If you hadn’t already figured it out from the get-go, this week’s episode of UnREAL — fittingly called “Mother” — cements the notion that this show is not about who ends up winning Adam’s heart. Or even the contest to, er, craft that person. It’s about whom — male, female, behind the cameras or before them — might actually emerge with their mental and physical health and at least a shred of dignity and self-respect intact. If anyone does. And how little it takes for people to be perfectly awful to one another — family, friend, vulnerable stranger — even when they know how much damage it can do.
Despite the part where we ended last week’s episode on Rachel’s office-wide embarrassment when she failed to pay Bethany on time, the thrill of seeing someone crushed by their most vulnerable emotions has already worn off for this jaded Everlasting bunch. In fact, the only one who really says much of anything is suitor Adam, the new kid on the block.
But first we meet Roger Lockwood, Adam’s best pal from home, who will determine Adam’s fate in this episode — a three-ladies, two-gents dinner party, followed by a solo date with Adam for one lucky lady. Afterward, Adam gives Rachel a gentle jibe about Jeremy’s broad shoulders and tender nature. She reminds her charge that she can ruin him on national TV. He retorts that she of all people should understand on-set romance, calls her a filthy girl (she seems to own it) and tells her “people have the right to take the piss out of you.”
“People,” she says. “Not you.” The ladies aren’t the only property here.
Meanwhile, Jeremy’s newly enlightened lover Lizzie looks pissed, period.
And Adam and swimsuit model Grace just snuck off to the wardrobe trailer to seal Grace’s fate on the show. And Grace’s mouth on … well, suffice it to say that Rachel must remind Adam that the rules dictate that “Prince Charming doesn’t get his knob polished until he’s in love.” Charming.
In the production room, Quinn is beside herself at this latest switch-up in her anticipated ratings-gold storyline. “Sluts get cut,” she growls, ordering Shia to work on sommelier Maya to fill the wife-potential slot. “Grace is Dead Wifey Walking.”
Speaking of dead lady walking, Quinn is also wondering if the decision to let Rachel back on set is a good one after the group text mini-drama. “You’re getting crazy eyes again,” she tells Rachel, ordering her to take some time off. Rachel wants to know how Quinn proposes she do that since she’s flat broke and can’t drive away from this place, what with that suspended license and all.
Meanwhile, Chet — clearly on a fact-finding mission — approaches Anna and asks about her dad and his early death. Health issues, says Anna. Cigs, wonders Chet. Nope. Pot. Huge stoner. How old, Chet asks. Forty-eight says Anna. Chet’s already wide eyes — seriously, the guy looks like a thyroid case sometimes — widen even more.
After Chet leaves her, the ever-present cameras — and therefore, Quinn — catch Anna munching on something. “Well, would you look at that!” Quinn purrs. “Marker food.” Rachel is mystified. Me, too. Quinn, on the other hand, appears to be an expert on eating disorders. (From the show? From personal experience?) She tells Rachel that Anna is eating something bright orange to prepare for a bulimic binge. And then a purge. “She knows when to stop when the orange comes back up. She got everything else out. It’s a classic trick.”
She orders Rachel to go put a stop to it. Not the binge. The marker food. Rachel protests that if the grieving Anna doesn’t eat the orange stuff, she’ll just vomit herself inside out. Exactly Quinn’s point. “So our girls find our villain on the bathroom floor in a pool of her own puke,” she snarls. “It’s good TV.”
Rachel chases down a nonplussed Grace to tell her to cool with the sexy freebies for Adam this early in the show. Sluts get cut, after all. Grace tells her she should talk and accuses Rachel of wanting Adam for herself. Rachel says no. She wants her girl to stick around. Win-win situation. Not worth dealing blow jobs in wardrobe if they send you home early.
Meanwhile, jolly Karl, Everlasting’s DP, is headed off to the Big Apple to make films. Lizzie asks Jeremy if that’s what he wants, since Rachel’s laptop confessions mentioned them running off to New York together. Jeremy says he and Rachel only hooked up once. There were no plans for the future. Lizzie looks skeptical and for good reason.
Finally getting a moment alone with Jeremy, Rachel tries to apologize and explain what happened with Bethany and the text. “Is that why you screwed over Anna?” he wants to know. Money. Rachel doesn’t deny it. There’s nothing to deny.
