This week’s episode of UnREAL felt like a return to old times; the pacing was perfect, the dialogue and scene structure showed great finesse, and we somehow got that perfect mix of characters and storylines that remind me why this show is maybe more addictive than caramel popcorn. We open on a redneck bro’s wet dream: ATVs, explosions, girls about to enter. Unfortunately this is Darius’ nightmare: he can’t do Chet’s ATV challenge because of the insurance policy the NFL has on him. He can’t even run Chet’s obstacle course once, so the boys have to re-route the challenge and make the girls do it.
Quinn and Rachel lounge on the sidelines, where they’ve been pushed, and get high. After an annoying interaction with new boss Coleman, Quinn tells Rachel to keep him busy while she produces girls herself. Quinn grills Wagerstein for details on the girls until she gives her some useful dirt on two girls: Brandi, the mixed-martial arts fighter from foster care, and Chantal, the beauty queen with the dead fiancé. Quinn works Brandi first, telling her she sees lots of herself in Brandi. She tells Brandi she’s from a small town and lived on a dirt road with her alcoholic father and gives Brandi advice “from one broken kid to another.” In the control room, Rachel verifies this detail about Quinn’s life is actually true. Later, Quinn moves on to Chantal and makes her think that Brandi’s been talking shit about her. When Brandi accidentally knocks Chantal out during the obstacle course, Quinn finds herself at an advantage, and gets Coleman to agree to sideline Chet and give her the rest of the day. Chet’s none too happy about this and we can tell he’s not going to go quietly. At the end of the day, Quinn’s clearly the victor. Darius, Romeo, and Coleman seem to all be deferring to her. She leaves a day-drunk voicemail for Gary, the network president, taking ownership of this week’s episode and telling him to “call off his man” (meaning Coleman). Gary himself shows up on set the next day in an obnoxious custom car and vanity plate, and after pontificating about a team member who he credits for the quality of the show, hands the keys over to Coleman. He takes Quinn aside and tells her Rachel came to him and tried to get both Quinn and Chet sent home. This makes Quinn aim her wrath directly at Rachel and I gotta tell you I don’t envy Rachel in the least; I’d rather have Brandi’s right hook aimed at me than the wrath of Quinn.
Meanwhile, in the contestant pool, Hot Rachel’s set her eyes on Jeremy and he doesn’t mind one bit. Madison’s producer chops are growing and she eggs Beth Ann on to be even more racist. The girls tackle an obstacle course, minimally clothed of course, while Darius, Romeo and the rest of the crew look on. Brandi wins, but she takes out Chantal in the process, knocking her unconscious. Quinn orders Rachel to throw Brandi in “the hole,” a cell-like room the size of a broom closet. Brandi’s clearly claustrophobic. Rachel sends Darius in to see Chantal with flowers and a stuffed animal. Chantal gets emotional with Darius and they kiss. Quinn celebrates locking in her “wifey” candidate. Later, at a house party, Yael lends a lost-looking Ruby a dress and Ruby does her best to seduce Darius, but Beth Ann gets caught in the crosshairs and the two have a catfight. Jay pulls Ruby aside and calls her out: he can tell the reason she’s bothered by all this is because she actually likes Darius. Meanwhile, Quinn finally lets Brandi out of “the hole.” She’s a little broken now, more pliable in Quinn’s hands. Quinn breaks Brandi down further and alleges to abuse in her past. When Rachel comes in later to prepare Brandi for her date with Darius, she’s acting like everything’s already over and Darius wants to send Brandi home. She urges Brandi to tell Darius about her awful childhood as a way of convincing him to keep her. In the control room, the crew tells Quinn that together, she and Rachel are terrifying. Quinn thanks them.
On their date, Brandi tells Darius about a foster father who abused her. She shows him cigarette burns on her arm. Darius comforts her and they also kiss. Quinn celebrates in the control room. She tells Rachel to have Darius in her office in five minutes for a huge plot twist: Brandi’s mother’s waiting in there. Apparently she never gave Brandi up at all. Brandi’s a pathological liar and everything she told Darius was a lie. He agrees with Brandi’s mother to let her take Brandi home and she’s the only girl who Darius cuts that week. Brandi maintains her innocence, saying she told Darius the truth. He walks away from her and she melts down, putting Darius in a headlock that it takes two grown crew members to extract him from. In the control room, Quinn celebrates again. The woman in her office was not Brandi’s mother. It was someone sent over from a casting director. Brandi was telling the truth — and this gang just ruined the first bright future she thought was in her grasp.
Meanwhile, it seems there is a romantic runner in our midst in this episode. Rachel distracts Coleman in the control room, and it turns out these two are peas of the same Woke pod. Coleman fully recognizes how sociologically damaging the show is and plans to give Chet enough rope to hang himself, letting Quinn pick up the slack — and potentially opening a door for Rachel to run the show again. The two trade barbed generalizations about each other’s upbringing and Rachel finds out Coleman’s single. At the end of the day, Coleman joins Rachel in the control room and asks Rachel point-blank why she’s on Everlasting instead of oh idk a real TV show. Rachel says she’s wanted a black suitor for years. She thinks it’s an important cultural moment and doesn’t want to walk away. Coleman flirts with her a little bit and she flirts back and the episode ends with them making out because I guess Coleman is Rachel’s new love interest???? I don’t know how I feel about that you guys. Coleman is so obviously supposed to be a representation of The Man that Rachel getting romantically involved with him plays with her already-volatile likability, in my opinion.
“I’m going balls deep in this bitch.”
“Give me damage and give me pain.”
“Say his name again and I will staple your dick to your anus.”
Like the rest of the series, “Guerrilla” delivers a subtly feminist message — which trumpets the success of women working together while cautioning that we will never get the credit we deserve for it — but does so with a softer hand than it’s had in Episodes 1 and 2. This week’s Everlasting was engineered by women: from Quinn calling the shots to Rachel and Madison producing girls, even down to the small moments where we see the girls helping each other — but when the network president shows up, it’s Coleman who gets the acknowledgement and validation (and in this case, validation comes in the form of a sports car). This theme even reverberates down to the challenge of the fictional Everlasting episode, where the girls literally run an obstacle course while the men look on and judge them, picking the winner. When Gary tries to pit Quinn against her mentee at the end, it works, because Quinn knows what kind of world we live in and knows that she will never be the kind of professional threat to Coleman that Rachel is to her. Coleman.
This is Quinn’s episode in many ways, maybe because we learn a little bit more about her and see another crack or two in her veneer when we learn about her upbringing, or maybe because as Quinn becomes more and more badass, Rachel becomes more and more of just an ass. I’ve always flip-flopped back and forth on Rachel’s likability as a main character. She’s one of those people you understand, but may not necessarily like, and the longer she decides to continue working on this show while clearly knowing better, the harder it is for the writers to make her choice more understandable than reprehensible. But the problem to me is this: our main character is supposed to be someone we root for, for better or worse, and Rachel literally climbing into bed with the enemy (Coleman) after betraying Quinn by going to Gary, makes me root for her less and less. This is not to say I necessarily root for Quinn more: I get she’s also a pretty morally bankrupt human being, she’s just a wittier, quippier, less whiny one with better outfits. I’m wary looking ahead to next week’s episode because what I don’t want is to see Quinn and Rachel duking it out and then going back to their respective corners to blow off steam with their respective bedfellows. But these two women have poured their lives into this show so at least one or two rumbles look inevitable. In this epic war of a season (I mean this literally, each episode’s name is also a military term), what powers will ally and what powers will square off? I’m awaiting next week with some trepidation to find out.
Ellen is a writer mostly because she can’t be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Ellen Duffy | Contributor