In this episode, we start to see cracks in Connell and Marianne’s new relationship as the show moves around in time. Marianne’s home life is explored as she heads home for her mother’s birthday, and Connell faces rejection in many areas of his life. We also get more from my new favorite side characters Niall and Peggy (yay!) and more from Jamie, the walking embodiment of male white privilege (boo). What is the cause of the friction between Marianne and Connell? The show doesn’t reveal it all just yet, but read on to find clues based on what happened in Normal People episode six.
We start on Marianne, who is staring at shards of a broken glass in her sink. It’s not clear yet what’s happened, but her sadness radiates from her as she looks away from the mess. The title card flashes “SIX WEEKS EARLIER,” a much happier time. Marianne stands in front of the same sink, smiling at Connell. She asks him to stay, telling him she doesn’t have class until 3:00, but he says he has to get some things from his apartment and that Niall worries about him. Marianne laughs and says she likes Niall already. She wonders if Niall is his best friend, and Connell says that she is. This resolve to leave doesn’t last long as he kisses Marianne, and the two have sex again. Connell returns to his apartment, and Niall teases him, calling him “the ghost of Christmas Past” since he’s been spending so much time at Marianne’s place. He quips, “I heard someone coming in and thought the place was being robbed. You still live here, then?” Connell laughs and brushes him off, saying that as long as he’s still paying rent Niall can’t complain.
Connell walks to class, calling Lorraine as he walks. Lorraine reminds him to thank Marianne for getting him his job at the restaurant by introducing him to Sophie, a friend of hers. Lorraine also pointedly says she hopes he appreciates Marianne more now, and he sighs. He says he’s apologized to Marianne and that she’s forgiven him, so Lorraine can’t still be upset over what he calls a teenage mistake. Lorraine lovingly says that Connell is her teenage mistake, and he laughs. She asks about an article he submitted to a magazine, and Connell says he hasn’t heard back from the editor yet.
Marianne, Connell, and Peggy are hanging out at Marianne’s. Peggy asks if they are together, surprising both of them (even though it’s so obvious Peggy just assumes it’s common knowledge). Peggy misunderstands their hesitation to define their relationship as them being in an open relationship, and she matter-of-factly offers to have a threesome with them both. Connell’s face when she suggests this is gold, as is Marianne’s attempts to shut Peggy down. But then Marianne speaks an uncomfortable truth: that she doesn’t really feel lovable enough to be in a threesome. She says she’d be self-conscious the whole time, even though Peggy protests by saying she’s beautiful. Peggy seems to want to probe this reveal further, but instead says she has to go. When Marianne returns from escorting Peggy out, Connell thanks Marianne for getting them out of that situation. Marianne laughs, saying she would have been into it if Connell was but she could tell he was definitely not. Connell stops, saying that she shouldn’t do something just because she thinks he’d like it; she should only do it if she wants. Marianne stumbles over her words, explaining that what she meant was that she likes doing things that make him happy. Connell still isn’t satisfied with this explanation either, saying he doesn’t need her to do things she’s uncomfortable with just to make him happy. He wouldn’t be happy if he thought she was forcing herself to do something for his sake. Connell seems sad, but as usual he brushes his feelings off when Marianne asks what’s wrong.
The next morning, they wake up in bed together. Connell tries to articulate the sadness he was feeling the evening before, but he isn’t really able to, instead saying that he loves her as they kiss. They get up for the day, and a bashful Connell asks if Marianne would ever send a picture to him. She teases him, asking innocently, “of what, the view?” Connell laughs, face red, and clarifies that he meant of her. He also stammers out that of course he’d immediately delete it, so that she’d know she could trust him. She laughs, asking what the point of having a racy photo would be if he just deleted it. She asks if he’d send one of himself to her, and he clearly regrets asking in the first place, wondering why on earth she’d want one of him. She flirts, saying she’d never delete his and that she’d “look at it every single day, probably take it to my grave.” He smiles and they kiss.
The good mood dissipates when Connell is told that due to renovations, the restaurant he works in will be closing for two months. Without that money, Connell can’t afford to stay in Dublin for the summer like he planned. He talks to Niall, who says he’ll sublet his room so that Connell can come back in September. He also suggests that Connell ask Marianne if he can move in with her for the summer, which Connell dismisses. He doesn’t like imposing himself on Marianne (and like before, seems to worry about being indebted to her with the difference in class already being what it is). Of course he doesn’t say any of this out loud, and Niall wonders why he wouldn’t, considering he spends most of his time there anyway. Niall walks off, saying he just “can’t get his head around” their relationship.
