‘UnREAL’ Season 2 Episode 8 Recap: “Fugitive”


This episode was a hot mess, a goopy, under-baked cake with too much frosting. After a bizarrely rushed treatment of a Black Lives Matter storyline last week — a policeman shot Romeo, a direct result of Rachel’s misguided meddling — “Fugitive” brushes past it in favor of more melodrama and big revelations that somehow don’t land as hard as they should.

Revelation #1: Yael’s an undercover journalist. We knew something was up with Yael, a.k.a. Hot Rachel, from the start. Flirting with Jeremy led to hooking up with Jeremy, which led to Yael coaxing him to tell her what really happened on set last season — and secretly recording it on her phone. (Thanks for adding to the canon of slutty, unethical female journalists on TV, UnREAL!) When Coleman catches Yael snooping around his computer, she tells him the truth. She’s seen the footage of Romeo getting shot and wants the world to know the truth about Everlasting — and she wants Coleman to help her.

Revelation #2: Quinn wants to have a baby with John Booth. Last week, John dropped the bomb that he wants children; this week, after some prevarication (the show is my baby, etc.), Quinn agrees to try.

Revelation #3: Coleman’s in love with Rachel. At least, that’s what he tells her when he visits her in the mental hospital where her mother’s taken her. It doesn’t take very long for Rachel to agree to leave the hospital and head back to set with Coleman, telling him she loves him, too. But when they arrive back at his office (he’s technically fired as a producer but still gets an office and a paycheck until his contract runs out), he sits her down and points a camera at her. “Do this for us,” he says, encouraging her to spill Everlasting’s dark secrets. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.” When he starts asking about Mary, she eventually relents: “I can’t live with this any more. They should have just arrested us. Because we killed her.”

Revelation #4: It’s a big one. Rachel’s mom storms onto the set with a doctor, demanding her daughter return to the hospital. Rachel refuses, and is about to tell the doctor something when her mom backs off. In private, her mother warns ominously, “No one will love you if they find out.” Finally, Rachel tells Coleman that she was raped when she was 12 years old by one of her mother’s patients. Her mother didn’t want anyone finding out, so she began treating her herself.

Hoo-boy. That’s a lot of drama for one episode — too much. The discovery of Rachel’s rape should feel huge, because it is. But like most of the episode’s big reveals, it falls flat. I have a hard time buying that Rachel’s mother would irreparably damage her daughter like that just to cover her ass. I can’t imagine any mother doing something like that, and if UnREAL wants us to imagine that Rachel’s mother is capable of it, it’s going to have to give us a little more to work with. So far her mother has come off like a caricature, an evil “Mommy Dearest” cliché. Because the character is so underdeveloped, the revelation feels like something out of a bad Lifetime movie. I expect a little more nuance from UnREAL. And if you’re going to drop a bomb like that, at least make it the focus of the episode — something the show also failed to do with the Romeo plot last week.

Speaking of which, where is Romeo? We’re told he’s going to be ok, but we don’t see him, and we still don’t really know how Darius feels about his cousin and best friend being shot by a police officer for no good reason. We do find out that when Darius was taken to the hospital, he ended up having unsuccessful back surgery that basically sealed the coffin on his football career — as he tells Ruby when they have a clandestine meeting at a diner.

Denée Benton is excellent as usual in this episode. Darius sneaks out of the hospital to meet with Ruby. He says he wants to leave the show and be with her. She says, “Are you kidding?” She reminds him she told him she loved him on national television, and in return he “told the whole world that I was too demanding. That I was some kind of sassy, stuck-up bitch….You told the world that I’m not a love story.”

Then, Jay shows up — he was the only producer to think to call Ruby when Darius went missing from the hospital. After Ruby leaves, he convinces Darius to come back to the show. “Just because you’re a brother doesn’t mean you’re not part of the machine,” he says. His proposal for Darius: Marry Tiffany and become the first black owner of a pro football team. Darius objects — he doesn’t want to use Tiffany like that. But Ray points out, “Negro, please, you don’t think she’s using you, too?”

So Darius returns to set and rescues Tiffany from elimination — in his absence, the producers decided to let the remaining four women vote someone off, and that someone is of course Tiffany. He cuts Jameson (“You’re the cop, right?”) instead.

Finally, Rachel tells Coleman the truth about what happened to her. He stays with her, sleeping beside her on the floor of his office, but gets up in the night to meet Yael and agrees to help her expose the dark truth about Everlasting.

So when exactly did Darius get this back surgery? Why wasn’t that huge event a bigger part of the story? Why did he agree to come back to a show that put his best friend in serious danger? Why do we not see Romeo? Why does Jameson — a black cop — not have anything to say about the shooting? Why is Coleman working against Rachel if he supposedly loves her? Is he just using her? Is he that malicious? Why does Tiffany start making out with Chet, delivering the episode’s worst line: “You know I have major daddy issues”? Why does a supposedly feminist show feature a female journalist who uses her sex appeal to develop sources?

I am sad to report this train is still off the rails, and with only two more episodes to go, Season 2 is running out of track.