Thus far, Normal People has done a great job of showing the differences in how Marianne and Connell experience the world and how even with their connection, those differences threaten to tear them apart. This episode confronts some of the speed bumps in their relationship head on, with an honest discussion of their secondary school days and opportunities for both to share their inner feelings with each other. Marianne’s calm, cool, and collected facade starts to crack a bit as we see more of her with her friends, especially the ones who may not have her best interests at heart (Jamie, I’m looking at you, buddy.) But we also see how much Connell has grown, and how much growing he still has left to do, as he tries to make amends for what happened in the past. Read on to find out what happened when Connell and Marianne try “the friend thing” …
The episode begins where we left off last time: Connell getting a late night text from Marianne. But instead of texting back, he calls her (bold move, Connell, I like it!) He asks if anything is wrong, since it’s been a while since Marianne called him at midnight. She is unprepared and they awkwardly chuckle. She finally says that it was nice to see him at the party and that she has missed having Connell in her life. She says she knows they’ve never done “the friendship thing,” but she wants to try. Connell smiles and says that that sounds good, and Marianne breathes a sigh of relief.
The next day, Connell comes over to Marianne’s place where a few of her friends are already gathered. Bubbly Joanna immediately says hello while Peggy begins interrogating him about what Marianne was like at school. He stammers out that she was “smart” but Peggy says that’s obvious. She teases him, saying he’s worried about what Marianne will say about him. Peggy asks if Marianne went around “absolutely annihilating” people even then, and Connell cracks a smile when he says yes. Peggy says she knew it and Marianne confirms. Jamie then adds that he thinks Marianne’s prickliness is an act and that deep down she’s just “a nice girl.” Peggy asks if she’s a nice girl too, and Jamie says, “Superficially you’re a nice girl, but deep down you’re a f*cking monster.” They all laugh politely but it cuts a little too close for Peggy. Jamie comes across as a jerk, but for some reason they tolerate him.
Time passes, with Connell getting a job as a waiter and Marianne continuing to see Gareth. Marianne, Joanna, Peggy, Gareth, Philip, Connell, and Jamie are out playing pool. Jamie is winning and Joanna lightheartedly accuses him of cheating. He says he’s just really good at pool, and they all roll their eyes at his ego. He lobs an insult at Peggy, who declines his offer to play next. Gareth volunteers, and Joanna tells him to “thrash” Jamie (Joanna is my new favorite out of Marianne’s friends.) Later, Marianne and Connell talk separately. She asks if he thinks her friends are fun, and it’s clear he’s thinking of Jamie when he says he doesn’t really understand them. They’re not like his friends from back home. Marianne says she knows they can be a bit intense, but at the end of the day they’re her friends. Teresa arrives, and she and Connell hug in greeting as Marianne looks on.
At school, Jamie (quickly becoming my least favorite Trinity friend) brings Marianne a tea. She asks if there was any gossip from after she left the gathering the night before, and he says Connell and Teresa left together shortly after Marianne did. Jamie condescendingly says he couldn’t picture the two of them being friends in school and asks if Connell is even smart. Marianne says he’s smarter than her and might be the smartest person she’s ever met. Jamie drops this line of questioning, and they head to the library.
Connell arrives back at his apartment after a night out, with Niall saying, “Well, well, walk of shame,” good naturedly as Connell ignores his antics. As he heads to the shower, Niall says, “That man’s a dark horse, he’ll tell you nothing,” to Elaine. When his lecture ends, he gets up to leave but is stopped by Sadie, who seems to like him. She asks to read his essay on Joyce that apparently got an unprecedented good grade from their professor. They walk out of the lecture together, with Sadie trying to convince him to join the literary society. Gareth and Marianne read in the hallway, with Gareth remarking that she has a “really cute serious face” as Marianne humors him by chuckling. He starts to rant about one of his various committees, but Marianne says she needs to finish her reading before class. Gareth says it’s fine and goes back to his work, but Marianne looks at him, working something out in her head.
