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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

UnREAL crosses yet another unfortunate line

Illustration for article titled UnREAL crosses yet another unfortunate line
Photo: Bettina Strauss (Lifetime)

I have been asking around and looking around for an overall take on this UnREAL season. The general gist seems to be that this season is not as bad as season two, but not as good as season one. In fact, this is one of the first officially “off” episodes of the season, wherein Quinn is so straight-up annoying that I would also like to see her head on a platter. I now want the season to end with her sobbing in a corner, her projected dynasty in dust all around her. Most of all, I never want to hear her say “RA-chel” ever, ever again.


She’s not the only person who straight-up fucks up this episode. Rachel seems like an reasonably intelligent person, especially savvy about the show, so how does she do a 180 turnaround from “Oh, we’re going to create the perfect Colorado family” to “Oh my god, we must get Serena away from this little girl immediately”? There are like five million things wrong with this particular episode, and this is one of the major problems. Why does Rachel turn on her dream family idea so immediately? Is it because how strongly Riley takes to Serena at first?

At any rate, we can get mad at Serena and Rachel for toying with a child’s emotions on a television show, but really should save all of our wrath for Quinn, who terrifies said child by procuring her ultimate fear, insists on a camera shot of her urine-soaked pants, and then doesn’t even offer as much as a shrug and a “my bad” when the child is nearly killed by running straight into traffic as a consequence of her actions. In fact, Quinn even straight up crows about how her evil scheme has somehow melded this makeshift family for the camera, not just traumas that will take the 6-year-old girl years to get over, dredging up feelings in Serena she can’t ultimately fulfill, future high levels of guilt on all sides, etc., etc. It’s such a straight-up mess that it’s hard to believe that no one even considered the child’s feelings before trucking everyone out to Colorado. Owen’s initial reaction was absolutely correct: None of them should have been there in the first place.

None of the other storylines are great either: August and Zach and Jasper dig a hole. Alexi is dragging Jay into a downward spiral. After what appears to be a single date, Jeremy now has a girlfriend, who is at least cognizant enough to recognize that her new boyfriend is obsessed with his ex. But the whole thing is ridiculous regardless because Jeremy is a murderer and his love life should really be the last of his problems. Get it together, show, and deal with this double-murder leftover from season two.

So when Gary hits up Chet at the end of the episode to get him to go after Quinn—after Chet just lost his chance of visitation with his son because he dared suggest that Quinn might not be mother material—it’s difficult not to get on their side immediately. Motherhood, after all, appears to be the theme of the entire episode: Serena is a mother for a weekend, Rachel brings up her issues multiple times, as does Quinn. But Quinn is Rachel’s makeshift mother figure, who appears to be letting her down in favor of ratings and a story arc and a young girl that is apparently going to have a lot to get over. Then Rachel ends the episode by finding out that her father has left the pricy facility she put him in to go back to her mother, which means she’s out a set of parents and $50,000. A full-on breakdown appears imminent. And Quinn appears to be the answer to this hypothetical career question: Can you be truly happy if all you have is professional success? With no real emotional attachments at all?

So what’s the difference, overall, between these three seasons? Yes, I know all television shouldn’t be made of up of wholly likable characters—then we wouldn’t have Mad Men or Breaking Bad, or even Roseanne, for that matter. But in season one we at least seemed to have relationships we could root for. Adam and Rachel sincerely seemed to want to help Faith come out. And their own chemistry-laden romance was a definite draw.


This season there are still no real relationships tying anyone together. Rachel and Quinn have their own fucked-up dynamic. Jay and Alexi are bound by drugs and sex. But is there anyone on Everlasting that we think Serena should actually be with? If it was an actual show, would we even be watching? Ousted Zach puts it together quite well when he calls out the remaining suitors as “Australian douche, Russian douche, British douche, it’s like the United Nations of douche up here.” (The only time I liked Quinn all episode is when she adds, “He’s not wrong.” Also liked her black-and-white cutout dress. That’s it.) There’s no palpable chemistry between Serena and any of the guys, as she appears to calculate constantly in her internal balance sheet who is possible husband material. I like the idea of the female suitor and some other things about this season (offering a hunky hose session to offset the multitude of bikini pool shots, as Madison points out, for example). But UnREAL still seems to be missing the heart that existed in season one—which, even in a show merely based on a reality series about romance, is a significant omission.

Stray observations

  • Do we really need to kick off the show with Jasper whacking off?
  • I like how Graham just has costuming at the ready. Like a pith helmet for the hole-dogging. I also enjoy how Serena keeps cutting him off in front of the camera.
  • According to the promo pics, there was a cut scene of Serena confiding in Zach that played up that whole “just a friend, not a lover” thing.
  • Classic line from Rachel to Quinn: “After everything that’s happened on this show?”
  • There are so many anvil-ish references to Quinn’s mother this episode, she’s bound to show up eventually. Any guesses on casting?

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.