Never Have I Ever, Episode 9: Good girl gone bad

Khevna Pandit
Thursday, 21 May 2020

Devi promises to be on her best behaviour for Prashant's arrival in the penultimate episode of Never Have I Ever... had to be on my best behaviour

All eyes are on Devi as the first season of Never Have I Ever approaches its closure. What began with a happy high, is now approaching its moments of the finale. This episode too, like the last one, starts where it left us, and sees her entering her house in pitch-darkness. She sees a shadowy figure standing in the kitchen, looking exactly like her father, and she's taken back to the grim visuals of the paramedics carrying him into the ambulance. However, this time it also shows us a little more than the usual glimpses of her father's lifeless body -- a conversation leading up to the event. 

Reminding us of the beginning of a horror flick, the vintage grandfather clock in her living room strikes 11, and Devi lets out a piercing shriek on seeing a stranger in her house. Nalini enters immediately after, and they both switch on the lights to find her uncle Aravind (Iqbal Theba) standing near the fridge -- looking for some mustard! Here to chaperone Kamala for Prashant's visit the next day, Aravind decided to drop in unannounced and early (like most Indian relatives do). For someone who's an owner of 'the number 2 home security company in San Jose', Aravind sure knew how to sneak into their house! 

Nalini is perplexed to find out that no one opened the door for him, considering both the girls were supposed to be indoors (and not at a friend's party!), to which Devi swiftly fibs that she went out for a last-minute jog. Later that night, Devi cannot shake off troubling thoughts about how she mistook her uncle for her dad. It not only caused her to think about a memory she had buried deep inside but also had her tossing and turning all night long. She tries to replace it with the visuals of her super exciting kiss with Paxton, but it doesn't distract her for long. 

Everything beginning from her therapist's words to Fabiola's outburst keeps her up and reminds her that it's going to be a long, long night.

The next morning (as any morning is in a desi household) dawns with Nalini hurrying Devi to get dressed for Prashant's arrival. She also asks Devi for the pretty dress that she bought for her, and Devi realises she left it in Paxton's car (classic Devi move!). Her mother makes her promise to not have any 'Devi nonsense' for the day, and she replies earnestly that she'd be on her best behaviour. I'm guessing by now we all know how that pans out for Devi Vishwakumar! Nalini confiscates Devi's phone for the day, but instead of retorting, Devi stumbles upon the bad memory she was trying to forget the previous night. 

In a flashback, the episode shows us a heated argument between Devi and her mother hours before the dreaded orchestra concert. As any other angsty teenager would, Devi ends up yelling, "I hate you" without fearing repercussions. It appears that Devi has misplaced her sheet music, and her mother calls her out for being irresponsible (sounds familiar to most of us, I'm sure!). Her father, being a moderator in this squabble, seems visibly perturbed because of the two. Devi's flashback ends midway, and she decides to go downstairs instead of picking a fight with her mother.

Meanwhile, we see Kamala handling a messy situation in hushed whispers, trying to pacify her boyfriend Steve, who is insecure about Prashant's arrival. He truly had all our sympathies at that moment! But all that was short-lived because he later he breaks into her house out of anxiety -- and as much as we love Steve, we're not sure if that's healthy.

Amidst her uncle Aravind's sexist, slightly inappropriate banter, the doorbell rings and the family huddles up near the door to welcome Kamala's suitor. However, when Prashant (Rushi Kota) makes his entry, he makes everyone's jaw drop (yes, also Nalini's!). But we only live for Devi's confidence and reaction which ultimately makes her say: "Wow you're hot... sorry we were expecting an 'uggo'." They let the dazzling stranger in, and have a very uncomfortable, awkward first lunch with him. We can already read Kamala's mind, who has mentally broken up with Steve in her brain (and has no idea he has broken into her room!). 

However, Prashant turns out to be even more charming when he gifts her a Swarovski crystal bever (Nature's engineer -- who knew?), and ends up connecting with Kamala almost instantly. Devi takes the invaluable gift to Kamala's room in hopes of finding her phone while she's at it, and she meets Steve sitting in her cousin's room. Despite Steve's initial plans to 'storm in and swoop Kamala away' he sits around timidly reading a hair magazine. So, obviously, Devi has to intervene and get her sister to see him. 

Nalini tends to surprise us on more than one occasions, so we were taken aback when she walked in on Kamala sitting with Steve in her room and reacted as calmly as possible. (Definitely not something Devi has seen before!)

Nalini and Kamala devise a plan to escort Steve outside the door after sending Devi to distract her uncle and Prashant. Devi offers to play the harp for her guests, despite knowing that it is still difficult to grapple with her PTSD while doing so -- and she instantly slips into a flashback while playing it. However, she manages to go through with it, thinking of all the good memories with her father instead, and smiles, knowing that she has overcome her fears. 

Kamala and Nalini drop Steve outside, and Paxton walks in to return Devi's dress from the other night. If you've never seen a brown-mother have a meltdown, this scene is quite an accurate description. Nalini does not seem to think about her guests inside, and she confronts her daughter with a big, public meltdown. By the time her cover is blown, it is then well established that Devi cannot stop lying to her mother. She insults Paxton by calling him stupid, and he stomps off angrily, inviting everyone else to the front door. (The look on Kamala's face after Devi blurts out about Steve in front of her guests gives us solid secondhand embarrassment!) 

Prashant and Kamala sort things out, but this episode is not as much about them as it is about Devi and Nalini. At the end of the episode, Aravind accidentally reveals Nalini's plans of shifting back to India. To which Devi reacts angrily and runs back to her room. 

We see the complete version of Devi's flashback from before, where she runs downstairs after finding her sheet music, only to find her father coaxing her mother to take things easy with Devi. However, it ends with Nalini saying, "she's no daughter of mine" -- the words which echoed in Devi's mind all night. 

Despite Nalini's efforts to explain how difficult is being a single mother struggling to raise her brash teenager, Devi pays no heed and instead says something like: "I wish you were the one that died that night." 

The last bit of this episode resonates with most teenagers who have had a difficult relationship with their parents while growing up. Devi's defiance with her mother finds its ground after she eventually realises where the rage was sprouting from. Our adult selves empathise with Nalini, who lost her husband, confidant and motivator in a flash, and who now has to act like she's unbothered by the loss. But our younger selves remind us of the trauma we've been through, trying to blend in, feel accepted and we feel sorry for Devi as well. We sure hope there's not a lot of anxiety involved in the last episode, because we're not ready for the tearful farewell! 

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