“Oh, look who’s on time. Is the ocean closed?”
– Alex, to Pete

“A-Game” is all about charm. Pete has it. Everyone else doesn’t.

Pete has always had the talent of getting people to like him, and he deploys it effortlessly. It’s why Screwsie and Charlie have taken a liking to him. And it’s even working on Alex.

“He’s not trapped; it’s a wedding, not a well.”
– Gary, about Pete

Through a series of coincidences, Pete ends up crashing the wedding reception that Alex is attending. There, he runs into Alex’s boss, who ends up taking a liking to him, just like pretty much everyone else. He even charms the other guests, and in the process, he makes Alex popular.  Of course, this backfires when Alex takes her popularity too far and ends up chugging beers, but it’s not Pete’s lack of boundaries that brought her to that point. It’s as if Pete brings out her reckless side, which she is attracted to but also fears.

That’s the key to Pete’s charm: others see in him what they would like to see in themselves. The desire to be smooth and throw away all one’s worries is nearly universal, and Pete appears to embody those qualities perfectly. Contrast that with the other characters who employ their own charm offensives in this episode. Gary tries to charm Screwsie, but all he does in the process is embarrass himself. This is because Gary’s awkwardness and insecurity are part of his apparent, outward persona, and Screwsie easily picks up on them.

The other character in this episode with a failed charm offensive is Walt. Even with Charlie’s help, he can’t charm his boss Terry into giving him back his most lucrative shift at the department store. Terry can sense the desperation in Walt’s pleas, and desperation is an attractive quality to very few people.

For better or for worse, charm has its limits. Though Alex was charmed by Pete at the reception, his quasi-admission of breaking the necklace Ben gave her puts him back at square one with her. Without honestly to accompany it, charm won’t be enough for Pete to win over Alex.

For more information on the Bent rewatch project, please click here.

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