As we careen towards the Season 1 finale of Red Oaks, David Meyers continues his journey from Accounting Major to Film Director. Stop a moment and consider what a leap that is. When I was 19, I was a college student in a Pre-Med program. By the time of my 21st birthday, I was at another school majoring in Creative Writing. I understand this journey, but I still shake my head at exactly what the hell happened, so it is therapeutic for me to dissect David’s transformation and I hope it’s helpful for you as well.
When the episode starts, Getty is grinding to get better and he’s taking his lessons from David with humility and passion. He looks ten years younger with that enthusiasm on his face. Feinberg better watch his ass.
“It’s good management style. Don’t go handing out compliments like gold stars. Withhold your approval so people have to try a little harder to earn it. Works the same way in marriage.” —Getty’s Lesson to David
Getty challenges David about his Accounting major with a legitimate statement about why people want to spend their whole career counting other people’s money. He asks if he wanted to work the Street. High yield bonds are where the action is with big risk and big reward. Then Getty does something interesting; asking David if he’s seen The Right Stuff. This turns David on like a light switch and he starts trying to engage Getty on the art of the film, but Getty is teaching a lesson about a career in High Finance and quickly steers him back with a statement about being a cowboy, someone who pushes the limits and lays it on the line every day. Clearly, Getty sees himself in this vein. The problem is sometimes those men push the limits too far, which is a lesson Getty should be paying attention to for his own situation. Getty offers David an internship in his firm when he pulls his head out of his ass and switches majors. Getty is clearly taking a shine to David and sees him as a potential mentee.
Misty is walking with a girlfriend, telling her that Steve keeps calling and begging her to take him back. She doesn’t seem interested and just then Wheeler pulls up in this new Trans Am, paid for with his sweet cocaine dough. He offers Misty a lift with a sly smile. This is his opportunity to shine and show her there are more than twelve bucks to his name.
David approaches Skye at the pool and apologizes for anything weird that he did during the Body Swap day. Skye tells him he was funny. She clearly has a hook in her and that day dug it in deeper. And then David does it. He asks Skye to, “Maybe hang out sometime?” He just unofficially ended his relationship with Karen and he probably wasn’t even thinking about her when he did it. It’s a moment filled with both melancholy and excitement. Skye forces David into specifics with an affirmation. He asks about tomorrow night and she says no. His face falls. But then she suggests tonight. That’s great. It’s on. She’s ready to go now. He asks where they’re going and with a devilish eyebrow raise accompanied with a pointed tongue from between her smiling teeth she says, “The city!” And of course, she stops to snap her bikini bottom as she walks away.
Misty and Wheeler pull up to her apartment complex and Misty comments that her Ma’s “dick-id” boyfriend Rod is there and he’s always walking in on her in the shower. We find out her real Dad lives in Pasadena and she’d rather be with him. Wheeler asks her if she’s seen Back To The Future yet and she hasn’t. They’re going to go.
David and Skye are leaving an Eric Rohmer film Claire’s Knee and they are discussing how the women are so smart and sexy but the men are so clueless. A conversation on knees versus elbows ensues followed by giggles and flirting.
Wheeler and Misty have left Back To The Future and are eating in a very nice restaurant, which makes Misty uncomfortable and out of place. Wheeler comforts her and says he’s paying and that she looks great. She seems okay when she says, “OOOH Lobster!”
David and Skye are hungry and she laughs off his bagel suggestion (so working class). They’re going to SoHo, to a party.
Wheeler asks Misty if she had a magical sports car that could go back in time what she would do. She says, “Not date Steve.” Wheeler takes a chance here and says he never understood what she saw in him, which forces her to defend Steve as a person who, “Could be sweet,” and that he wasn’t stupid because he writes music. Wheeler made a mistake here saying that. They’re getting dessert but not there and only if Misty buys.
David and Skye are at an artsy warehouse party where they meet up with two of her friends who immediately start to make fun of him with compliments. David is way out of his element. Also, Skye lied to these guys about being in France all summer, showing she has a loose commitment to the truth if it will bolster her social image. David quickly realizes these are people not to be trusted and backs away from them, almost in fear.