Jeremy points out that Rachel has wealthy parents who live in town, so is destroying another human worth her meager check? “You talk a good game, but I think you like it,” he tells her. “You’ve got a meal ticket out. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t like the taste of blood.”
A girl’s gotta be good at something. And we’re about to find out why.
Meanwhile, Chet is napping in Quinn’s office. He tells her they’re working too hard. She doesn’t want to hear it. Budget meeting. Has to crunch the numbers. Gazing at her with his wide, wide eyes, Chet tells her to come sit beside him. She stares hard at him, then comes and sits.
“You’re the only thing in my life that I’ve ever done right,” he tells her.
“Don’t get sentimental,” she retorts. “You’ve done me, all right — six ways to Sunday.” But in place of Quinn’s signature snap, there is only a palpable sadness.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” he says. It’s hard to buy a sincere moment between anyone here, but this does seem like one.
Meanwhile, sensing her chance to give Rachel a run for her money, Shia hunts down Maya and tells her that Adam is into her, but Roger is the gatekeeper now. And with sexy Grace willing to buck the rules, it’s time for Maya to come out of her shell. Roger’s a slut, too, if you know what Shia means. Here — have some liquid courage. Maya takes her shot … then takes her shot.
With a pile of overdue bills tucked under her mattress, Rachel snitches a production van and — Jeremy’s assessment still stinging — and heads off to see her parents, hoping that some cheek-pinching and hair-fluffing will pass her off as perfectly fine. Just a little strapped for cash.
As these things will, the visit goes downhill quickly. Dining al fresco with her mom and seriously subdued Dad who seems thoroughly puzzled by his lettuce, Rachel tries not to cringe when her mom says one of her students wrote a paper about “Rachel’s” show. More specifically, about the psychological effects of bully TV and the effect of viewing women as chattel.
Let’s get meta!
“That’s awesome,” says Rachel, reaching for the wine and knowing what comes next.
“I’m sorry, Rachel,” Mother Goldberg purrs. “You feel judged, don’t you?
“Don’t do it,” Rachel says. “Don’t shrink me. Save it for your patients.”
Ah HA. The manipulative apple does not fall far from the manipulative tree. And it has a nice, sticky, mother-guilt coating. And in this case, Rachel has one at work and an arguably worse one right here in the leafy suburbs. (And seriously, how good is Appleby with her simmering subtlety in these scenes?)
Back in Quinn’s office, Chet is celebrating their semi-nude makeup session — the poor cleaning people in this place — with a little cocaine for dessert. Quinn teases him about taking better care of himself and he says it’s his first snort of the day; he’s usually on 8 by now. Impressive, she says. He leads her hand to something else he thinks she’ll find impressive and a lightbulb goes off in Quinn’s head. She climbs atop her lover and when his eyes widen once more, she growls, “Let’s just forget the condom, OK?” and begins to gyrate harder. He’s powerless to object. Literally. Chet’s expression isn’t one of ecstasy. Dude is having a heart attack right there beneath her on the floor. Oh oh.
At the hospital, Quinn calmly rifles off Chet’s medicines and his medical family history to the nurse. Then Quinn tells Chet they should probably call the his actual missus. The nurse hurries from the room.
Meanwhile, Grace, Anna and Maya “win” the dinner date with Adam and Roger, and the conversation is currently on modern motherhood. Maya says she believes in traditional marital and motherhood roles, the kind she had with her own stay-at-home mom. Little orphan Anna says moms should be free to choose their path — too much attention is as bad as too little, after all. Grace says she and her husband will make those decisions together when the time comes. Adam beams at her.
Oh. Well, then. Time to get the party started. Maya stands up and strips.
Back at casa Goldberg — and as if things couldn’t get any worse for Rachel — her mother also reveals that she knows about Rachel’s money troubles. So … how much does Rachel need? Rachel responds in measured tones, seeming to know that her own skills set at getting a person to bend to her will not work here at all. “A loan would be really great,” she says to Mom. “That would relieve a lot of pressure … at work. I could be a better me.”
Swing … and a miss. Mom says she and Daddy will help — but not if Rachel is unwilling to help herself. Namely by resuming her sessions with Dr. Mom. Exactly where you want to go with your deepest, darkest secrets — Mom.
Let the games begin.
