To quote the 2001 cinematic classic The Princess Diaries, “No longer does Mia stand for ‘Missing In Action.’” Claire’s roommate has been in dire need of more screen time since she revealed that she’s the kind of person who buys cookies just to stare at them, and it’s taken five weeks, but the aptly named “M.I.A.” finally throws the spotlight on Mia — on the show, if not on the actual stage.
On stage, Mia is still “just” a background member of the corps of the American Ballet Company (judgmental “just” brought to you courtesy of her equally judgmental mom). Now that her eating disorder is taking its toll on her body, it isn’t even clear how much longer that can last. A few weeks after the incident with her uncooperative hand, Mia wakes up to find that her vision has gone blurry in her right eye; she chooses to treat it with denial. As someone who learned that she needed glasses at a young age and then refused to wear them to ballet class, I can tell you: I don’t see this ending well for her.
Mia stumbles her way through class and blames her mistakes on food poisoning. (Ivana, who should write a book: “Go home with your Salmonella, your egg.”) Mia acts like it’s no big deal, but she’s worried, and so is our resident pianist-on-the-verge-of-blindness, Pasha. He tells her to see his ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist tells her to see a neurologist, just in case. That doesn’t sound good. And Mia doesn’t feel comfortable sharing any of this with her mother, who blows into town to shame her and sleep with guys, maybe even at the same time.
Hailing from the grand tradition of New Jersey TV moms, Lainey Bialy complains about the stairs to their walk-up apartment, calls Claire “the competish,” and tells her to be careful with her suitcase: “My Zales is in there!” (Imagine this show as a comedy.) Out at a bar, Lainey tells Mia to step up her act at ABC and then tries to pass off her daughter as her younger sister. Mia, whose eyesight returns along with her confidence, retaliates by flirting more successfully with the same group of men. (“Hello boys. How’s the Dow?”) She slips into the bathroom with one of them, but their tryst is interrupted when she flashes back to Bryan’s abuse. Traumatized, Mia orders the guy to get out and sinks to the floor in tears.
If she and Claire would just sit down and have a conversation, they might understand that they have this trauma in common. But Mia must still have some hope in humanity, because even with the worst she’s seen of Bryan, she still can’t imagine that he’d be capable of doing the same to his sister. Neither can Romeo, and he saw it happen. Who watches a man run his arms down his sister’s hips as she fights to get away and thinks, “Look at this protective sibling bond”? Another man, obviously. Some visionary Romeo is.
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Claire is still on her own, and no matter how often she claims to take care of herself, she wants someone to step in. She’s still holding on to the fantasy of The Velveteen Rabbit, which in her eyes is a kind of Cinderella story: She needs someone else’s love to make her real. (I can’t believe Claire just managed to turn The Velveteen Rabbit into something less than empowering.) Cam Miller, the Anastasia’s resident nice guy, wants to be that someone, so he invites Claire to join him at an office party. She accepts, and then, confidence at an all-time high, proceeds to slay a company photoshoot. Toni even releases Claire’s hair from its tightly bobby-pinned bun. It’s a metaphor!
But Cam’s attention may not be as singular as it seems — according to Sergei, Cam just “knows what he likes.” Then again, as much as I don’t trust our Nice Guy, I don’t trust Sergei, either. Fresh off his $250,000 contribution to ABC, the strip club owner is frustrated by the life of an anonymous donor. If he can’t go to the ballet, he’ll have to bring the ballet to him. Sergei asks Daphne and Claire to perform a few selections from Swan Lake at a private yacht party, but the party conflicts with Cam’s office event. Daphne gives Claire some tough love: “Honey, it’s not a date. You’re his escort.” Truth hurts.
NEXT: Pillow talk