Marianne heads home for the weekend to celebrate Denise’s birthday. Her relatives are all proud of her, discussing her high marks in school and reminiscing about their own days at Trinity. Marianne plays along but is clearly uncomfortable with the attention. In the kitchen, Alan (who has been jealously drinking throughout the luncheon) accuses Marianne of rubbing her big city success in his face. His anger is palpable, and he goads Marianne by asking if she thinks she’s smarter or better than him. Marianne doesn’t respond at first, but when he pushes she says she’ll say she’s smarter since that’s clearly what he wants to hear. Without a word, Alan dumps a glass of soapy water over her head and walks away, shocking her. Denise is in the doorway and saw the whole scene, but just walks away. That night, Marianne tries to take a sexy photo to send to Connell but is sobbing the whole time and doesn’t end up sending it.
In the car driving Marianne to the bus, Denise says it’s hard for Alan to be left behind in Sligo while Marianne gets to live her life in Dublin. Denise rationalizes Alan’s abusive behavior, and it seems the dynamic she had with Alan and Marianne’s father is repeating itself here. Marianne says it shouldn’t be her job to manage Alan’s feelings and that her mother never stands up for her, asking if Denise is happy living the way she is. Denise angrily asks what exactly Marianne wants her to do. It seems she’s afraid of what Alan will do if she pushes back. Marianne just thanks Denise for the ride and gets out of the car. Back in Dublin, Marianne and Connell are watching a movie together when she starts silently crying into his shoulder. Connell is concerned, but Marianne brushes it off as just feeling a bit emotional. He makes her some tea, and they kiss again.
The next day, Connell gets an email informing him his article for the magazine was rejected, saying that they feel he lacks “confidence and a clear voice” (glad this editor seemed to zero right in on Connell’s deepest insecurities). He talks to Niall, who asks if he’s talked to Marianne about moving in yet. Connell says no, and Niall asks what’s stopping him. He doesn’t respond. At a party at Marianne’s, Joanna (QUEEN) is busy calling out Jamie about his lack of regard for political correctness (“Why is it always people who look exactly like you who say things like that?”) while Connell sits silently. Jamie continues his rant and places his hand on Marianne’s knee while he does so. Connell, still upset about the rejection and seeing Jamie’s possessiveness with Marianne as a threat, gets up to get some air. Marianne follows, asking what’s wrong. Instead of communicating like a normal person (these two and their inability to TALK TO EACH OTHER), Connell focuses on how mad Jamie’s touching Marianne makes him (not telling her about the rejection). Marianne retorts that that’s just how Jamie is, and unlike Connell, he isn’t afraid of touching her in public. This hits a sore spot as Marianne wants more public acknowledgment of their relationship and Connell just isn’t sure how to do that. Connell says he’s going to go and leaves.
Later, Connell and Marianne seem to be back on solid ground as they prepare to go to Sophie’s birthday party. Connell still seems down and Marianne says they don’t have to go if he’s not up to it, but he says they have to since Sophie helped him get his job. At the pool party, Connell seems more like his regular self, playing games in the pool with their friends. Jamie finds Marianne and sits with her to talk. He asks, “do you think you’re right for him?” as they watch Connell play. She doesn’t say anything in response. Later, she sits on the edge of the pool as Connell swims up to her. Taking their discussion from earlier to heart, he moves out of the pool and puts his arm around her, kissing her shoulder. Back in the present where we found her at the beginning of the episode, Marianne cries as a door slams. She reaches for a glass and turns on the tap, but her hand shakes and she drops it in the sink, shattering it. Connell walks down the street, also in tears. But what happened to get them to this place?
Episode 6 Music Moments:
“Too Much” by Carly Rae Jepsen
“I’m Happy Without You” by Ann Byers
“redlight” by Uly
“Smoke” by Gia Margaret
“It’s Alright (feat. Strange Boy)” by delush
“I Know” by August Roads
“We Played Some Open Chords and Rejoiced” by A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Normal People is available on Hulu.