This episode, Thanksgiving dinner is the setting for potential forgiveness, and Alaska must deal with the full fallout from her actions. Miles attempts to get closer to Alaska while alienating himself from The Colonel, and everyone must choose a side. This episode has raw and excellent performances by Kristine Froseth and Denny Love as his stubbornness and her loneliness collide in heartbreaking fashion. As The Colonel’s mother Dolores, Deneen Tyler, is spectacular, and I hope this isn’t the last we see of her before the finale.
As the show opens, Alaska is walking alone across the campus, earbuds in. It feels like everyone is looking at her. One of the Weekday Warriors throws a lacrosse ball at her, and it whizzes past her head. She falls to the ground as Miles watches, but he doesn’t move. Alaska gets up and walks away with all the dignity she can muster, but it’s clear she’s affected.
Lara is scraping the spray paint off Alaska’s door when Miles approaches. The two are working together, Lara because she believes that no matter what Alaska is accused of doing, she doesn’t deserve to be called a name. Miles apologizes to Lara for leaving her after she helped him at the hospital. Lara forgives him, and they continue scraping as Alaska watches from afar.
Miles wakes from a nap to find Alaska playing a video game in his room, relishing the violence in her anger. Alaska says that the second The Colonel saw her, he left, leaving her alone. Miles asks her why she ratted, especially since she despises rats. She says she’s sorry and it won’t happen again, but that is all she has to say on the topic. She quickly changes the subject to Thanksgiving. She’ll be staying on campus and wonders if Miles is too. She pulls out a list she made of reasons for Miles to stay with her at Culver Creek. Miles seems swayed at first, but then he tells her his parents are expecting him. Alaska takes it in stride, then leans on Miles, saying she’s not flirting, just tired. She seems to crave the intimacy, and Miles doesn’t complain.
Back at The Smoking Hole, The Colonel and Takumi inform Miles that Alaska asks everyone to stay with her over Thanksgiving; Takumi did it last year. The Colonel mocks Miles wanting to be with her, saying that she’s not going to break up with Jake and suddenly become his girlfriend by doing this for her. Miles seems to leave, and The Colonel says that if he does stay he’s a rat by association. Miles joins the two under the bridge, saying that he never even considered staying (but his earlier attitude betrays him).
Miles calls his parents, who are so excited to see him on Thanksgiving that they want to make it a road trip. He hangs up, conflicted, then the phone rings again. It’s Jake, wanting to speak with Alaska. He hasn’t heard from her since the party. Miles, feeling hope, calls his father to tell him he’s not coming home for Thanksgiving. Miles goes to tell Alaska he’s staying with her for the holiday, and she smiles, pleased.
Everyone is leaving for Thanksgiving while Miles attempts to justify himself to his friends. The Colonel and Takumi both tell him that this is a mistake before leaving with The Colonel’s mother. Miles heads to Alaska’s dorm, and they go out out in her car. They buy liquor and bury it in the woods, which apparently Alaska has done before. They start making candles, just as Takumi said.
The next morning, a hung over Miles is woken up by Alaska, who says they are behind schedule for their adventure on the creek. Alaska wants to see if it really is connected to Miss Ann’s Diner in town like rumor says. They row a canoe together while Alaska reads from her novel. They are victorious and grab lunch in the diner. Miles asks Alaska why she doesn’t go home, and she says it’s because her home is full of ghosts. They are forced to to carry their canoe back to campus when it occurs to them that they can’t get back up the creek.
Miles and Alaska finally get back to campus, where Alaska suggests they go “porn hunting,” breaking into rooms and crawl spaces for contraband. Miles is worried about getting caught, as usual, but Alaska quiets his fears by pointing out that no one is going to tell The Eagle that someone stole their wine cooler. They finally find a porn film and sit down to watch it, with Alaska giving a running feminist critique.
Later, they wander the woods as they drink from a bottle of wine. Miles asks why Alaska hasn’t called Jake back. She avoids answering, and they run into Dr. Hyde, walking his dog. They quickly hide the alcohol, but Dr. Hyde just smiles knowingly. Hyde brings them to his house, where he tells them they’re lucky he’s the one on duty and not The Eagle. Alaska starts to rant about The Eagle, but Hyde gently pushes back, pointing out that The Eagle is responsible for overseeing the safety of two hundred students. Hyde asks why they haven’t returned home for the break. Miles cites homework while staring longingly at Alaska. Alaska says it’s just her tradition. Hyde says he’s there because he doesn’t have family left. He never married or had children. Alaska wants to know if he ever experienced love, and Hyde says the person he loved hasn’t been around in a long time. Alaska sees a picture on the mantel of a young Hyde with another young man and asks if that was him. Hyde says it was, and she proposes a toast to love.
Meanwhile, The Colonel is food shopping with his mother. He seems dejected and his mother wants to know what’s wrong. He tells his mother that he’s lost Sara and Miles, since he’s spending Thanksgiving with Alaska. He says he hates them, but his mother says he doesn’t hate anyone, and that what Alaska and Miles need is a home cooked meal.