At home, Marianne and Connell are both reading silently when Marianne asks him what it’s like to be the star of their class. Apparently he’s currently number one, which embarrasses him a bit. He says it’s mostly due to the fact that he actually does the reading, and he’s more amazed by how confidently the others can respond even when they don’t. Marianne asks if that bothers him, and he admits that it does, a little. It goes unspoken, but this is yet another way Connell is different from his classmates: he sees Trinity as a ticket to a better future, and they see it as time to make memories socially. He confesses that he wishes he could have that confidence in life, saying that they are so sure of themselves and he feels like he’s “walking around trying on a hundred different versions of myself.” Marianne reassures him that from the outside it doesn’t seem like that. He adds that he can’t seem to connect his life at home and his life at school, that they don’t fit together.
Marianne is silent, and Connell asks if her friends know the full story of what happened between them. She says that Joanna knows some of it, but the others don’t. He asks if she would be embarrassed if they knew, and she says, “Yes, in some ways.” He asks why, and she says it was humiliating for her. He asks if it was the way he treated her, and she says yes, but also that she put up with it. They are quiet for a moment, and Marianne asks if he ever thought about taking her to the Debs. He says that he honestly didn’t but wishes that he did, asking if she would have said yes. Holding back tears, she says, “Yeah.” Connell says he’s really sorry and tells her that apparently everyone knew despite their efforts to hide it. He goes on to say that he feels guilty, putting her through all that when no one cared anyway. He says he’s truly sorry, that he had so much anxiety around his social life that it obscured everything else back then. She says she forgives him, and Connell thanks her. It’s a genuine moment of growth for Connell that he is finally able to apologize for what he did, and it also says something about the ease in their relationship that he opens up to Marianne so easily.
Gareth is standing at the bottom of the stairs, dumbfounded. Marianne has just broken up with him right before a party they were set to attend together. He’s bewildered, but Marianne is sure of her decision (as an aside: I want every one of Marianne’s outfits, but especially this blue dress/maroon jacket combo that looks stunning on her. No wonder Gareth is devastated.) She meets Connell to head there together. On the way to his car, she teases him about his relationship with Teresa, which both describe as casual. She informs him she broke up with Gareth, and he asks if that’s why she’s been drinking already. She says she feels nothing and must be a cold person, which he disagrees with. At the party she heads over to talk with Joanna, Peggy, and Philip. Peggy says she looks great now that she’s unloaded the dead weight that was Gareth, and they all laugh, saying Gareth will be fine.
Marianne gets more and more drunk as the night goes on and finds Connell upstairs. She accuses him of being with Teresa all night, which he laughs at since Teresa isn’t even at the party. She flirts heavily with him and asks him to have sex, which he says no to due to her intoxication. They kiss, but pull away when Peggy comes up the stairs. The next morning, Marianne wakes up with a hangover, still at the house where the party took place, and Connell takes her home. In the car, she says she’s sorry and is embarrassed about what happened. She says it’s hard for the two of them to be friends if one of them is always trying to sleep with the other one. Connell says it’s fine, and when they pull up to Marianne’s house she invites him in.
Marianne takes a shower, and when she comes out Connell is waiting. She goes to him, still in her robe, and they kiss again. Their connection is like two magnets: it’s impossible to escape and it just feels right that they be together. They have sex, and the chemistry from before is definitely still there. It seems these two are physically incapable of being just friends. When they finish, they stay in the bed together. Marianne says it’s not like this for other people, and Connell says that he thinks they’ll be fine as the episode ends.
Episode 5 Music Moments:
“La Lune” by Billie Marten
“Dance 4 Sorrow” by Francis Lung
“Tumble Party” by Wild Front
“Go Wild” by Friedberg
“Men Are Trash” by Tebi Rex
“Nikes” by Frank Ocean
“Skate” by Tycho, Saint Sinner
“Hazeldene” by Royal Yellow
“Make You Feel My Love” by Ane Brun
Normal People is available now on Hulu.