Two episodes in, Flesh and Bone is already double pirouetting down on what the premiere only implied: There’s something a little bit warped in Claire. She borrows Mia’s lipstick without asking and shamelessly kisses the bathroom mirror with it, like it isn’t enough just to disregard the unspoken rules of roommateship: She has to throw them into a bonfire and stomp on their ashes. Claire doesn’t care what Mia thinks of her; this is not America’s Next Top Best Friend. She only cares what Paul thinks. And people talking about baby birds. And if they won’t accept her, she’ll just go full-tilt crazy and use the blood from her own mangled toe as her lipstick — and then kiss the company mirror with that.
But if Claire has baggage — and she really, really does — it’s heavy for good reason. It’s the emotional equivalent of her actual suitcase, full not of clothes but of books. Her brother Bryan is possessive and abusive, and he’s on his way to find her. He even hurts (please tell me the poor man isn’t dead) his seatmate on the bus to New York when he gets too chummy, shoving him into a bathroom stall at a rest stop. Meanwhile, Paul’s expectations for his “little debutante” carry with them the implication that she’s going to have to sleep with whomever Paul chooses. Claire’s body is everyone’s property but her own. If she wants to take it back, it isn’t going to be pretty. What’s a little blood on the mirror to mark her turf? (To be clear, the blood is still creepy.)
Step 1 in Claire’s quest for independence is to get a new phone. She deliberately drops her old one on the pavement after talking to Bryan, then disconnects her number and starts fresh. Presumably her ringtone will not be “Yankee Doodle” this time. Claire puts on a brave face in class, dancing with confidence even though “her tits are two counts behind,” but her fellow company members cut her down. They won’t even let her talk about baby birds. She tears up at the barre when no one is looking.
In a post-Lipstick Incident world, Claire can’t even count on her roommate to have her back. The only person even sort of on her side is Daphne. Brousseau sends Claire an expensive pair of stilettos in the mail to replace the ones she broke; Claire offers them to Daphne — which is only fair; Claire did break her shoes — but Daphne tells her to keep them; everyone else is just jealous, anyway. Claire returns the favor by offering some pointers when Daphne can’t stop falling out of her turns.
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Mia gets her help elsewhere. She complains about Claire to Pasha (who massages her shoulders in what is either a platonic-best-friend way or a we’ve-had-casual-sex way; assume nothing at the American Ballet Company), and it’s starting to look like she might be the most-grounded character on this show. When he tells her to focus on the bigger picture, she sums up the fear of everyone who’s only ever felt they had one thing to offer: “It’s my picture, Pasha. It’s the only picture I’ve got.” Pasha may have made his peace with the fact that he’ll never be Beethoven, but Mia still believes that she can be ballet’s Beethoven, and she’s not letting anyone tell her that she can’t be. Even her solution is sane: She’s going to try harder.
Practical solutions are hard to come by in this environment; Kiira would rather deal with her problems by snorting cocaine and staging a coup. Paul wants to feature Kiira in a traditional Balanchine ballet and Claire in the “edgy modern” ballet he’s all set to commission from a hot new choreographer (if you’re not thinking about Cooper Nielson riding a motorcycle on stage, that makes one of us), but Kiira wants both. If he really wants to feature Claire, she can dance the lead on the second night, cutting down on the pressure and allowing the critics to feel like they “discovered” her. Stop making backstabbing sound so rational, Kiira.
NEXT: I have a feeling we’re not in Pittsburgh anymore