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Pump It Up: “And Just Like That” Season 2, Episode 5 recap

Every now and again on Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw would meet a certain kind of man. He’d be cute but not devastating, and their chemistry would be undeniable but not quite smoldering. He would stick around for an episode or two, enabling some of the show’s most puckish humor, and then he would kindly exit stage left while Carrie and the girls gossiped about him at brunch. In its second season, And Just Like That is finally bringing these guys back.

Last season, we got Peter—a figure best remembered for projectile-vomiting next to Carrie after a date and not much else. And at the start of this season, there was Carrie’s podcast producer Franklin, who unfortunately got laid off along with her and the rest of the team when she refused to talk about vaginal dryness on air. (I’m still baffled by that—literally, why?) This week, we finally got a whiff of the old Sex and the City when an app developer named George Campbell (Peter Hermann) nearly runs Carrie over in a bike lane. Now that’s love in Manhattan, baby!

Critics have already proclaimed that And Just Like That Season 2 feels a lot more like Sex and the City, and this week feels like the beginning of that transformation. Carrie’s dressing up like Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown for Charlotte’s Halloween benefit before moseying over to a hotel bar to pick up guys with her friends Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury) and Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman). Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Harry (Evan Handler) show up in The Americans cosplay, while Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, who also directs this episode) dons a clown nose to satirize “the comic disaster that is my life.” Does it get more Sex and the City than this?

Actually, it does. Poor Seema has a rough night with a hot prospect whose erectile dysfunction necessitates a penis pump. From the staging, to the yellow lighting, to the rapid-fire back-and-forth, it all screams “Samantha Jones”—especially later on, when Seema discovers that her good-natured tolerance of this schmuck’s penis pump has apparently not earned her the privilege of being able to use her vibrator. “Sir,” she asks, “do you seriously have the balls to say something about my device when I wake up to your freshly washed penis pump drying in my dish rack?” Honestly? Get him.

Naturally, Seema calls Carrie to talk through all this—and it’s at that moment when Carrie stops dead in her tracks in a bike lane, just as a biker skids toward her and wipes out at her feet.

Some of Sarah Jessica Parker’s best comedic moments come when Carrie finds herself at odds with the city—be it when she’s stumbling across wet concrete in stilettos, or when she’s yelling “You’re so busy!” at a rude passerby on the street. This scene belongs in that pantheon. Carrie has been slowly moving on from Mr. Big for a while, but in this episode, it feels like And Just Like That is finally letting her (and Sarah Jessica Parker) really have fun again.

In a New York minute, Carrie is stammering about an urgent care center that she once saw the Olsen twins walk into and is guiding her cranky biker there. Then, she’s helping him fill out his forms. And then, she’s stopping by his (very strange, airplane hangar-like) apartment with soup to help him put the finishing touches on his app.

While Carrie romances the tech bro, Charlotte gets a blast from the past when Rock comes home from the skate park with a Ralph Lauren rep’s business card. Harry, high on a paranoid buzz from The Americans, doesn’t want Rock anywhere near it. (“Teen model? Next stop, rehab!”) Sadly, he never stood a chance; Charlotte, once a teen model for Ralph, is obsessed with the idea of Rock picking up her mantle. And besides, how can Harry say no when Rock is promising to use the gig’s pay to plant trees in Israel?

This season of And Just Like That has honored Charlotte and Harry with some great comedic material, and this week builds on that foundation. While Charlotte chaperones Rock on set, Harry shows up in his Americans wig to snoop. It turns out, he doesn’t like being the restrictive parent. Before long, however, Charlotte convinces him to leave before Rock sees him and “all trust” is broken. As funny as Kristin Davis and Evan Handler have reliably been this season, it’s also heartening to see Charlotte and Harry get their due as the show’s most communicative couple.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, apparently, are Miranda and Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), who simply will not admit that their situationship is doomed.

Now that Miranda’s back in New York and Che has a Manhattan apartment, things have gotten a little complicated. Che is a night owl, and Miranda is a morning person, and neither of them can stop ramming their legs into the chair as they sneak in or out of bed. Che isn’t exactly sympathetic toward Miranda’s problems getting out in the morning, but then again, why is Miranda riding the train home to Brooklyn from Hudson Yards at 5 every morning to make her ex and her son, two grown men, breakfast? (She’s convinced they’d “starve” if she didn’t, but if that’s truly the case… perhaps she should let them!)

The problems between Miranda and Che seem to run deeper than sleep schedules. Che’s sitcom has gone into testing, and while audiences seem to love Tony Danza, the same cannot be said for the show’s star. The bad feedback only seems to deepen the gap in understanding between Che and Miranda. When Miranda insists they’ll succeed because there’s “no one else like you,” Che scoffs. Is that really the truth, they seem to wonder, or has Miranda simply never met someone like them before? “It took me 46 years to figure out who I am,” Che tells Miranda, “and a focus group an hour to fucking destroy me.”

Now, they want space. It’s just as well, since Miranda is moving in with her friend, Nya, anyway. But also… why is she doing that? Does the former Manhattan power attorney really not have enough money to rent her own apartment until Steve moves out of the house? Miranda jokes that while she and Nya go through their divorces, they can be like “an angry Laverne and Shirley.” Maybe she just wants someone she can actually talk to. Still, it’s hard to understand why she’d choose to solidify her flop era by living somewhere that demands a single bed.

In the end, at least one person breaks up this week. Carrie and George might never have been “together”-together, but she ends things pretty quickly once it becomes clear that his business partner, Paul, will never let him have an hour’s peace. The break-up, ironically enough, might be the “Sex and the City”-est part of the entire episode. At one point, Paul calls when George and Carrie are about to have sex, sending Paul into a work frenzy as Carrie crawls on all fours on the floor to retrieve her shoes and escape without having to talk to Paul.

Parker plays up the physical comedy as Carrie peeks over the edge of the phone that George is FaceTime-ing on and then sneaks around it, crawling on all fours to gather her shoes from under the bed and leave the room undetected. When she leaves the bedroom, she searches for Paul in his maze of white hallways and can’t find him.

It’s in these moments when And Just Like That feels most like Sex and the City. Episode writers Samantha Irby and Lucas Froehlich capture Carrie’s flirting style perfectly in the beginning of the episode, as she walks George through his intake forms at urgent care, and by staging Carrie and George in different places during the break-up, they enhance the dialogue’s comedy by forcing Parker and Hermann to shout it all through the museum-like set.

From that idiosyncratic break-up, to the upbeat song that plays afterward, to the closing line—a play on getting “back on the bike”—this episode felt like a time machine, and not just because we’ve somehow warped from summer to October. From the writing, to the direction, to the charismatic performances, it looks like Carrie and her friends might be getting their groove back. (Here’s hoping for Miranda.)