In a world that feels like a never-ending hamster wheel of ambition, sometimes you want the comfort of routine to get you through the day. You could even argue The Bear itself could use a bit more routine to balance Carmy’s unrelenting need to get a Michelin star. Until ‘Napkins,’ everyone gets caught up in the tornado of Carmy’s anxieties, falling in love with the wrong kind of process. It’s unclear if the partnership between Carmy and Sydney will survive or if Cicero might decide to up and pull his funding one day. Carmy is so tunnel-visioned that he can’t see Natalie’s anxieties about having her first child enough to comfort her. A host of issues presumably come to a head at the end of season three. This is where Ayo Edebiri directed, and Catherine Schetina’s written ‘Napkins’ serves as a reprieve and a contrast to the past and present. One of the show’s strong suits is taking a particular character and filling in the blanks away from the restaurant. Through Tina’s trials and tribulations, we learn more about her and see what was so gravitating about Mikey’s The Beef. Sure, it was a bit unruly and unkept, and things broke often. However, it was a haven for a community seeking protection from a world they perceived as leaving them behind. 

Tina’s morning routine is pleasantly prefaced by Kool and The Gang’s “Get Down On It.” She’s got everything down to a science, from packing her son’s lunch with a note to making dinner in the crock pot for later, and is at the table eating breakfast with her husband David (portrayed by Liza Colón-Zayas’ real-life husband, David Zayas) at 6:40 a.m. Even as the order stays the same, the march of uneasy change is knocking at Tina’s door. There’s talk of a rent increase, and David’s potential promotion might not blunt the possibility that they would have to move out of their longtime apartment. Even with those anxieties, David’s reassurance and their union are iron-clad. That’s when the most significant change hits Tina out of nowhere: her 15-year position processing payroll at Long Grove Confectionery is eliminated, and the episode’s sound almost becomes mute. It’s not only trying to make up the difference in income the household needs; it’s a complete disruption of the flow Tina is used to traveling life with. 

THE BEAR” — “Napkins” — Season 3, Episode 6 (Airs Thursday, June 27th) — Pictured: (l-r) Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina, David Zayas as Davis. CR: FX.

It’s not that Tina’s character has no tenacity left; it’s just that she’s thrown into a world that looks foreign and strange. One of the most harrowing realizations about this episode is seeing Tina’s sense of ambition not aligning with the modern times (which is simply not her fault). It’s annoying and sad. There’s a montage of Tina taking her printed resume to potential employers about twenty years younger and constantly getting dismissed or overlooked. She’s not well versed in LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, and potentially messaging recruiters for opportunities, but Tina wants to contribute to her household. Shouldn’t wanting to take care of your family just be enough? How do you age out of wanting a better life for yourself and those you love? It’s an all too real picture placed inside a character we’ve all grown a genuine affection for. 


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When life becomes too much, Tina visits The Beef to get coffee. They talk about synchronicity and being at the right place and time, but this felt that way. Tina has a constant stream of unrelenting support from David, but needs it from the outside world. Who would have thought it would come from the high anxiety feel of The Beef, helmed by the group of Richle, Neil, and Mikey? That’s precisely why Tina and Mikey’s talk was so beautiful; you can see why everybody was so shaken by his loss. Carmy is supremely talented in the kitchen; that can’t be denied without a shadow of a doubt. What he lacks is the touch of empathy to understand those around him. A running theme throughout ‘The Bear’ is wondering if fearless ambition and genuine emotion for other people can co-exist. If so, Carmy has not mastered it – if anything, he’s failing at it. 

Mikey demonstrates talking to people at eye level because he’s not so captivated by being the best at something. If anything, he just wanted to exist in a life inherited that was the problem in the first place. Mikey isn’t great with details or aesthetics, but he loves running The Beef for the people. It’s heartbreaking when Mikey mentions celebrations around food, considering what happened during the ‘Fishes’ episode. There’s an innocence that you carry: a young, vicarious person seeing nothing but opportunity in the world. However, problems and tragedy can blunt the view of infinite possibilities. It’s exactly the dichotomy Tina is talking about when she discusses young people. Yes, there’s a certain jealousy of seeing a younger generation take the bull by the horns. On the flip side, living life gives you the wisdom to understand it doesn’t exist like that forever. It’s also realizing it’s okay not to want to be a world-renowned chef, but having a simple routine is just as essential to making the world go round. Some people want to go to Copenhagen, and others desire to go to a place like The Beef at a comfortable tempo to stay connected with those they care most about. Through this flashback episode, ‘The Bear’ finally allows both to exist. 

Main Photo Credit: FX