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‘Master of None’ Season 2 Recap: Episode 4, ‘First Date’

One night, many awkward dates

[Netflix]

Plot: As the name implies, this episode shows a series of Dev’s first dates, spliced for the viewer into one evening. The episode opens on a funeral with a woman furiously swiping through her dating app Love At First Sight and matching with Dev. Several more women also match with Ansari’s character, with one making fun of his apparent pasta obsession before handing over the phone to a friend who jokingly swipes right for her.

The episode manages to capture all the anticipation, trepidation, frustration, and disappointment of the first date experience into one tidy, 25-minute package. Dev’s go-to date night spot is a wine bar that evokes the nice-but-still-low-pressure atmosphere necessary to feel confident when you’re not quite sure about the person you’re going out with. He knows the bartender and requests two glasses of “that light red you poured me the other day,” and gets down to the business of conversation.

Some of the initial small talk goes better than others. One woman is self-described “funemployed.” Another is a friend who happened to match with Dev on the app. One woman is a lawyer working for the tech industry and seems unevenly matched with Dev, who now happens to be the host of a competitive cupcake show called Clash of the Cupcakes.

Even more awkwardness transpires when the fledgling couples move to the table for two. One woman mysteriously announces she’s going to the restroom and taps her nose, and Dev wonders whether she might be snorting cocaine. She is, however, very excited about Clash of the Cupcakes and, unprompted, professes a love for vanilla and strawberry frosted cupcakes. Another date is apparently obsessed with WWE and does not appreciate when Dev asks whether his wrestler name could be Samosa Joe — a play on a real wrestler named Samoa Joe but more “like the savory Indian snack.” The lawyer and Dev manage to strike up a decent conversation after discussing their mutual experiences of being Indian and participating in online dating.

One woman who works at a dog hotel compliments Dev on his opening line on the dating app: “Going to Whole Foods, want me to pick you up anything?” As it turns out, he’s used it many times before.

Interactions with the restaurant staff revealing unsavory aspects of other candidates. Dev is clearly mortified when a blonde woman demands more water from the waitress before remarking, “What a bitch. Is horrible service the thing here?” The date doesn’t go much farther.

After dinner, on the way to a rooftop bar, Dev encounters a man licking a massive rainbow lollipop, and in another scenario finds a potential connection quashed when a woman, Sona, runs into her handsome war photographer friend freshly back from the front lines. Dev tries to relieve his discomfort with a quip about how Clash of the Cupcakes is “a different type of war,” but once again the self-deprecation falls flat.

The date with the WWE fan takes an unexpected turn at the cocktail bar when Dev discovers the woman is the author of a ramen blog he loves to read. Unfortunately, she’s later revealed to be in a relationship and only looking for friends on the dating app. Dev strikes out with the lawyer, but does go home with the dog hotel employee only to discover that her condoms are kept in a racist mammy cookie jar. After what feels like more than 10 primarily nightmarish dates, he returns back to his apartment and back to the dating app for another round of matching and Whole Foods icebreakers.

Food Breakdown: The wine bar Dev goes to is the Four Horsemen, an excellent Brooklyn restaurant that’s co-owned by Aziz Ansari’s real-life buddy James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. (Conveniently, Murphy apparently designed the “designed the acoustics for the wine bar as if it were a recording studio.”) And the rooftop bar is Westlight, the stone-cold stunner atop the William Vale Hotel.

Best of None: The execution is especially effective in rooting out the awkwardness of dating in a way that’s fair to both sides. We can laugh at the dates but also judge Dev when he makes poor decisions (like sleeping with a woman who he believes is racist). The tight transitions make the episode feel like one seamless date, even if the casting of the evening’s leading lady has changed. Viewers can relish in the discomfort of perfunctory small talk, bizarre behavior, and unexpected twists, even if at times it may feel a little too close to home.

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