‘UnREAL’ Season 2 Episode 2 Recap: “Insurgent”

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If last week’s premiere left any doubt that the second season of UnREAL will be even spunkier than the last, this week’s episode includes both a contestant in an “I can’t breathe” T-shirt and one in a Confederate flag bikini. So, how about we make a TV show?!

Rachel gets to work manipulating the contestants. First order of business: Convincing Beth Ann to wear the Confederate flag bikini she wore in an online photo. “That’s kind of a hometown thing,” she demurs when Rachel urges her to wear it. But Rachel outmaneuvers her, first accusing her of being ashamed of her heritage and then of being a coward. Then, Ruby spies the bikini and calls Beth Ann racist. Beth Ann protests, saying, “A lot of people have a real misunderstanding of what this flag is about…It doesn’t say, ‘Yay, slavery.'” She says the suitor will understand when they meet. Finally, Ruby blurts, out, “You dumb bitch, he’s black!”

Rachel tries to defend herself by telling Ruby that the bikini will give her “something to push against,” but Ruby is not having it. When Rachel asks Jay to talk to her, it backfires: Jay reveals that Rachel lied when she told Ruby the suitor had asked for her. When Ruby asks if she can trust Rachel, he says no: “You’re the angry black bitch,” he admits. “You’ll be gone in two episodes, three if you’re lucky.” He vows to help her win the show — “That’s revolutionary” — but only if she listens to him and not Rachel.

Quinn and Rachel try to engineer the bikini situation, bringing Beth Ann in at the last minute and having her remove her parka on camera in front of all the other women to reveal the racist swimwear underneath. But Ruby keeps her mouth shut; she’s playing a long game now. When the host finally brings out the suitor, though, Beth Ann takes one look at him and runs off camera. Then, Darius’s “entourage” joins him, and Quinn freaks out and yells “cut.” “I agreed to one black guy, but four is just beyond!” “I didn’t know there was a set amount,” Chet says.

The cameras cut, and Quinn explains that Chet doesn’t know anything about producing a show: He didn’t do background checks on the new people, and he blasted music, which you can’t edit around. Chet makes a bet: He challenges her to shoot her version of the show while he shoots his, then they’ll let Gary, the network president, decide which one to air. Quinn accepts, and even though she tells Jeremy that he owes his success to her — that he never would have risen through the ranks so quickly in Hollywood on anything but a reality show, which gives you some understanding of why people do these soulless jobs — he agrees to work with Chet. Later, he stirs up shit with Romeo (Gentry White), Darius’s cousin (he slept with Rachel in Vegas), telling him Rachel is crazy. I never liked Jeremy.

Rachel does damage control with Beth Ann, who, turns out, is a huge football fan in general and Darius Beck fan in particular. “I was not raised to be rude,” she says, crying in the bathroom. “Besides, I like Darius. I want him to like me. This is better than I ever thought the show could be.” “Racism is so confusing, isn’t it?” Rachel responds. She brings her to Darius, where Beth Ann apologizes for the bikini as Ruby looks on. “If what I’m wearing really offends you,” she says, “there’s only one thing I can do.” She takes off her bikini top; Darius valiantly takes off his dress shirt and puts it over her shoulders.

Ruby is fuming. She seeks out Jay and admonishes him, “I stood there like a good, quiet little Negro for you, but that shirt business was too much.” “He was just being a gentleman,” Jay protests. “He was being a pussy,” Ruby fires back. But Jay points out the only reason Darius is even on the show is to rehabilitate his image, which “that shirt business” will certainly help to do.

Meanwhile, Chet immediately tries to sabotage Quinn’s production, helping Tiffany (Kim Matula), the daughter of the man who owns Darius’s rival team, scheme to get herself eliminated; he knows she’s one of Quinn’s prized “wifeys,” and having met Darius, Tiffany assumes her father arranged for her to appear on the show behind her back, hoping to set her up with Darius so he can poach him for his team — and as she tells Rachel later, she has no interest in being a “football wife.” So, Chet hints, what’s the one thing a man doesn’t want his future wife to do?

We find out what he has in mind when Quinn and Rachel catch Tiffany giving Romeo a blow job on one of their camera feeds. “Chet is manipulating you,” Rachel scolds Romeo, pleading him not to tell Darius what happened. “And you’re not?” he shoots back. “As far as I can tell, everyone’s manipulating everybody.” But Rachel says her manipulation is for a good cause. “The girl is blonde, beautiful, rich, and white,” she says. “If a girl like that forgives you, America forgives you.”

The show’s new racial politics have Rachel all fired up. Watching Ruby confront Darius wearing an “I can’t breathe” T-shirt over her bikini top, Rachel exclaims, “This means something. This has a point of view.” But Quinn is less enthused: “I know you think you’re televising the revolution, but what we need right now are wet panties.”

Rachel tells Tiffany her father had nothing to do with her placement on the show. Then she performs her final act of manipulation, working the romance angle: She asks her to give Darius a chance, saying he’s a “good guy” and who knows, he might be the one! As it turns out, he really might be: Tiffany and Darius sit down to chat, and they actually have more chemistry than any other couple on the show. Sly move, UnREAL!

“This is the show,” Quinn instructs Rachel. “It takes an iron spine and a steady hand to do this job. Maybe your mother was right. We all know you’ve had episodes. You’re great, until you’re not.”

Quinn’s harsh words have an unintended effect, one that changes the entire direction of the show. Stung, Rachel goes to network president Gary’s house and informs him about Chet and Quinn’s bet. She says neither of them are capable of running the show, but she is.

Gary shows up just as Quinn and Chet are comparing highlight reels for their competing versions of Everlasting. “This train is off the rails,” he says, and introduces a whole new showrunner: Coleman Wasserman (Jane the Virgin‘s Michael Rady). Coleman’s first move is to choose Chet’s reel over Quinn’s. His second is to inform Rachel he knows she ratted out her bosses to the network head and tried to steal their jobs. “Didn’t exactly work out the way you wanted it to, because instead you got me,” he says. “This is gonna be fun.” KISS, ALREADY!