When it comes to the dynamics of the show-within-a-show, this season of UnREAL hasn’t lived up to the first, even with — especially with — the built-in drama of Everlasting‘s first black bachelor. The show is hovering a little too close to the territory it aims to critique: An episode that promised a showdown between Darius and Beth Ann’s Southern-fried family faltered, using that drama mainly to illuminate Rachel’s issues.
“Casualty” is Shiri Appleby’s directorial debut, and her performance as Rachel deals with the trauma of Jeremy’s abuse is the episode’s greatest strength. It’s “home date” week on Everlasting, and Rachel convinces Darius to pick Beth Ann. Darius isn’t thrilled at the prospect of heading down south with “miss fried chicken and watermelon” but a slightly hysterical Rachel convinces him that a date with Chantal, his choice, would be a snooze. But a black man going down to Alabama to meet his white, Confederate-flag-bikini-wearing date’s family? That’s a ratings bonanza.
But, to Rachel’s dismay, Beth Ann’s family is excited to meet Darius. “Where’s the drunk uncle, where’s the KKK?” Rachel asks Coleman, who’s come along to produce the segment despite Rachel’s initial protests. He doesn’t know what happened between her and Jeremy just hours earlier, but her increasingly manic behavior on set makes clear something’s off.
It’s sometimes hard to tell if Rachel’s off the rails or just acting for the sake of producing a juicy scene, a balancing act that Appleby performs beautifully. When Beth Ann tells Rachel she’s pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby, Rachel starts feeding her fantasies about raising the child with Darius. She convinces her to tell her family and Darius about the pregnancy on camera, appearing a little too excited at the prospect.
Meanwhile, Quinn finds out what happened with Jeremy and calls Coleman, telling him to bring her back. “Right now she’s backed into a corner, chewing on her fingers like they’re Twinkies, eyes blazing, talking as if her words are gonna save the world,” Quinn accurately predicts. But when he confronts her, Rachel insists she’s fine. “I’m producing a show with this pregnant racist chick, this is like manna from heaven,” she rasps. Coleman tells Beth Ann she doesn’t have to do anything she’s not comfortable with, but the poor thing trusts Rachel.
Big mistake. Huge. Just as Beth Ann is announcing her pregnancy, Rachel brings out Brock, her burly, longhaired ex-boyfriend, and gives him a ring with which to propose to Beth Ann: “We think of everything!” But when Beth Ann says she doesn’t know whose baby it is and that she loves Darius, Brock flips out and tries to attack Darius (“Pump the breaks, pump the breaks!” Darius pleads). Then her father aims a gun at Brock and tells him to leave. Rachel jumps on Coleman and kisses him, all hot and bothered by the scene she’s orchestrated.
I suppose it’s nice that Beth Ann’s family wasn’t drawn as a series of cartoonishly racist Southerners. But what the hell was the point of Beth Ann parading around in that Confederate flag bikini if nothing was going to come of it? During the elimination ceremony, she apologizes and admits Darius never touched her, but they can still raise a family together. Uh, what?! We haven’t gotten to know Beth Ann well enough to really understand where this is all coming from. The baby drama popped up out of nowhere, and served only to make the character seem more like a caricature of a “crazy bitch” who latches onto poor Darius and comes on way too strong. Needless to say, she’s eliminated.
Speaking of popping up out of nowhere, Quinn is infatuated with billionaire John Booth, who takes her on a romantic first date to her father’s funeral. He seems to want to give her the full princess treatment, offering to whisk her away to one of the islands he owns in the Caribbean. But she’s called back to set to deal with Rachel, the most important person in her life, whether she’ll admit it or not.
She confronts Jeremy, who tries to defend himself by saying Rachel attacked him first. “She’s 5’2 Jeremy, no excuse, ever,” Quinn responds. When Jeremy tells her to “wake up” and realize that Rachel stole her show, she grabs him by the balls. “Next time, I’m cutting them off. Now get out and don’t come back.”
Finally, Rachel decides against calling the police on Jeremy, for the good of the show, and deletes the pictures she had taken of her bruised arm. After all that, Coleman seems even more invested in his relationship with Rachel. He wants to save her, to take her away from the seamy set of Everlasting. “I see who you are, Rachel,” he says. “And who you can be. I am taking you out of here at the end of this season whether Quinn likes it or not.” Then he goes down on her while the camera stays on her face.
But Quinn, ever the producer, is intent on getting rid of Coleman, telling Chet he’s a “cancer” that they need to cut out. And who’s the one person who might get between these two lovebirds? A certain British heir, of course: The episode ends with Adam stepping out of a car and striding onto the Everlasting set. Here’s hoping his reappearance isn’t just one more ingredient hastily tossed into the slightly overstuffed casserole of Season 2.