This post discusses plot points from Nine Perfect Strangers’ fifth episode, “Sweet Surrender.”
More than halfway through its run, Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers remains eminently watchable thanks to its ensemble, a cast of actors whose all-around gameness helps balance the show’s lighter, goofier moments with its deeper explorations of trauma and healing. That’s especially clear in the latest episode, “Sweet Surrender,” in which Michael Shannon’s spirited patriarch, Napoleon, delivers not one but two show-stopping musical performances that highlight the show at its most ridiculous and its most moving. As Napoleon’s wife Heather and daughter Zoe, Asher Keddie and Grace Van Patten (respectively) were gifted front-row seats to the entertainment, and the pair spoke to The A.V. Club about bearing witness to Shannon’s many talents.
“Those were the most authentic laughs,” says Van Patten, whose Zoe is celebrating her 21st birthday at Tranquillum House in the series’ fifth episode. “I was not acting.” It’s hard to imagine anyone keeping it together when Shannon’s Napoleon tosses off his robe and offers up his take on Grease’s climactic “You’re The One That I Want” in nothing but a pair of plaid boxers. The moment provides some much-needed levity for Zoe, having spent the earliest minutes of her birthday communing with her late twin brother Zach, likely an emotional vision brought on by whatever concoction Masha’s been slipping into her smoothies. Leave it to Shannon to fully commit, bringing a real awkward dad energy to Nine Perfect Strangers’ funniest scene yet. “We were crying—we actually were crying at one point because it was too much,” reveals Keddie. “I was screaming at him to stop because it was too much.”
But there were tears of a different kind during Shannon’s rendition of “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby,” a sweetly sentimental number he sings for Zoe’s birthday celebration at the episode’s end. “I’m going to cry thinking about it,” Keddie confesses. “It was so moving; his voice is so beautiful and delicate. We had a really beautiful, very emotional night that night [we filmed that scene.]” According to the actor, the performance was intended to be a duet between the Marconi parents, but once Shannon got on the mic, she didn’t want to disrupt the magic: “My character was going to join in with that performance, and I was quite happy about that. I thought, ‘Oh, that’ll be gorgeous!,’ and I could imagine how it played out. And [then] he started singing and I was like, ‘I’m not getting up there!’ There was no way because he was—it was so moving.” Indeed, Shannon lays it all out, and the moment’s given extra resonance for Zoe as she sees yet another vision of her twin sitting poolside—a moment which Masha clocks, seemingly confirming things are all going according to “protocol.”
In the video interview above, Keddie and Van Patten look back fondly on those musicals days on set, sharing what a gift it was to watch Michael Shannon cut loose. Van Patten also provides some insight into the contents of Zoe’s secret birthday wish (“That’s like the whisper at the end of Lost In Translation—we’ll never know!”), and Keddie teases Heather’s major turning point in the episode ahead, an “unimaginable” breakthrough that will lead to another shockwave within the Marconi family.