Although the show takes place in one of the centers of gay culture in the U.S., Looking has wisely taking a restrained approach in throwing viewers into the deep end. Something like the Folsom Street Fair, the culmination of Leather Pride Week, is part of the plot of this week’s episode, but looked at from afar and appreciated as being part of the city’s makeup rather than there for either titillation or rubbernecking by us straight folk.
The fair is only a backdrop for the main storyline, which finds Patrick and his boss Kevin working on the weekend to get part of a new game ready for a presentation. The two are still circling around each other, unable to own up to the spark that keeps firing off between them. Especially when Kevin’s boyfriend arrives in town for a job interview, and Patrick takes leave to hang with his friends.
It’s in the thick of the fair that we find Agustin reaching out to the sex worker he met in last week’s episode. Rather than looking for a job, he wants to follow CJ around as part of a new art project, looking at the strange intimacy that comes into play with sex work. The fine print though is that CJ expects to get paid the $220 an hour that he gets from any client. Agustin agrees, but the unanswered question hanging in the air is how he will come up with the money.
On the flipside of Patrick and Kevin’s obvious attraction to one another is Dom’s meeting with Lynn, the florist from last week. The goal was to seek advice on how to raise money for the restaurant, but when Dom asks to come over and cook for Lynn, he’s rightfully confused, wondering if this is a slow come-on or just business.
It also opens up another deep layer of the story: how older men are viewed in the gay community. They either have to try and act as young as possible, or, if they haven’t settled down with a long-term partner, simply put themselves out to pasture. You could see it when Lynn asks Dom outright if their lunch is a date or not and has to deal with the hemming and hawing he is greeted with. Few actors could pull off the heartbreaking moment when Lynn plays his frustration off, insisting he was just messing with Dom, but that’s why Scott Bakula’s casting was a canny move by this show.
Equally touching, but more heartwarming, was Patrick’s reunion with Richie, his Hispanic paramour from earlier in the season. After leaving his crush at the office, Patrick runs into Richie at a bar, and stumbles through a tender apology for his actions on their date, insisting, “That’s not who I am.” It was such a sweet moment, capped off by a sexy slow dance between the two men as the episode moved to its end. With the reminder by Agustin earlier that Patrick has only ever had one boyfriend in his life, to see him step closer to making a relationship part of his life feels like a huge victory. And a well-earned one at that.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.