On ‘Hella LA,’ Insecure Allows Us to Escape and Reminds Us What We’re Escaping From

 HBO screenshot
HBO screenshot

A couple of hours before last night’s episode of Insecure aired (or streamed), Natasha Rothwell, the actress who plays Kelli, tweeted a message to fans:

It feels weird to ask you to watch @InsecureHBO tonight when the country is on fire, but my hope is that you’ll tune-in and support us because our show dares greatly to promote the humanity of POC — something that is under attack in this country right now.

So, tonight if you find yourself needing to take a break from this living nightmare and you want to watch TV as a form of self-care, I hope you choose Insecure on HBO at 10:30PM. It would really mean a lot.

A gesture like this is a reminder that we don’t watch Insecure to be reminded of these fucked-up times we’re living in. We watch Insecure to escape them for at least 30 minutes, and last night’s episode, “Hella LA,” went above and beyond to do this.

For Issa, Molly and Kelli, self-care is going down at a day party in Los Angeles called “Kiss and Grind.” All three of them are moving with the intention of taking something home by the end of the night, but like most day parties, drinking before 5 can cause things to go off the rails.


Molly runs into Dro, the male half of her married friends we were introduced to in last week’s episode. This week, Dro’s wife, Candace, is away at a meditation retreat, leaving him free to turn up with his boys and dance with girls like he’s single again. He also has a plate of chicken fingers at his table, which is the only excuse Molly needs to hang out with him.

This leads to the two of them getting on the dance floor and grinding to “Shake That Monkey” and “Slow Motion,” two songs that—when listening naked with a partner—usually lead to pregnancy. Eventually Molly realizes this is more than just innocent dancing going down between her and Dro and backs away. But Dro throws her a curveball when he explains that he and his wife are in an open relationship, which means that whatever Molly wants to do, he’s more than down.


Issa’s plans aren’t going so well. It turns out that her Tinder meetup wasn’t anything worth writing home about or bringing home, but the real blower is when she sees her old work Daniel. It’s been months since the two of them made beats in his recording studio and Issa later blew him off. Now seeing him has brought back all the old feelings Issa had, and if there’s one thing Issa is not good at dealing with, it’s her feelings about guys.

This is how she ends up walking over to Daniel just to say hi but ends up walking away looking slightly pressed and very confused. The lesson there being, if you see your old work at a party, don’t force a conversation—just wave from across the club and stay focused on finding that new work.


Meanwhile, in another part of Los Angeles, Lawrence experiences a nightmare, a dream sequence and then another weirder nightmare. On his way to pick up some drinks on the way to a party with Chad, Lawrence makes an illegal U-turn and gets pulled over by the cops. For anyone who was watching, it was this scene that made you wonder if Insecure was about to go into a conscious mode that up until this point had rarely been touched. In this episode, however, Insecure decided to leave well enough alone. Lawrence gets off with a warning, but his “luck” for the day is just getting started.

While giving his license and registration to the cops, Lawrence accidentally and unknowingly drops his debit card, which he doesn’t realize until he’s checking out at the grocery store. This makes for an awkward moment in which Lawrence looks like he doesn’t have the money to cover his purchase, but before he walks away, two white women behind him are extra friendly.


First they offer to square up the amount Lawrence owes, an offer he reluctantly accepts. Then, as Lawrence walks to his car in the parking lot, the two girls proposition him for something more fun than any party he had in mind. What ensues is a scene that looks familiar to anybody who has watched Blacked (for the unfamiliar who are about to Google, NSFW), and the greatness of that scene is that it doesn’t end up looking like anything you see in Blacked.

Back in Issa, Molly and Kelli’s world, the girls have made the post-party move to Swinger’s, where they meet half the people who were just at the party. Molly is still trying to figure out how serious Dro was about his open relationship with his wife, wondering if he was telling a light-skinned lie (possible) or a truth she’s just not ready to handle (also possible).


Issa sees Daniel again, this time sitting across the dining room right in her line of vision, and Kelli is getting finger-banged by the guy she’s building with in their corner booth. This makes Issa understandably uncomfortable, which is noticeable to Daniel, who texts her that he sees what she’s seeing. The invitation to sit next to him is implied, and Issa takes him up on it.

Unconventional sex (Kelli at Roscoe’s and Lawrence with the two white women), unplanned reunions (Issa and Daniel) and unexpected life moments (Dro and Molly)—watching these things play out on television makes it seem almost unrealistic, until you realize that all three of these things have either happened to you already or can happen to you this Saturday. Sometimes they happen to us all in one day. From beginning to end, last night’s episode was perhaps the most absurd of the entire series, but it was also the most honest and accurate portrayal I’ve seen about not only who we are but where we are in life.


We tend to point out all sorts of inaccuracies Insecure has—not because the show gets it wrong so often, but because the show gets it mostly right and it’s easier to nitpick than to celebrate. An example of this is last week when I wrote about the show’s seemingly conscious choice not to make condoms a part of the dialogue or sex scenes. Some people thought it was unfair, but I thought it was fair game because I know how much I love this show. For as absurd as it gets, it’s always going to be authentic and true to its audience, so I wanted to have the conversation like any fan would.

After last night’s episode, Issa Rae sent out a tweet explaining that the team makes an effort to make safe sex a part of the background or imply it, but that she also hears the audience and they’ll do better next season. Similar to the tweet Natasha Rothwell sent earlier in the evening, we see Rae and the entire creative team do these things because not only do they care about their audience but they also know the audience cares about them.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post named Roscoe’s as the post-club restaurant, not Swinger’s.

Jozen Cummings is a senior manager at Bleacher Report. He is the founder and creator of the blog UntilIGetMarried.com. His work has been featured at GQ.com, Deadspin, and many other publications.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


I liked that episode because it unwittingly exposed how full of it Black people are when it comes to sexual liberation. Issa was down to thot it up, but ended up playing the background when the rubber met the road. Molly was having a good time with an old friend, but things got too real for her with the open marriage. (Sidebar: our grandparents had open marriages too. They just didn’t advertise them, and it was alluded to as couples having “understandings”.)

Lawrence was the most blatant liar of them all. He got all in his feelings about having a couple of White chicks checking for him. I admit to having done the same a few times in my life. Plus the dialogue for the White girls was so spot on as to be hilarious and eerie at the same time. Anyway, after he gets the dream right in his lap, he realizes he isn’t the stud he thinks he is. His fantasy was Blacked, but his reality was more like light grey.

Great episode, and it’s probably my favorite one this season.