While to the untrained eye Nathan Fielder’s “Finding Frances” may seem like any other episode of his popular Comedy Central show “Nathan for You,” that is hardly the case. Not only is “Finding Frances” 120 minutes long (most “Nathan For You” episodes run at 21 minutes), but it also features a level of pathos and realism that makes it Fielder’s crowning achievement.
“Finding Frances” centers around Bill Heath, a Bill Gates impersonator who appeared in a previous episode of the show. At the beginning of the episode, Heath, who is presumably in his 70s, is recording an episode commentary with Fielder. Heath gets sidetracked during the commentary and starts talking about other parts of his life, as people who are lonely often do and begins to tell Fielder about Frances Gaddy, a woman he had a passionate romance with in the 1960s before they broke up so he could move to Los Angeles.
After Heath brings up Gaddy repeatedly, Fielder decides that he will help him find his lost love, but quickly realizes that Heath’s memory of Gaddy is foggy at best and provides little leads for the pair to pursue.
Fielder and Heath decide that perhaps the best way to find Gaddy is to go to where their love story began: Little Rock, Arkansas. Over the course of the next several weeks, the pair pull off ridiculous stunts in pursuit of finding Gaddy but make little inroad in their search.
In the meantime, to ensure that Heath acts appropriately when the pair eventually find Gaddy, Fielder arranges for a date between Heath and an escort. When Fielder brings the idea up to Heath, he immediately declines because, as he so crassly puts it, “You gotta know what you’re sticking it in.” Having already paid for the escort, who’s name is Maci, Fielder goes on a date with her and the two develop a relationship, which is strangely sweet at its best and extremely cringey at its worst.
A little less than an hour into the show, Fielder and Heath hit the jackpot and find Gaddy who lives in Michigan with her husband.
To prepare for the reunion, Fielder has June, an actress from LA, come out to Arkansas and pretend to be Gaddy. Heath’s behavior during the practice runs is inappropriate to say the least but by the end of the rehearsal, Heath comes to understand how he should act when the two eventually reconnect.
Eventually, the two make their way up to Michigan to see Gaddy. Upon arriving at her home, they decide that Heath should call Gaddy and hear her reaction to a potential reunion before going up to her doorstep.
When Gaddy answers, Heath quickly realizes that the fairytale ending that he had always imagined would not come to fruition. Gaddy has been happily married for 47 years and has nine grandchildren. While it is clear that Heath has so much he wants to say to Gaddy, it is equally clear that Gaddy has little interest in what he has to say. Heath eventually realizes this and after a while on the phone, they hang up and Heath never tells her that he is right outside. Fielder and Heath head back to LA ultimately achieving their goal, but maybe not in the way they had imagined.
At the very end of the episode, hope for Heath’s future is restored as he ends up going on a date with June, the actress he met in Arkansas and Fielder, who gives an epic narration about regret and the human experience, is seen boarding a plane to visit Maci.
While this episode was different than all other “Nathan for You” episodes, it was the absolutely perfect way to end the beloved series. Not only did Heath bring out the best in Fielder, who shows compassion and a sense of purpose in sincere ways that are often present but fleeting in other episodes, but Heath is a formidable comedic opposite to Fielder.
While he doesn’t realize the hilarity in what he is saying, Heath often gives one-liners that shock the audience along with Fielder, who is not easily thrown. The chemistry between the pair and Heath’s ability to pull Fielder outside of his character is unexpected but works perfectly and is precisely what makes this episode special.
This episode also plays on themes of the human experience, where other episodes of the show often center around the absurdity of the modern American economy. Not only does the episode speak to regret and lost opportunities in love, but it does it in a way that is often shockingly profound and truthful, especially given the medium in which Fielder chooses to tell his stories.
One of the last things that Fielder says during “Finding Frances” is the moving piece of wisdom that “it is easy to look at someone else’s life as a cautionary tale, after all, no one wants to be old and filled with regret. But if you look closer, and see that that life is filled with moments of sincere joy, however fleeting, it’s hard to say if it was really a bad life after all.”
Through “Finding Frances” and “Nathan for You” as a whole, Fielder has given us all moments that are filled with sincere joy, and for that, we should be profoundly grateful for Fielder’s comedic timing, awkward stage personality and most of all, his commitment to the truthful portrayal of the human experience.
Edited by Janae McKenzie | firstname.lastname@example.org