Back at Hyde’s, Alaska wants to find out about Hyde’s love Diego. He describes how they met, when he was teaching politics at Berkeley. When Diego died of AIDS, Hyde was devastated. Hyde is emotional talking about it, and it seems to affect Alaska and Miles. Alaska invites Hyde to go to the diner with them tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner, but he declines, saying he’s fine alone. They leave, and Alaska and Miles sit by the fire pit discussing Hyde. Alaska thinks that maybe the labyrinth is suffering — maybe Bolivar was talking about the part in between life and death. Miles, finally seeing beneath her facade, asks, “Are you suffering?” Alaska tries to brush him off but he persists. She admits that losing everyone after being called a rat has been hard. Miles tries to point out that he and Hyde are there for her, and that Jake loves her. Miles is fixated on the fact that she hasn’t called him back, and Alaska says she doesn’t want to bother explaining because he couldn’t understand. Miles says he’s all in — he wants to know everything about her. Alaska responds to this by running away — this much emotional intimacy is too much for her.
She runs to the pay phone and calls Jake. She says she’s sorry about not calling, but that she didn’t know how to tell him that she wants to break up. She was using him to not deal with being alone. She thanks him for being her rock, then tells him to find happiness three doors down with Fiona. Alaska returns to Miles with sleeping bags so they can be under the stars. She tells Miles she broke up with Jake, and he seems hopeful. She tells him not to ruin it as she holds his hand, and he says he won’t.
The next morning, the two are still asleep with hands intertwined. The Colonel is standing there as Miles wakes up. He coldly says that he and Alaska are invited for Thanksgiving dinner at his house, not looking at or speaking to Alaska. He walks away, telling them to hurry because his mother Dolores is waiting. They drive silently to The Colonel’s trailer. He tries to walk in without acknowledging Miles or Alaska, but his mother tells him to show hospitality. The Colonel is ashamed of the trailer, and mocks Alaska and Miles for not understanding. Alaska says that poor is poor, and that she understands. The Colonel is very protective of his mother, listing off her many accomplishments as if to offset the impression he thinks the trailer leaves.
The Colonel’s mother insists that everyone help cook, and they all sit down to dinner. Some of the tension seems to be eased, and The Colonel takes Alaska’s hand to say grace. Dolores asks them all to name something that makes them feel blessed. Miles says he’s thankful for the food and to have a real home for Thanksgiving. Alaska says she’s had the best Thanksgiving in a decade. The Colonel tries to joke, but his mother won’t have it. The Colonel says his mother is the best thing on this planet. Dolores says she’s thankful for her home and her job, but most importantly for her son. Hyde is shown making his own dinner alone as Dolores says a prayer.
As they clear the table, Dolores puts on a record and asks The Colonel to dance with her. At first he’s embarrassed, but then complies, laughing. Alaska and Miles join in and she gets close to him. They all dance together, and seem to be having a great time. Hyde is also shown dancing alone, dreaming Diego is there in his mind. Dolores and Alaska are sitting in the store by the trailer cleaning up, and Dolores tells Alaska not to worry, that The Colonel will come around. Alaska seems to be comforted by her words, if not optimistic about her chances. Miles is in Dolores’ room as Alaska enters, offering a slice of pie. Miles offers to sleep in the store, but Alaska declines, which means she and Miles will share a bed. Miles whispers “be cool” to himself as Dolores walks by, and she simply says “small trailer, son.”
Alaska visits The Colonel with a slice of pie as a peace offering as Dolores suggested. The Colonel flatly refuses, saying that he can’t trust her now. Alaska says she had to rat out Paul and Marya, but The Colonel is stubborn. He says that if she really cared and really wanted to make things better, she would leave Miles alone. His life will be a living hell at Culver Creek if she keeps seeing him. Alaska, on the verge of tears and losing the most important friendship she has, is devastated as The Colonel walks away.
Alaska joins Miles in the bed, turning away from him. Miles tries to comfort her, saying that the thing he is most grateful for is her. Alaska faces him, and he leans in to kiss her. She roughly pushes him away, and she falls off the bed. Miles apologizes for misreading the situation, but Alaska is angry. The Colonel’s words are in her head. She says “I told you not to ruin it,” then leaves to sleep outside. The next morning, they drive back to school, again silent. The Colonel tells his mother to stop the car just outside campus and let Alaska out; he doesn’t want to be seen with her. Dolores protests, but Alaska insists she’s fine, refusing to let Miles come with her. Dolores is angry with The Colonel, saying “I did not raise you to put some juvenile honor code over treating people right.” The Colonel hits back, saying that all the times Dolores forgave his abusive father proved she shouldn’t have. Dolores says she won’t drive any further — if Alaska walks, he walks. Miles takes the opportunity to exit quickly as The Colonel lingers. His mother tells him that unlike his father, The Colonel cares about people. She tells him that Alaska is lonelier than he thinks and that she needs him. As Alaska walks towards campus with The Colonel and Miles just behind her, the title card flashes: “21 Days Before”.
“The Nourishment Is Palatable” Mixtape:
“To Be Alone With You” by Fleurie
“Shuffle Your Feet” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet
“E-Pro” by Beck
“Julie” by Jens Lekman
“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers
Looking For Alaska is available to stream now on Hulu.