self-awareness. Stephen Merchant fans already appreciate his signature style of obliviousness introduced last week on Hello Ladies , but on Sunday's episode, his character Stuart starts to come into his own.
Stuart and friends play extras in Jessica’s horrible web series being filmed at Wade's. (His wife Marion now hides from him while Wade pines away at a motel.) Jessica storms out in a hospital dress as an unconvincing suicidal teenager. Enter interrupting Stuart, who ruins every melodramatic take by laughing.
The repeat jokes here are spot on as the theme of Stuart interrupting climactic moments carries over to a painful conversation between Wade and Marion. Stuart and Jessica clear out when things get serious.
"Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if we never met," Marion says. Stuart pops his cartoonish back head in to say Marion's car's blocking his.
"Did you know I bought a sex toy?" Stuart says as he reaches for the keys.
"We just need a fresh start," Wade says. The car alarm blares and Stuart bangs on the window.
"I don't think we should see each other for a month," she says. "Me again," Stuart interjects about the emergency brake.
Wade had plans to scoop Marion up in a stretch limo for dinner, but he gets turned down. Stuart places a sympathetic hand on his buddy's shoulder and delivers right on time: "Does that mean that limo’s going to waste?"
Standing in front of the limo for Jessica's actress friends to see, Stuart describes his dream girl. Shocker, she's fictional: "a model with a Ph.D. in philosophy, smart lady." He fantasizes about returning to his hometown in a limo with the glamorous scholar on his arm.
For their big exit, Stuart and Wade belt the first few lines of "Born to be Wild" out the sunroof while the limo driver does an increasingly painful three-point turn. It's off to the reservation-only Ambassador Room since they're banking on the limo as their ticket in.
But the door girl isn't impressed. Stuart tries convincing her manager that he's famous in the U.K. Of course he's unsuccessful. "Remember this face because you'll be apologizing to it later," he tells them — a bold claim he ends up fulfilling. And it's another appropriately excruciating exit documented by paparazzi (comedian Eddie Pepitone.)
Soon, the guys are trolling the streets for party girls. Stuart's crew wins over tourists from St. Louis simply because he and his friends pose no sexual threat. "I'm disabled, and this guy's got no upper strength," Kives says. It could have been that they were tired of walking in heels or that the limo had a CD player, but the women go for it, and Stuart snaps evidentiary photos of their human contact. He earns a kiss on the cheek and some flirting. Stuart's a loser by L.A.'s standards, but he'll do for a teacher from Missouri.
Meanwhile, Jessica desperately tries to sell her friends on Battleship Potemkin, the 1925 Russian revolution propaganda film. The full-screen title cards written in Russian hook no one and Jessica doesn't get it either. It's Saturday night and they want to go out. Stuart's limo to the rescue.
Things are looking up for Stuart, who upgrades to Hollywood women and ignores the tourist who liked him. Poor Wade. This whole time he just wanted to share the limo with his wife, and now tons of strangers are celebrating. Everyone toasts to Hollywood nights and Wade escapes to the passenger seat to cry.
As luck would have it, Jessica's friends are all Stuart needs to get in to the Ambassador Room, but they can't get everyone in. "Listen why don't the four of us go in and we'll just leave the limo with the tourists and the disabled guy," he suggests. Rough. He gets a taste of his limo revenge fantasy when he glides by the door girl who smirks in approval, but it's a quick denial-after-denial descent back to reality.
Jessica asks Stuart why he’s ditching the teachers, and Merchant nails it here with a ridiculous cover-up. His excuse: emotional intelligence and a profound connection with Nikki. But Jessica's question must be code for: What about them isn't good enough and why are you ignoring me? Jessica warns him that he'll get shut down. Nikki has a boyfriend, Ashley has a fiancée, and Lisa wants him to stop staring at her chest.
Sprinting down the street, Stuart chases the limo to reclaim his shot with the tourist, but he's messed up his chances and it's an interesting twist that he's rejected from his own limo party. Given how deprived of a woman's touch he was in the premiere episode, it’s a ballsy move to pass up a sure thing. He failed, naturally, but he got so far that, for just a second, you think he might score. Again, Kives proves himself to be the chick magnet and all three tourists go home with him.
Stuart's spirits go from cocky to inconsolable, and he sits alone mourning the non-existence of his love life in the back of a limo on the way to pick up Jessica from her failure of a night. Superficial aspirations were the downfall for both of them.
He doesn’t have the epiphany you’d expect after a half hour of social climbing, and so far the formula isn’t quite enough for a story so hopefully he notices Jessica soon. Sure, TV has other lovable losers, but our squirmy intimacy with his failures is what makes this show work.