Last week, UnREAL failed to reckon with the previous episode’s Big Event: A police officer shooting an unarmed Romeo. This week, the show makes the same mistake, blowing past Rachel’s revelation that she was raped by one of her mother’s psychiatric patients when she was 12 years old. Instead, “Espionage” focuses on the “love triangle” between Quinn, Rachel, and Coleman, who’s dead set on exposing Everlasting’s deepest secret: Mary’s death.
With only one more episode to go in the season, UnREAL is in rough shape. “Espionage” demonstrates a key problem: How are we supposed to be invested in characters and storylines that the show itself clearly is not?
The episode ends with Quinn and Rachel determined to take down Coleman to cover their asses. But the show is so obviously enamored with its two leads that it’s failed to flesh out the other characters. As a result, nine episodes into the series, their motivations are mystifying. At first I was intrigued by Tiffany, who had more chemistry with Darius than any other contestant despite her initial disappointment at the thought of dating a football player. But then the show threw her under the bus by having her engage in a baffling fling with Chet, of all people. (This week’s grossest line: “You want a taste?” she asks him, before he goes down on her.)
It’s also unclear just what Darius wants at this point. He decides the final two will be Yael and Tiffany, but tells Jay that he doesn’t want to humiliate Chantal on national television: “Black women all over America are going to hate me if I cut Chantal for Tiffany.” No doy, Darius! You just thought of that now? Didn’t seem to bother you last week when you decided Tiffany would be The One. Plus, if you didn’t want black women all over America to hate you, why’d you cut Ruby? Not that she’s mentioned at all in this episode, even though Darius told her just last week that he wanted to leave the show and be with her. And if you thought we might find out how Romeo’s doing, think again — Darius seems to have forgotten about him as quickly as the show has.
Since deciding to have a baby with her new boyfriend approximately twelve minutes ago, Quinn’s already been to the doctor to find out if she can have children. Have she and John Booth even told each other “I love you”? Already they’re making doctors appointments? They met five episodes ago! When Quinn gets a call at the end of the episode (sure, doctors call patients with results late at night, after they’ve seen them earlier that same day) and finds out she can’t have children, it should be heartbreaking. Constance Zimmer’s performance is affecting as Quinn lashes out at John and tells him to get out of her life: “I know who you are. A guy who gets anything he wants. And I won’t be anybody’s disappointment.” But we just don’t know John well enough to truly care about this relationship. Hell, this isn’t a relationship; it’s a plot device.
Speaking of which, Coleman and Yael are an item now, because we needed another reason to hate Hot Rachel, I guess. First Jeremy, now Coleman; why is Yael so hell-bent on stealing Rachel’s men? It’s disappointing that the show seems uninterested in critiquing the idea of the hot, man-stealing bitch; instead, it’s indulging in that gross stereotype. When Madison spies Yael kissing Coleman, she tells Rachel, who decides to get her revenge the best way she knows how: By producing the shit out of Yael. Literally.
We know something’s up when Rachel swaps Yael’s blue dress for a white one; then the camera lingers over Yael eating a metric ton of sushi on a dinner date with Darius. When her stomach starts audibly grumbling, it’s countdown to diarrhea. Yael tries to walk away from the cameras, but Rachel insists she stay for just a few minutes; she tries to make a run for the bathroom, but the door is locked, and so she soils herself in front of Darius and the cameras. “Hot Rachel just shit herself on national television!” Quinn cries from the control room. “Boom, drop the mic!”
On the first season of UnREAL, Quinn and Rachel did some terrible, awful things. Still, the show was far more interested in exploring how those decisions affected them, particularly Rachel. But this stunt with Yael doesn’t make Rachel feel bad, and it seems like the show wants the viewer to cheer and give celebratory high-fives just like Quinn. We don’t even really have time to feel for Yael — even after Darius cuts her — because the next time we see her, she’s hooking up with Coleman.
Coleman is another character whose actions have become harder to understand. First, he was the nice guy who just wanted to help Rachel; now, he’s threatening to expose her mentor’s reality-TV crimes and hooking up with Rachel’s rival. It’s obvious UnREAL wants us to hate Coleman, but he’s such a mushy character the only thing I feel is confused. Maybe he should expose Everlasting’s secrets! They’re pretty damning!
Man, is this season a bummer.