Lessons in Chemistry Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

By Adam Lock
Published: October 13, 2023 (Last updated: October 18, 2023)
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Lessons in Chemistry Season 1 Episode 1 Recap


“Little Miss Hastings” is an exemplary opener, introducing the period setting, the main players, and the major themes of the series. The oddball relationship between Calvin and Elizabeth is easy to root for, whilst Elizabeth’s fight against misogyny is relatable and emotive.

The 1950s set drama series Lessons in Chemistry debuts on Apple TV+ with its Season 1 opener, “Little Miss Hastings.” In Episode 1, we are introduced to lab technician Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson), who struggles to make a name for herself in a male-dominated world. Thankfully, a chance encounter with the promising chemist Calvin Evans (Lewis Pullman) sparks a new professional partnership.

Please beware, our recap of the premiere contains major spoilers.

Lessons in Chemistry Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

The series opens in 1958. Elizabeth is a famous TV cook, who hosts the immensely popular show Supper at Six. She delivers no-nonsense, informative episodes, giving housewives across the country impressive advice on cooking.

The opener then rewinds back to seven years earlier. Elizabeth is a lab technician in a sexist, male-dominated landscape. She is hounded by Fran to sign up for the annual Little Miss Hastings pageant and her male work colleagues order her about back in the lab.

Who is Calvin Evans?

Adjacent to Elizabeth’s storyline, we are introduced to Calvin Evans, a promising chemist, who is expected to win the Nobel prize in the near future. This early success has led Calvin to become arrogant and isolated though. His boss Dr Robert Donatti (Derek Cecil) is desperate for him to hand over his proposal for the Remsen Foundation Grant, but Calvin is still fixated on improving his research.

Elizabeth also wants to apply for the same grant, but she is rejected by Donatti after an unfortunate incident. Elizabeth is caught working after hours on her experiments, where she breaks into Calvin’s lab to retrieve a specific item.

Donatti confronts Elizabeth the next day. He isn’t impressed with Elizabeth’s credentials or her actions, choosing to belittle her because of her gender. Donatti suggests she applies for the pageant and smiles more or else she may be out of a job.

After this condescending conversation, Elizabeth is ordered to sign up for the pageant. Then Calvin confronts her himself, enraged by the fact that somebody has stolen from his lab. He assumes that Elizabeth is a secretary and thinks she is lying about her master’s in chemistry. Fran informs Calvin later that Elizabeth is actually telling the truth.

Having underestimated Elizabeth, Calvin attends the pageant competition to apologize to her in person. Elizabeth is clearly an outcast at this event but has been forced to attend. She quickly loses her patience though, appalled by the sexism and misogyny on display. Elizabeth storms off before performing her talent segment.

How does Calvin apologize to Elizabeth?

As Elizabeth storms off, she collides with Calvin, who is also leaving. His allergies have flared up and he vomits onto Elizabeth. She then drives him home. Calvin apologizes for calling Elizabeth a secretary. Elizabeth is honest with Calvin, calling him ungrateful and unlikable. Calvin hands her the ribose, the item that she needs for her research, as a peace offering.

The next day, Elizabeth’s supervisor corners her at work. This triggers traumatic memories for Elizabeth, who has clearly been sexually assaulted in similar circumstances before. She now has PTSD because of this altercation. The supervisor threatens to sack Elizabeth if she ever embarrasses him again.

At lunch the following day, Calvin sits with Elizabeth in the cafeteria. She offers him homemade lasagna, which he is amazed by. This starts a new daily tradition. Elizabeth and Calvin talk over home-cooked food about their research projects. Elizabeth treats her cooking the same way as her chemistry, applying her perfectionism to both areas of life. The results are impressive in both fields.

Elizabeth admits that her own research has been delayed, though, by workplace sexism. She has to make all of her male coworkers cups of coffee all the time, not forgetting the fact that Donatti has already rejected her grant proposal. Calvin is shocked by the sex discrimination, deciding to change things himself.

How do Calvin and Elizabeth end up working together?

Calvin offers to make Elizabeth his lab partner so that they can both help each other with their separate projects. Then Elizabeth wouldn’t have to answer to anyone else. Donatti declines Calvin’s proposal, but Calvin isn’t requesting, he is only informing his boss of these changes.

The two misfits begin to work together, although they get off to a less-than-promising start. Elizabeth tidies and reorganizes Calvin’s entire lab, whilst Calvin blasts loud jazz music. They soon learn to compromise though.

Lessons in Chemistry Episode 1 Ending Explained

As Calvin runs to work the next day, he has an epiphany. He bursts into the lab to tell Elizabeth the good news, slamming the door shut in the process. Elizabeth has another flashback and is panicked by the situation. She storms off, commenting on how this partnership was a mistake.

Back in 1958, we return to Elizabeth’s live show. Unfortunately, she has burned her lasagna on live TV. Elizabeth manages to save face though by stating that everyone makes mistakes. These sorts of things will happen from time to time. This is a smart little outro, hinting at Elizabeth’s messy relationship with Calvin to come, whilst also promoting her pragmatic, relatable approach to her TV work.

What did you think of Lessons in Chemistry Season 1 Episode 1? Comment below.

Additional reading:

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