TV Recap: “Fleishman is in Trouble” Episode 3 – “Free Pass”

Toby Fleishman has just found out that his ex-wife Rachel, who has been MIA from the life of her children since taking off for a weekend yoga retreat, is in fact in New York City. Some of her girlfriends bumped into Toby and spilled the tea that they saw Rachel in Central Park, uncharacteristically napping on the grass. We’ve been left in suspense wondering what happens next, but the wait is over with today’s release of the third episode of Fleishman is in Trouble on Hulu, titled “Free Pass.”

Toby Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg) stands in his kitchen in a daze, holding an overpriced quarter of watermelon in his hands with the fridge door open. He doesn’t remember how he got home from the convenience store where he learned that Rachel is still in town. Trying to make sense of it all, he flashes back to the night he met his future wife.

(Giovanni Rufino/FX)

(Giovanni Rufino/FX)

A college-aged Toby had just started medical school at NYU while his best friends, Libby (Lizzy Caplan) and Seth (Adam Brody) studied at Columbia Business School. One night, they dragged Toby to a party he didn’t want to attend at Seth’s fraternity. Toby was painfully aware that all of his peers had found love during their undergraduate years while he had remained woefully single. Seth, who was pursuing that night’s conquest and uninterested, pressured Toby to go get a drink at the punch bowl. Taking a sip of the purple concoction, the doctor-in-training spit it back into the cup and heard someone laughing. Turning, he saw Rachel (Claire Danes) leaning against the fireplace laughing at him. It became a conversation starter and in their introductions, Rachel shared that she was a business major with a flair for negotiations. Toby asked her to negotiate with him. “I’d like 4 for the price of 2,” Rachel began. Toby responded with the unfair aspect of the deal and Rachel walked away, taking a seat on a nearby couch. Toby followed her, whispering in her ear “I’ll give you 6 and for the price of 2.” That night, Rachel went back to Toby’s dorm with him.

Their relationship was off and running, with one of Toby’s favorite activities being their long walks together around the city. During a winter date ice skating in Central Park, Toby told Rachel that she’s the first person he’s gotten this close to without getting sick of. As they bond, we learn more about Rachel’s past. She was orphaned from a young age, with just one memory of her birth mother. She was enchanted by the weekly family dinners Toby’s family had when they would visit them in L.A., leaning into Toby and whispering “I want this.” On a future winter skating date, Toby pretended to fall on his knees, but when Rachel looked down, he was holding a ring in his hand. She said yes.

In their earliest days cohabitating an apartment, Toby and Rachel picked up a coffee table from the curb that someone else was throwing away. They fixed it up together, with Rachel playfully putting googly eyes over her glasses while discussing Toby’s future in the healthcare industry, pointing out that there are better hours and more money in plastic surgery.

(Linda Kallerus/FX)

(Linda Kallerus/FX)

Toby was supportive of Rachel’s early days as a theater talent agent for a company, accompanying her to performances of up-and-coming artists to potentially sign. He remembers the night Rachel met Alejandra Lopez (Juani Feliz), the playwright who gave Rachel her first hit, “The Suffragette Monologues.” It impressed Rachel’s boss, Matt Klein (Kohler McKenzie), and as the show became a smashing success, Toby found himself having increasingly more dinners alone. One night, Toby missed one of Rachel’s work engagements after a patient of his died. She was mad about it. On another night, we see Rachel take her work stress out on Toby when he has prepared steamed chicken again. “You have no idea how hard I worked today,” Rachel snapped, “All I wanted was to come home to dinner.” She belittled Toby’s eating disorder, referring to him as “a teen pageant queen.”

Rachel’s first introduction to Seth and Libby was at a pajama party where she was critical of Seth’s Hugh Heffner robe. Libby asked why Toby and Rachel didn’t dress up, and Rachel told her she came straight from work. To Toby’s surprised, Rachel added that they wouldn’t be able to stay long. “What am I forgetting?”, Toby asked in confusion as Rachel made up a meeting with a client to get out of the party early. Seth hands Toby an empathy paper plate, saying “I made your favorite.” Seth’s joke about Toby’s eating disorder didn’t go over well with Rachel, who confronted him about it. While Rachel went to the bathroom, Libby gave Toby a hard time for not having seen them in four months. “It gets busy when you get married,” Toby defended himself, saying she wouldn’t understand and that he’s just trying to be a good spouse. Libby asked Toby why he has to choose. Libby was still upset when Rachel returned and told Toby it was time to go.