Misty is carrying two soft serves from King Cone back to the Trans Am, while he’s getting eyed by young punks. He cures her brain freeze with a Third Eye massage that she laughs off. She asks him the time travel question and he says he’d be afraid to mess with the timeline that led to tonight. She is starting to understand the depth of his emotions for her and it makes her uncomfortable. He closes his eyes after he says it, almost like he’s saying a prayer or just staving off brain freeze. She looks away and he sheepishly opens his eyes to look back at her. It’s a painful moment to watch, but one we’ve likely all experienced if we’ve ever been so brazen with expressing our emotions. If you’re not rooting for Wheeler, you’re not watching the show the right way.
She changes the subject by saying he could learn how to swim. This is a touching gesture that calls back to him teaching her to parallel park. And she wants to do it right now, so they will.
David tells Skye about her father’s offer to get him an internship. She is clearly not happy with this, but withholds her judgment saying, “It doesn’t matter what I think.” He says, “Cool,” and drinks his drink. She asks him to dance and he immediately says yes, which surprises her. He says that he’s not like most guys and grabs her cup. It’s time to get down and do some breakdancing in the city that birthed Hip Hop, a movement that, by the Summer of 1985, had made its way into the private parties of the uber-wealthy and artsy snobs. They keep talking and getting to know each other while they bop to the music on the sideline. David asks her what she wants to do after school. She says that she’s thinking of moving to Santorini (Greece) and starting her own jewelry line. Or England, but she hates tea. She has put on the same mask with him that she did with her gay friends earlier. This is not the real Skye. That admission about her father’s offer has set her into a defence mode. He asks her if the not knowing what she’s going to do scares her. She says she’s only 20 and that she’s not supposed to know what she wants to do with her life. Remember that David is used to Karen’s almost maniacal project planning for their careers and lives together, so Skye’s Avante Garde bohemian view (which only the children of the uber-wealthy can afford to adopt) is intriguing to him. David takes his turn at breakdancing and for a white dude in a button up shirt, does a decent job. Skye is blown away.
Now, they are walking past the peep shows on Broadway and they opt to go in together, immediately disturbing the other viewers as two people have sex on stage in front of them. They banter and flirt and move closer in orbit.
“Every single person alive on the planet is the product of an orgasm” —David to Skye in the Peep Show
When they go to leave though, Skye notices that her wallet is gone. So is David’s. Fuckin’ New York pickpockets. What are they going to do?
Misty and Wheeler get into the pool and Wheeler turns around while she strips down to hers. He is very nervous but goes to her, grasping her hands. He’s floating on his back in her arms. He says he doesn’t like it, but he’s closer to heaven than he ever has been.
David and Skye filed a police report but have no way back to Jersey. There’s only one option.
While they wait for their ride, Skye opens up about how she was supposed to be in France. When David asks her why she’s not, she lies and says she was having an affair with one of her professors, but she comes clean immediately and says she figures he’d think it was something like that. The truth, which she reveals to him, is that she’s flunking out on academic probation. And then the real admission happens. She doesn’t think and has accepted, that she’ll ever be a very good painter. David thinks she’s good. She needed to hear that and she smiles, thinking to herself, maybe about what a future with David might feel like.
Wheeler is struggling on his back in the pool, even in Misty’s arms. He can’t relax until she promises to him that she won’t let him drown.
“Your body already knows how to do this. You just got to trust it.” —Misty to Wheeler in the Pool
He starts to go under and she quickly pulls him back up, telling him he’s okay. They have a moment of gravitation and are pulled together, their lips on target, but the lights go on and the Gary the security guard shines a flashlight in their faces, totally ruining the moment that almost happened for them.
Nash picks David and Skye up at 4:30 in the morning and as they drive home dusk begins to ascend on Red Oaks. Wheeler wakes up in the parking lot and he’s staring at Misty who wakes up after a few hours sleep. He’s been up all night looking at her and thinking about her. They thank each other for last night and, smiling, lean in for that kiss they missed in the pool. For the first time, they actually look like a couple.
Nash demands breakfast for driving David and his new (girl)friend home from the city. Nash cautions David against schtupping daughters of club members also, but David affirms they are just friends. Nash isn’t convinced and David is smiling with the possibility while Skye sleeps on his shoulder and the sun comes up.