The Coterie turnt up for Dennis' birthday, and it's what he deserved!
It's an unmitigated fact that installments that feature all the Coterie members coming together for a shindig are among the best, entertaining, or downright fun, and Good Trouble Season 4 Episode 6 delivered on that yet again.
The series never underestimates our ability to eat up an hour of everyone having framily moments, unleashing the drama, and then having a love fest. Those installments are good for the soul.
And if there were any doubts that this one would be lacking because of Callie's absence, we got our first Callie cameo since her departure. It was such a beautiful, heartrending scene between her and Mariana that it triggered some allergies. Damn that pollen and stuff, you know?
But primarily, the man of the hour was our millennial Zaddy king, Dennis, and a fun, layered, emotional celebration of his 40th birthday.
Davia: Isabella was right. She's his person now.
Gael: Whoa, why are you saying that?
Davia: I feel like I don't even know him anymore.
Gael: Maybe some of that is on you? If you don't want to keep him at arm's length, why aren't you telling him about you and Matt.
The series often takes a simple situation or event and, amid all the fun and humor, layers it with so much depth and a thorough character and/or relationship examination. It's always so much more for the characters involved.
The food truck scenes on the surface would appear innocuous, but it was a creative marker for Dennis' growth. Through a series of mini-scenes, it took Dennis and us on a journey through his life leading up to where he is today.
He saw himself in each of those customers in some way or another, starting with the young boy. You hear the woman refer to him as Dennis in a brief second.
Dennis saw himself and his youth in that kid, a shy, socially anxious child who still couldn't find his words just yet and struggled to order from the food truck.
It prompted Dennis to cut the kid some slack, understanding his position and helping him out. And later, he confided in Isabella that he used to be that kid.
And it carried over to the teenager who had big dreams of following his passion for music, but his father gave him a "reality check," pushing him into business. It was Dennis' exact path, and you could believe that he gave up on his passion for some warped concept of stability and success.
It was probably a turning point in his life and his unhappiness. From there, we also saw the version of Dennis via some bystanders when a man promised the love of his life the world and this narrowed view of happiness, success, and domesticity.
By the time he got to the impatient, stressed-out businessman, Dennis was there to give some advice that probably wouldn't hit that man until much later.
But there was something satisfactory about Dennis facing these various stages of his life on his birthday. He's made such strides, but there remain those moments of insecurities and wondering if he screwed everything up because of where he is now.
I'm sure he never envisioned that at 40, he'd be living in communal housing with younger housemates who have become his family and running a food truck. However, life is funny that way, and it pushes you to reevaluate your views on happiness, success, and what life should entail.
And the beauty of this monumental birthday is in knowing that there was a time when he wouldn't have been around to celebrate it if his downward spiral continued and he succeeded in his attempts.
As much as Dennis didn't care for the idea of a surprise party and birthday bash, Dennis made it to this point, finding his footing and a way back to happiness -- it's sure as hell worth celebrating. And he needed that, and so did everyone there who loved him.
Also, the 90's karaoke theme was just downright fire! Coterie parties always make you wish you were right there with this group of people. The love, fun, and good times are palpable.
Good on you if you made it through the entire hour without singing along when everyone performed. And the Karaoke meant that everyone got to flex their singing skills with 90's Pop.
Their songs seemed to fit them or their respective situations, so the choices were clever. And that includes the title of the hour, pulled from a Green Day's Good Riddance.
And the costumes were fun, too, from the perfect Ginger Spice ensemble, Malika's Janet Jackson, the awkward timing of Dyonte's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air getup, Davia's Pretty Woman, and Alice channeling the criminally underrated Shelby Woo.
But Coterie events always spark some tension, too, so it wasn't surprising that the situation of Dennis, Davia, Gael, and Isabella came to a head.
Gael: Isabella, I'm sorry. I've just been feeling a little insecure because we're not a couple. What happens when you find someone and you fall in love and there's another man in the baby's life?
Isabella: What happens if you meet someone, and you fall in love, and our daughter has a really cool stepmom?
