The unmentioned issues with undefined relationships, as shown by the kweens of Broad City

Ever since I initially found the three-minute videos of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson on YouTube, I have been a nearly religious fan of Broad City. These 20-somethings (now 28 and 32, respectively) use comedy to put a light spin on the trials and tribulations of being a 20-something in a big city. The YouTube clips showed us the difficulties of relationships, the difficulties of work, and the difficulties of finding oneself.

Since the show officially aired on Comedy Central in 2014, these issues that were brought to light in three minutes are now the focuses of 20+ minute episodes. Aside from these fictionalized versions of Abbi and Ilana, new characters have also been introduced to enhance the already solid hilarity of the show—Bevers, Abbi’s “roommate” (played by John Gemberling), Trey, Abbi’s hardcore boss at Solstice gym (Paul W. Downs), and Lincoln, Ilana’s lovable friend with benefits who offers a voice of reason to many of the pair’s scenarios (Hannibal Burress). Each of these characters have grown in popularity and relatability into the current third season, which made the most recent episode difficult to stomach.

Since the show’s premiere, we’ve seen a fairly unstable but still semi-functioning relationship between Ilana and Lincoln. From the opening of episode one, Lincoln questions what their relationship is after they’ve finished (and Ilana’s included Abbi via Skype); Ilana says “this is purely physical.” Lincoln replies, “why does this always happen to me” before the title sequence runs. This initial banter is meant to be viewed as humorous, and continues to be fairly comedic through the rest of the first two seasons. Lincoln and Ilana hang out without anything physical happening, ranging from smashing cakes into their faces, celebrating Lincoln’s birthday with his friends at a restaurant, and searching for the greatest party in the city.

Although it may appear that the two are really in a monogamous, loving relationship, we still see Ilana find other partners while at the bars or working coat check. Because Ilana and Lincoln haven’t had a serious conversation about their relationship status, we don’t put any shame or blame on either party; there is nothing to judge of either our Long Island kween or her dentist booty call. Lincoln really means a lot to Ilana, and to the entirety of the show, but it’s not on the audience to place Ilana in an uncomfortable position to decide to change her mind.

While these issues have been pushed to the background since the show’s premiere, the casual relationship between Ilana and Lincoln was finally brought to the table in last Wednesday’s episode, titled “Burning Bridges.” Abbi and Ilana are talking in the park when Abbi notices Lincoln hiding behind a tree watching them. Ilana calls him over, and Lincoln is a bit standoffish, saying that he was waiting for them to finish so “we could talk privately.” Abbi leaves, and Lincoln sits down with Ilana, sweating and bringing Ilana’s stuff back from his apartment. Lincoln says he needs to talk about the girl he’s been seeing—who Ilana has encouraged him to sleep with—and Ilana mistakenly thinks that Lincoln wants to talk about their sex life. Lincoln negates that mentality quickly, and instead tells Ilana that he wants to be monogamous with the new girl, Steph. Lincoln continues by saying:

“Listen, Ilana, I love you, but, I want to be in a relationship, and you want to do other stuff, which is fine. That’s cool, but we want different things, so I gotta move on.”

Ilana asks if they can still hang out as friends, which Lincoln denies. Ilana quickly freaks out and leaves; Lincoln asks if she wants to stay and talk, but Ilana says no, and quickly (and literally) runs away. Lincoln finishes the scene with the one-liner, “She’s still running; her running is a metaphor.”

The rest of the episode continues with Ilana slowly coming to terms with her “breakup” in the only ways she can: inappropriately hitting on people from a park bench (with her parents right beside her), attempting to have a quickie in the bathroom of a restaurant, and denying her emotions. Finally, at the end of the episode, Ilana breaks down outside with Abbi, and explains that Lincoln broke up with her, “whatever that means.” She further says that Lincoln deserves whatever he wants, and that Lincoln doesn’t even want to be friends—he never did, she just hadn’t heard it. The besties hug and the episode ends with the two of them sharing secrets in a tub while smoking a blunt—the classic Broad City way.

Backtracking: Ilana’s reaction when Lincoln “breaks up” with her is a reminder of what many young women and men have felt when hearing similar news (including this writer). We lie about our feelings for one another, instead focusing on the number of matches we have or the times we’ve met up with people from the exorbitant pool of dating apps. As long as we’re pleasured or having fun in the moment, the real feelings don’t matter, right?

The current views of dating are unlike those of generations past by extensive definitions. You used to be able to ask someone on a date, go to dinner and a movie, have an innocent first kiss, and then part until returning to that model for the next few dates. Nowadays, many young millennials want instant satisfaction without the hassle of planning or putting labels on anything. If that means meeting up at 10 p.m. for drinks instead of having a nice dinner and conversation at 6:30 p.m., so be it. But the emotions of dating and feeling for another person are still there; we have just decided that those real connections and feelings need to be pushed out of our mind for the time being.

As Ilana breaks down in the episode, we see once more that she really cared for Lincoln, as more than just a nighttime hookup. A legitimate conversation regarding their status should have been conducted much earlier than now—but sometimes, we don’t want to have that conversation.

Will Lincoln still come back for future episodes? Will Ilana admit that she needs to discuss the possibility of a real relationship? Only time will tell—but, as someone who has been through this scenario a few too many times, I can only hope that there is a result that allows for happiness for both Lincoln and Ilana.

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