(Linda Kallerus/FX)

(Linda Kallerus/FX)

The last time Libby saw Toby before their recent reconnection was 13 years ago. Libby had just published an anthology called “Dawn of the Badass” and Toby attended a book reading she held. On their walk home, Toby told Libby he’s proud of her. When she pulled out a cigarette, he asked for one in addition to her scarf. He put it over his hair like a babushka and took a picture of himself to show Rachel. She never saw the photo because when Toby got back to the apartment, he found Rachel on the couch looking upset. She showed him her pregnancy test and Toby became elated that they will be parents. They hugged each other and cried tears of joy.

Toby was an overly attentive father-to-be, making Rachel acid-rich foods and playing classical music in the apartment to enrich the developing baby’s mind. One night, Rachel returned late from a work event soaking wet from the rain, unable to get a cab. She was upset because she was passed over for a promotion. Toby tried to calm her down and help her into dry clothes, which made Rachel feel babied. While ranting about missing the promotion, she told Toby that it felt like a punishment because she denied Matt Klein’s advances two years prior. As Toby asks for the details, he realizes that Rachel’s boss made a move on her at a Christmas party that he was present at, having already met Toby and being well aware that Rachel was married. As Toby got upset, Rachel accused him of making this about him. She refused the healthy soup he made her and told him she wanted to go out for linguini with clam sauce. Toby was about to mention that she shouldn’t have clams but could tell that wouldn’t go well for him. Toby hailed them a cab to the restaurant and during the ride, Rachel tells Toby that she wants to take cabs more often, telling him that she hates their long walks around the city. She referred to Toby’s favorite activity they did together as “a waste of my time.”

As Rachel’s due date came closer, she began to feel unwell. Toby rushed her to the hospital when her blood pressure spiked. Rachel was furious that her regular doctor was away on vacation and she was given his replacement, Dr. Romalino (Vincenzo Amato). “Do you have absolutely no pull here?”, Rachel snapped at Toby in front of his colleagues. Some of Toby’s peers heard that he and his wife were there and they came to the room with a bouquet of balloons. Toby stepped out of the room for a moment to thank them and shoo them away. When he went back to the room, Rachel was hyperventilating and screaming for Dr. Romalino to get away from her. The doctor told Toby they might need psychiatric intervention. Toby learns that while he stepped out, the doctor ruptured the membrane to break Rachel’s water without her consent. Rachel was in a daze following her emergency c-section. Toby tried to pass baby Hannah to her, but she protested, saying she couldn’t feel her legs and therefore shouldn’t hold her baby. Toby forced Rachel to accept Hannah into her eyes. She could barely look at her newborn daughter. Rachel would continue to tell the story of what Dr. Romalino did to her to anyone she talked to, even embellishing the tale to include her kicking him away.

(JoJo Whilden/FX)

(JoJo Whilden/FX)

Vignettes of Toby and Rachel’s early days as parents. On maternity leave, Toby would meet Rachel in Central Park with baby Hannah in the stroller. Rachel recognized a group of new mothers from her prenatal yoga class and noticed that their babies were more smiley and playful than Hannah. Confused, Rachel took Hannah to the doctor and was told that smiling is a behavior babies imitate, asking if she’s been smiling at her baby. That night, Toby asked her to consider therapy for postpartum depression. “God, you’re like the Gustapo,” Rachel snapped. Toby felt bad for Rachel, feeling like she was missing out on the joys of being a new parent. We saw Toby in his apartment office working, but rocking Hannah back and forth in her cradle. He smiles at her. She smiles back. When Rachel returned from her first group therapy session, she refused to talk to Toby about how it went.

