The women of 'UnREAL' take action and score some decisive victories

By David Canfield
March 26, 2018 at 11:02 PM EDT
Bettina Strauss/Lifetime
S3 E5
B
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  • TV Show
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The women of UnREAL are taking decisive action. This week, in “Gestalt,” both Rachel and Quinn are able to turn the tables in situations where it felt like they were increasingly being backed into a corner — for Quinn, a professional one, and for Rachel, a psychotraumatic one.

Rachel is still reeling from her confrontation with the man who sexually abused her as a child. She calls her mother, who we learn facilitated the grossly inappropriate encounter, but Rachel isn’t exactly interested in rehashing history with the woman she believes to be “a monster” — she wants to speak to her father. Her mother says he’s unavailable, unfortunately, to which Rachel accuses her of keeping him “drugged up” and out of sight. She doesn’t get to speak to him.

Rachel then asks Quinn for a day off, presumably to get to her father directly, but Quinn turns her down. Quinn knows that Rachel’s having a tough time — she even takes Dr. Simon off Rachel’s case, snapping at him, “She climbed into my lap last night — and we don’t touch each other” — but needs Rachel to run point on Everlasting while she heads out to pitch Jay’s show Passport to Dance. And Quinn also has August to deal with. It’s become clear to everyone involved that Serena knows about his alliance with Quinn, and August feels the heat. He threatens Quinn with a sexual harassment tease, to which she declares war. “We have to destroy August,” she tells Rachel. “We do not negotiate with terrorists.”

With Quinn out, that leaves Rachel to the sabotaging. In the latest cheesy Everlasting bit, Serena and the men have been thrown into “nature” where, at the end of a series of tasks, she’ll need to choose the man she can “trust” the most to protect her, and spend the night with him. Of course, last week we saw Serena and Jasper heating up, so that’s where the safe bet lies. But Rachel, Serena, and Quinn all have an interest in making August disappear — that’s the primary goal of today’s adventure. Rachel strings together a devious little plot: She hires a woman off of Craigslist named Pam to pose as a park ranger, and then after all is said and done — Serena, unsurprisingly, picks Jasper (to tree-chopping Owen’s chagrin) — Pam takes August around back to “help” her with something. Next thing we know: Rachel guides Serena, the men, and the cameras to catch Pam undressing for August, with August berating her. Everyone sees it. Serena chews August out, satisfied, and needless to say, he’s humiliated.

If things are going according to plan on set, however, this is most definitely not true at the network’s headquarters. Quinn and Jay sit, endlessly, waiting for their pitch meeting, and only after being kept for far too long are they informed that Gary won’t have time to meet with them. Quinn is enraged and says she’s shutting down Everlasting, effective immediately. “There’s some s–t I will not eat,” she makes clear to Gary’s secretary.

Quinn returns to set, unplugging every cable from the control room and demanding that production entirely shut down. The men are confined to their rooms. Gary calls Madison, apoplectic, and asks her to make a list of people “loyal” to Quinn so he can fire them immediately. Last we saw Madison was on the fence about maintaining her allegiance to Gary; Quinn had made a decent case for why she was hitching herself to the wrong wagon. Now it’s decision time. Madison could bring Quinn down, and hopefully rise in her absence with Gary’s backing, or turn on the man she’s been using to get ahead. “You’re a snake,” Quinn says to her, desperate if also impressed. She asks for some of her venom.

After speaking with Gary — who denies her the Everlasting showrunner job and doesn’t even remember the name of her pilot — Madison makes her choice: She goes with Quinn. Madison tells her she snagged Gary’s email password, fully aware Gary will kill her pilot in response to the betrayal, and shows Quinn what she found. Quinn calls it “the motherload” and “so, so bad.” 

With the show temporarily shut down, Quinn grants Rachel the night off (as long as she keeps her phone on), and Rachel indeed heads to her parents’ home. After watching her mom leave by car, Rachel heads to the front door and is greeted enthusiastically by her father. But she cuts to the chase about why she’s there, and he’s honest with her, confirming he beat up the man who abused Rachel and admitting he didn’t call the cops on her mother’s advice. (“She’s a sociopath,” Rachel reasons.) “I knew I had failed as a father,” he continues. “I found myself on the top of a bridge looking down.” He says Rachel’s mother saved him from taking his own life, and that she’s kept him “drugged up” by necessity — an explanation Rachel flat-out rejects.

