Louis and Joe walk along the beach. Louis wonders aloud what he’s doing with Joe—a married, Mormon Republican. He also laughs about Joe’s “fruity underwear,” which Joe claims symbolize his Mormon faith. Louis tries to tell Joe about the Republicans’ problems—that Republicans are zealots and “McCarthyite cowboys”—while Joe tries to convince Louis that he’s not his enemy. He tells Louis that the world isn’t “perfectable,” and urges him to accept his own happiness instead of trying to help other people.
One of the amusing things about this scene is the way that Louis exposes the repressed sexuality in Mormonism itself—the “fruity underwear” is a good example. This also marks one of Joe’s most articulate explanations of conservatism (as a life philosophy, not necessarily a political platform)—it’s impossible to make the world perfect, so why try?
Joe tells Louis that Louis is a good man, whom he admires deeply. Louis shakes his head—he can’t forgive himself for abandoning the people he loves. Joe insists that for his part, he’s not guilty for abandoning Harper. He never has nightmares about Harper, or any dreams of any kind, for that matter. Joe claims he loves Louis. Louis abruptly tells Joe that he wants to see Prior again—he can’t forgive himself for leaving Prior behind.
Joe forgives Louis for abandoning Prior, but it seem likely that Joe does so to assuage his own guilt about abandoning Harper (and because Joe’s never even met Prior himself, so the whole issue is detached from him). If it’s okay for Louis to leave his lover, Joe thinks, then surely it’s okay for him to leave his wife.
Joe seems heartbroken by Louis’s need to see Prior. He tells Louis that he’ll do anything for him. He begins to take off his clothes, despite Louis’s protests. Joe strips naked, removing his Mormon underwear, and tells Louis, “I want to be with you.” Silently, Louis helps Joe get dressed again. Joe tells Louis that Louis should “be brave” and do whatever he needs to do. Then, Joe says, Louis should “come back to me.”
Joe seems ready to entirely give up his faith (remove his Mormon underwear) for Louis’s sake, but the scene still ends with a separation. Here Kushner also alludes to the idea of a quest—Louis has to make a great journey (both literal and spiritual) before he can be with Joe.