The strip club run by the mobster has a seedy underbelly. Who's surprised?
Credit: Myles Aronowitz/Starz
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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

Disillusioned, Claire calls off the not-date (or just doesn’t show), leaves Bryan a voice mail — because when Claire falls, she falls hard — and joins Daphne to give some Russian mobsters the best Swan Lake of their lives. Guess which one of them plays the Black Swan. Daphne looks on as Claire earns rave reviews for her take on the White Swan, then pays her fellow dancer a genuine compliment. (“Following you is like following Glastnost.”) Claire promptly heads below deck. Hello, Claire? That’s not how you support your friend while she nails her fouettés.

Claire is met below deck by a shirtless, tattooed mobster who looks at her like his next meal. “Not the ballerinas,” insists bodyguard Teddy, ushering Claire into a cabin and away from the sound of a girl crying her way through a rape in the room next door. Young girls in plain leotards, looking uncomfortable and scared, roam the ship with champagne flutes. When Teddy turns his back, one of the girls shows Claire a branding on her arm, then slips a piece of paper into her hand and begs, “Tell my family where I am.”

You may be thinking, “Flesh and Bone is not a show equipped to deal with the serious issue of child trafficking; remember when someone said ‘competish’ earlier?” And you’re right, but here we all are. Claire isn’t equipped either; when she notices that the girl doesn’t leave the boat with everyone else, she asks Sergei what happened. Sergei is not the proper authority to alert in this situation. “There are many girls, Angel,” he shrugs. “Who can keep track of them all?” He then somehow finds a way to unzip her duffel and steal the paper from her toe shoe when she’s not looking, leaving Claire without a lead to follow.

Closer to home, Ross isn’t happy that refusing Paul’s sexual advances cost him the lead in Rubies. He takes out his resentment on new lead Trey, who doesn’t understand why his friend can’t just be happy for him — until he figures out what actually went down. But like Claire, Trey doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “proper authorities,” so he takes his concerns directly to Paul. Bouquet of lilies in hand, he blackmails the artistic director; either Paul makes a public announcement that Trey is the permanent lead, or Trey takes this to another (hopefully more proper) authority. It’s a frustratingly selfish response from someone who claims to be Ross’ good friend, but he does get in a few good digs.

By this point, Paul’s reality is so out of step from everyone else’s that it’s no surprise when Trey’s threats barely register with him. Paul’s biggest problem is a literal dump on his pillow. He goes out for a night of clubbing with Eduardo; they have sex, and Eduardo calls him beautiful, whispering that he’s seen who Paul really is. That’s way too many real, scary emotions for Paul to deal with, so he leaves money on his pillow to send a message that this doesn’t mean anything to him. But the money sends Eduardo an additional message: This pillow is for things that are crap. Thus concludes Paul’s biggest problem of the day.

At least Daphne nailed her fouettés.

Second positions:

  • I kind of wanted to see the fouettés.
  • Are we invested in Jessica’s family drama yet?
  • “Farmer and the dell over there.”
  • I realize that there is a leopard at the party, but why would Kiira waste her time getting high in a Brooklyn warehouse when she has a sweater-wearing husband whose No. 1 priority is hot chocolate?
  • “I’m left out in cold like shabby child with nose pressed up against glass of bakery longing for single bite.”
  • “You know my family?” “I’m f—ing with you.”
  • “Mia Bialy, of the Jersey Bialys. Exit 15 off the turnpike.”

Episode Recaps

Flesh and Bone
Starz mini-series 2015
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