(Spoiler warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday’s season premiere of “Superstore.”)
“Superstore” closed out its fourth season premiere with a long-awaited surprise for fans. After accidentally hooking up in front of the entire company in last season’s finale, Jonah (Ben Feldman) and Amy (America Ferrera) were finally revealed to be dating in Thursday’s Season 4 premiere.
The couple’s long flirtation has been one of the NBC workplace comedy’s central storylines, a long will-they-won’t-they that’s included a mid-tornado kiss and an accidental pregnancy (Amy’s, with her ex-husband), but according to Spitzer, it was finally time for Jonah and Amy to run out of reasons not to be together.
“I feel like we’ve been slow-playing it as much as humanly possible, and a lot of people were just feeling like it’s time,” Spitzer said in an interview with TheWrap. “Really, what it came down to was that it felt like we’d removed all of the obstacles, and to delay it anymore would’ve felt false.”
In Thursday’s episode, Amy, fed up with the sexist whispers from the Cloud 9 staff in the aftermath of her backroom rendezvous, commits to truthfully answering each and every question they have about the incident in what turns out to be a surprisingly suggestive store meeting. The one question that goes unanswered (Sorry, Sandra) is whether or not she and Jonah are together for real.
“Everybody’s already talking about the sex, and they’re doing it behind their back,” said Spitzer. “Nobody’s really talking to her about whether or not they’re dating, so to her it doesn’t feel like something she has to address.”
It’s not until the very last seconds of the episode, when Jonah and Amy share a kiss in the parking lot and have a conversation about what to have for dinner that the extent of their relationship is revealed.
“The way that they interact with each other isn’t going to change that much,” Spitzer promised. “She still finds him aggravating and calls him out on stuff, and he’s still going to make fun of her. I also think there’s more to play in that. There are ups and down in relationships, and it won’t feel like the tension between them is all wrapped up just because they’re dating.”
Read TheWrap’s full interview with Spitzer below.
TheWrap: Why did you decide to wait until the end of the episode to reveal that Jonah and Amy were together?
Spitzer: We had a lot of debate early on whether they were going to be together as early as the premiere or not. We were debating whether we wanted them to get together later in the season, but ultimately it felt like the pregnancy wasn’t enough of an obstacle. They’ve already had sex while she was pregnant. And we thought, since it’s unfortunate that we’re not getting to see that moment when they decide they’re going to date after all, having it be a reveal at the end of the episode lets us play a little bit of that. At least the audience is getting to see it in a way that felt like a revelation, rather than just setting it up right at the beginning. It also felt like, given that the episode was about the way people treat men versus women differently after a sexual encounter, if it was known to the rest of the staff, that would change the way they would’ve treated [Jonah and Amy]. The audience could’ve known or not, but the staff needed not to.
And Jonah and Amy have been dancing around each other for a few seasons now. How did you decide that this was time for them to finally get together?
I feel like we’ve been slow-playing it as much as humanly possible, and a lot of people were just feeling like it’s time. Really, what it came down to was that it felt like we’d removed all of the obstacles, and to delay it anymore would’ve felt false. We talked about whether [Amy’s pregnancy] was enough of an obstacle and decided that although it created complications — which is what we wanted — given that they’ve already consummated their relationship, if they didn’t get together the day or the week after they had sex in the store, we would’ve started asking if they even like each other that much. Neither one of them is seeing anybody else anymore, it’s not going to affect their careers anymore than it already has, so it feels like it’s right to make a big move when it’s inevitable.
I think the common wisdom is that when a big will-they-won’t-they relationship is resolved, shows can sometimes lose steam. How do you avoid falling into that trap?
Well, I like to think that [their relationship] has been a piece of the show, but hopefully the show is a lot more than that. And the way that they interact with each other isn’t going to change that much. She still finds him aggravating and calls him out on stuff, and he’s still going to make fun of her. I also think there’s more to play in that. There are ups and down in relationships, and it won’t feel like the tension between them is all wrapped up just because they’re dating.
The show does occasionally venture out of the store, but not that often. Does that make it harder for you to develop a relationship between two characters, since it’s set almost entirely in their workplace?
Yeah, it’s a challenge and virtue. But that’s one reason why the day-to-day won’t change that much. Because, yes, they’re dating, but we very rarely go home with them. So we’re not seeing them going on date, we’re not seeing them waking up in bed in the morning. We’re just seeing the way the relationship affects them at work. It actually becomes an even bigger challenge when you’re dealing with the other characters who have relationships. Because if they’re not dating someone they work with, then it becomes tricky.
How did you land on this story about Amy accidentally harassing one of her employees? Did start off knowing you wanted to do something that tackles the #MeToo movement in this way?
We didn’t start off saying we wanted to do an episode about harassment or that touches on the #MeToo movement, we really just started off saying that Amy really is in a position where she does have some influence over Jonah. So what would be the ramifications of everybody finding out that they had sex? It just sort of presented itself naturally.
What’s going on through Amy’s head during that scene in the break room? Why is she willing to answer all of these very personal questions but not reveal the fact that they’re dating?
I think it’s that right from the beginning, she’s dreading coming back from work. She doesn’t want a lot of questions about her personal life, and having to face all the mockery and all that. But then there’s a complication where nobody’s talking about it, and she realizes it’s coming from this condescending, gender-biased attitude. And in her efforts to correct that, she makes things worse and inadvertently finds herself in this situation. All to say that the aggravations have built up throughout the day and she’s decided enough already, they’re just going to get it all over with. Everybody’s already talking about the sex, and they’re doing it behind their back. Nobody’s really talking to her about whether or not they’re dating, so to her it doesn’t feel like something she has to address.
At certain points that scene does get pretty suggestive. Did you run into any trouble with Standards and Practices?
We definitely did get raunchier, but you didn’t see those parts. [Laughs.] We tend to push it as far as we can, and then what you see is what Standards allows us to do. Which, is always surprisingly a lot. So we’re grateful for that.
At this point Mateo and Jeff’s relationship feels as important to the show as Jonah and Amy’s. Will they find their way back to each other at some point?
I don’t know yet, but certainly not in the beginning of the season. It’s suggested intermittently, but they’re taking a little break for now … I think for Jeff, it’s largely about Mateo, but it’s also about the staff in general. He’s sort of developed — I don’t even want to say friendships, but a fondness for certain people and relationships with them. And at the end of last season, he had a choice between whether he wanted to be the hero and the good guy or turn his back on them for his career, and he made that choice. So now it’s about him realizing the ramifications of that, and realizing that he made the wrong choice and he’s really not happy.
The other thing I wanted to talk about was that very funny, somewhat strange scene in the diner at the beginning of the episode. Where did the idea for that come from?
Once we decided that Amy had been suspended and had taken another job, we had to figure out a way to get that exposition out in a natural way. So we thought it would be kind of funny, especially for a season premiere, if there were about four seconds where the audience tuned in and thought, Wait, am I watching the right show? And we get to leave the store so infrequently that we figured why not take the opportunity?
“Superstore” airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.