UnREAL continues to be compelling television for all the same reasons Everlasting is: it’s unafraid to create drama around deeply flawed characters.
UnREALAirtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Shiri Appleby, Constance Zimmer, Craig Bierko, B.J. Britt, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Michael Rady, Genevieve Buechner, Denee Benton, Monica Barbaro, Kim Matula, Karissa Tynes, Ioan Gruffudd
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 8 - "Fugitive"
Air date: 2016-07-25
Jay: I am not Rachel.
Darius: No, give it up, Jay. Just because you’re a brother doesn't mean you're not part of the machine.
Jay: Of course I am. Obviously. I'm gonna tell you something that took me a long ass time to figure out. The way you're playing it, you've been working against the machine when what you gotta do is let the machine work for you.
Following last week's huge episode, "Fugitive" has a great deal to address, including the outcome of Romeo’s (Gentry White) shooting and Darius' (B.J. Britt) injury at the hands of the police, as well as Rachel's (Shiri Appleby) breakdown and hospitalization. While almost everyone at the center of Everlasting is falling apart in some way, Quinn (Constance Zimmer) continues to steer the show and consistently deliver content for maximum dramatic effect.
The big revelation this week came from Rachel, as she confided in Coleman (Michael Rady) the root of her issues with her mother and her mental health history, after Coleman convinced her to leave the hospital. Rachel was raped by one of her mother’s patients in their home when she was 12 years old. Instead of getting the appropriate treatment and her mother's support, Rachel was forced to keep the trauma a secret for fear of how it would affect her mother’s practice. Most terribly, Rachel's mother has spent years reinforcing the idea that no one could truly love her if they knew. It's especially horrible because she’s also been treating Rachel as a patient, with high doses of medication and hospitalizations, on and off since it happened.
In telling Coleman, Rachel unburdens herself momentarily, but it's likely that she’ll try to play it down (as she often does when vulnerable) once she's fully back to working on set. Although learning about Rachel’s past has been a long time coming, the fact that she barely interacted with Quinn this episode speaks to the deliberate distance Rachel is putting between the two. Quinn isn't someone to sugarcoat or mince words, and Rachel is surely not ready to fully confront all that's happened in the last few episodes with Quinn just yet. Quinn’s protectiveness and loyalty to Rachel are indisputable, but her approach is often harsh and unforgiving.
Confiding in Coleman may turn out to be a mistake, but for now he’s saying the right things. However, he’s also discovered that Yael (Monica Barbaro) is actually an undercover investigative reporter intent on revealing all of Everlasting's secrets. She appeals to Coleman's moral superiority and by the end of the episode he appears to be on her side, but it's unclear if he's actually playing her or she's playing him. What's most damning is Coleman's insistence that Rachel confess the kind of behind-the-scenes manipulations that often blur and cross ethical lines. Rachel's clearly in no shape to be divulging the show's secrets ("I can't live with this anymore. They should've just arrested us. Cause we killed her."), but that doesn't stop Coleman, even though Quinn interrupts and puts an end to the recording.
Darius has been struggling with his role on Everlasting, but this episode puts things into perspective for him in ways that he's only threatened to in previous episodes. He tried to convince Ruby (Denee Benton) that he was done with the show and football, and wanted to be with her, but she’s not going to give in to his private plea after he so publicly rejected her on television. It’s a strong stance that reinforces her high standards, while simultaneously leaving him to lick his wounds by lashing out at Quinn (and Rachel, though they haven’t had contact since the shooting) by fully embracing his part to play on the show.
All the behind-the-scenes turmoil doesn't stop production, and the women are given their own episode in which they’ll vote out one of their own by the end. Jay (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and Madison (Genevieve Buechner) are pushing their individual contestants to move forward, but the women decide to vote out Tiffany (Kim Matula), despite the show’s agenda. Asserting himself after returning to the show, Darius vetoes the women's choice and instead eliminates Jameson (Karissa Tynes). It’s a power play that Quinn respects in the moment, but it’s doubtful that she’ll allow it to continue if it’s at cross purposes with her own vision for the show.
With only two episodes left, UnREAL still has much more to explore. Above all is seeing if Quinn and Rachel find common ground before the end of the season. Coleman's plan will almost certainly end badly, especially since going up against Quinn and Everlasting is always a bad idea. While it may appear that the show is trying to set up some grand romance and happy ending for Quinn with John Booth (Ioan Gruffudd), it’s more likely that Rachel’s needs will override any plans for a future with children. UnREAL continues to be compelling television for all the same reasons Everlasting is: it’s unafraid to create drama around deeply flawed characters.