Mythic Quest season 3, episode 8, “To Catch a Mouse,” brings us back to the present and sees Poppy and Ian at odds while Brad and Jo are tasked with ensnaring the office rat.
Last week was a blast from the past as we went back in time to visit Ian and Poppy’s childhoods. The flashback episodes are always entertaining and informative, and “Sarian” was no different, as we got to see how these two characters became the people they are today.
This week, we return to Mythic Quest and GrimPop to check in on a few of our favorite employees. While Brad and Jo must find a literal rat in the MQ offices, Poppy and Ian consistently butt heads over superficial issues, much to Dana’s annoyance. All of this season’s minor infractions come to a head in Mythic Quest season 3, episode 8, and it’s not looking good for GrimPop’s future.
The episode opens on Ian staring at a pink Post-it stuck to the wall with the word “Haptics” written on it. Dana asks him if this is his next big idea, and he says no—it’s actually the thing holding him back because every time he turns around, it snags his attention. Poppy walks in after that, and says it’s actually a part of her system because she has big ideas now! You can tell how proud she is of this, and it feeds into what we’ve seen the last few episodes, where she’s been working to step out from Ian’s shadow.
The only problem is that she doesn’t really know what to do with haptics or how to apply it to her game. Ian calls the Post-it basic, and Dana goes one step further and says it’s cheugy, which is like basic but not as old. Poppy doesn’t know whether she should thank her for that, but it hardly matters because Ian rips the Post-it from the wall, saying her system is broken if she can’t even remember what the note is for. This sets Poppy off, saying it’s actually Ian’s system that’s broken because it is far too cold in the office to get any work done. Ian says he set the temperature for peak brain performance and maximum water retention, but Dana agrees, so Poppy sets the temperature to a balmy 22 degrees Celsius. That’s 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit for us Americans. Ian is understandably disgusted.
Meanwhile, Mythic Quest season 3, episode 8 brings Jo and Brad together in the kitchen once again, and this time they’re make beverages for their respective bosses. Brad sees serving Rachel as a degrading and menial task, but Jo takes pride in knowing she’s assisting a powerful man in his important work. I love that these two characters are quite similar, and yet they often have differing points of views on the same issues. Not that I blame Brad. He’s used to being the powerful man, and this is quite a step backward. Good on him for trying something new, though. (I should know here that Rachel doesn’t appear in this episode, which makes sense because Ashly Burch directed it.)
David proves just how powerful he is by emitting a high-pitched scream and then nonchalantly strolling from his office into the kitchen to tell Jo she needs to get rid of a rat. There’s a whole bit here about Jo and Brad mistaking the literal rat for a figurative one, which Dana also plays into later in the episode. Why is everyone so worried about a rat at MQ, and is this a realistic concern? Should we be worried?
Jo finds the idea of catching a literal rat to be degrading, but Brad has a counterargument. They are, in fact, the only people who could set the perfect trap to catch a mouse. This delights Jo, and she orders everyone out of the office with no explanation as to why. Her sweet smile after such an abrasive order is always delivered so well. Jessie Ennis is such a spectacular actor. I think she’s the only one who could’ve made me come around to Jo the way I have.
Back at GrimpPop, Poppy’s work is interrupted when a “gentle breeze” ruffles the papers (and candy wrappers) on her desk. Ian argues that it’s not air conditioning if he hasn’t conditioned the air in any way. As he turns on the gust setting to see if she likes that any better, she asks if he’s messing with her. He says he’s trying to compromise, and I genuinely believe he believes that, but Poppy doesn’t because she says she’s the only one working. “Just because I don’t sit in front of a desk all day staring at a screen doesn’t mean I’m not working,” he replies, and yes! This! Any writer will know that doing something other than working is still working because your brain is always trying to solve problems. Ian says he’s trying to propel GrimPop into the future, and again, I believe him. The issue here is that these two have different working styles and require different environments, but instead of talking about that, they fight over the word “jumper.”
