Blogging The Great Gatsby: Part 5 (The One Where Nick Third Wheels His Way to Greatness)
As someone who laughs at things like farts, I know a thing or two about humor. And let me tell you, this chapter is as good as it gets. Why? Well, firstly because it reads like F. Scott Fitzgerald astral projected himself into a Gatsby-related fever dream of mine and decided to use it in his book. But secondly, it’s because Gatsby has pulled ahead of Tom Buchanan in the deathless battle for no-chill supremacy. We’ve talked about this. Tom was previously the least chill person in the world. I typically fluctuate between
- "Tom, just be cool," and
- "Tom, don’t punch that woman’s face, you absolute lunatic. What’s the matter with you?"
Even so, Gatsby wins this round by a metric crap-ton.
We’re diving right back into the world of disaster, debauchery, and emotional constipation that is The Great Gatsby. Minus the disaster, actually. Nick thinks Gatsby’s house is on fire, but it turns out that’s just what it looks like when Gatsby has all the lights on. Nick tells Gatsby he’ll call Daisy and get this whole thing rolling. Here’s roughly what Gatsby says in response: "I don’t want you to go to any trouble, old sport. But can you maybe do something about the rancid doom landscape you call a front lawn before she comes over? Maybe cut the grass? Also, it might rain. Do you think it’ll rain? If it rains, that’ll ruin everything and you might as well kill me."
Gatsby then tries to seduce Nick into joining his secret underground money-world, but Nick says "hell" and "no." He thinks, however, that under "different circumstances" this proposition might have been "one of the crises of [his] life." Either this is because the source of Gatsby’s riches is starting to sound fishier and fisher and high-horse Nick can’t stomach the moral decay of America, or it’s because Nick was this close to becoming partners in crime with the love of his life. It’s one or the other.
Nick invites Daisy over and tells her not to bring Tom. Daisy doesn’t question this, possibly because she’s noticed her husband is obsessed with him and it would be awkward for everyone involved. On the agreed upon day, Nick goes to the store to buy things like flowers, lemons, and cups, because I guess he’s just been drinking out of his hands this whole time. Gatsby arrives wearing a white suit and gold-colored tie. He inspects Nick’s pantry and makes sure Nick has tea. Nick neglects to tell him that he only just recently bought cups.
Daisy is set to arrive at 4:00 PM. At precisely 3:58, Gatsby decides she’s probably not even coming and that love is a waste in the vast chaos of an unfeeling universe. Nick tells him to sit tight, and Daisy shows up. Nick leads her inside—only to find that Gatsby has disappeared. Nick’s baffled by this until they hear a knock at the door. It’s Gatsby. Apparently he realized he didn’t look soggy enough for this encounter, so he panic-climbed out an open window and Mission Impossible-d his way around the house so he could stand on the porch in the rain before making his grand entrance. Nick says this whole thing "wasn’t a bit funny," but I disagree. I’m having a really good time right now.
Daisy and Gatsby are reunited at last, but it’s so painful that I’m going to paraphrase the entire scene to spare you.
GATSBY: We’ve met before.
DAISY: That’s—well, yeah. That’s sort of what I meant by "again," but sure.
[GATSBY SUDDENLY BANGS HIS HEAD ON THE MANTEL AND KNOCKS OVER A CLOCK. THIS SEEMS TO HAPPEN FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER.]
DAISY: What the hell?
NICK: Don’t worry about it. The clock was old.
DAISY: What do you mean, the clock was old? It didn’t even break. It’s fine. Look, he’s putting it back.
NICK: The clock was old, Daisy. It lived a good life. Let it go.
DAISY: So, Gatsby. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, hasn’t it?
GATSBY: Sure has. Four years, ten months, three weeks, and seventeen hours, to be exact.
DAISY: That’s… wow. That’s certainly information. Yikes.
NICK: I’m here, by the way. In the room. Just hanging out. You know, third wheeling it. Absolutely drowning in sexual tension.
DAISY: There isn’t any sexual tension. We’re just talking.
NICK: I know. That’s the problem, actually. I don’t even want to be here right now, so can you guys hurry this along? Maybe put some pep in the step? You know what, I’m just gonna leave. I can’t deal with all the sex you people aren’t having.
Nick exits the room, and Gatsby chases him down in the hallway. He whisper-yells that this whole thing was a mistake; Nick tells him to get his head in the game. He then leaves them alone so that he can go outside and stare at a tree for half an hour. As someone who’s been a third wheel a few times, if not most times, I can confirm that this sounds about right. Eventually Nick meanders back into the living room, making as much noise as possible to announce his arrival just in case they’re sexing it up in there. They’re not, and the awkwardness has thankfully passed. Daisy is now crying tears of happiness. Since Nick is contractually obligated to make weird, hyperbolical remarks about Gatsby’s smile at least once per chapter, he notes that Gatsby is smiling "like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light."
Gatsby wants to give them both a tour of his house. Nick asks if Gatsby’s sure he wants him to come along, and Gatsby says yes, because someone’s got to chaperone this extramarital affair, dammit. Daisy goes to wash her face, and Nick thinks "with humiliation" of his towels. What the hell is wrong with his towels? I pride myself on picking out every aspect of Nick’s sad life, from his runaway dog to his lack of cups. I need to know about the towels.
The magical mystery tour involves two things of note, including 1) Gatsby almost falling down the stairs and 2) Gatsby forgetting how to speak English right before our very eyes:
"It’s the funniest thing, old sport," he said hilariously. "I can’t—when I try to—"
At one point he starts throwing his shirts everywhere, which I guess is a winning gambit in their courtship because Daisy starts crying happy tears again. He then shows her a bunch of news clippings he’s collected about her. If this were an episode of Criminal Minds, I’d take that to mean Nick and Daisy are about to be murdered in this house of horrors.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen. Instead Gatsby gets the hobo who lives in his house to play the piano for them, and that concludes the hot nonsense that is Jay Gatsby’s attempt at wooing a lady. I’m starting to feel bad for Daisy. There’s no way she can live up to all the hype. Even Nick sees it; he says Gatsby’s living in "the colossal vitality of his illusion."
But as for who has less chill, I think you'll agree there’s no question. It’s Gatsby by a mile. Tom might just have to do something crazy to take the lead again. Like, I don’t know. Punching himself in the face? That should do it.
Old sports in this chapter: 12, which is an old sport record.
Old sports overall: 25.