Hassan goes out with Lindsey, Katrina, TOC, JATT, and SOCT on Sunday and Monday while Colin works on the Theorem, which he still can’t get right for Katherine III or Katherine XIX. Hassan comes home on Monday night and reports to Colin that he kissed Katrina during a game of spin the beer bottle. Colin gives him a hard time about how if Hassan is being a pious Muslim, he must plan to marry Katrina. Hassan is upset that his friend is not happy for him, and he says “Dingleberries,” but Colin goes on berating him for making out with Katrina of all people. Hassan grabs Colin by the hair, pushes him against the wall, and presses into “the precise location of the hole in Colin’s gut.” He says he doesn’t want to fight Colin because Hassan would lose. Colin reflects that Hassan always jokes, even when he’s angry.
Colin knows he has bothered Hassan by berating him for doing things forbidden by Islam, so he seems to be trying to provoke Hassan in this scene. Although Hassan ends the interaction with a joke, the physical altercation that precedes the joke demonstrates that Hassan has hit a kind of breaking point and wants Colin to leave him to make his own choices. The fact that Colin is upset with Hassan for making these choices, combined with the notion that Hassan hits Colin directly in the hole in his gut, suggests that Colin might be jealous of Hassan for finding himself before Colin manages to do the same.
Once Hassan goes to bed, Colin continues working on the Theorem through his tears. He thinks of a best friend, a Katherine, and a Theorem as the three markers of success he is striving for. He has hated not reaching his markers ever since he was four and only learned twenty-three irregular Latin verb conjugations instead of the twenty-five his dad set for the day. He feels that he is now farther away from his markers than when he arrived in Gutshot three weeks ago.
Colin’s dwelling on his failure to reach these markers suggests that indeed, the interaction with Hassan has been upsetting to him because it makes him feel even less “special” than he has already been feeling. However, he is also frustrated with himself because he has strained his relationship with Hassan.
The next morning, Colin and Hassan avoid talking to each other during the interviews. Colin thinks about all the reasons he is frustrated with Hassan. Hassan, he thinks, has become “the kind of guy who cruises, leaving Colin behind.” Walking down the driveway from an interviewee’s house, Colin tells Hassan that he thinks he has changed. Once in the car, Hassan begins yelling at Colin about how he has lived in Colin’s shadow and has been Colin’s support without reciprocation. He just wants his friend to be happy for him for kissing a girl. As he criticizes Colin for his perpetual fear of being left behind, Colin, near tears, tells Hassan that Hassan called TOC “Colin” the previous evening. Hassan apologizes, and Colin admits to being self-centered. He asks how he can stop being afraid of being left behind. Hassan tells him he’s smart enough to figure it out.
Hassan helps Colin recognize his self-centered nature not out of spite, but so that they might strengthen their friendship, demonstrating that Colin has not, in fact, been left behind. Rather, he has convinced himself again of a story that places him at the mercy of someone else’s actions. Colin finds out in this scene that he is actually in control of many aspects of his friendship with Hassan, despite the stories of helplessness he tells himself. By finding the words to tell Hassan that he feels replaced, Colin begins to realize that he is fifty percent responsible for every relationship, romantic or otherwise.
Hassan and Colin make up after Colin congratulates Hassan for kissing a girl. They joke that they might be gay if they were both better looking. When Colin tells Hassan that he seems to act as if he hates Colin, Hassan sincerely says he thinks Colin is a genius and can do anything, and Colin accepts the compliment.
Hassan and Colin demonstrate their immaturity by making a gay joke, demonstrating that Colin and Hassan are navigating their friendship in a world that is anxious about closeness between men.
When they arrive at the store to pick up Lindsey from another illicit date with TOC, Hassan and TOC joke with each other, and TOC invites Colin to come out shooting with the group. Colin almost accepts but remembers his realization with regard to Marie Caravolli that such an arrangement can only result in humiliation for the outsider. He tries to pass by saying that he doesn’t know how to shoot, but when TOC insists, Colin decides he owes it to Hassan to try. Once he accepts, TOC says he’s going to take advantage of the others’ presence in the store to sneak off for a night out bowling. Lindsey tries to go with him, but he says it’s a boys’ night out. Lindsey fake pouts and kisses him goodbye.
As it turns out, Hassan’s newfound friendship with TOC seems to open a new opportunity for friendship for Colin as well. TOC’s invitation demonstrates that Colin was quick to assume that Hassan’s new friendships amounted to an abandonment of Colin. However, Colin is still so wrapped up in his feelings of social awkwardness that he feels supremely uncomfortable even trying to socialize with the popular kids. Colin’s decision to participate in the hunt for Hassan’s sake demonstrates growth on Colin’s part.
Colin, Lindsey, and Hassan go back to Hollis’s house early. She is on the phone when they arrive and hangs up to tell them to stay out of the house until 5:30 p.m. Lindsey demands to know why Hollis is selling land to Marcus. Hollis says it is none of her business and that she knows Lindsey blew off work that day. Hassan says he has a date and will miss dinner, and Lindsey manages to make Hollis happy by saying that she is taking Colin (“this Colin”) out to dinner tonight.