Poor Dana even gets dragged into the middle of it when they turn on the Sheldon and call her name until she pays attention to them. Dana, however, refuses to be a judge in their little games, and I once again need to express how much I love this woman. She’s a perfect blend of Poppy and Ian—creative and hard-working—with very few of the quirks. Honestly, she should be in charge of the company. Do you know how much shit they’d get done!?
Even Ian and Poppy walk away looking a little ashamed, but seconds later, it once again devolves into pettiness. Poppy doesn’t like the bright lights because it make it hard for her to see her screen, but Ian engineered them to mimic the path of the sun across the sky on any given day so they can work with their circadian rhythm. “You know what else is engineered to do that?” Poppy says. “FUCKING WINDOWS.” She looks quite pleased with herself, and even Ian doesn’t have an immediate comeback. Therefore, the argument devolves into a light battle until Dana turns the lights off altogether. When they come back on, she’s gone.
Escaping the office, Dana comes across David, who’s sitting outside in the sun looking mad sweaty. They bond over how crazy Ian and Poppy are, until they realize the office is empty and they both go back inside. Unfortunately, that also means they crash Brad and Jo’s sting operation. By the way, we should definitely be concerned that both are looking forward to killing the rat, but I think we can all agree that Brad’s method is completely unhinged. But one good thing did come from this moment—Jo thinks the rat has a life wish and knows how to catch it.
Back downstairs, Ian waits for Poppy outside the bathroom, excited to show her his new invention. In an effort to compromise, he put Poppy’s desk in what he dubs an efficiency pod. With a healthy dose of sarcasm to lead, Poppy makes fun of Ian for inventing the cubicle. He honestly looks devastated and a little confused here because he simply doesn’t have bad ideas. As Poppy keeps making digs at him, he says he feels like he’s in a hostile work environment. You can tell this sincerely bothers him, and it’s not just about the pod—much of the season has been leading up to this. Little issues here and there have derailed him and stunted his creativity. He’s being genuine and even vulnerable in this moment, trying to compromise with Poppy so they can both get what they want. Was it an over-the-top and inefficient solution to their problem? Yeah, totally. But he was honestly trying to help, and Poppy just keeps poking at him. Ian blames it on the hot air frying his brain, and tells her he needs to get some fresh air.
We switch back to Brad and Jo, who caught the rat and her newborn babies, placing them in a little enclosure. David is horrified and tries to get Dana to dispose of it, but she’s having none of that. Good on her for having boundaries and keeping to them. Have I mentioned that Dana should be running literally everything? At least the rat has a new home, much to David’s chagrin.
The climax of Mythic Quest season 3, episode 8 comes when Poppy finds Ian up on the roof. He’s been getting some fresh air for the last four hours, and even though she tries to keep it light by joking about the efficiency pod again, he cuts her off by simply saying, “Shut the fuck up.” And let me tell you, I gasped! Ian doesn’t yell the line, but that’s almost worse. You can tell he means it, and he’s never talked to Poppy this way. There’s pain and dismissiveness in his voice. Ian is someone who always believes he’s right, which means he rarely gets defensive and hardly ever shuts down like this. He lives in his own fantasy world, and reality almost never penetrates it. This moment is one of the exceptions.
Poppy looks taken aback by the hostility, and is quick to tell him she turned the temperature down. But before she can get her whole sentence out, he asks, “Why are you trying to take my thing?” She doesn’t seem to understand at first, and the following exchange feels like the culmination of everything this season has been building to.
“I see it. You build it,” Ian explains. “That’s how it has always been, and now you’re trying to do both. Why?”
“I don’t know,” Poppy replies, her voice soft. “I didn’t think of it like that.”
“Bullshit,” Ian fires back. “You fucking liar. You come in throwing your weight around. You put up your Post-it notes. You make fun of me with your big idea hands. You know exactly what you’re doing.”