She decides to take him with her to the Everlasting set. Her mother catches them on their way out, crying and begging for Rachel to leave him. “Just getting my father away from his jailer,” Rachel responds. “This ends today.” This, coupled with Dr. Simon’s conversation with Jeremy about Rachel — in which Jeremy introduces the good, suspicious doctor to “the Rachel vortex” — takes up too much icky space in an episode stocked with solid character development. Rachel’s storyline is hewing toward the bizarre and the disturbing, well beyond UnREAL’s sweet-spot of soap and social commentary. It’s getting to be a little much.

Fortunately, we have Quinn, whose material this season remains aces. Turns out Madison had proof that Gary was keeping $18 million away from Chet and Quinn, in international Everlasting profits, to cover for his losses from his lesser shows. In front of everybody — seriously, even the Everlasting contestants get to watch the mayhem for some reason — Quinn reveals his deceit and threatens to expose him if he doesn’t give her exactly what she wants: a prime-time slot for Passport to Dance, four more shows in development by the end of the year, and no more pressure to run Everlasting according to his desires.

Gary agrees to everything and leaves, shrunken. It’s simply galvanizing to see Quinn finally get a big win — even as she can be tart and talk a big game, UnREAL has handed her a lot of defeats over two-plus seasons, and this feels richly deserved. She even gets to stand up to Chet, who comes back to her, wailing like a dog, trying to win her heart yet again. Quinn turns him down; he says he’s been missing her for a long time, and she says she knows. “But you chose easy,” she adds, in a beautifully underplayed moment by Constance Zimmer.

Quinn’s high won’t last too long, though, as trouble lurks back on Everlasting. For one thing, Jasper and Serena are sneaking off together in the dark of the night, seemingly connecting on a deep level. But then there’s the matter of Jasper’s bet — the fact that he was only there, originally, to win $400,000 in exchange for being the first to sleep with Serena. He won’t be, as that honor goes to the jockey, but he doesn’t know that. It’s valuable information for August, who had previously been in the dark. Owen informs him of the news, and August weaponizes it. Indeed: Serena and Jasper have a lovely night together, but the next day, August tells her the truth about her new love interest — and she’s heartbroken.

At the elimination ceremony, Serena throws decorum out the window. She cuts the procedure off midway and glares at Jasper. “From this moment forward, the only rules are the rules that I make,” she declares. Serena then reveals she won’t be cutting anyone and storms off set. Jasper tries catching up with her, to which she informs him she’s aware of the bet — and that he didn’t win it, anyway. Jasper appears both saddened and humiliated — it’s hard to gauge how real his feelings for Serena were, but now that the bet’s boot, I suspect that will come into clearer focus in the coming weeks.

Quinn wants to celebrate. With Rachel back — and her father in her trailer, being watched by Dr. Simon (um, great idea!) — the Everlasting crew holds a little champagne-popping soiree for Jay’s first pickup. Quinn suggests they celebrate at a club, but both Rachel and Jay are preoccupied — Rachel with her father, Jay with the late dinner his boyfriend cooked for him. Only Madison is game. Quinn says she’d rather not go with her, but still gets the name of the club so she can hit up a hot spot on her own. She runs into an old friend, Fiona (played by Tracie Thoms), who asks Quinn why she isn’t living large after the enormous ($9 million to be exact) bonus she just won herself. Amid the lights and thumping music of the club, Quinn smiles, genuinely happy, but still a little unsure. She tells Fiona she doesn’t know what to do with it just yet. They cheer “to $9 million.”

Alas, it’s back to darker, less interesting matters before long. Jay’s simple domestic life with Xavier appears on the verge of being upended, as he’s being increasingly sucked into a bizarre transactional relationship with Alexei — at this point, Jay is trading cocaine for b–w jobs, which feels like a rather abrupt development. And Rachel, of course, has just shipped her father to the Everlasting set with no plan of what to do from there. She suggests she bring him to Oregon with her after the season, in a state of bliss with her father “rescued” from her wretched mother. But she’s in a state of delusion. She’s carelessly weaning her father off lithium — she thinks his depression is “situational,” which is maybe wrong and is beside the point, given the severity of his medication — and, more dramatically, is being spied on by Dr. Simon. Yes, while Simon was meddling and then watching Rachel’s father, he installed a camera in Rachel’s trailer so he could have 24/7 access to whatever goes on in there. This can’t be good.

The Lifetime drama—created by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and featuring Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer—explores the dark behind-the-scenes nature of a reality dating show (which is very clearly mirrored after The Bachelor).
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  • 06/01/15-07/16/18
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