Sweetbitter wraps up its first season with a drama-filled episode about a night of work that will determine the future of the show’s young protagonist, Tess (played by Ella Purnell), at the New York City restaurant with no name.
The story begins in a hospital room with Tess comforting her co-worker Sasha (played by Daniyar) who had a brush with death during a night of heavy after-work partying. Although she’s presumably been up all night, Tess decides to go back to her apartment and cram for her backwaiter exam. Later, at the restaurant, she has a hard time focusing on the test, which is being administered by her old flame, Will (Evan Jonigkeit). During service, Tess witnesses her bartender crush Jake (Tom Sturridge) threaten a regular customer named Fred (Josh Hamilton).
While grabbing a bottle of wine in the cellar, Tess overhears a clandestine conversation between Jake and the restaurant’s head server, Simone (Caitlin FitzGerald), about how she had an affair with Fred. Shortly after returning to the dining room, Tess falls down the stairs. The restaurant’s general manager, Howard (Paul Sparks), helps Tess get back on her feet, and when she leaves his office, he discusses the future of her employment with Will and Simone. Ultimately, although she didn’t pass the written test and Simone expresses doubts about her skill level, Howard decided to give Tess a job as a backwaiter,
After putting her new uniform on, Simone gives Tess a cryptic warning to “be careful.”
Since Sweetbitter is based on Stephanie Danler’s popular 2016 novel of the same name, Team Eater thought that it might be appropriate for an editor who’s read the book to discuss each episode with an editor who hasn’t read the book. Here, now, is an unedited Slack conversation between Eater director of editorial strategy Sonia Chopra (she’s read the book) and pop culture editor Greg Morabito (he hasn’t):
Sweetbitter Episode 6, “It’s Mine”: The Eater Slack Convo
Greg Morabito: Want to Sweetbitter?
Sonia Chopra: Sure do!!
GM: So, let me first say that Tess did a pretty remarkable job considering the night she had in Episode 5.
SC: I was extremely impressed by how functional she was.
GM: The glory of youth! 22-year-olds can just bounce back to life after a night of snorting drugs and downing shots with a bonus trip to the hospital.
SC: She really made it work, and then she had quite a day. But first things first: Sasha is going to be okay!
SC: It feels especially relevant to note that, and that he is lucky to have a supportive group of coworkers checking in on him.
GM: Yes! Sasha is like, “Go.” And she’s like, “Go back to my hometown? No, I’m going to the restaurant to take my test.” The test will determine her fate in NYC.
SC: So, she leaves Sasha and takes the written test at the restaurant, which, okay: I had no idea that written tests were a thing in order to get your stripes at a restaurant. Is this... real?GM: I think at some restaurants they are, but this one seemed kind of exhaustive, like an ACT or SAT exam.
SC: So many pages.
GM: She didn’t have time to finish it, and Will was administering the test. What do you think of Will these days, btw?
SC: Definitely a conflict of interest.
GM: Yes ^.
SC: I like that he’s standing up for himself after Tess kind of strung him along, after Jake blew her off.
GM: Yeah... and then later in this episode he really sticks up for her, like as a person.
SC: Yeah! I liked that he didn’t let their personal drama get in the way of the job.
GM: He’s... got character.
SC: Which is obviously the right thing to do but not always easy. He may be one of the good ones.
GM: Yes, I believe this. Will and the sous chef. Anyway, the Drama Twins are back from Cape Cod, giving off all kinds of extreme vibes.
SC: Love the sous chef, and LOVED the line he cracked after a four-top all ordered salmon: “Let me guess? White people.”
GM: Haha, yes.
SC: Drama Twins is lol.
GM: He needs a bigger role in a hypothetical Season 2. Anyway, Simone brings some lavender for Tess to stuff in her bra for good luck. Fine.
SC: Fine! Kind of sweet.
GM: Yeah. I really don’t understand Simone sometimes.
SC: Nice to know Simone was thinking of Tess on the Cape even though Tess was very devastated that Jake blew her off for the Cape, which they do not discuss. Simone is a total mystery.
GM: But I also think she is the key to enjoying and understanding this show. Like, if you’re not intrigued by the Simone/Tess/Jake triad then this show might be a bust for you.
SC: We still don’t know what’s really up with Simone and Jake. We learn Simone has a love interest that isn’t Jake, not that that means she doesn’t also have a love interest that is Jake.
GM: And the love interest isn’t who we think it is (or who I thought it would be). It’s not Serena, but rather her husband. The Soigne guy.
SC: A huge surprise, and one that kind of felt... random in the plot.
SC: What was the point besides to show that Jake and Simone are maybe not sleeping together but maybe still are, who knows?
GM: There’s a lot of plot in this episode.
SC: There sure is.
GM: So, Jake yells at the Soigne guy in a “Do you want to take this outside?” sort of way. Howard is pissed and Tess is shook.
SC: Howard gives the Soigne guy, Fred, CAKE for Serena even though we know Serena doesn’t eat.
GM: Oh yes, I did not catch that. Good callback.
SC: Howard must know she doesn’t eat it!
GM: This is where things start to go off the rails for Tess during her super important trail. She’s distracted.
SC: She had previously recommended a very smart bottle of wine to her coworker Ari and now she goes down to find it and... accidentally brings back a bottle 20 years older. *Huge* mistake.
GM: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Whoops. And herein lies a factual flub: The bottle she picks is a 1996 something or other, instead of a 2006 something or other. But what business does the restaurant have to serve a bottle of 2006 wine in... 2006? Doesn’t it have to age a little bit?
