While Whitney is learning some hard truths about herself, Asher and Dougie are engaged in an emotional battle of performative friendship. In a way, their date starts with Dougie’s interview with Asher, where he is quite evidently trying both to unnerve him and to catch him in linguistic traps that will make him look terrible in the edit. Dougie brings up details we have never heard about Asher before, among them that he came to New Mexico for another relationship, which ended before he got together with Whitney.
Although Asher is uncomfortable during the interview, he leans into congeniality at dinner with awkward attempts at niceties, saying things like “I’m happy you’ve been such a good friend to me” as Dougie throws back beers. And Dougie is hardly a victim. He is also a bully. During the interview, he brings up Asher’s embarrassing sexual proclivities; during their meal, he secretly orders chicken to the table, just to freak Asher out.
When Asher has to go to Abshir’s to change the battery in a smoke detector, Dougie comes up with a plan. He wants to see if Nala will curse him with the same chicken-related fate as Asher. If the chicken they have taken home from the restaurant — Dougie’s joke — disappears, then it worked. Asher is resistant, but Dougie forges ahead, essentially barging his way into Nala’s room under the ruse of needing to do housework. As he asks Nala to curse him, he grows desperate, crying. She screams for her father, terrified by this strange man weeping beside her bed.
It’s a sequence that’s almost hard to parse. Is Dougie genuinely sobbing? Is he doing this for Asher? Maybe he needs to believe in curses so he can have something to blame his awful life on? Regardless of his motives, Nala doesn’t fulfill his request.
When Asher and Dougie get back into the car, they start to fight. It leads to perhaps the most brutal exchange of the series so far. “Does this get exhausting,” Dougie asks, “cosplaying as a good man?” Asher replies, “Like you’re one to talk.” Dougie wants to know what that’s supposed to mean. Asher then coup de grâce: “I don’t know, ask your wife.” He quickly apologizes, realizing the cruelty of his blow. But something has shifted. Even the score sounds different. It is harsher and less eerie, like something out of a sci-fi movie.
As Asher moves to exit the car, he tries again to make amends. Dougie coldly agrees, saying, “We need more friends than enemies in this world, right?” His cute little axiom sounds like a threat, and at this moment Asher really doesn’t have any friends. Neither does Whitney.