The Arrangement premiere recap: 'Pilot'
There’s a good chance my mom isn’t gonna like The Arrangement. Not because she’s a Scientologist (she’s not) or because she doesn’t like a fun, splashy soap (who doesn’t?!), but because of the show’s similarities to Beauty and the Beast.
As Mom always points out, Beauty and the Beast has a pretty anti-feminist message. Not only does Belle have Stockholm Syndrome, but she spends all her energy trying to change her man. And if you’ve ever dated an alcoholic or a buffalo-lion-Beast (or if you’ve ever seen a Matthew McConaughey rom-com from the early aughts), you know you can’t change a man, girl! It doesn’t matter how many talking teacups he has! But there’s still some problematic wish fulfillment in trying, and therein lies the juicy, guilty pleasure of The Arrangement (E!’s sexy new scripted offering – part Hollywood fairy tale, part Hollywood cautionary tale – which, for the record, is definitely NOT about Scientology and the arranged marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes).
So let’s start with The Beast. When we meet Tom Cruise Kyle West (Josh Henderson), he’s at the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We know right away that Kyle is an A-list movie star because he wears flashy blazers over tight-fitting t-shirts.
Kyle is introduced by David Miscavige Terence Anderson (Michael Vartan), head of Scientology The Institute of the Higher Mind, flanked by his wife
Shelly Miscavige Deann (Lexa Doig). Deann’s character doesn’t exactly leap off the screen, but her presence does raise a few important questions: Is Deann comfortable with the fact that her name is clearly missing a letter? Also, where is Shelly Miscavige? And hey, while we’re at it, where is Leah Remini? If she hasn’t been offered a cameo on The Arrangement at some point this season, what are any of us even doing with our lives? (Also: Leah Remini does not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Neither does Carrie Fisher. And we all just have to sit with that.)
In an E! News report (a fun cross-branding opportunity that conveniently knocks out some exposition), we learn that Kyle and Nicole Kidman Lisbeth Graves are expected to cross paths at the upcoming Venice Film Festival for the first time since she called off their wedding last summer. We also learn that Kyle’s new movie is called AWOL, in which (according to the poster) he plays a hot priest who’s fighting a war and has great highlights.
And finally we meet our Beauty, our Belle, our Katie Holmes, Megan Morrison. She’s late for her audition – for a Kyle West movie – but first she’s gotta drop off these desserts at her waitress job! She charms her customers, rushes to her audition, and chats with fellow actresses in the waiting room. (This would be the “Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!” sequence. There must be more than this provincial life, right?)
Back at his estate, Kyle goes for an intense run in his Lululemons. Here is where we meet one of the pilot’s most pivotal characters: the goat. That’s right: Kyle’s jog is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a strange goat. He stops and looks at it: What’s this goat doing here? Then a groundskeeper type appears with more goats, explaining that they needed them because Kyle wanted his property to be more eco-friendly, or something. Kyle watches pensively as they all baa and stumble away. Hmmm. Goats…
At her audition for the Kyle West movie, Megan is asked “The Three Imperatives,” clearly some kind of screening method for the Institute. Meanwhile, Kyle, Terence and Deann watch the audition remotely. This way, they can evaluate her talent, but more importantly her suitability for Kyle (and the Institute). Here are The Three Imperatives, with Megan’s answers versus my own:
1. If you could have anyone else’s life, whose would it be? Her answer: Amelia Earhart. (Ugh.) My answer: Courteney Cox. (So I could be best friends with Jen Aniston!)
2. What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done? Her answer: hitchhiking from Hoboken to Virginia Beach. (Sounds dangerous!) My answer: visiting my friend here in L.A. who literally lives on L. Ron Hubbard Way. Terrifying!
3. What’s your greatest fear? Her answer: maximum-security prison. My answer: being buried alive! (That, or getting sued for writing these recaps.)
Terence and Deann aren’t impressed with Megan’s answers. Kyle disagrees; he likes this girl. (Maybe he wants to be Amelia Earhart, too?)
NEXT: The saddest pool party
After the audition, Megan gets dumped by her boyfriend (a rocker dude who’s been cheating on her with a mentally ill groupie), so her gal pals console her by inviting some male models over to party. They get drunk and French kiss each other, and Megan cries in the pool. In the morning, she’s jolted awake by a call from her agent, alerting Megan that she’s got a callback for the Kyle West movie. In two hours! But Megan is super hungover! Argh!
Back at his chambers, Kyle steps out of the shower (possibly still reflecting on his moment with the goats) and his cute male assistant hands him a towel. Every interaction between Kyle and his assistant seems weirdly sexual; it’s all up-close conversations and lingering eye contact. But just when you’re wondering if they have some kind of down-low relationship (which might explain the need for an Arrangement), we cut to Kyle with his current side-piece, a vaguely European blonde named Sophie. Kyle and Sophie are having some kind of therapy/auditing session, but she decides to cut it short and give him a bl– job. This is apparently part of the process at the Institute. Cool!
At the callbacks, Kyle is unhappy with all the actresses. He throws a tantrum and starts yelling ABOUT HIS GOATS and how he just needs someone human! Enter Megan, who nails the audition so hard that Kyle chases her down afterward. She’s remarkably poised for a struggling waitress who’s talking to a movie star while fighting off a brutal hangover. And when Kyle invites her to go for a quick jaunt on his private jet to an island he’s thinking of buying in Mexico (I’m simply reporting the sequence of events here), she agrees. Why not?!
On Kyle’s private Mexican island, they cavort and lovemake, and when Megan reenacts a “hip-hop tribute to Shakespeare” she wrote in high school, you can just see it in Kyle’s eyes: He’s falling for her!
Back in L.A., Megan is on set for a random TV role when her agent Leslie rushes in with news: Megan has been offered a $10 million contract to be Kyle’s wife! Megan is confused: Sure, they had fun during their date on Kyle’s private Mexican island, but they just met two days ago! Her agent tells her to just take it. (Her agent’s energy is very “no nonsense,” by the way. Unexpected!)
Megan meets up with Kyle to ask him WTF. And his explanation is simple: “It’s about my brand!” But he also insists that he’s never felt this way before and that she should totally come to Venice with him. Megan laughs at his jet-setting lifestyle: “Don’t you ever just chill and go to the zoo?” But he’s made a pretty compelling argument, so she agrees to think it over.
Megan’s lawyer friend looks over the contracts and weigh the pros and cons of Kyle’s offer. On one hand, it’s basically indentured slavery. But on the other hand, Kyle gave Megan three orgasms the other night! (“Almost four,” she says with a giggle.) Megan’s lawyer friend gives her an ominous warning: Kyle is expecting her to be the perfect wife, but they both know she hasn’t always been perfect. (You guys, what did she doooo?!) Seems like Megan has a LOT of soul searching to do before she makes this decision.
In the next scene, Megan has apparently made her decision. She steps out of her car in front of Kyle’s house, greeting her new fiancé and his Svengali Terence. She checks out her new digs (not too shabby!) and sits down for a romantic contract-signing ceremony. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, y’all!
Meanwhile, Deann meets with a mysterious new recruit (fresh blood!) we’ll learn more about next week. Some other questions for next week: What’s the shady thing from the past that Megan is hiding? And what exactly is up with Deann’s name? (Did the Institute make her drop the “a” when she joined?) And what is the symbolism of the goat?! Also, will there be couch jumping? And where oh where is Leah Remini?)
There are nine episodes left. That’s nine more opportunities for a Leah Remini cameo. Now that’s an Arrangement I can get behind!