Relationships and bonds are often formed over shared unique experiences, especially romantic relationships. There are just so many formative moments and milestones that every couple seems to go through, so many universal steps that almost every relationship seems to take at some point during the course of its life, that a variation on these events has a tendency to make them that much more special. Even if a particular special moment is upended by catastrophe, the right kind of perspective (and often the right kind of partner) usually makes it easy to look back and see the beauty in the way your experience with a fairly common event didn't exactly go the way it was supposed to. Man Seeking Woman's latest episode "Bagel" outlines this little truth with its usual accuracy, Simon Rich and his writing staff once again finding the perfect way to explore the often experienced but seldom recognized aspects of navigating life in and out of a relationship.
Man Seeking Woman seems to have always known that its premise is one that just begs to be played with, as the "Woman Seeking Man" where we followed Josh's sister Liz in seasons one and two are among the show's best. For season three, Rich and his writers made the smart decision to put Josh in a relationship, examining all the avenues and minutiae of life in a relationship through the same surrealist lens they spent the first two seasons examining the quest to actually land one. The results have been wonderful, enlivening the series and giving the writing staff a fresh new dynamic with which to play.
"Bagel" perfectly exemplifies all the things Man Seeking Woman does well, something that's made possible by the show's increasingly freewheeling format structure. Instead of more or less focusing on one fantastical conceit per episode to serve as window dressing for an episode's thematic talking points, season three finds the show jumping from idea to idea as necessary. Somehow, the writing staff has managed to accomplish this without a sense of serious whiplash, and along with Josh's new relationship it really works well to keep the show fresh and interesting.
The cold open involves Josh and Lucy's decision to have anal sex for the first time being treated as though it's an engagement announcement, complete with Liz advising her younger brother to ask Lucy's dad for permission. Which he does. The rest of the episode focuses on the anxiety that surrounds something like a couple's impending proposal: Josh nervously tries to soothe an increasingly irascible ComicCon audience who finds his proposal announcement to be underwhelming while Lucy basically becomes Sherlock Holmes as she obsesses about how Josh is going to finally pop the big question. In the end, the pressure winds up being too much for the both of them: Josh chokes when they go out to dinner and doesn't propose, sparking a huge fight that ends in the two angrily proposing together and going to bed. Of course they wake up both feeling embarrassed at how they acted the night before, and rightfully point out that their once-in-a-lifetime proposal opportunity wound up being an argument.
Instead of regretting their tiff, though, Lucy and Josh own how special their proposal got to be, and spend the rest of the episode proposing a series of Saturday-afternoon activities to one another, complete with increasingly ridiculous rings to go with each one. It's easily one of the sweeter moments that the show has pulled off this season, and it perfectly highlights how the best relationships often work. It doesn't always have to be the big, huge proposal moments that are grand and memorable and important. Sometimes the smaller moments — the egg and cheese bagels and joints and the movies — are the huge special important moments. Because Man Seeking Woman knows that it's the smaller moments, like quiet magazine time and going to that sunglasses place we like, that make the bigger moments (like proposing and getting married and having babies) possible in the first place.