Better Things (S03E09) “The Unknown”

Sam is both a fascinating and frustrating protagonist. That’s what makes her such an interesting character to follow with each episode of Better Things. With this season, we’ve seen her literally leave some shit in the past, but she still has plenty of feelings to process. Or if she can’t find a proper outlet, she finds another way to vent.

But one ongoing thread this season has been Sam’s love life. To be clear, that’s a constant as far back as the first season, but Sam’s interpersonal relationships- both at home and on the job- have received a greater amount of focus this season. This is helped by Sam’s ongoing friendship with Mer, and how this impacts her current working relationship with Tressa.

The Unknown Sam and Durham talk 1024x576 - Better Things (S03E09) "The Unknown"

Sam, like most people, can’t just be upfront about her feelings. Not all of the time. For one thing, there’s no conflict in that. Second, that’s near impossible when you’re sorting through your intentions. Take the opening conversation with Durham, played by Griffin Dunne- who I mostly remember as The Rainmaker on House of Lies. It seems like the two are hitting it off, but then out comes Ruth: Durham’s much younger girlfriend.

The Unknown Durhams girlfriend Ruth shows up 1024x576 - Better Things (S03E09) "The Unknown"

Durham could probably find a woman in his age range, and Sam knows this. His reasoning for why he doesn’t…well, doesn’t jive with Sam, who sees right through it. You have a prime opportunity with the person right in front of you, but for your own reasoning, you choose to back out of it. Sam is right to point this out, but she’ll find herself in Durham’s shoes later in the episode.

Mare is a constant in this episode and her intentions should seem pretty evident to Sam. The mingling and flirting provide for some fun scenes, but like Durham, Sam can’t bring herself to commit to the person right in front of her who is very clearly into her. She leaves in a rush because she apparently has to Facetime her daughters. That’d probably be one of the few instances in which Sam runs to her girls instead of away.

Actually, Frankie, Max, and Duke are nowhere to be seen in this episode. Same with Phil. So at least Sam has a brief vacation away from family.

The Unknown Sam at a stage production 1024x576 - Better Things (S03E09) "The Unknown"

I’m not entirely kidding when I say this. Mare helped Sam get a part in this stage production and it’s nice to see her among fellow actors who enjoy what they do. No more hot work days or long lines to the bathroom. Watching the manager offer tips and advice to Sam and the other players instantly reminded me of Barry on HBO and it just made me long for Henry Winkler to pop up with his own brand of feedback.

The Unknown Mare can look into getting Sam a part in a Broadway production 1024x576 - Better Things (S03E09) "The Unknown"

The performance itself goes quite well and I would’ve been fine with another episode dedicated to this, but the greater focus here is about Sam’s friendship with Mare. This opportunity would not be possible without Mare, so now Sam has been bitten by the performance bug. As such, she wants to do a Broadway run. Turns out Mare can actually make that happen.

The Unknown Tressa calls Sam to ask how the performance went 1024x576 - Better Things (S03E09) "The Unknown"

Here’s the conflict, though. While Sam likes working with Mare, she can’t overlook or deny her working relationship with Tressa, who calls to check in on Sam. This conversation is brief, but we understand Tressa’s frustration right off the bat. It builds off of her prior warning to Sam about Mare, but rather than draw things out, Tressa decides to end their working relationship. I don’t think this would end their friendship as well, but it does put them in a strange place.

The Unknown Mare flirts with Sam 1024x576 - Better Things (S03E09) "The Unknown"

It’s made no better when Mare comes right out and asks what Sam wants to do about this friendship. Mare does consider it flirting, even if Sam is attempting to keep things as professional as possible. She’s not saying she isn’t into to women but, per her words, she’s not not saying ‘No’ to this.

The Unknown Sam talks with Mare about being with a woman 1024x576 - Better Things (S03E09) "The Unknown"

At the end of the day, the two call it a draw, but Sam does send a text to Dr. David Miller, and it appears that the two are in the middle of an ongoing conversation. Hmm. So maybe we haven’t seen the last of Matthew Broderick yet?

The Unknown Sam enjoys the performance 1024x576 - Better Things (S03E09) "The Unknown"

Either way, Sam, like Durham, has gone for the easy pick rather than toughing it out and going for the other viable option that’s right in front of her. She’s not opposed to being with a woman, but it doesn’t seem like the option she wants to go with at the moment.  She would be venturing into, per the episode’s title, the unknown. When Sam has tears in her eyes at the ending, it doesn’t seem to be just from the incredible solo- seriously, it’s fantastic- but from her decisions as well.