We were missing some meaningful Denvia scenes and conversation, and the hour finally addressed that with two traditional duets for the pair and a long-overdue discussion.
Davia's jealousy was expected. She's so accustomed to being Dennis' lifeline and everything that she felt displaced when it was evident that Dennis and Isabella have grown significantly closer.
She's used to Dennis coming to her first about things, so the idea that Isabella has these pieces of Dennis and this information about him that Davia no longer does puts her in her feelings.
It's a tricky thing to navigate. She decided that they're not in the position to be romantically linked, has kept the Matt thing and others away from him, and they're trying to find their friendship again.
There was some reassurance that Davia still knows Dennis well and even best compared to Isabella when he admitted that he hates surprise parties and felt uncomfortable at first.
But Davia needed to discuss that with Dennis rather than resenting an unknowing Isabella. The two of them never had space to check in after she decided. And neither of them does well when they keep things from each other.
Davia captures the complexity and confusion of her situation with him during that vulnerable scene together. She doesn't want Dennis to need her only, but she also can't bear the thought of her not being his person.
It seems contradictory in its own right. But at least she's cognizant of that. Yet still, they're in their bubble again, where you wonder how long they'll orbit around each other instead of leaping.
She confessed that she and Matt weren't together and why he dumped her. And Dennis got to firmly state that his love for Davia was never solely out of need. He wanted her too, and he still wants her if we're basing things on those lingering glances.
But in the same breath, he implies that he's still learning and working on being happy again, and he needs to do that before making anyone else happy.
On the one hand, it feels like a reassurance that his relationship with Isabella is platonic, and he has no intentions of pursuing any romance at the moment. But on the other hand, it doesn't place them in a different spot or move the meter in what they are or will be to each other in any way since.
We checked in with them and got confirmation on what we already knew. It's bound to split the Denvia fandom, with many understanding the concept behind them being in healthier places before they make a real go of it, but others are wondering why they're rehashing and dragging this out.
Dennis: Just to clear something about being wanted, I did want you. It wasn't just need. And I need to learn how to be happy before I can make somebody else happy which is why I'm trying to enjoy tonight despite karaoke. Fake it to you make it right?
Davia: Old and wise.
Dennis: I'm still a work in progress, but I'm grateful that I'm not turning 40 as the man I was. I'm glad to be turning 40 as the man I am here today in the coterie with all of you. Despite the occasional blowup.
Dennis indeed needed some healing before, and we see his progress, so how long will it take for him to feel mentally and emotionally ready for Davia? As viewers, it feels like that time could be now, but apparently, it isn't for him.
Interestingly, Davia is on a path of self-discovery of her own. In that sense, they feel more balanced than ever, so if they give us the relationship, they'll feel equally yolked in a way that they maybe wouldn't have been before.
But perhaps now it's a matter of seeing Davia's respective journey. She told Dennis about Matt, but how great would it have been if she had shared the burlesque thing with him? He partly inspired her.
On the Gael and Isabella front, his insecurity and jealousy finally got the better of him, and the implication that Dennis was the father of his child was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Gael internalizing his feelings rather than discussing them with Isabella outright was the biggest issue here. He holds so much in and doesn't consider how damaging it is.
Even though they had a wonderful conversation that established some boundaries that make them comfortable, he still hasn't told her that he's paying for the extra apartment.
Coparenting, when you're not romantically linked with the person, is hard, and part of this journey has been about Gael and Isabella getting to know each other and building an actual friendship.
He's protective and territorial of Isabella and their child, and all logic and reason went out the window when Isabella and Dennis became close. If he viewed things rationally, he'd understand why a young, first-time mother who isn't close to any family would find comfort in the one man there who had a child.
But what's apparent to everyone but Gael and Isabella right now is some feelings are there. When Gael performed his karaoke song, he watched Isabella the whole time, and he sang about providing this house and a good life.
It felt like a declaration of something in those moments. Gael's blowup at the table runs deeper than the fear that he could get iced out of his kid's life. Gael has developed feelings for Isabella, and it's hard to say if he's aware of that.