Rachel says she already has a therapist on the Everlasting set.
She’s probably not even an M.D., Mom protests.
Mom treating daughter is not ethical, Rachel warns.
Malleable detail, says Mom. Is she taking her meds?
Rachel asks her to remind her where they were on the list of diagnoses — ADHD? Bipolar? Narcissistic personality disorder? What?
You are a very tricky girl, says Mom.
Yes. But not here.
Back at the mansion, everyone at the dinner date is now in the hot tub, Maya making liberal use of the endless supply of liquid courage, while Roger prepares to pounce. Adam reminds Roger that they are on TV and he is making a fool of himself.
“I am?” Roger retorts. “I’m not the one who signed up to a whorehouse on the telly.”
Back in the burbs, Mrs. Goldberg is trying to convince Rachel to move back home to “fix” herself. Rachel points out that her catatonic dad doesn’t looked too fixed. Her mother protests that he is feeling wonderful on his meds — and besides, she’s learned so much about Rachel from studying him. Again, I don’t think that’s the ol’ block off of which Rach is a chip. Nature? Nuture? Both seem an iffy deal here.
But anyway. No sessions, no money.
“I am damn good at what I do!” Rachel protests as evidence of her perfectly-fine-ness. Mom is ready for it. She read that term paper after all. Of course Rachel is good at what she does. “The manipulation, the attunement — that is the disease!”
Or is it the lesson learned at mama’s knee? And the brutalized mindset to go with it.
“You have to admit that you’re sick before you can get better,” Mother Goldberg tells her daughter, cradling her head in her lap.
Moments later, Rachel leaves the house. She climbs in the borrowed van and holds up a check for $20,000 — with a prescription tucked behind it. “Screw you,” she chants, tearing the check in two. “Screw you.” Rip. “Screw you.” Rip. The bits of paper flutter out the window onto the drive.
Back on set, Lizzie tells Jeremy he can move to New York — as long as he does it with her and not Rachel. He kisses her and studies her face.
Out back, the hot tub party heats up when a sea of the other contestants show up in their undies to crash the party. Roger looks thrilled. Adam begs him to behave. Roger drops trou and begins sampling the sommelier.
“Was this your idea?” an amazed Jay says to Shia as they watch the proceedings.
“I just planted the seed!” beams Shia.
Back in the hospital, the doctor says Chet has valve trouble, not a heart attack, and that the coke likely caused it. Chet’s not a young man anymore. Quinn excuses herself to take a call from Shia and is met by Cynthia on her way back into the room. Cynthia is doing just fine, thank you. The real question is how is Quinn. Quinn stammers. Her secret isn’t a secret at all. Did she really think it was?
“I have the house, the cars, the vacations,” Cynthia tells her rival serenely. “Chet has you. But if you kill him with all this partying, I get 40 million in life insurance. What do you have?”
Quinn says nothing. Cynthia goes for the kill.
“Actually I wanted to thank you for sleeping with him, because it’s just one more thing off my to-do list,” she purrs. “And it keeps him from wandering too far. So thanks, Quinn. You’re a real class act.”
Someone will surely pay for this. Potentially several someones.
Rachel returns to the mansion to the poolside rager and a newly emboldened Shia. Telling the newbie that the blasting music has likely obliterated any useable footage (plus, you know, that whole sluts-get-cut thing times 15 lace-pantied cavorters), Rachel heads back to find the debauchery and retrieves a visibly shaken Maya from Roger in poolside cabana.
Later, Roger tells Adam his time with Maya was all in good fun and Adam tells his “friend” that he is trying to get his reputation and his business back on track and Roger is hardly helping. Roger says Adam knows there is only one way to do that: “Poppy still loves you, you know.”
Who’s Poppy? Oh. Adam’s ex-fiancée. Thought the better of writing him off after the money dried up and Adam was caught with hookers. Come home, says Roger. Do the apology tour. Make good with dad. All Papa Cromwell wants is a respectable son, and this circus atop the earlier transgressions makes the whole family look bad.
Adam wakes up to the real purpose of Roger’s arrival.
“Oh God,” he cries. “Did he send you?”
“So what if he did,” Roger says. “There’s proof right there that he’s willing to forgive.”
“I have had enough of him controlling me with his checkbook,” Adam protests (hello, Dr. Goldberg? Any openings in the schedule?) “I have to be my own man.” (Never mind.)
