Jan 9, 2024

"Unstable": Father and son Lowes grieve over their dead wife/mother, with a gay sycophant and sex parties


The nice thing about Rob Lowe is that everyone in the world has seen him aroused, so there's no mystery.  It changes the dynamic of beefcake-watching when you know exactly what an actor has in his pants.  Still, I haven't watched many of his recent tv shows or movies; even though my friend Mario claimed to have hooked up with him, I had the impression that Mr. Lowe wasn't entirely gay-friendly.  So I went into his 8-episode Netflix sitcom, Unstable, a bit wary.  I reviewed Episode 4, "Pilgrims and Sex Parties," since sex parties are a gay community thing.  

Link to NSFW version

Premise: "Unstable genius" Ellis (Rob), who owns a biotech company, spirals out of control after the death of his wife (red flag!), so he brings his son Jackson (real-life son Johnny Lowe, below) aboard to smooth things out.  Except Jackson is a flautist.  How would that even work?

Scene 1
: The biotech company.  A lady in a business suit complains that a photo of Ellis with a hawk on his head has gone viral, creating a meme where he's called the Wizard of Odd.  Ellis doesn't care: he's busy channeling his inner child and monkeys. 

Meanwhile, the obsessive Smithers to Ellis' Mr. Burns, Malcolm (Aaron Branch, left), has a meet-cute with the new HR Guy, but is too flustered about HR regulations to flirt.  A gay character in the first scene!  I stand corrected.

Scene 2: Ana, Ellis's main ally on the board of directors, asks how he's handling the grief over his Dead Wife.  Not well , he says: after losing the most wonderful person in the world, life is meaningless. After four episodes?  Usually Dead Wives are mentioned once to establish that the guy is heterosexual, then dropped.  Is this a show about grief?  

"So," Ana says, changing the subject, "About the hawk-on-your-head story, that reporter screwed you in the ass with a King Kong dick?"   Sounds like a fun date, but I think it's just a homophobic reference to the hawk-on-the-head story.

Scene 3:  Ana the Board Member runs into Ellis's son Jackson, the flautist-biotech scientist, and asks how he's handling the grief over his Dead Mother.  Not well;, he says; the grief comes in waves.   She notes that she's still playing the harp, so why doesn't he stop by with his flute for some "pluck and toots."   That sounds dirty.

Scene 4:  In the lab, scientists Luna and Ruby are looking through microscopes, trying to shame some cells into dividing.  They discuss Luna's never-seen "loser" boyfriend Brian and Ruby's ex-boyfriend - Jackson!  A heterosexual flautist?  How odd!

Sycophant Malcolm comes in all flustered over his meet-cute, so the scientists offer to create a litmus test to determine if HR Guy is actually interested. 

Ellis enters the lab, announcing that he's ready to go back to work: "If we can get some reductive oxidant on the anode..."   Uh-oh, he peers into a microscope and starts crying.  Too soon.  Strange -- usually working helps you deal with the grief.  Maybe the Dead Wife was a scientist.  

Scene 5: 
 Business-Suit Lady approaches the mansion of JT and Chas (JT Parr, Tom Allen, left), who are trying to destroy Ellis.  Boyfriends? No, brothers: they mention their father.  She orders them to back off, or she will post an embarrassing video. 

 "The sex parties?  We don't care -- everybody in tech goes to sex parties."  

No, actually she has a film of the two pretending to be Pilgrims.  If it gets out, no girls will come to their sex parties, so they'll have to have sex with guys.  "Ugh!  Gross!  Ok, we'll back off."  So these are heterosexual sex parties?  I've never heard of such a thing.

Scene 6: 
 Board Member Ana and Jackson playing their harp and flute and discussing how Ellis is still too grief-stricken to work.  She suggests that since father and son are both struggling with grief, they could help each other: "Oh, Dad never wants my help.  He just likes to criticize and patronize me."

Meanwhile, Ellis drinks cocoa with his father or father-figure.  He complains that the lab was always a safe place, but because his Dead Wife worked there, he'll never be able to work again, and the company will tank. 

Father Figure suggests that he overcome his grief with a trip: "To Ibiza, the cradle of civilization!  They invented DJs there!"  Have you ever noticed that if you say a word over and over, it loses its meaning?  That's about to happen on this show, where the word "grief" is used every 10-15 seconds.

Flautist son Jackson enters to try out the "help each other" strategy: He warns Ellis: "But if I try to help you, you can't get all condescending and patronizing, ok?"  His strategy when you're feeling overwhelmed by grief: pinch your butt hard.  The pain will ground you.  That might actually work, but why not pinch your arm?  Why the butt?  Unless you're setting up a joke for later.

Scene 7: Business Suit Lady brags to Ellis about her success in getting the Sex Party-Pilgrim Brothers to back down. Whoops, they're standing in her office!  They want Business Suit Lady to back down, or they'll reveal her "super-cringey fan fiction" about how everyone in the office worships her and gives her credit for everything.

Meanwhile, the scientists have developed a test to determine if HR Guy is into Sycophant Malcolm: put a piece of lint on his shirt.  If HR Guy picks it off, he's interested!

Ellis and Jackson enter the lab, ready to try working again: "I'm excited to try the butt stuff you showed me, Ellis says.    The scientists stare in horror, assuming that he means gay sex. To be fair, they may be more disgusted by the incest than by the gay sex itself.  

Jackson clarifies; "It's not butt stuff in the classic sense."  Ellis sits in front of a microscope, begins talking about oxides, pinches his butt -- and runs sobbing from the lab! It didn't work!

Jackson follows, sorry that the butt-pinching strategy was a bust.  They discuss why, when Dead Wife was everywhere in the building, only the lab causes uncontrollable grief.  Jackson figures it out: the carbon project was important to her, and whenever Ellis goes into the lab, he worries that he'll be immobilized by grief and unable to work, thus disappointing her, and he spirals.  Breakthrough!

Scene 8:  Out in the hallway, Jackson complains to one of the Scientists that he solved Dad's lab-grief problem, but Dad took credit for it.  Harsh!  Suddenly he picks a piece of lint from the Scientist's lab coat -- he's interested!  She rushes into the bathroom to douse herself with water.

The lint-picking strategy worked for Sycophant Malcolm, too: HR Guy invites him to go out for a drink after work.  But when HR Guy complains that Ellis is "difficult," Sycophant Malcolm storms out in a rage.  "Too many red flags!"  So, is the gay sycophant secretly in love with the boss a cliche now?

Scene 9:  Business Suit Lady tells Ellis about her super-cringey fan-fiction, in case the Pilgrim Twins release it. He suggests payback.  Exposing them to smallpox?  No, TP-ing their house.  Except on the way to the house, they accidentally hit one of the twins!  The end.

Beefcake: None, although Jackson and the Pilgrim Twins are nice to look at.

Gay Characters, Malcolm and HR Guy, of course.  In the next episode, they reconnect at a birthday party, but after that HR Guy never appears again.

Homophobia: A few references to how gay sex is disgusting. 

Will I Keep Watching: Probably not.

Bonus Rob Lowe, JT Parr, and Tom Allen bulgesa and butts on RG Beefcake and Boyfriends

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