Aya Cash Performance

Performer of the Week: Aya Cash

THE PERFORMER | Aya Cash

THE SHOW | You’re the Worst

THE EPISODE | “There Is Not Currently a Problem (Oct. 21, 2015)

THE PERFORMANCE | At first glance, there was nothing wrong with Gretchen in Wednesday’s installment of You’re the Worst. She had her booze. She wanted to get breakfast at the diner. It was just a regular Sunday, as far as Jimmy & Co. were concerned.

But just underneath the surface of Gretchen’s let’s-drink-and-have-a-dance-party facade, a deeply personal secret (and one epic monologue) was threatening to make itself public — and when the time came for Gretchen to finally break, boy, wow, did Cash shine.

First, Gretchen’s stir-craziness and mysterious inner turmoil created the perfect storm, prompting a no-holds-barred rant that found her insulting her closest friends. Nothing was off limits during the tirade — whether it be Edgar’s PTSD, Lindsay’s heartache over Paul or Jimmy’s struggling writing career — and Cash somehow found the balance between blistering cruelty and spot-on comedic timing as she delivered the diatribe. Watching Gretchen eviscerate her loved ones wasn’t easy, but Cash refused to let us look away.

But Cash’s most memorable moment happened after the blow-up, as Gretchen quietly, tearfully, sheepishly confessed to Lindsay (an also-impeccable Kether Donohue) that her “brain is broken,” and she couldn’t bring herself to tell Jimmy of the mental health issues — clinical depression, as we would later learn — that plagued her. For the first time since we met Gretchen, she allowed herself to be confused and vulnerable — and Cash turned in a stunning, nuanced performance.

Moments later, Gretchen brushed herself off and finally broke the news of her depression to Jimmy, but then she was back to her guarded, non-committal self. As the reality of Gretchen’s situation begins to sink in for the couple throughout Season 2, we can’t wait to see how Cash navigates every up and down.

POTWHONORABLE MENTION | We’d been impressed by Chris Zylka’s understated work on The Leftovers before. But in “Off Ramp,” he took it to a whole other level. After Tom realized that he and mom Laurie (Amy Brenneman, also excellent) were never going to be able to save the members of the Guilty Remnant unless they offered something as attractive as the white-clad chain smokers did, he told their support group for former cultists that he’d been bequeathed Holy Wayne’s power of healing touch. Actually, Tom didn’t so much tell them as he sold them on the idea. To get them to buy it, he had to be brave, ballsy, maybe even a little bit nuts — and what are the odds? Those are all descriptors that we’d also affix to his portrayer’s go-for-broke performance.

potw-loretta-devineHONORABLE MENTION | Multiple times throughout Being Mary Jane‘s season premiere on Tuesday, Loretta Devine — in the role of Cece, an extortionist with a liquor (“lick her”?) license — referred to her car accident as a “blessing,” a pleasant surprise that changed her life for the better. If that’s how we’re measuring blessings these days, then Devine’s scene-stealing performance in the stellar episode was certainly ours. Just as Cece kept Mary Jane guessing with her ever-expanding agenda and ever-shifting demeanor, Devine kept us on our toes with her surprisingly layered take on a troublemaking grifter we couldn’t help but love. Not only did Devine’s impressive performance solidify her status as a small-screen chameleon (Adele Webber who?), but she also won us over as the unexpectedly perfect villainous foil to Gabrielle Union’s oft-harrowed heroine.

AAHONORABLE MENTION | It’s not easy to make an impression with a one-off role on a TV procedural, playing a witness, suspect or whatever. But Castle’s Stephnie Weir was, as one TVLine reader put it, a breath of fresh air. As Mia “The Nose” Laszlo, a woman afflicted with hyperosmia, the MADtv alum greatly entertained us with her sharp delivery of repulsed grimaces, salty barbs (“You should change your name to Captain Obvious!”), insightful whiffs of evidence and, yes, even advice for lovelorn Rick. (Having long used her gift to help perfumeries put “love” in a bottle, she reassured the P.I., “What you and Beckett have [is] the genuine article.”) As a perfect marriage of guest-starring role and actress, Weir was, in a word, scent-sational.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!