In case anyone hasn’t noticed, UNREAL is firmly a drama now. The subject matter this week has less intersectional landmines but is no less heavy and Quinn, while still quippy as ever, now feels like she occasionally percolates the tone of the show rather than sets the tempo for it. Sophomore year is tricky for everyone, and it seems like UnREAL is a very surly sophomore. That said, the show managed to bounce back this week with “Fugitive” after basically doing their equivalent of burning down Agrestic last week: Everlasting got sent to hell in a handbasket by a Black Lives Matter statement gone bad, and now Rachel is currently flying over the Cuckoo’s nest in a mental ward with almost enough prescriptions for a prep school party, but not quite.
I KNEW I NEVER TRUSTED YAEL, YOU GUYS! Shout out to UnREAL for validating my gut instincts this week. When Coleman catches Yael snooping through his computer, she’s forced to admit she’s a reporter working undercover on a story called “Reality TV Kills,” and she tries to get Coleman to help her write it. This story twist is awesome and I hope to God it’s based on actual events because I would read the shit out of an exposé like that. However. Things take a turn for the creepy and exploitative very quickly when Coleman busts Rachel out of the loony bin only to bring her back to his place and make her talk to a video camera about every way she felt the show had crossed moral lines. This exchange felt questionable and uncomfortable because Rachel’s still so heavily medicated on an unregulated cocktail that it blurs the lines of consent. Coleman’s video party gets busted up by Quinn who walks in on them recording with Rachel’s mother in tow.
Holy shit, Rachel’s mom. Wowowowowow. We always knew there was tension there, but this week took us to the core of Rachel’s dysfunctional relationship with her mom and how it reverberates in every aspect of her life. While it was always a little weird to me that Rachel was her mother’s patient, I never guessed the reasons for that were as sinister as covering up a rape. Learning that Rachel had been kept drugged-up and silent since her teens in order to protect her mother’s practice revealed that Rachel is used to being exploited to best suit the needs of others; it’s how she was conditioned. We see this manifest in all her relationships: with Coleman, who takes advantage of her drugged-up vulnerability to pump her for the show’s deepest darkest secrets, and with Quinn, who ultimately just wants what’s best for her “baby,” the show, and knows Rachel’s a liability on set. It leaves us to wonder who in Rachel’s life really has her best interests at heart… or if anyone does at all.
Rachel’s meltdown has competition this week when Darius storms off set, reasonably outraged by the way the show handled the Bentley incident and Romeo getting shot. He meets with Ruby in secret and confesses to what we all knew when he cut her: that he was intimidated by the man he’d have to be if he wanted a relationship with her, but she’s who he really wants all along. Meanwhile, the cast and crew of Everlasting spin their wheels by re-configuring this week’s episode so the girls vote off one of their own. They all conspire to bring down Tiffany, but that plan belly-flops when Darius shows up at the eleventh hour and chooses Tiffany for his overnight date. Turns out his diner rendezvous with Ruby got busted up by Jay, who’s definitely emerging as the dark horse of season 2, who convinces Darius to come back on set — but on the condition that he deals with Jay only. Looks like Quinn’s got a new #2 whether she likes it or not.
Quinn deals with a quandary every working woman contends with this week when John pulls the kid card and says if that’s not something she’s open to, they should basically just break up now. Quinn tells him that her work is her legacy and the show is her baby but John’s not on the same page, so Quinn’s got some thinking to do. Seeing Rachel’s mom descend on her definitely doesn’t help dull the tick of Quinn’s biological clock any, especially since Quinn apparently knows about Rachel’s mom covering up her rape; the two have an acerbic and well-penned scene in which Quinn accuses Rachel’s mom of being both a bad doctor and a bad mother (not wrong) and Rachel’s mom ultimately silences Quinn by reminding her that Rachel is her daughter, not Quinn’s, and pulls the “you don’t know what it’s like, you’re not a mother” age-old spinster-shaming tactic that childless women endure all the time. But it’s this exchange that makes Quinn realize that she would make a good mother, and this might be part of why Rachel’s mom is threatened by her.
In the end, all our main characters tread into new and treacherous territory. Quinn tells Booth she’s open to having kids, which to be honest feels a little out of character for maybe the most delightful cynic on cable TV right now, but they’re fortunate that Constance Zimmer has the chops to sell it. Rachel talks about her rape for the first time when she tells Coleman, and unlike what her mother told her, her confession doesn’t scare Coleman away. Darius enters a relationship with a new producer and perhaps a replacement Romeo, Jay, who’s rising into new territory of his own. And Coleman, who I still believe is a self-serving asshole at heart, sneaks out while Rachel is asleep to meet Yael under a gazebo, where he agrees to help her with her undercover “Reality Kills” exposé. With only 2 episodes left to go in Season 2, the UnREAL crew is revving up the engines for us indeed. I find myself torn, but in a good way; while I want Yael to expose the underbelly of the frontal lobe carcinogen that is reality TV, I also am so rooting for Quinn now that she’s back in the driver’s seat and in a way, kind of like Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid, I will be kind of sad to see her fall.
Season 2, Episode 8 (S2E08)
UnREAL airs Mondays at 10PM on Lifetime
Ellen is a writer mostly because she can’t be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Ellen Duffy | Contributor