It was good that the two of them cleared the air with each other, and their pact speaks to the unique situation. They're both young people who still have plenty of dating or whatever else in their future.
But they are forever intertwined and committed to one another in an indefinable, non-traditional way, which can get confusing. Isabella and Dennis' closeness made Gael think about what things could be like if one of them starts dating and falls in love and there are these other people in their child's life.
No one wants to feel expendable or displaced, and their lack of romance or traditional commitment leaves things up in the air. But their pact to put each other first ahead of anyone else is a well-intended promise that could also cause issues down the road.
The concept behind it is nice enough, and to some degree, it should work that way, but in the world of whataboutisms, can you imagine how that will impact any future relationship?
They agreed to put each other ahead of the potential love of their life because they're bonded by a child. We already saw how difficult that was when Gael and Callie tried to date through this.
It feels like Gael and Isabella's path inevitably leads to each other wholly and completely. We're watching two prospective parents fall in love with each other.
Isabella: Let's just make a promise that no matter who comes in our lives, we always put each other first as the parents of our child.
And even if that seems misleading regarding co-parenting, if that comes to fruition, you cannot deny that they'll still maintain the non-traditional, modern family when they intend to raise a child in this communal living space with all of their friends.
Gael and Dennis making up with one another was another sweet moment. They truly have become one another's best friends, and I love that for them.
Gael was so focused on how hurt he felt that Jennifer thought Dennis had a child with Isabella that he didn't consider what a colossal blow it was to Dennis at that moment and why Isabella covered for him as best as she could.
And Dennis reminded Gael that everything he's done thus far has largely been his love for Gael and determination to support him and Isabella as best as he can. Why? Because that's what family does!
Alice keeping up the ruse with the room is the same thing. But who would have imagined she and Sumi would be this awkward and intense around each other?
In hindsight, Alice is aware that no one knows her as well as Sumi does, and she would inevitably pick up on Alice's lying. The will they/won't they nature of their relationship got put on hold the second Sumi realized that Alice left the tour on her own.
Why did she abandon her dream opportunity and come back to the comforts of the Coterie?
It was a huge step when Alice went out on the road and pushed herself out of her comfort zone, but now she's back. What happened?
We don't need the ask that question about Dyonte and Tanya. Even when we met Tanya for the first time, it felt like she and Dyonte's relationship was rocky or not as deep as you'd think.
But the only thing that came to mind whenever he popped up on the screen, making googly eyes at Malika and studying how close she was to Angelica, was "Boy, bye."
And that should be Malika's response to his offer that she become his primary girlfriend. WTF?
How does Dyonte suddenly "promoting" Malika after he and Tanya's "conscious uncoupling" come across as anything other than him replacing Tanya with Malika? It feels like a deliberate attempt to undercut Angelica under the guise of him and Malika knowing each other longer as if that meant something.
If we must deal with Dyonte, then he can happily sit on the backburner and wait his turn; thank you very much. Does he need a new place to stay or something now?
The dating multiple people thing and Malika working all the time because of Lucia are harder for Angelica to navigate, even though she's fully accepting of Malika.
Angelica doesn't appear to judge Malika's polyamorous lifestyle, but she attempts to understand it and figure out her place in it all.
Naturally, Dyonte's breakup brought up some questions, and while she cares about and may even love Malika, she may have issues if they don't get to spend the time together she needs.
It's what caused her to break up with Lucia, after all, and Malika is trying to split her time between two relationships and this new job.
But Malika is so smitten when she talks about Angelica. It's the happiest we've seen her since Isaac, so the bond she shares with her feels different, and you sense the genuine love there.
We're left in the dark with Malika's answer to Dyonte's request, but he may need to find a new primary partner.
Since Callie's departure, Cierra Ramirez brings so much vulnerability to Mariana, and we've truly gotten to see that side of her. My heart aches for her. It's during the moments at the Coterie when she can't distract herself with the job that she has to sit with her sadness and anger.
Marina: Everyone here is like family to me, just --
Joaquin: They're not your sister
Again, the unique bond she's formed with Joaquin is unexpectedly refreshing, and his attentiveness to her is something that we haven't seen for some time. How is it that this mysterious guy we barely know feels more in tune with Mariana than anyone else in her life for quite some time?
