There is no such thing as a slow-burn in The Girlfriend Experience, and both stories really get going at full speed this week. “The List” kicks things off; and we open up right were we left off – on Anna’s secret recording of Novak. She’s brought it to Erica, who offers her $50,000 for the tape – and asks if she’s sure she wants to hand it over; after all, Novak will know she is the one who recorded it. When Anna gives her the green light, Erica calls Novak and tells him that she wants to discuss a deal with him. When Novak shows up for their meeting Erica plays the tape – and being the charming man that he is, he immediately lashes out; having to be pulled back when he attempts to strangle her. Despite this, Erica stands her ground: she gives Novak 24 hours to give her his donor list. (When she leaves, Novak announces that he’s going to “f-ing kill her, I’m going to f-ing kill all of them” – what a keeper.)
Meanwhile, Anna is with a female client; who gifts her earrings from Paris and tells Anna that she wants her to have beautiful things. Their encounter is vastly different to the ones we saw Anna share with Novak in “Leverage”. The next day, Erica meets with Novak’s representative – and quickly realizes that she is being recorded. She lies about the sex tape, and states that Novak voluntarily offered to hand over his donor list.
After several shots of them both looking at each other on the internet, Anna and Erica meet up at a practically empty restaurant. It turns out that Erica arranged the meeting. She tells Anna that she can’t stop thinking about her… and next thing we know they’re in bed together. In amongst their pillow talk Anna tells Erica that she’s been an escort for 4 years, but she doesn’t like talking about it – she knows that whatever she says will be seen in some sort of negative light. To her it’s a job; she enjoys sex and she’s good at it – and then we have our must obvious parallel moment between this story and Christine’s in season one; when Anna tells Erica that she mainly likes to be alone, she gets no pleasure in socializing.
Back at her office, Erica gets a call from Steven Becker’s assistant. Becker is the “king of private equity” and he wants Erica to come to NYC and meet him. Erica invites Anna along, telling her that she couldn’t have done any of this without her. In their hotel room, Erica mentions that they haven’t discussed payment – but Anna isn’t looking for money this time, she agreed to come because she likes Erica. The women attend a party hosted by Becker. Sticking with the aesthetic theme, it is held in a sparsely decorated, almost unwelcoming space. Erica networks; these are powerful people and they want to make sure that the results of the mid-term elections benefit them. But she soon has enough of the party, and drags Anna from the room, unable to keep her hands off her any longer.
Louisa Krause and Anna Friel were fantastic again this week. I thought it would take longer for Anna and Erica to get together, but with such limited time there really is little possibility of a slow burn relationship for these two. Now that the lines between business and pleasure have been well and truly blurred I can’t wait to see what direction this story goes in next week.
“Eggshells” takes us back to New Mexico – where we find Bria being reprimanded for walking out of her job in the factory during last week’s episode. But she takes little heed of the warning and is quickly leaving again – blaming “feminine issues”. She goes home and gets ready for her date with Paul – but is intercepted by a neighbor when a car arrives to pick her up. The neighbor asks Bria if she’s on parole, but Bria manages to convincingly repeat her well-rehearsed back story and makes it into the car.
She finds herself waiting for Paul at a hotel bar – and is forced to struggle up $13 to pay for her own drink. When Paul eventually arrives she says that she doesn’t have time to stay; she has to pick her up daughter. But somehow he manages to change her mind and they end up talking. She tells him that Lola is her real name, and feeds him the lie about adopting Kayla after the death of the girl’s own mother. Paul seems to be buying it, but does throw in that the last girl he was with lied to him about everything. Bria suggests that they go up to his hotel room. Once there he gives her a check for $700 ($200 more than their previously agreed amount) and tells her that he wants them to get to know each other between anything sexual happens between them. Bria makes it home just before Ian and Kayla. But Ian is suspicious, he knows that she’s hiding something. He attaches her to the polygraph machine, which clearly shows that she’s lying. But Bria isn’t ready to give up her secret just yet.
She goes back to meet Paul again (wearing the white dress from “Admitting”). She watches as he gives a motivational speech to a packed room – but afterwards he shoves Bria into a bathroom so he can argue with a woman who he has been ghosting; but whose kids call him dad. When Paul finally gets rid of the mystery woman he lets Bria out. Once again she suggests sex; and once again he puts the brakes on. When Bria gets home, Ian is waiting for her – and he is furious. Bria is supposed to be playing the part of a normal mother, and she’s failing miserably. This makes Bria upset. She tells Ian that she gets it – she isn’t good. When he moves into comfort her you could cut the sexual tension with a knife – and Bria is quick to act upon it. She sucks Ian’s fingers (the same move she had previously tried on Paul) and it looks like they’re about the cross a very dangerous line – then Ian suddenly backs out. He knows who Bria is, and he isn’t going to let her play him. Instead of getting laid, she finds herself attached to the machine once more: promising to obey the law and listen to people who are just trying to give her advice. Finally alone, Bria sits in the dark. Then her phone rings – it’s Paul; and he wants to take both her and Kayla out…
I really enjoyed where Amy Seimtz took Bria’s character this week; because I’m not entirely sure when she is being genuine. Paul has got to be bad news – the guy even has what looks like a pitchfork tattoo on his hand – and there is no way that Bria hasn’t figured this out. Yet for some reason she has decided to keep the relationship going; and now it looks like she’s going to get Kayla involved too. Even her decision to make a move on Ian left me with questions; sure there was obvious sexual tension them, but was she acting on that alone – or was she frustrated because Paul repeatedly rebuked her advances? I really don’t know – but it’s absolutely fascinating to watch.
Season 2, Episode 3-4 (S02E03-04)
The Girlfriend Experience airs Sundays at 9PM on Starz
Lauren Neill | Contributor