Rachel’s mood didn’t improve and she blamed it on being tired and needing help with Hannah. Toby suggested they hire a nanny. We see a round of interviews, during which Mona (Talia Castro-Pozo) took a crying baby Hannah into her arms and immediately got her to calm down. Toby hired her on the spot. A month later, Toby came home from work to find Mona alone with Hannah and feeding his baby formula instead of breast milk. Without telling him, Rachel decided that her maternity leave was over. Behind her employers’ back, she raided the company’s staff and took the biggest clients with her to start Fleishman and Company, a theater agency. “You changed,” Toby told Rachel that night when she returned home late.

Jumping forward in time, Toby and Rachel have welcomed their second child, Solly, to their family. Toby missed out on all of his social work engagements to be home with the baby while Rachel pursued her ambitions. They were like passing ships, with Rachel leaving to go work when Toby got home while Mona remained their nanny. But Toby had no regrets, feeling lucky to get to spend so much time with their kids and once again worrying that Rachel would regret not being more present during these precious days. Toby noticed how Rachel would drop everything for work, abandoning him while registering Hannah for kindergarten to answer a call from a client. When Rachel wants to enroll Hannah in an ambitious school program that seems intense for a young child, Rachel argues about how much she could’ve accomplished with her life if she had this early opportunity to get ahead. Toby had always hoped to send his kids to public school, but he backs down and lets Rachel enroll the kids in private school.

“Toby liked to say that the end of his marriage happened like the fall of Rome; Slowly, then all at once,” Libby’s narration explains. Rachel seemed consumed by her drive for wealth and success to the point that Toby no longer recognized her. Couples therapy didn’t help. Rachel would often bring up the fact that Toby wasn’t making as much money as he could be if he had gotten farther ahead. When he tells her about a promotion opportunity that would move them to Philadelphia, she denies it on the grounds that she’s a theater agent and would have nothing to do there. He tells her that the kids never see her, that she’s never home and something has to change. Toby tried to tell Rachel that he just wanted what was best for them, which she turned back around as simply being what’s best for Toby. “I’m not moving anywhere, Toby, I couldn’t make this much anywhere,” Rachel said. Toby responded with the obvious sentiment that “money doesn’t buy you happiness.” Rachel scoffed, saying “Of course it does, are you crazy?” They were in the middle of a fight and Rachel’s phone rang. He stood there, hoping she would understand that this moment between them was more important than any work call. She answered the call.

(Linda Kallerus/FX)

(Linda Kallerus/FX)

The Fleishman's hosted a dinner party in their new apartment at The Golden with all of Rachel’s wealthy friends present. When Cyndi (Joy Suprano) asked about the seasoning on the chicken, Toby told her it was tarragon, and Rachel shot Toby a look. In the kitchen, she accused Toby of making sure that everyone knew that he cooked the meal. There’s no door, so their dinner guests hear the whole fight. Toby tells Rachel she can serve dessert herself and goes back to the dinner table. The couples go around the table sharing their celebrity free pass, with one of the men saying Ariana Grande is his, receiving flack for the drastic age difference. When Rachel gets to the table, the guests asked for her free pass. “Sam Rothberg,” Rachel replies, which silences the entire crowd. Cyndi laughs it off, telling Rachel it’s supposed to be a celebrity. Toby glares back at Rachel.

(Linda Kallerus/FX)

(Linda Kallerus/FX)

Toby’s journey through the past is over. He’s standing in his kitchen, the refrigerator door open behind him, holding a rotting quarter of watermelon in his hands. He dumps it into the sink and goes to his laptop. He looks up Sam Rothberg on Facebook and see’s his most recent post from Poughkeepsie. The caption reads “Trying yoga for the first time.” Toby searches for the Everglades wellness retreat Rachel went to and finds its address… in Poughkeepsie. “Sam Rothberg,” Toby whispers.

Hulu will release the 4th episode of FX’s Fleishman is in Trouble on Thursday, December 1st. The next episode is titled “God, What An Idiot He Was." We conclude this week’s recap with the brief description of the next episode. “Toby investigates Rachel’s disappearance. Libby invites him on a trip to New Jersey.”

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