Reviews

UnREAL: Season 2, Episode 6 - "Casualty"

J.M. Suarez

"Casualty" deals with consequences in all their complex, frustrating, and unfair incarnations.


UnREAL

Airtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Shiri Appleby, Constance Zimmer, Craig Bierko, B.J. Britt, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Josh Kelly, Michael Rady, Lindsay Musil, Ioan Gruffudd, Amy Hill
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 6 - "Casualty"
Network: Lifetime
Air date: 2016-07-11
Amazon
Quinn: Chet just told me about Jeremy. When I see him I'm going to rip off his balls, deep-fry them, and force him to eat them.

Rachel: Are you seriously going to pretend that you care about me, Quinn?

Quinn: I do care about you.

Rachel: Right.

Easing past the halfway point of the season, "Casualty" deals with the fallout of Jeremy's (Josh Kelly) attack on Rachel (Shiri Appleby), as well as Darius' (B.J. Britt) increasing anger and frustration over Everlasting's many manipulations. There are also a great deal of callbacks and parallels this episode that highlight UnREAL's smart plotting and nuanced character development.

Jeremy's assault puts an already stressed Rachel over the edge as she alternately documents the physical remnants of her attack, pretends nothing is wrong, ignores Quinn (Constance Zimmer), and ultimately destroys any evidence of the assault. The emotional consequences are varied and deep, but what stands out the most is the way in which Quinn is so attuned to her moods, and how inherently she understands the ways in which Rachel will act out.

Much of this episode is focused on a home date, one for which Rachel forced Darius to choose Beth Ann (Lindsay Musil). Going to Alabama may put physical distance between Rachel and the set, but she’s still too raw from the assault to really separate the two. Rachel's coping mechanism is to ignore what she's been through -- Coleman (Michael Rady) only finds out about it through Quinn -- but Quinn knows that Rachel's mental health will be compromised.

When she immediately asks Rachel if she's packed her meds, it speaks to not only Quinn's intimate knowledge of Rachel's well-being, but also confirms that any emotional distance between the two is irrelevant when one of them is truly in trouble. Rachel dismisses her concerns ("Oh yeah, God forbid I should have some of my own thoughts without pharmaceuticals pumping through my veins") and Quinn's offer to immediately fly down to be with her in Alabama.

The contrasts between Rachel's relationship with Coleman and Quinn are striking when Rachel’s especially vulnerable. Although Rachel and Coleman are involved romantically, the intimacy of her relationship with Quinn far surpasses that of Coleman. Dr. Wagerstein (Amy Hill) actually confronts Quinn about how enmeshed they are ("There's no such thing as an entertainment emergency. Have you ever asked yourself why you care so much about that girl?"); she also proceeds to give Quinn some advice about her new relationship with John Booth (Ioan Gruffudd) ("This show, it consumes you. It's all you have, but it doesn’t have to be. You don't have to die alone like your dad."). That Rachel and Everlasting are central to Quinn's life isn't a surprise; the possibility of Quinn actively changing that to focus more on her own personal life would be far more shocking.

Rachel's assault is also contextualized beyond her own personal feelings, when she’s pressured by Chet (Craig Bierko) and Quinn to keep quiet about the attack in an effort to protect the show from Jeremy airing all their dirty laundry. It's a horrible thing to ask of Rachel -- and Coleman is the only one in favor of her coming forward -- but she capitulates in a moment that clearly reinforces whatever responsibility she feels, however irrational. As if Rachel wasn't already vulnerable enough, Adam (Freddie Stroma) returns at the end of the episode, ensuring more messiness in an already complicated situation.

Darius' home date with Beth Ann and her family starts well, as her family is in as much awe of Darius as she is, but it quickly devolves into the kind of drama that Everlasting is known for. Rachel's recent trauma leads her to act out in ways that she would've tempered earlier, particularly in the way she pressures Beth Ann to reveal her newly discovered pregnancy on camera to Darius and her parents. She also manages set up her ex-boyfriend to crash the whole thing and propose. It's a disaster that will certainly make for good ratings, but leads to further mistrust from Darius and concern from Coleman.

"Casualty" deals with consequences in all their complex, frustrating, and unfair incarnations. There are no easy resolutions in UnREAL and that’s part of what makes it so compelling. The other part is in the relationship between Quinn and Rachel. It’s one rarely seen because it’s difficult to pigeonhole. They can be genuinely supportive and painfully at odds with each other from one minute to the next, but the depth of the connection is never in question. It's a fascinating dynamic to explore, and UnREAL has proven itself up to the task.

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