“Take us there, Bear.” That’s a lot of pressure upon the shoulders of someone who is barely holding it all together in the first place. Is it possible Carmy is the capable leader The Bear needs him to be, considering he’s locked inside a routine that doesn’t allow for any malleability to be considerate to the others around him? “Next” perhaps feels like the collective of The Bear is looking to move forward, but not with a sense of identity other than Carmy’s quest to get a Michelin star. There’s a reason the beginning credits show the Everyman state of Chicago, which isn’t contingent on the high cuisine with daily changing menus (wild!). Carmy is trying to make. Sometimes, people want Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, and the variety of the food industry in the city is eclectic in that way. 

Carmy is changing the culture and overall vibe of what Mikey built, and it may rub the regulars the wrong way. Earlier on, Christopher mentions to him about getting the beef window open again. In this pursuit of what Carmy is best at, he’s continually losing any sense of self in work and perhaps the heartbeat of what the city asks for. If you remember from season two, there were up close realizations on Sydney’s journey to see most restaurants unfortunately close down. Taking the Carmy center out of the equation momentarily, there was his quiet talk with Marcus at the end — away from all the riff-raff and constant arguing. It’s where Carmy tries to extend sympathy to Marcus because he knows what it’s like to lose a family member. However, they might as well have been looking at mirror images at one another from the standpoint of burying themselves in work to avoid the pain of grief. 

Marcus was at the restaurant when we got the call about his mother passing and also took the Copenhagen trip while she was in the hospital. There’s a mode of survivor shock you experience while pursuing the things you love and feeling shellshocked that you lost something so dear while in that state of bliss. Marcus is also in front of a man who has not found a healthy way to deal with all the things bottled up inside himself. It’s manifesting in ways (or non-negotiable lists) where the entire crew has to contort themselves to fit his unrealistic standards. “Tomorrow” is a Carmy-centered episode, but “Next” allows everybody to present their problems while Carmy is in the maelstrom’s center.

“THE BEAR” — “Next” — Season 3, Episode 2 (Airs Thursday, June 27th) — Pictured: Non-negotiables. CR: FX.

“Next” begins with Sydney for a specific reason — she’s the fixer or the problem solver, and it’s honestly unfair to her — especially with the partnership with Carmy in the restaurant. She’s checking that her dad is taking his medication and also the person trying to distill the ongoing argument between Carmy and Richie. Meanwhile, the partnership agreement and the fact Carmy changes the menu, moving dishes she picked around without consulting her, or finding a balance as a plan of attack is tricky to navigate. Sydney knows what’s on the line as she’s failed numerous times before, and you get the sense she wants to be a chef. The talks she had during “Sundae” about having a trustworthy partner must be ringing inside her head. Is Sydney prepared to take on this risk? Hell, all the servers left because of how dysfunctional the restaurant seemed to be. There are other pressure points in “Next” as well; Natalie is afraid of having her baby in two months, Cicero is constantly on Carmy’s ass for spending too much money, and the ongoing fight between Richie and Carmy because nobody knows how to talk to one another.

“THE BEAR” — “Next” — Season 3, Episode 2 (Airs Thursday, June 27th) — Pictured: Lionel Boyce as Marcus. CR: FX.

Richie’s “Forks” episode showed that he wants to grow, and the season two finale revealed that he’s afraid Carmy is turning into his mother. That’s why he throws the low blow of mentioning Claire. Carmy had one thing outside the restaurant, and his inability to find balance destroyed it (potentially). Claire is also the piece of Carmy’s life that he actively stops to consider what he did. Carmy passively listens to Nat’s crisis and can’t see his partnership with Syd dying — Claire is the thorn in his side. That’s what Richie sees.  However, Richie still has some changes to make, which was personified by the chair situation. Should Carmy have consulted him on it like he should have done with Syd on the menu? It would have been nice. With him and Richie, there’s a two-pronged issue on the soul of The Bear — old habits clashing with new priorities not agreed upon by the consensus. 

This episode written by Christopher and Courtney Storer doesn’t end on a rally footnote, but rather a slow-moving tragic one. It doesn’t feel like people’s connection is putting this restaurant together and sharing one collective goal, but it is being led by someone searching for a way out of their own head.