Poppy retaliates with no hesitation. “What I’m doing is my job.”
“You’re doing my job.”
“Well maybe that’s because you’re not around to fucking do it.”
This feels like a conversation that should’ve been had weeks ago, but here they are, on the roof, getting it out of their systems. The yelling seems desperate at this point, and it’s not just Ian who needs to get something off his chest. Poppy complains he’s never there, and that it shouldn’t be a big deal if she wants a little more control over an office he’s never in.
“You know, every time I turn around, you’re gone,” she says. “You’re in the metaverse. You’re off with Dana. You’re doing fucking God knows what else.”
“I’ve tried to help you,” Ian counters. “Every single time I try, you kick me out.”
“Yes, but I always kick you out.” Poppy’s voice is higher now. Desperate. “You never actually leave. What’s changed, Ian?”
Ian says he doesn’t know, and the roles have reversed. Now Poppy is the one being aggressive, and Ian is on the defensive. She insists he does know why he’s left this time, and it’s because Playpen is her game and he doesn’t want to work on it. After a pause, Ian admits that it’s true. You can see the devastation on her face, but it quickly turns to anger. Poppy stalks away, and Ian scrambles after her, calling out and stammering. He tried, he insists. He really did. But Poppy’s words are venom. “That’s just like you, isn’t it?” she says, voice quiet now. “Over-promise. Under-deliver.” Ian takes a step forward to apologize. To talk it out. To keep her there. But she stops him. Tells him now. Then turns around and walks back downstairs.
I honestly don’t know whose side I’m on here in Mythic Quest season 3, episode 8. On the one hand, I believe that Ian has been trying his hardest to be a supportive partner and to give Poppy room to shine. I mentioned it way back in episode 1 when he took a step back and let Poppy make the decision about their initial offer for Hera. We know him enough now that this is not something that comes naturally to him, and yet he’s continuously tried to give her what she needs throughout the season. Ian has removed himself from the equation time and time again in an effort to put the project and Poppy’s needs first, but the problem is that he’s been doing it at a detriment to himself each time. He is good at coming up with ideas and leading the creative aspect of their team, and he’s not been allowed to do that in a long time. As dramatic as it may sound, Ian is withering away without the proper stimulation for his mind.
On the other hand, Poppy isn’t trying to hurt Ian. Yes, she wants to step out of his shadow and prove to herself and others that she is just as great he is, but she isn’t looking to take anything away from him in the process. She wants a true collaboration, but neither one of them knows how to make that happen without stepping on each other’s toes. There’s true pain on her face when she realizes he can’t be her partner in this new venture. Or worse, that he doesn’t want to. Her only desire was to share his spotlight, and as hard as he tried, he couldn’t give that to her.
After Poppy walks away, Ian takes a second to reflect before throwing his chair across the roof, yelling, “Fuck!” as he does it. There’s so much anger written across his face, and it seems to be directed at himself as much as it is at the situation. This was not how he wanted this conversation to go, and this is not how he wanted the project to come to an end. I know he doesn’t want to lose Poppy or GrimPop, but he’s tried everything he can to support her, and now he’s at a loss for what to do next.
For a half-hour comedy, this was a heartbreaking scene to watch. There was nothing remotely funny about this exchange. Nothing that’s been overblown or exaggerated. Both of these characters have been at odds, and the silly pettiness from the beginning of the episode has been wiped away to make room for a devastating confrontation about the underlying issues of the season. Both Charlotte Nicdao and Rob McElhenney acted the shit out of this argument. It might not help them win an Emmy for Best Comedy, but I hope it ends up on a sizzle reel that leads to other opportunities because damn.
Inside, Dana returns to the office and Poppy tells her to get to work because they’ve wasted enough time already. Her voice is low and monotone, and when Dana walks away, confused, Poppy wipes a tear from her face. The episode ends here, giving us no hint at a resolution or a clue as to what will happen next between these two characters.