Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Once again, UnREAL bounces back after a misstep

Photo: Lifetime
Photo: Lifetime

UnREAL got a huge reaction to last week’s episode, most of it not great. It was a solid effort, except for the fact that the show made the grave error of depicting a police stop pulling over two black men that ended in one of the men getting shot—then choosing to tell the story through the eyes of the depressed white woman who orchestrated the pullover, a heinous act in a string of heinous acts, this season especially. On The A.V. Club alone, it sparked a morning-after interview with the writer of the episode, Ariana Jackson, who said that she also wanted more time to show what happened to Darius and Romeo after the shooting, as well as an excellent For Our Consideration article by Joshua Alston on why this storyline, and others like it, just don’t work.


A major problem with UnREAL trying to tackle a huge topic like that one is that the show already has a focus and a strong one: Quinn and Rachel, mostly Rachel. After the shooting of Romeo (who we still don’t even get to see, although we learn that he will be okay), Rachel’s depression is full-fledged, so painful that she’s called her mother, who is just this side of Maleficent as far as sympathetic characters go. But Rachel is in no physical danger, and is most likely not going to get shot, which is much more than we can say for the position she put Darius and Romeo in last week.

Still, again we must give all the props to Shiri Appleby for Rachel’s drugged-up unhinged interview helmed by Coleman, who turns out to be worse than we even could have predicted. Why in the world would he bring Rachel back to the show to film her, in the most destructive environment there is for her, short of her mother’s house? Calling it “therapeutic,” when it likely will destroy her? Now that Coleman has lost the show, and possibly his career, as we’ve seen, people will do all sorts of crazy things to get the show back, but this is one of the worst.

The saddest part is that the show is practically a safe zone for Rachel, as we find out the truth about her and her mother. Maybe I live in a bubble. Maybe I’m naive. I just find it hard to believe that a therapist would drug her own daughter for several years in an attempt to blot out a rape by one of her patients, to protect her practice. “No one will love you if they find out”? What in the hell is that? That’s right up there with matriarchs like Piper Laurie in Carrie or Mother Gothel in Tangled. As twisted as that is, it does at least give us a viable reason for Rachel’s personality disorder and trust issues. More and more evidence seems to be stacking up that Quinn really is the one who’s most supportive of Rachel, which is too bad, because we know that she also like to manipulate Rachel to get what she wants. Compared to Coleman and Rachel’s mother though, Quinn is obviously the best of the three. Even though her plan to have a baby makes no sense whatsoever.

After the horror of last week, the best thing UnREAL does this week is to have Darius storm the set at the end. To dismiss the cop, to override the votes, to save Tiffany, and to tell Quinn that he will have his own way, or there’s no more suitor. After his powerlessness of last week, it’s both understandable and a relief to see him take control. Just as empowering is the return of Ruby and her refusal to take Darius back after he humiliated her on national television (Good for you, Ruby!), and Jay’s rise to the forefront, at the expense of Madison. Darius’ “This is what we both want” to Tiffany is more aligned with what the two get out of this partnership than the relationship on the show. Even though Quinn starts out the show by crowing about romance, we know that Everlasting is really about power, so it’ll be fun to see what Darius does with his in the final two episodes of the season. This season of UnREAL has been uneven, but a course-correcting episode like this one, in which at least some people get what’s coming to them, and some other people might actually be on the path to finally getting at the truth, reminds us why we can’t stop tuning in.

Stray observations

  • “You want a black girl to win Everlasting and a baby? Who are you?”
  • It’s true, no one does look good in a Hawaiian shirt.
  • Did the show really just bring Adam back just for that one week? If he really cared about Rachel, as he seemed to by hanging outside her truck, wouldn’t he have stuck around a little longer?
  • “Maybe she actually swallowed some of your producing genes.”
  • Why in the world would that other doctor just walk away when there’s obviously nothing but horror involved between Rachel and her mom? And if Rachel’s mother doesn’t want anyone else involved, why would she bring another doctor with in the first place?
  • The Suitress!
  • I do enjoy how the show keeps using Graham as a punching bag. “You’re not a woman, Graham!”
  • I also like how no one really seems to know how to pronounce Yael’s name correctly. The reveal that she is a reporter is hardly a surprise. But what happens to her non-disclosure agreement once she publishes this article?
  • Tiffany’s daddy issues = ew.
  • Quinn and John Booth’s baby conversation is so fast it reminds me of Janeane Garafalo and David Hyde Pierce’s overnight one in Wet Hot American Summer: “Baby, it’s happened! We’re pregnant!” She’s ragging on Coleman for only being around for two months, and Booth has been around for half that maybe?
  • I wouldn’t even put it past Coleman to hook up with Hot Rachel at this point.