And while it's a dynamic that could become romantic, the deep burgeoning friendship and distinctly gray connection make their interactions so compelling.
Joaquin still has his irritating moments, like his intrusive bluntness when he interrogates her about Evan, but when he's not in journalist mode, he reads as a genuinely good guy.
He doesn't make light of Mariana's pain, and he identifies with her and doesn't want her to endure the type of distance and loss he feels because of his sister. He even let his guard down and confessed some of the truth about Jenna and how he hadn't seen her in nearly a decade.
Joaquin is the sounding board for Mariana that she doesn't have or can find anywhere else. Their moment on the rooftop was so intimate and emotional. And Joaquin's consistent urging and advice prompted Mariana to call Callie.
We got our first glimpse of Callie since she departed, and it was such a treat. Because of Mariana's avoidance, that connection to Callie was completely lost, so she was inaccessible to viewers, too.
In that way, it made the audience feel the alienation and sadness that Mariana felt. Mariana opening that door again was to everyone's benefit.
They made space for Mariana to feel the full breadth of her emotions about Callie leaving so abruptly. They did that without her coming across as the insensitive, non-supportive sister who made everything about herself.
She needed time to get to that place where she could face Callie and express how everything made her feel, and those feelings were completely valid. Mariana got blindsided by Callie moving away so quickly. She didn't have any time to process the sudden change.
And she had to express that to Callie before she could get past things. She also felt a bit insecure and wondered if part of Callie leaving and taking a job across the country was because of her.
It's hard to hear that someone needs to make these big changes and demands a fresh start and not feel like you're one of the things they felt compelled to leave behind.
She also needed to hear that Callie was having an equally tough time without her. Callie admitted that she was homesick, a lovely tongue-in-cheek line, given Maia Mitchell's decision.
Mariana: I really needed to talk to you.
Callie: And why haven't you called me back?
Mariana: Because I'm angry you left and with no notice. I feel like you abandoned me. Why couldn't you have gotten a job with the ACLU in Los Angeles? Unless you actually just wanted to get away from me. Did you not want to live with me anymore?
Callie: No, no, I took the job in DC because it was the one I was offered. And I'm really sorry that I sprung it on you. And I miss you so much, and I'm so homesick.
Mariana; You are?
Callie: Totally. That's why I keep calling because I need to talk to you.
She's not having an easier time without her sister, and just because she needed to break out on her own didn't mean she wasn't hurting, sad, and lonely.
The sisters finally talking again, and face to face via video chat felt like freaking therapy, and it was the highlight of the hour.
And thanks to Callie, we may be through with this double agent plot without Evan coming in to throw his money at the problem to save things.
It was so random when he told her that he had already talked to the girls and could buy the company to release Mariana from a non-compete. It was such a counterproductive solution.
But how is it that billionaire Evan and his lawyers didn't realize that non-competes aren't enforceable?
I suppose Evan is trustworthy and still in love with Mariana, but we don't know what their thing is anymore. I wish he were more than the guy who doesn't get shady situations until they're spelled out and doesn't throw money at things to fix them.
But at least Callie came through with that save. What it means moving forward, we shall see.
The next time Joaquin speaks to Mariana about this, he'll be proud. Of course, he has something new to chew on about his missing sister. The montage of pictures for Dennis' birthday included one of Dennis with Jenna. It looked innocent enough, but Joaquin's mind was reeling after that.
It's possible that Dennis and Jenna were casually friendly as he was with other Coterie members, or she's someone that Dennis slept with once upon a time. We've seen his dalliances here and there.
But inquiring minds would love to know why Joaquin won't come right out and ask people directly about his sister. He uses Kelly as his primary source of information, but that's about it.
You would think he's felt everyone out enough to ask more questions or be honest.
Over to you, Good Trouble Fanatics. Where are you with Denvia's progress? Were you thrilled to see Callie? Hit the comment, and rememer you can watch Good Trouble online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.