Given Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a series about a young couple, it’s no surprise the young series decided to insert an impromptu dinner party as a convenient premise – but “Double Date”, the show’s strong fourth episode, doesn’t just offer up a couple of random characters as dinner guests to simply repeat the structure of “First Vacation”. By introducing another John (Wagner Moura) and Jane (Parker Posey, at her best) into the mix, it offers the protagonists, along with the audience, a view through the looking glass of the show’s strange, subtle mythology – and, of course, an entirely different type of tension to explore.
When John and Jane are given a day off, they inadvertently run into Other John, who introduces himself and immediately begins dishing with John about their lives and careers, before the three agree to meet for an impromptu dinner party that evening. By answering a question raised in the show’s very first scene (are there multiple Smith couples out there?), “Double Date” opens itself up to a lot of potential early on – especially when one of the first thing John says in conversation is he’s met “other Smiths” before, but mentions “only one of them was inadvertent”.
Other John’s behavior (flaunting the Company’s card in the open, willing to dish with a stranger about their secret careers) early on offers a different, more palpable sense of tension to the episode. The Other Smiths openly admit to killing other couples, and that their pairing was not intentional (Other John went through a “reassignment”, probably when his Jane realized what a dedicated Eminem fan he is) – and as they espouse affectionally about the life of their super high-risk work, “Double Date” does a fantastic job of exploring the dichotomy it forms between Jane (who is super intrigued) and John (who couldn’t be less committal about trying even deadlier work than they’ve faced already).
The Other Smiths, of course, are a paragon of supportive partnerships; Other Jane, in particular, dotes over Other John’s accomplishments in the field, and can’t comprehend John and Jane’s hesitations to forming an emotional or sexual relationship (John notes they had sex basically minutes after they met each other). Next to them and their six years of experience together, John and Jane obviously start to over-analyze their own behavior as they observe a couple whose commitment to their jobs, and each other, far exceed the bounds of what John and Jane are even willing to contemplate at this point (lest we forget the pact they made to “part ways” after making enough money to live comfortably).
Swept up in their lifestyle and Other Jane’s sleek haircut, John and Jane drunkenly agree to go on a mission with the Other Smiths, a delivery mission that Other Jane insists is but a tiny sampling of what they do on a regular basis (though them doing coke in their living room, as John notes, might’ve been a red flag as to what would happen next). What they immediately forget, of course, is neither of them are as committed as the other Smiths to their new lifestyle (we see Max the cat again, and John runs into an old crush while shopping at the farmer’s market, later flipping through her Instagram) – turns out doing super high risk work for a long period of time affects your mentality, and John and Jane eventually find themselves alone on a plane over the Atlantic, after the Other Smiths ditch them in the helicopter, to go gallivant around the city through the waning hours of the night.
Again, the structure of “Double Date” is rather familiar: John and Jane examine their relationship through the prism of their target for the episode (slash whomever the guest star is), chaos ensues, and the episode usually ends on an intimate moment. Given we’d already seen a snowy spy shootout, an urban car chase, and the bone-breaking sounds of “First Date” still ringing through my head, one might expect big fireworks when John and Jane drop into the woods and are immediately captured and taken to a dark shed.
Instead, we don’t get a fight scene at all; John and Jane drop l-bombs on each other for the first time, we hear the sound of a machete – and then we jump cut to a bloody John and Jane 30 minutes later, covered in blood and grounded firmly back in the reality of their situation, and how they let the night get away from them. It’s a strange decision – but one I think is rather telling for the series, in how it is establishing itself as an action-peppered drama about relationships and identity, rather than a quippy, energetic series of capers with some kissing thrown in. Regardless, it’s a strong choice for the episode, to allow the violence and fear to remain unseen, refocusing the episode on John and Jane’s relationship and their clearly-evolving ability to work together, rather than than expound on the mysteries of the Company, Other John’s alluded-to past, or the like.
It certainly raises questions, however, like why Other Jane is willing to give up the $375,000 fee for the job so quickly – but “Double Date”, at least in the moment, isn’t concerned with those questions. Where the episode ends is on a contemplative note; while Jane showers, John sits and looks at Rooney’s feed, another brief glimpse into a path not taken for John (also, he wanted to make sure she had two hands and Jane hadn’t fooled him), before settling into bed with Jane to laugh about the intoxicating, nearly fatal experience of meeting their colleagues.
Though “Double Date” is less focused than “First Vacation” (naturally, an episode with a great Parker Posey performance isn’t going heavy on plot), it is just as effective in exploring the dissonance forming in their still-new relationship (see: John espousing the benefits of a quiet, low-risk lifestyle like the Company’s delivery drivers). But as entertaining as it is to see guest star couples float in and out of John and Jane’s lives to give them context and motivation, I’m looking forward to seeing Mr. & Mrs. Smith hopefully switch up the formula with the coming episodes, as repetitively projecting traits onto unfamiliar faces (probably) isn’t a lasting formula for the series.
- oh, that was definitely a Troy Barnes stare John was giving on the plane.
- gotta agree with John – apricot chicken does not sound enticing.
- Other John thinks the Company is a 9/11 intelligence group, because “they’ve been doing this for like, fifteen years.” ummm… Ok?
- I don’t know how anyone could hear about Other John and Jane’s Bali mission, and want to sign up for a high-risk mission.
- Jane has to get better at explaining her fake job: “I make… user interface.”
- Other John confusing The Clipse with Eminem? Absolute blasphemy.
- How did they know who the leader was? “He was the one who wasn’t a kid.”
- While John expresses surprise at the result of John and Jane meeting with “The Captain”, you can hear Jane in the background: “We should just do our own thing from now on, just the two of us.”