‘Sex Education’ Recap, Season 3, Episode 4

Sex Education

Episode 4

Season 3

Episode 4

Editor’s Rating

4 stars

Photo: Sam Taylor/Netflix

Well, it’s about time Sex Education shows us an actual old-fashioned sex education class, complete with inappropriate gender segregation, heteronormative and actively homophobic educational videos, and pro-abstinence lectures from a teen mom. The effects, disturbingly, are immediate: Students seize upon and internalize the nightmare stories and worst-case scenarios. Suddenly Ruby, Olivia, and Anwar are panicking, attributing each of their sexual issues to having sex in the first place. It takes the quiet rebellion of Miss Sands to convince them to at least visit a sexual health clinic themselves instead of just listening to propaganda. At the clinic, of course, they do get much more actual helpful information. Anwar has giant hives on his face because he’s allergic to strawberry condoms, not because he might have AIDS. Olivia and her boyfriend Malek should not rely on the pull-out method.

The new syllabus that Hope has implemented for sex education discourages personal questions. The inevitable result is that boundaries are excessively enforced, and very little actual learning happens. Predictably, Otis and Maeve are the students removed from their respective classes, both for trying to expose the sex-negative backwardness of the lessons. Their sex-therapy clinic hasn’t been active in a while now, yet Otis and Maeve keep finding themselves guiding sex and relationships: Otis helped Jeffrey, Maeve helped Aimee, both helped Dex, and now both have come out strongly against abstinence-only education. It’s no surprise Maeve raises the idea of resurrecting the clinic — it seems more necessary than ever when the administration is botching formal sex ed so badly. But Otis is steadfast in his opposition to the idea.

There may still be some core spiritual connection between Otis and Maeve, but things are grim between him and Ruby. Ruby’s been giving Otis the cold shoulder since he didn’t say “I love you” back, and it takes a day of trying to get her alone before she agrees to talk. He tells her that he really likes her and might love her one day, but he’s not ready to say it now. Ruby ends things between them, seemingly for good, which is a shame. I really did like them together. But all in all, it was a good story and a slight twist on the role Ola played in the love triangle last year. Besides, as Jakob wisely tells Otis while they’re working on the treehouse together, “People deserve your whole heart, Otis. If you can’t give them that, it’s better they know. It’s the kinder thing to do.”

It’s surprising to discover at this point that what Maeve has with Isaac might be far more meaningful than what Otis had with Ruby, but it makes sense. Instead of her forgiveness of Isaac feeling rushed, Maeve’s gradual softening toward him rings true, and his repeated apologies seem sincere. The last one leads to one of the most intimate love scenes of the show, even if it never goes as far as traditional sex. Shirts are off, but there’s no nudity — and yet there’s a powerful sense of comfort and sexiness, with giggles and ear kisses and even just strokes of the chest. I’m shocked to be enjoying the prospect of Maeve and Isaac as a couple after Isaac approached villain territory last season, but this season has turned me around on him. There is something real here.

Sex Education always stops paying attention to what draws two people together, what makes people compatible or incompatible. Jean and Jakob continue to learn how different they really are — Jakob even has a skeptical attitude toward therapy, which sounds like a potential dealbreaker for someone like Jean. But after a near-panic attack at pregnant yoga (“I feel like I’m having a baby with a stranger”), Jean gets a healthy dose of perspective from Maureen Groff. Maureen and her husband had lots in common but no connection. What may matter, in the end, is the love that’s there.

The difference between those two relationships isn’t far from the difference between Eric’s relationship with Rahim (nice and appropriate but ultimately passionless on Eric’s end) and his relationship with Adam (strange on the surface, but with a deeper and more mutual connection). As requested, Eric returns Rahim’s Pablo Neruda and Maya Angelou books, along with his poems about Eric. Adam jealously steps in and makes up that Eric doesn’t like poetry, leading to a fight with no easy resolution. Eric even says it’ll be good for them to have some space when he’s in Nigeria for his cousin’s wedding.

But then Adam shows up at Eric’s house and throws pebbles at the window like he always has. When Eric comes to the door, Adam apologizes for his jealousy, and Eric reminds him he chose him, not Rahim. “I don’t want us to have space, ‘cause I love you,” Adam says. And unlike the last end-of-the-episode declaration of love, this is one fully reciprocated.

• I feel so much for Ruby, and the fact that she immediately texted Anwar and Olivia with her address shows how desperately she needed her friends. That final shot of them joining her by the window is gorgeous.

• Cal storms away after they and another non-binary kid get shuffled into the girls’ group by Hope, who justifies this with the fact that “They’ll be discussing female anatomy, which I’m sure will be helpful for you.” She later adds to Viv, “I’m not sure school is supposed to be comfortable. I think it’s supposed to be hard. And challenging.” God, she’s the worst. Jackson tries to broach the subject later, but Cal would rather just get baked.

• The episode ends with the class boarding a bus to France for a class trip, which should be a fun change of pace. Something to watch out for: Someone paid for Maeve in full. Is it Anna, Elsie’s foster mom who offers to help, or could it be someone else? Leave your predictions! (Just kidding, all of the episodes are available now.)

• Miss Sands has been tutoring Adam, but he still gets a D on his test. I’m curious to see where this goes.

• Michael runs into Maureen at the grocery store, and she urges him to reach out to Adam. But he misunderstands her when she says, “It’s not too late to fix things, you know,” and desperately tries to win her back — only to learn upon arriving at her door that she’s seeing someone else. This season makes me feel significantly more sympathy toward former headmaster Groff than I expected, even though the show hasn’t softened his character.

• It’s a bummer to watch Jackson try to make up for his head-boy apathy by organizing a forum with Viv, only for her to steal the idea and get brownie points from Hope. There’s something sadly realistic about how the two haven’t had one big knockout fight yet, just a series of disagreements resulting in increased distance. Jackson’s bitter smile at Viv as he calls her out and walks away is painful.

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