RECAP: ‘Euphoria’ weaves fantasy and expectations with reality in ‘Out of Touch’

Boyce Rucker, Staff Writer

This review contains spoilers for episode two in season two of “Euphoria.”

In the wake of an eventful new year, to say the least, “Euphoria’s” characters turn to their own idealism, which in turn, fuels their wildest dreams and darkest desires. For a show that stands out for its visual artistry and harsh realities of addiction, “Euphoria’s” newest episode, titled “Out of Touch,” takes a deep look into the main characters’ fantasist psyches. However overblown their fantasies may be, the characters indulge in their questionable desires without much consideration for how their personal relationships will be impacted.

As school resumes, Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schaefer) reconcile their relationship, but Jules is concerned about Rue’s new friend Elliot (Dominic Fike). Recovering from Fez’s (Angus St. Cloud) attack, Nate (Jacob Elordi) contemplates his fling with Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) and works to conceal details of the attack from his father Cal (Eric Dane). Cassie worries about Maddy (Alexa Demie) discovering their affair, frightened that she will react violently. Kat (Barbie Ferreira) realizes something is missing from her relationship with Ethan (Austin Abrams), while Maddy wonders if she made the right decision to leave Nate. 

Dominic Fike and Zendaya in Out of Touch (2022). (Sam Levinson/HBO Max)

The episode puts us in the same rose-tinted glasses that some of the characters wear. Rue narrates the opening, which shows an unconscious Nate’s dreams of potentially having a bright future that involves passionate sex, a pregnant Cassie, a luxurious lifestyle and his father’s untimely death. Cal’s sexual proclivities hang over Nate’s head throughout the series after watching his sex tapes as a child and later discovering that Jules spent an evening with Cal. It is Nate’s traumatic viewing of Cal’s videos that drives his psychopathic tendencies and controlling nature. 

This episode finds the main characters at a similar crucial point in their personal lives as they give in to fantasy. Despite being back with Jules, under her drug sponsor Ali’s (Colman Domingo) guidance and dodging a few dangerous encounters, Rue still turns to drugs while spending time with Elliot. As a result, Rue is on the brink of losing Jules again, because she thinks that either Rue is romantically involved with Elliot, or correctly suspects Elliot is giving Rue drugs. Parallels can be seen in how Nate wants to assert willpower over Cassie, and have a future with her, but views Cal as an obstacle. On the other hand, Cassie wants to continue seeing Nate, despite his past actions, but she knows that it will eventually disrupt her friendship with Maddy. 

Hunter Schafer as Jules in Out of Touch (2022). (Sam Levinson/HBO Max)

The recurring theme of this episode is the characters’ blinded lust for things that they believe are good for them, when those things are actually bad for them. As her tour of the housewife’s closet conveys, Maddy yearns for a lavish lifestyle which she only sees as being possible if she were with Nate as he showered her in gifts last season. This season, we stumble upon the characters as they achieve, or pursue, stability in their personal lives, though it looks to be short-lived if they continue to make self-destructive choices. This is “Euphoria” after all.

This episode does not have the same bombastic or chaotic feeling of the prior episode. Here, we get something that is more character-focused and a break from anxiety-filled circumstances. The show begins to feel more like last season as we settle back into the school setting. “Out of Touch” works as a pit stop for the story as we get an idea of where the characters are right now in their personal lives. As the episode shifts between different characters, the plot does not advance very much until the latter half. The main highlight from last week’s premiere was Fez beating Nate to a bloody pulp in front of an entire party, signaling a conflict-driven season. Multiple subplots are being covered, but the Fez-Nate conflict still looms throughout as Cal tries to uncover the truth behind the incident.

Angus Cloud in Out of Touch (2022). (Sam Levinson/HBO Max)

Cal confronts Nate for the motive behind Fez’s attack at the end of the episode, to which Nate responds that Jules and Rue were trying to blackmail Nate about Cal’s night with the underage Jules, prompting them to send Fez after Nate. With this maneuver Nate gains a power advantage over Cal by making him indebted to Nate for supposedly trying to defend him. At the same time, it looks like Nate is trying to fulfill his fantasy by sending Cal after Fez with the hope of Cal getting killed or arrested and the same fate for Fez. But Nate’s advantage over Cal does not last long when he remembers that Maddy has the Cal and Jules tape after stealing it from him. Nate’s imagination is vivid and he works to see his dreams come to fruition, but they are far-fetched from reality and lead to dangerous results. The other characters’ desires are also unrealistic and lend to insecurity, but they are more tame in comparison.

The psychologically dark story beats do not take away from the show’s funnier moments. When Kat realizes she and Ethan have struggles with their sex life, she fantasizes about him stabbing himself in the restroom. Soon after, her fantasy shows a well-endowed Dothraki warrior from “Game of Thrones” walks out and sexually satisfies her in a manner reminiscent of a sex scene between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo. Here, we learn that Kat isn’t as into Ethan as she was before, because he lacks the sexual excitement and passion that she previously sought after in the previous season as a webcam model. The relationship’s stability, which Maddy commends her for, is good for her, but it is growing dull as the sparks behind it start to wane. Although the realization is troublesome, the way it’s told is hilariously over-the-top and fitting for her character. 

Alexa Demie in Out of Touch (2022). (Sam Levinson/HBO Max)

This scene shows that show creator and writer Sam Levinson is able to tailor a scene to fit a character’s personality or current mindset. Dealing with immature high school characters, Levinson crafts a scene that shows their outlandish expectations and diversifies the scene for each character. Where Nate’s dream sequence is surreal with dark undertones, Kat’s sequence is surreal but humorously cringe-inducing. The show’s characters and the scenes to fit them are a strong testament to the show’s artistry.

The most anticipated confrontation of the episode is the meeting between Cal and Fez. After learning from Cassie that Fez beat up Nate, Cal confronts him at his gas station. The scene builds up with tension, as Lexi (Maude Apatow) is the only one who initially knows why Cal is there. Fez does not recognize him initially and closeup shots focus on Cal’s hand holding a gun in his coat pocket, setting the stage for a violent confrontation. However, Cal shows himself as an observant yet cautionary force by simply taking cash from his pocket to pay for chips while characterizing himself as “just a concerned father.” At this point, we realize Cal is not a blindly rageful man as his son often comes off as, but he seems more calculated as he considers that there is more to Nate’s conflict with Fez. While he was not featured prominently last season, the latest episodes and Eric Dane’s silently eerie performance make Cal a more intriguing character, building anticipation for his backstory next week.

Barbie Ferreira in Out of Touch (2022). (Sam Levinson/HBO Max)

“Euphoria” takes a slower approach this week to cover its main characters and their self-destructive natures. So far this season places them in the most unimaginable corners and makes the near three-year hiatus worth it.  

This review is the second of a weekly schedule that will recap each episode of “Euphoria” for the current season. Come back every Monday to read our take on this season!