Lindsey proves much more confrontational with Hollis than with TOC, further emphasizing her lack of actual investment in her romantic relationship as compared with her relationship with her mother. Lindsey seems all too happy to replace her potential plans with TOC with plans with Colin.
Before dinner, Colin continues working on the Theorem. He realizes that his problem with the Katherine XIX graph is that he has been attempting to graph a reunion. It will only work, he realizes, if he only accounts for events so far, meaning the graph must end with a breakup. Still, he can’t figure out how to represent Katherine III, whose given name is Katherine Mutsenberger. Currently, the Theorem produces a graph that suggests that Colin dumped her rather than the other way around. This, he thinks, is ludicrous. He cannot figure out what he is missing because he remembers everything about Katherine III just as he remembers everything about all the others.
Colin’s realization regarding Katherine XIX directly contradicts the purpose of the Theorem, which is to predict relationship outcomes. His continued investment in the project despite realizing that he can not account for every event demonstrates a shift in Colin’s attitude towards deeper self-reflection. Colin’s insistence that he remember everything about Katherine III shows increasing anxiety that he might have mixed up elements of the story he has told himself about her.
When Lindsey comes by Colin’s room to get him for dinner, he is struck by how pretty she is. On the way outside, they see Katrina picking up Hassan. They kiss, and Colin can’t believe he is seeing Hassan kiss a girl “who had to have been Homecoming Queen.” Lindsey calls out to Hollis that they might be out late for “Hot sex and all,” and Hollis says to have fun and call if they are going to be out past midnight.
Colin’s cognitive dissonance when he sees Hassan with Katrina demonstrates again that Colin relies on literary and cinematic tropes to understand the world and is taken aback when the world contradicts these tropes. The fact that the world has done something unexpected leaves room for Colin to be optimistic about his feelings for Lindsey.
In the car, after Colin and Lindsey get food from what Lindsey refers to as the “Taco Hell” drive-thru and stare through the window at Hassan and Katrina, Colin asks why they are going out to dinner. Lindsey first says she wants to know how the Theorem works if you’re gay, and Colin insists that it doesn’t matter who the individuals represented by the variables are. Lindsey also says she is trying to get on Hollis’s good side by making better friends with Colin because she needs to find out what is going on with the land Marcus is buying. She is worried that Marcus is going to build a cookie-cutter subdivision, which she knows Hollis would not want. The third reason, she tells Colin, is that she needs to teach him how to shoot a gun so that he won’t embarrass himself.
Lindsey claims to be using Colin’s company to reflect further on the Theorem and to get on Hollis’s good side. When she eventually reveals that she is going to teach him to shoot, it becomes clear that she is invested in his ability to make friends with her friends. Furthermore, she understands that he might be worried about embarrassing himself in front of the cool kids. While Lindsey, who has grown up in Gutshot, surely knows better than Colin the possibilities of embarrassment while shooting a gun, her concern demonstrates an understanding of his concern over his image.
They go to a field that Lindsey tells Colin will soon be owned by Marcus. They discuss their parents. Colin learns that Lindsey’s parents aren’t technically divorced but that her father left when she was one. Colin tells her that his parents are overprotective but normal. He calls his family boring, and Lindsey says he has to stop calling himself boring “or people will start to believe you.”
Lindsey takes Colin to a place she associates with the past before telling him about her family. The nostalgia is heightened by the fact that Lindsey is afraid this land is soon to be sold. Whereas Colin has always looked forward to the future as far more interesting than his past or present, Lindsey insists on the value of the known.
Lindsey gets a shotgun out of the trunk, loads it, and tells Colin to shoot straight ahead. The kick knocks him over, and Lindsey laughs, telling him that is why he needs to be prepared before the hunt with the others. After forty shots, his shoulder is numb. He asks Lindsey if she wants to try, and she says she doesn’t shoot guns because she is terrified of them. Lying back in the grass, Colin reflects that although he has gotten a number of physical injuries and a gaping hole in his gut while in Gutshot, he likes the place. Lindsey, lying next to him, kicks his shin lightly to get his attention. She tells him that part of the reason she is mad about Hollis selling the land is that her secret hideout is there. She asks if he wants to see it.
Colin’s willingness to shoot the shotgun far past the point of physical pain shows that he is greatly invested in spending time with Lindsey. He is also willing to embarrass himself in front of her, which suggests that he feels more comfortable around her than he usually does around people he considers cool. Lindsey, likewise, feels comfortable enough around Colin that she invites him to her secret hideout.
In a section subtitled, “The End (of the Middle),” Colin recalls sitting with Katherine I in Café Sel Marie and telling her about his Katherine pattern, all starting with her. They discussed her French tutoring, and she said, coded in numbers corresponding with the letters of the alphabet, “Je pense que je t’aime.” Colin noted that this could have meant either “I like you” or “I love you.” The moment was interrupted by a phone call from Colin’s mother, but “by then it was too late. In his mind, Katherine I was already becoming Katherine XIX. She would soon retake the throne that, all along, had rightfully been hers.”
Colin’s relationship with Katherine XIX began with uncertainty about the difference between “like” and “love,” foreshadowing Colin’s difficulty in sorting out his desire for Katherine XIX herself over his desire to have a girlfriend in general. Colin is so wrapped up in the romantic narrative in his mind that he forgets that he exists outside of it.