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'Submissions Only' react: Aaron and Penny's fly on a hot tin mess

Season 3 | Episode 7 | “Chapter #2″ | Aired May 26, 2014

Since they first met at Gary Taylor’s acting class in season 1 episode 2 of Submissions Only, Penny and Aaron’s relationship has followed an unusual trajectory — for television, that is. They were never a will-they-or-won’t-they couple, but instead resided in the land of “they will, but not right now.” It’s a land that anyone who has had a crush probably knows well, but that even the most angsty teen dramas tend to avoid.

Penny and Aaron’s relationship is not flashy. They don’t have make-out sessions on the Empire State Building or steal yachts together, but they still capture an intoxicating sexual tension that has kept their nonrelationship interesting for three seasons. With Aaron’s announcement in episode 7 that he is moving to Wisconsin for law school, Penny and Aaron’s roller coaster may be closed for good. There’s still one more episode this season and Cardozo could take Aaron off the wait list, but judging by their hallway conversation at the end of episode 7, that’s a long shot. In preparation for the season 3 finale of Submissions Only on June 9, let’s take a look back at the “fly on a hot tin mess” that is Penny and Aaron’s relationship.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 10.16.11 AMSeason 1: A genuine straight

When Penny and Aaron meet at Gary Taylor’s “acting class,” Penny is still infatuated with Eric Hennigan. Eric is tall and blond and auditions for a lot of topless commercials, but as his type suggests, Eric is not that bright. Penny’s sarcastic wit is established in episode 1,  so when we meet baseball-cap-wearing, Jack Daniels–drinking, snarky Aaron Miller, it seems like a perfect match. Throughout season 1 Aaron is excruciatingly obvious about his feelings for Penny, but Penny is completely lost in her own world. Her obsession over auditioning for Iron Dog distracts her from the adorableness that is Aaron Miller’s masterful (OK, not really) flirting strategy.

It isn’t until Aaron and Eric’s showdown at the Iron Dog auditions in episode 5 that Penny becomes aware of the sex god that has been standing before her. When she sees Aaron in his element trying out for the role of Sam in Iron Dog, she is smitten and accepts his invitation to dinner. While Penny is in the bathroom, Aaron is asked back into the room, and that’s where the drama truly begins. Aaron is asked to audition for Iron Dog and decides not to mention it to Penny on their date. When Aaron gets a part in the show and Penny doesn’t, she is understandably upset, especially because he kept his audition from her. The situation is complicated further when Penny books the Mean Girls tour. With Penny out of New York and Aaron in Iron Dog in Boston, whatever they have is put on hold.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 11.11.23 AMSeason 2: The Serena years

Penny comes back from the Mean Girls tour with a nasty “hip” injury and Aaron comes back from Iron Dog‘s Boston run with rave reviews and an all-star girlfriend, Serena Maxwell. Serena is the polar opposite of Penny. Serena’s overconfidence and inability to keep up with Aaron’s sense of humor makes them an uncomfortable match, but the world is made up of uncomfortable relationships. Although Penny claims to be entirely over Aaron, seeing him again brings up all of her old feelings.

With Linda Avery gone and Vincent Savio in the director’s chair, Iron Dog is a complete flop. Aaron, like Penny, refuses to read reviews, but Serena reads enough for the both of them. In an iconic scene of Aaron and Penny’s relationship, Aaron finally looks at the reviews. Penny reads him the Iron Dog reviews in the hallway at Steven’s agency party; after half a season of Penny and Aaron leading (almost) completely unconnected lives, they’re back to their comfort zone with each other. Woof!

The catharsis shifts Penny and Aaron’s relationship into high gear. In episode 7, Aaron declares that he still likes Penny, which throws her for a loop since she is auditioning for Serena’s play, Jeremy’s Fort. The finale of season 2 brings yet another interruption. Penny admits that she still likes Aaron too, but doesn’t feel comfortable pursuing anything until after Jeremy’s Fort is over. They end season 2 with a kiss (their ONLY kiss) and a promise that for the next three and a half months, they will control themselves. Penny and Aaron agree that the next three months should be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, that piece of cake comes back to haunt them (in season 3 episode 7). Penny takes the three-month promise as a possibility for something more in the future, but Aaron interprets it slightly differently.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 12.18.37 PMSeason 3: The three-month rule

It would have been so easy to come back in season 3 with Serena and Aaron broken up and Penny and Aaron quietly waiting to jump each other’s bones at the end of the Jeremy’s Fort run, but nothing is ever that simple in Submissions Only. Even after admitting he has feelings for Penny, Aaron doesn’t break up with Serena. To make matters worse somewhere along the line Aaron fails to mention to Serena that he knows Penny. Penny goes along with the lie putting a strain on her relationship with Serena (who is actually pretty nice) and Aaron. Although he isn’t broken up with Serena he does want some space so Aaron leaves New York to avoid Serena and figure out his next life move.

When Aaron returns to New York, it is with the intent to go to law school. He’s seriously giving up acting this time, which is not what Serena wants for him. In episode 6, the nature of Penny and Aaron’s relationship is finally revealed, leaving the two of them as outcasts. The blowout is another opportunity for Penny and Aaron to finally start their relationship, but again they don’t take it. They could use the heat to screw everyone and be together, but that isn’t what would happen in the real world — so that isn’t what happens on Submissions Only. Instead, Aaron’s sole acceptance letter comes from Wisconsin. So he is off to law school, and Penny is stuck in a show with Serena.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.05.10 PM

Penny and Aaron almost had something amazing a bunch of times, but they could never quite get their act together. While it would be nice to see them finally have a happy ending in the season 3 finale, the end of episode 7 really captured their screwed-up relationship. It was always raw and messy and complicated, which is what made them so interesting to watch. With a will-they-won’t-they couple, shows tend to peter out when the couple finally gets down. I’m looking at you, New Girl.

Aaron and Penny got past the “do they like each other?” phase really fast and moved into the no-man’s land of “what do we do about it?”. Since their relationship never got off the ground, there won’t be a lull in the series. The possibility of something will always hang in the air — like ending a party at its climax, rather than at 4 a.m., when Uncle Kevin is asleep in the petunias. The end of episode 7, with the two of them staring at that delectable piece of cake, is a perfectly imperfect ending to the Penny and Aaron saga.

That being said, if Aaron does get off the Cardozo wait list and they live happily ever after, that’d be cool too.

Submissions Only season 3 episode 8 will air on June 9 on BroadwayWorld.com.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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