“Don’t you understand?,” Roger says, about to earn himself a fist fight. “We’re trying to save you from being your own man.”
Speaking of being his own man, despite his delight at Lizzie’s assurance that she would join him in New York, Jeremy tells Rachel to use her pull with Quinn to land him Karl’s DP job.
“Getting out was your dream,” he tells her quietly. “It wasn’t mine.”
Time to learn Roger’s choice for the solo date. Surely he will not reward their fisticuffs — and thwart the mission on which he’s been sent — by giving his friend a whole, sanctioned day with Grace. And Maya … well. Adam reads the card handed to him: Adam, it is.”
Adam looks at Roger and Rachel and calls Maya’s name instead.
His own, indeed.
Quinn pulls up as eliminated contestants leave and tells herself that her life sucks, then heads in to watch the fruits of the disaster that unfolded poolside, glass of whiskey in hand. Rachel appears. “Half of it is inane and the other half makes Adam look like a romance hating man whore,” she growls, not taking her eyes off the screen. “Which he probably might be. But it’s really bad for the show.”
Time to reclaim her alpha-lady status in the one place she will always, always have it. Quinn grabs Rachel’s face. “Do you remember what you said to me when you came back?” she seethes. “‘I can do this, Quinn.’ And I believed you.”
“Why are you angry at me?” Rachel answers. “You’re the one that put Shia in charge.”
“Because look at you,” says her boss, staring into her eyes. ” I need you to be on the ball and you can’t even wash your own hair.”
Rachel says that isn’t fair. After all. Job at all costs used to be an asset. And besides, where’s a girl to go under this kind of imprisonment? Not fair.
“Then I guess it’s my fault,” breathes Quinn. “I should have learned.”
Another mother figure threatening the one thing Rachel knows she does well. This. Here. However vile it might be. She assures Quinn that she will get her an episode.
Dr. Wagerstein tells Rachel she is worried about Anna’s vomiting. Rachel assures the doctor she will handle it. And handle it, she does.
Finding a teary Anna alone, Rachel sits down beside her and looks concerned. And instead of telling Anna that the doctor is worried about her, she says Grace is worried about Anna’s eating habits, instead. As Anna breaks down, Rachel gathers her in her arms and says this: “You have to admit that you’re sick before you can get better.”
Anna whimpers that her dad just died. Yes, he did. So what does Anna need to get this under control? Anna needs cheesy puffs — even though, she says, it may sound mentally ill.
Anna needs cheesy puffs. Quinn needs an episode. Rachel needs a win. However she must get it.
Rachel tells a weepy Anna that she will fetch her orange treats, but in the meantime, Anna has to help herself and talk to Grace. “She’s turning Adam off with that shit she’s saying and you have a legit disease,” Rachel demands. “That girl has never worked at being thin a day in her life.”
Game. Set. Match.
Then pulling a Quinn, she goes nose to nose with Anna and says, “All that anger that you point toward yourself? Point it at the bitch who is running your future.” I don’t think even Rachel would argue that Anna’s looking at that woman right now. Still a valid argument that Anna knew full well what she was walking back into? But this is a contest and Anna the lawyer has been trained by life to win. Or die trying.
Meanwhile Chet has returned to the set and wants a heart-to-heart with Quinn. No room for hearts here, tonight, sir. Especially not fragile ones. Quinn says she’ll meet him in the car shortly. Then she sends Jay to tell him to just go home.
Grabbing her smokes, she joins Rachel back by the pool, where Anna and Grace are in fisticuffs over metabolisms, cheeseburgers, lies and secrets spilled as the cameras roll.
“See, I knew you could do it,” Quinn smiles, sitting down beside her protegé as the episode unfolds in real-time before them. “I hear you went home.”
Rachel got the footage — the purloined vehicle is now an afterthought. “My mom thinks I’m seriously ill,” Rachel sighs.
“There is nothing wrong with you,” Quinn says. “You’re a genius.” Heh.
“I’m never getting out of here,” Rachel says, to no one really.
“Why would you want to?” Quinn says in her patented purr. “You’re home.”
And the camera pulls away as they watch the fists and fabric fly. “That’s good TV,” says Quinn.
New episodes of UnREAL premiere Tuesday nights at 10/9CT on Lifetime.