Can’t Miss Episode of the Week: ‘The Flight Attendant’ Delivers an Emotional Gut-Punch

The Flight Attendant

Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one! Spoilers ahead.

In Season 2 of HBO Max’s espionage thriller, The Flight Attendant, Cassie’s (a phenomenal Kaley Cuoco) got a lot going on what with being framed by a doppelgänger and dodging North Korean assassins, but in Episode 6, which aired on May 12, she has no choice but to take a break from all of that and focus on her issues. The result: the season’s best episode so far.

The previous episode ended with Cassie falling off the wagon, and having a frank conversation with her sober sponsor Brenda (a wonderful Shohreh Aghdashloo). This episode digs deep into the fallout, beginning with Cassie’s friends Annie (Zosia Mamet, crushing it in the face-acting department during this scene) and Max (Deniz Akdeniz) finding her messed up back in her apartment. This show could’ve gone the predictable route with Annie and Cassie fighting about the situation. Instead, it takes the opportunity for Annie to show how much she loves her best friend. She’s not interested in taking the time to pass judgment; only in helping Cassie get back on her feet. Ever the pragmatist, she makes a list of what Cassie can do next, with number one being “tell the truth about drinking,” upon hearing Cassie’s confession that she has in fact slipped multiple times during her year of sobriety. The honesty also prompts Annie to share some of the insecurities she’s been trying to hide, including that after messing up as a mob lawyer, she’s afraid to trust herself. It’s such a beautifully poignant moment between the two friends.

Of course, Cassie doesn’t have time to really dwell on it all because she has to run off to meet her brother Davey (T.R. Knight) at the airport to go to New York, all while dodging an impromptu house call from her CIA handler Benjamin (Mo McRae). Cassie’s usual MO is to hide how crazy everything is from the people around her, while she internally implodes. But once again, this episode subverts our expectations by having Cassie actually tell Davey that she drank the night before. It’s a huge relief as a viewer just to hear her say the words. He’s angry and disappointed, but the scene also ends with him reaching out to hold her hand as the plane takes off.

What follows a few scenes later is the heart-wrenching scene of Cassie reading a letter to her dad at his grave. Cuoco’s performance here is off the charts as she puts her all into it. Cassie confronts how much she loved her dad, but also about how he turned her into an alcoholic, and she doesn’t want to be him. It’s enough to make anyone cry just watching it.

The emotional rollercoaster doesn’t end, though. When she and Davey arrive at their mom Lisa’s (Sharon Stone) house, it turns out to be an ambush courtesy of Davey. Neither Cassie nor her mom are prepared to see each other. We’ve spent a lot of time on the show exploring Cassie’s relationship with her dad, but her history with her mom is mostly new territory. It’s a good reminder that there is still so much to learn about Cassie as a character. She has a lot more skeletons in her past that need excavating.

If you aren’t already crying from the grave scene, you will be here. Lisa has no interest in just being polite. She clearly has a lot of pent up anger aimed at Cassie. On the one hand, it’s understandable. We can only imagine what Cassie’s put her through beyond the few examples she gives. On the other hand, Lisa doesn’t seem to understand that Cassie’s baggage isn’t going to just go away because she’s an adult now. It’s terrible to hear from your own mom, “I love you, but I don’t like you.” It’s an emotional gut-punch followed by an actual slap from Lisa that makes Cassie gasp in shock (The slap was actually improvised by Stone! Watch the “inside the episode” that plays after the credits.). Knight only has so many lines in this scene, but his face conveys all the pain of watching this fight play out in front of him.

But for anyone who’s wishing for some more action this episode, don’t worry. The North Koreans who are after Cassie’s friend Megan (Rosie Perez) show up and end up chasing Cassie and Davey behind a truck. This episode doesn’t pull any of its punches–even as they’re being shot at, Davey finally admits what’s been going on with him, and why he’s been avoiding going home to his husband. His OCD is getting worse, and he screamed at his daughter, and he’s ashamed. What’s more, he says what’s been apparent for a while: he’s been trying to fix Cassie’s problems as a way of ignoring his own. Luckily, once he and Cassie escape, he realizes that in comparison to North Korean assassins, his life is maybe not so bad. After so many episodes of everyone trying to pretend like they’re okay, it is so gratifying to have an episode that puts it all out in the open.

Other observations we thought made this episode stand out:

  • Annie and Max talk about their relationship, and are able to work through some of their obstacles (all while Cassie’s double plants evidence in her apartment!). I love this couple. It’s good to see them start to get back on track.
  • It looks like now that Shane (Griffin Matthews) is firmly on team Cassie, we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the final two episodes. He’s one of the best characters and has been criminally underused so far this season.
  • Is anyone else nervous about Cassie leaving the view-master teddy behind in her mom’s house? We know it was planted by the double, and it could have evidence against Cassie on it.
  • It’s great watching Annie go toe-to-toe with Benjamin. He’s met his match.

The Flight Attendant, Thursdays, HBO Max