College generally marks the first time that many young people get a taste of independence. Either they’re miles away from family or at least living on their own for the first time, and kids who grew up in strict households often find themselves letting loose for the first time. Sometimes, maybe even a little too much.
The themes of the first half of Never Have I Ever’s final season have largely focused on the steps needed to get to that next chapter of life: picking a school and imagining the future that might unfold while you’re there. In Never Have I Ever Season 4 Episode 5 (“…been to New Jersey”), Devi and friends travel to the East Coast to get a glimpse at that imagined future, and none of them are exactly stoked by what they see. Ben arrives at Columbia and is immediately thrust into a pretentious conversation about Big Oil that he can’t keep up with; Eleanor’s audition at Juilliard ends with the admissions counselor telling her she isn’t a fit for the school; and Devi finds out her idol in high school Blair Kwan flunked out of Princeton because she got too caught up in partying and the newfound independence college gave her.
Devi is both moved and freaked out about Blair’s admission — as Blair’s “mini me,” she’s afraid that she’ll also get swept up in the excitement of life at a big university. But unlike Blair’s home life, in which she was forced to study constantly and not talk to boys or go to parties, Devi has lived a pretty well-rounded high school life by pushing her mom’s boundaries. She’s had sex with two boys already and has risen out of her lower nerdy status to become a fixture at parties.
Ben reminds Devi of this in a moment of genuine reconnection, and in return she hypes him up about finding his place at Columbia. Ben also finally apologizes for giving her the silent treatment for the better part of first semester, and even takes a punch in the face for her when she’s being harassed by a college kid at the party Blair takes them to. With only five episodes left in the series, it feels like the right time for them to bury the hatchet since Ben is seemingly the endgame for Devi.
Fabiola isn’t necessarily having an epiphany about fitting in at school, but rather a crisis tied to her Princeton application. Wracked with guilt, Fabiola almost admits it before saying she applied to Yale, and then avoids the topic altogether and even dodges the counselor’s encouragement to go see the school. It does not bode well for the impending episodes when we find out about early admissions, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Fabiola will be the one who earns the Princeton slot.
While Devi is across the country, Nalini finally has the house to herself — something she claims she’s been wanting for many years. But the silence is deafening and there’s only so many puzzles one can do before you start to go crazy from the boredom. Luckily Andres serendipitously stops by looking for his phone and Nalini invites him to stay for dinner. The two single parents share their excitement and apprehension for the future, joking about what crafts and hobbies they’ll pick up in their spare time. She admits that she thought she’d get to spend this time with her late husband Mohan building birdhouses, and she wakes up in the morning to a birdhouse gift sitting on her doorstep to assuage her fear of an empty nest. I’m really impressed with how quickly these two and the writers have established their chemistry with both small moments and big gestures; the enemies to lovers plot reigns supreme.
We don’t see much of Pati’s story in this episode aside from a small exchange between Nalini and Kamala in which Kamala is reminded that she was on a significant amount of Valium when she saw Len with a woman in their home. She quickly agrees to drop it but given that we still haven’t seen much more characterization of Len, I’ll be keeping my eye on him.
Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Vulture, Teen Vogue, Paste Magazine, and more. At any given moment, she can ruminate at length over Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You may call her Rad.