Following previous events, episode 3 finds Barry (Bill Hader) and Cousineau (Henry Winkler) at the gig Barry landed for the both of them. The producer and show-runner approach them, telling Cousineau that what he did for Barry – helping him out as a veteran – was noble, and to thank him, they’re going to give his bit part a line on the show. Later, Barry and Cousineau run lines together, and ironically, their lines are an apology and an expression of forgiveness. It’s a little too on-the-nose but it does set up Cousineau’s meltdown later in the episode. Cousineau pivots the conversation to ask whether Janice (Paula Newsome) suffered while dying. Barry says no, and they proceed to have a conversation about who was responsible and how Barry wants to be the best version of himself. However, Cousineau still shows resistance to Barry’s continued campaign for forgiveness and his attempts at self-salvation.
The main takeaway from this conversation is Barry’s persistent delusions about his relationship with his teacher. He says he and Cousineau have a good thing between them (they don’t and it’s incredibly obvious!) and ends the conversation with “You’re welcome!” for the line he got Cousineau in the show. Barry’s belief that everything is fine is further reiterated during a phone call with Fuches (Stephen Root) where Barry tells him his plan to ruin his relationship with Cousineau failed. Fuches is as baffled as we are.
Sally (Sarah Goldberg) is also at work, dealing with a day of press interviews for Joplin. In a strange turn of events, the interviewers ask only one or two questions instead of engaging in conversations with her. The episode gets its title (‘ben mendelsohn’) from its best line that showcases just how oddly Sally’s day is going. When one of the interviewers asks her who should be the next Spider-Man, she answers with an uncertain “Ben Mendelsohn?” Look, I love Ben Mendelsohn, but he can’t be Spider-Man, he’s already Talos in the Marvel Universe! I mean, the age thing is also a problem, but I’d be all for a Sony universe middle-aged Peter Parker played by Mendelsohn. Basically, Sally wasn’t wrong, I’d watch that movie!
Afterwards, Sally chats with her Gen-Z co-star Katie (Elsie Fisher) and invites her to attend the Joplin premiere with her and Barry. Katie declines, and when Natalie (Sally’s personal assistant, played by D’arcy Carden) chastises her for turning her boss down, Katie confesses that she’s afraid to be around Barry after his outburst at Sally on set. Later, during one of Katie’s interviews, she struggles to say nice things about Barry. The series is clearly set on developing a real examination of and accountability for Barry’s verbal violence.
Meanwhile, NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) surveys the destruction on the Chechen headquarters that the Bolivians wrecked. He calls Fuches and tells him he can come home, but Fuches is having the time of his life on the quaint farm in Chechnya and doesn’t want to return. Furthermore, Cristobal (Michael Irby) convinces his father-in-law Fernando (Miguel Sandoval) that re-raiding the Chechens isn’t worth it and that the Bolivians should go back to Bolivia. The Chechens, however, are planning to blow up Cristobal’s house, but Hank is maneuvering the situation to save his secret boyfriend and attack the father-in-law instead.
Finally, it’s time for Barry and Cousineau to shoot their scene, but when it comes down to it, Cousineau goes off-script. His character is supposed to accept Barry’s character’s apology for hiking drug prices that led to the death of Cousineau’s character’s wife. But Cousineau finds that he can’t say the line to Barry. He instead turns, punches him, and snarls “I want you to stay away from my family! Fuck you, and don’t talk to me anymore, you piece of shit!” before storming off. It’s a startling moment, and a dangerous move for Cousineau to make, something we see him realizing as he hurries away from the set.
While Barry processes what’s just happened with Cousineau’s meltdown, he decides to accept Hank’s request to help take out the Bolivians.
One thing in particular that is very interesting so far this season are the ways in which roles have reversed. Originally, Cousineau, as Barry’s teacher, was in charge and oftentimes belittled him and the rest of his students. It was easy to dislike Cousineau because he was a pompous jerk. Now, Barry is trying to control the situation with threats, and it’s Cousineau’s resistance that we can best understand. While we might have once winced in sympathy with Barry when Cousineau attacked him in a teaching setting, we now find ourselves wanting Barry to leave Cousineau alone. Forever!
Overall, this was a good episode, but feels like connective tissue, paving the way for more dramatic future events.