SC: Oohhh a good catch, I was like: Wow, old bottle! Because in our real lives it is 2018, not 2006.
GM: Yeah it’s fine, nbd I guess. It’s like in Mad Men when Joan Holloway makes reservations at Le Cirque even though it opened in the mid-seventies. Anyway.
SC: Interesting, though, since they’ve done such a great job with making us believe it’s 2006. Anyway!
SC: So she pulls the wrong bottle and then she’s so shaken that she trips down the stairs while carrying a few plates of food.
GM: There is, as usual, some drama down in the wine cellar.
SC: Oh yes, the drama.
GM: People are always having conversations that nobody’s supposed to hear in the wine cellar, even though the staff keeps coming in there to get wine.
SC: Good for plot points, bad for secret-keeping.
GM: Yes. So the convo she overhears is Jake and Simone talking about Soigne Cake Fred. And Simone says a very exposition-y line: “One day I am just going to be done with you. I have been carrying you since you were eight years old.”
SC: VERY interesting. I think earlier in the season we did hear that she “took care of him” when they were kids — is that right?
GM: Yes, so she’s like his mom but they’ve also got a Margot/Richie Tenenbaum vibe.
SC: Lol. Poor kids.
GM: As they finish their convo, he almost leans in for a kiss and she just puts her hand on his shoulder and walks away.
SC: So much tension.
GM: Oh, so, one thing that I definitely made a note to mention: When did Tess learn about wine? Like, she recommends a bottle and impresses the server and Will like it’s nbd.
SC: Maybe she absorbed the knowledge when she fell asleep in Simone’s bathtub.
GM: Oh yes, sleeping on the books, always a good way to learn.
GM: Or maybe she learned it in the 20 minutes she spent before work cramming.
SC: Lol. Maybe she found time to actually read all those books she borrowed from Simone. Okay so! Despite messing up the bottle, and falling down the stairs, and eavesdropping on her coworkers, and being hungover, and not finishing her written exam....
GM: She gets the job!!!! Aced it.
SC: Aced it EVEN though we see some sneakiness from Simone, who maybe was pushing for her to not get it?
GM: Yeah wtf was that? Like Simone likes her, but doesn’t want her to work there? She’s kind of like a frenemy, maybe.
SC: Definitely a frenemy. She’s mad because Jake told Tess about Simone sleeping with Soigne Fred.
GM: And nobody can know the inner-workings of Simone.
SC: Never. But! Maybe in Season 2!
GM: So, Howard gives her the job despite the poor review, because he’s trusting his gut. And when Simone pushes back, he also threatens to fire Jake.
SC: Because Jake pushed a customer, Soigne Fred. Which tbh is a good reason to fire someone.
GM: Yeah, that should be grounds for firing. But anyway, Jake’s not fired, and neither is Tess. And Simone drags Howard a little bit over his recent affair with the host, Becky, and he says, “Since Lizzie died, I have been alone, a lot. And when I have not been alone, I have been discreet. That was a slip, that was a mistake.”
SC: Poor Howard. But still: Sleeping with people who work for you when you are in a position of power, which you are because they work for you. Not a good idea.
GM: Nope. So, Tess apologizes to Will, and he says, “You treated me pretty horribly, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t belong here.” And later she remarks, “I’ve never wanted anything so much before.” And that, to me, is a good line that explains why I like this show. These characters are sometimes screw-ups and don’t use their heads, but they all really want to be happy at the restaurant. There’s some reason why they are where they are.
SC: They really look out for each other.
GM: Yeah. I think that’s... fairly accurate for a lot of workplaces, but especially restaurants. You just want to belong.
SC: I’ve been wondering what the episode title — “It’s Mine” — means, and I guess probably it ties into this.
GM: Oh interesting. The job is hers!
SC: The job! It’s hers!
GM: So, at the risk of sounding like an insufferable nerd, there’s one detail at the end that I thought was great. She gets her shirt, she goes back out, she’s got the job, and then soundbites from the season play in her brain. And then when it cuts to the credits, they play TV on the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me.” Which is amazing because A) It was released in 2006. B) It’s about an NYC werewolf!
GM: So, I think thematically that works. Tess and all her crew go into work with the best intentions, but at night...
SC: Things get weird.
GM: And wooly, yeah.
SC: And wolfy. Lol sorry.
GM: And wolfy.
SC: OH, speaking of Tess. Did you note Simone saying her name with such emphasis after Tess finds out that she got her stripes/the job? I felt like she was speaking to me. ”Look how much emphasis I am putting on this, please always remember Tess’s name now.” JK I felt like she was like: Okay now you’ve made it, now you’ve earned your name instead of “little one.”
GM: Hahahaha, amazing.
SC: Okay, so, would you watch a hypothetical season 2, even if we did not need to recap it for our jobs?
GM: You know it! How about you?
SC: I’d have to, I think. I gotta know what’s happening with Jake and Simone.
GM: Prediction: By the time a hypothetical Season 2 premieres, people are going to be pumped to watch this show, because it will maybe land on a streaming service (maybe) and people will watch it all in one night, Anyway, watch out for baby monsters, and I hope to see you next summer!
SC: I’ll be spending all my time until then sleeping on books about wine.
• Drugs and Debauchery Fuel Sweetbitter’s ‘Weird Night’ [E]
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• Sweetbitter’s Third Episode Kicks the Restaurant Drama Into High Gear [E]
• Sweetbitter’s Second Episode Turns Into an After-Hours Rager [E]
• The First Episode of ‘Sweetbitter’ Is Actually... Good? [E]