UnREAL :: Secret lesbians and domestic abuse are subplots on another explosive episode

Lifetime

The latest episode of meta-reality drama UnREAL continues from where we left off, pushing a few storylines forward and ignoring others. Lady contestants vying for suitor Adam’s affections are not really the focus, except for the subplot of Mary the frustrated, disturbed mother and meta-plot of Faith the closeted lesbian. I’m torn about Faith’s storyline, which is simultaneously empowering and belittling. This is a feeling about the meta-narrative, not the show’s narrative, in which it’s intentionally playing it both sides to keep Faith in the game of “love.” I’ll get back to that in a bit. The episode also continued the subplots of producer Jay sucking up to show creator Chet, executive producer Quinn’s fury at Chet, other producer Shia’s attempt to screw up Mary (which is Mary’s storyline, not hers), and of course, the back and forth trickery on Rachel and Adam’s mutual attraction.

Getting the lesser ones out of the way first, the Quinn and Mary subplots were mirrors of each other, so much so that Quinn convinces Mary to stick with the show by convincing herself too. It’s a nice bit of thematic resonance that I appreciate from the show, which so far seems to be mainly considered with making people feel worse about themselves. This episode was quite rare in that Quinn and Chet seemed to have a pretty amicable resolution, but Chet still has some serious sleaze hovering about him. The show is being tricky with us, because we don’t know how much Quinn using the cast that says “I love you” to get Chet to agree to her terms was more manipulation or sincerity. It’s a mix naturally, but weighed which way…?

Quinn’s terms were a bit silly; suing on palimony, promissory estoppel, and fraud, that’s a bit too much tricky legalese than the show probably can pull off. It’s a good thing they dropped it for the time being. Now, in the mirror back to it, Shia was successful in legitimizing Quinn’s manipulation skills, but less so in getting Mary to participate in the show. Sure, they play around with Shia liberally talking about domestic abuse and alcoholism, but Shia isn’t a very complicated character so far. Essentially she’s a less complex version of Rachel, in that she’s not seemingly a good person at all. Or if she is, the show didn’t express that. The final way Mary inspected herself in the mirror while chugging some wine had a beautifully creepy vibe to it, which just worked perfectly. A great capper to this episode’s subplot.

Oh, and in terms of unreality, Shia screwing with Mary’s pills seems illegal and potentially lethal. Not that they can’t include it, but it just made Shia seem like a sociopath, not a complex character. For the most part, the rest of the episode seemed internally consistent. “You can make anyone jump off a bridge.” Indeed.

As for Rachel, once again the boring subplot with Jeremy (great name, stupid character) rears its ugly head. Sure, this gives them a chance to invert the circumstances, by having Jeremy reject Rachel so she can reject Adam later on. I get it, except that I can buy the chemistry with Adam, it’s the other part that isn’t working as well. Adam is a bit muted this episode, but that’s fine, we’ve gotten enough from him otherwise. So back to Faith. Rachel is aggressively pushing her the entire episode, talking about “taking my flower” … yeesh. So soon there’s the obvious silliness where Faith calls her home “God’s country” in an unsubtle dig at what’s to come. It was a bit jarring how increasingly pushy and forward Rachel was getting, snooping in Faith’s room, and seemingly immediately figuring out Faith’s lies, especially to herself.

I liked the Faith stuff for the most part, even if the pacing was a bit weird. Breeda Wool is doing very good things with the material, showing off the delighted relief and joy when she finally admits that she loves her tall friend Amy. Her jumping to come out to her whole town made sense in context, because she was on that high after coming to terms with reconciling her “faith” (GOTCHA) and her sexual orientation. Rachel was pushing so hard it’s not really that odd that Faith was moving so fast, and so it very nearly came crashing down. I wondered which way the show would go, but I guess they have some room for additional drama with her … if they haven’t just eliminated her off screen like some of the other ladies.

So when it falls back to Adam “sacrificing” his sex tape confession about Pippa Middleton to help Rachel (and by extension Faith), we’re left wondering his true motivations and desires. Is “chivalry” dead (in the context of the show)? When Jeremy refuses to cheat with Rachel, when Adam helps Faith, when even Chet isn’t the worst, it’s a surprisingly positive episode for the dudes. Maybe next time, everything will just get worse.

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