On May 5th, 2022, the on-screen relationship between Bret and Liam ("Briam") came to a surprise end when Liam successfully stumbled through asking newcomer Ben Perez out on a date in Walker's episode "Champagne Problems" (2.16). While I personally was happy to see Liam getting out and about again, I was disappointed that his previous relationship didn’t get a proper conclusion. I’m sure the true, real life, behind-the-scenes reason for this plotline being dropped was related to Alex Landi’s (Bret’s actor) availability and schedule, but I do have to wonder what the in-universe reasons were.
Since we didn’t (and likely never will) get an on-screen conclusion to Briam, I’d like to put some of my own thoughts out there about how and why this ship sank.
I think my thoughts can be summed up pretty well in one word: Neglect.
Even in the early episodes of season one, Bret and Liam are experiencing relationship troubles and neither of them tries to hide it. We all remember the explosion that came with Liam’s fake affair, but there were already dangerous sparks as early as the pilot.
When we first meet Liam in season one, we learn that he’s living at the ranch despite him and Bret having an apartment in the city. This is hardly normal behavior for an engaged couple, though Liam makes the excuse that Bret wasn’t ready to play a semi-parental role for Stella and August like he was. This is understandable; after all, Bret’s just had to move halfway across the country and into a very different culture so maybe he just needed some time to settle in first. But, later on in the same episode, Bret crashes Liam’s failed lunch meeting with Cordell, which he only knew about through their shared calendar. It’s very odd that there wouldn’t have been at least a text about the day’s activities for both of them. Bret’s “joke” about Liam turning his back on his family and devoting himself to Bret seems a little less lighthearted in hindsight.
From here, the problems only continue. When Liam goes on an investigation trip with Larry James in “Tracks”, he says that he lied to Bret about what they’re doing. Then, upon their return in “Fine Is A Four Letter Word”, he moves into his office and refuses to see Bret for a week with the excuse of protecting him, all without telling his fiancé why he’s doing this. Bret does end up forcing his way into Liam’s office with food, but his victory is short lived as Liam keeps his distance despite attempts to draw him into simple small talk. After Liam’s “confession” about cheating in Mexico, Bret tries to keep the relationship together because of how much he’s put into it, but Liam keeps pushing him away and insisting that breaking things off is the only solution. Bret does end up breaking up with him, but not because of the alleged affair. He’s angry that Liam keeps trying to control his actions like he controls everything else in his life. He also says that he should’ve seen this coming as this wasn’t the first time Liam was putting other people’s thoughts and feelings over Bret’s.
Although at first glance this act of neglect appears noble, it does make us wonder what Liam’s thought process was. If Bret’s life was truly in danger, shouldn’t he have known about it? And what would this breakup really do to protect him? A part of me can’t help but wonder if this was less for Bret’s safety and more a subconscious desire from Liam to end the relationship.
In the next episode, “Rule Number 17”, we get more insight from Liam on what their relationship was like before the fall. When Micki asks him if he’d ever thought about running for public office, he says that it wasn’t really an option for him because Bret kept “threatening” to move back to New York. The details remain unknown but it appears that Bret pulled the “moving back to New York without you” ultimatum card more than once during an argument. I think it’s very telling that Liam didn’t wait for very long after the breakup before deciding to run for District Attorney, setting down the roots that Bret prevented before.
It’s not stated directly, but we can infer from all of this that Bret and Liam were having disagreements about how long they were going to be staying in Texas. Bret wanted to get back to their lives in New York as quickly as possible while Liam felt he needed to stay with his family just a little bit longer. This issue in their relationship, while large, seems to be a recent development. We see in the flashback episode “A Tale Of Two Families”, that their relationship was happy and there was easy communication between them. We can also see that Liam was initially hesitant about moving to Texas and instead tried to help his family by flying back and forth between his two homes. This was both because of Bret and because of Liam's career opportunities. Oddly enough, it was Bret that nudged Liam toward being more present for his family and moving down south. Of course, this may have been done under the assumption that it would be a temporary move, which is fair given how long Liam had previously been living away from his family. We can only speculate as to when Liam changed his mind and started to look toward a more permanent future in Texas, but it’s easy to see that this put a large strain on their relationship.
We don’t hear about Bret again until “Mehar’s Jacket”, where we see him texting Liam to check in after the attack on the ranch and asking if he’d like to meet up. Even though we see Liam respond with an affirmative, we find out in “Bad Apples” that they actually haven’t spoken since that exchange. Liam admits to Cordell that he thought about Bret while he (Liam) was essentially dying, but Liam has yet to admit this to the man himself. When Liam does end up seeing Bret, it’s because he wants him to look over his campaign speech, with apologies coming as an afterthought. Bret is not all that happy to see Liam after all this time of no contact and we see that he’s apparently moved on with someone else because he got tired of waiting around for Liam. Though Bret does return at the end of the episode, it’s purely to help Liam as a friend and professional. They care for each other but neither of them is ready to go back to what they were.
The next big relationship moment between them comes in the season 1 finale. At the end of the episode, Liam apologizes to Bret for how much he neglected him and their relationship. In the spirit of turning over a new leaf, he asks Bret out on a date.
While this was a happy note to end on, we find out in the season 2 premiere that Bret is back in New York and Liam has been making monthly trips to see him. This is a nice arrangement on the surface but when Stella asks if Liam’s going up to see him again this month, the response is uncertain.
Bret doesn’t get another mention or appearance in season two until “Where Do We Go From Here?”, when he comes down to get Liam out of his hermitude. It does look like their communication has improved, as Bret seems aware of everything that’s happened during his absence, but that doesn’t mean everything is fixed. The episode still leaves their relationship on an uncertain note, with both parties expressing their desire to get back together but neither of them making any moves to do so. Liam claims he wants to be worthy of Bret’s love while Bret says he’s waiting for Liam to see that he already is.
After that, we never hear of, or from, Bret again. It is assumed that they were working out their relationship problems during this time, though there is no evidence of this. With everything that’s been happening to the Walker family lately, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that there just wasn’t time for Liam to do anything on his end. As Liam said to Ben in “Champagne Problems”, he’s put a lot of his energy into being there and doing things for his family with very little time to dedicate to himself and what he wanted.
I believe that Liam and Bret's off-screen breakup came down to Bret, once again, getting tired of waiting on Liam. Bret expressed multiple times in the past, both onscreen and off, that he needed more time and attention from Liam than what he was getting. This was enough of a problem when they were living in the same city and had a shared living space; I can only imagine this problem got worse when they were living in different states and time zones. To quote Geri, “You make time for the people you care about.” The care between them was there, but if Liam wasn’t going to put in the time, then Bret didn’t need to wait for him. Just caring for each other isn’t enough to save a relationship, as we saw demonstrated by Micki and Trey earlier this season. So, Briam fell apart after undergoing months of unaddressed neglect and eventually, they came to the healthy decision to end their relationship and move on.
At least, that’s what I think happened.
So, what do you think? Did Bret and Liam fall apart due to neglect? Was Liam the only one at fault or did Bret have a part to play? Will we ever get a proper resolution to their relationship? Will Liam make the same mistakes with Ben or will he learn his lesson? Is there another love triangle waiting for us in the future?