Have Rachel and Quinn traded places? Not exactly — just yet, anyway — but this week’s episode provided some intriguing role reversal that shed new light on how both women operate.
The show has moved a little quickly getting Quinn to the “total mess” phase; last week, as she withstood more of those Crystal-Chet romantic antics and continued to battle pressure from Gary and the network, she suddenly turned to (very) heavy drinking and a general recklessness — read: having sex with a contestant — that more resembled her protégée. Things aren’t slowing down as “Clarity” begins, opening on her and August engaged in another hot, steamy session. “You must pick a contestant every season to have a fling with,” he guesses. She confesses he’s her first. Later, when she bumps into Rachel, she’s caught getting a bottle of cranberry juice delivered to her office. Rachel senses love in the air: “Who’s the guy?”
As for the business side of things, Quinn is taking a backseat to what her bosses want. Rather than trust her instincts and produce the show she believes in, she’s selling the candied fairy tale that rings hollow — “even for this show,” as she puts it. She’s reassigned Serena to Madison, getting Rachel and her talents out of the way, and is trying to sell a version of the show’s new suitor that’s not remotely authentic. Serena herself is stunned to see the way she’s positioned on OK Magazine, as “America’s Sweetheart,” and appears uncomfortable with the direction Everlasting is taking her. “It’s not really me,” she says. “I know that it’s me, but all of the nodding and the smiling — it’s not who I am.”
Quinn is nauseous at the premise for this week’s Everlasting episode: the men dressed up absurdly as knights, “battling” below a castle where Serena, dressed as Rapunzel, is trapped. “It’s like Game of Thrones puked up Snow White,” Quinn mutters to herself bitterly. But when Rachel enters the control room to complain about the premise, Quinn strikes a different tone: She tells her that advertising prospects are good, that Gary is happy, and that she can finally breathe without fear of cancellation.
Rachel threatened to leave the show last week, and Quinn seems to be goading her into doing so, removing her from positions of significance and keeping her out of the loop. It’s driving Rachel to the extreme, and she’s back to her machinations and manipulations before too long. She convinces Chet to go after his coveted “Emmy” by pushing more socially conscious, controversial content — she directs an interview he does with Owen, in which he gets the firefighter to admit to not being a feminist, among other soundbite-friendly things — and, acting on her suspicion, pushes August to connect with Serena in an effort to irk Quinn.
Serena, for her part, is having none of the princess/knight schtick. She says she can’t breathe in her dress and is annoyed by how little she gets to do, appearing helplessly captive from above. Madison instructs her to throw roses, half-heartedly encouraging her to fall in line, but it only frustrates Serena more. Before long she’s ripping off her dress, snapping “Get this patriarchal s— off,” and racing from the set. Madison evidently couldn’t get the job done. “Where the hell is Rachel?” Quinn yells to no one in particular.
Rachel ingeniously capitalizes on Serena’s irritation by setting her up with August. After witnessing Quinn scold August for merely speaking to her, it became obvious that something was up. She argues to Serena that August is perfect for her — empathetic, smart, and thoughtful in a way the other competing men aren’t. Serena is reluctant but agrees to a private date with him. As they watch from the control room, Quinn is irritated by the stunt, and only more so when it appears that the two are actually hitting it off. “I have to say: You’re not what I thought you’d be,” Serena says, endeared. Then August goes a little off script. He looks into the camera and reveals he wants her, a speech very much intended, in actuality, for Quinn. Rachel catches on. “He’s talking to you!” she says, stunned, to Quinn. “He’s your UTI?” (Recap continues on page 2)