If nothing else, “F.U.B.A.R.” wins for best title card. Before now, each episode of Flesh and Bone has opened with a straightforward definition of its name — even when everyone already knows what it means. (I think we’re all pretty solid on “reconnaissance.”) “F.U.B.A.R.” takes the exact opposite approach. “Military acronym,” it says, because drunk kindergarteners are totally fine, but writing out a four-letter word that its own characters use all the time is just going too far. You want to know what the acronym stands for? Google it yourselves, kids. We’re on episode 6 now. You’re either in or you’re out.
If only the rest of this show were so tongue in cheek — or, more importantly, if only it had a better sense of what is and is not appropriate. There’s a stark, tense sequence early in the hour when Paul, in his holiday dark place, forces everyone to stay late on the last class day before Thanksgiving, performing the same sequence again and again. Their trains leave the station without them. They all miss their flights. He fires Mona for no good reason. “Again,” he repeats. They’re all doubled over. He smashes a chair. He takes away their music, keeping time with the cold metal pieces of the chair that he smashed. “Again.” By the time Paul is done, he’s left more than a few of them in tears.
This is what Flesh and Bone should be doing more of. It’s a painful scene, and it works not only for the physical strain on the dancers but for its emotional toll, which you don’t have to dance to understand. The first thing Paul does is invite the dancers to leave if they have somewhere to be, a passive-aggressive offer meant only to activate their guilt complexes — but Kiira wastes no time planting a kiss on Paul’s cheek and waltzing out. We’ve all known some variation of this double standard: Some people breeze by, while others make themselves sick for praise that never comes.
The emotional “terrorism,” as Ross calls it, of the American Ballet Company is more than enough drama on its own, but Flesh and Bone just keeps piling new kinds of dysfunction onto its Thanksgiving dinner plate. Despite the fact that her relationship with her brother is anything but healthy, Claire has been worrying about him lately, so she books a flight home that she somehow manages to catch even after Paul’s tirade. Her life back in Pittsburgh (“Steeltown? Yikes”) turns out to be every bit as dark as expected: Her dad spends all day in his armchair, berating everyone around him. Right now, that’s Bryan.
There is no excuse for everything Bryan has done, but meeting the eldest Robbins gives context to Bryan’s anger issues. In this house, Claire and Bryan have the support of no one but each other. As far as their ailing father is concerned, they’re here to serve him — and while he seems a bit soft on his daughter, he’s got no love at all for his son. Claire accuses him of sending Bryan to war in the hopes that he’d be killed. Then again, by that point, Claire would have been pregnant with her own brother’s child, so if their dad only turned on Bryan after that came to light, he might be the one voice of reason in the building.
You’re not on Kiira’s drugs: Claire actually did have Bryan’s baby. That clears up the “family issue” that kept her out of the spotlight for a couple of years. She doesn’t want to talk about it, but she does go to Bryan’s room in the middle of the night. They have sex; I just keep trying to remind myself that the actors aren’t related. As Claire leaves, she pulls a hospital bracelet from her pocket and tells her brother that they had a girl. “They said she was beautiful,” she says, which either means that she couldn’t handle looking at her daughter before giving her away, or she’d just lost touch with beauty in all forms by that point. Claire stuffs the hospital bracelet in her father’s mouth and bounces. That’s one way to make an exit.
NEXT: It’s my party, and I’ll manipulate if I want to