UnREAL: “Casualty” Season 2 Episode 6 Review

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UnREAL makes a welcome return-to-form as the focus shifts to an increasingly unnerving Rachel.

I think it’s safe to assume that Shiri Appleby is nothing like the lying, manipulating, and unstable character she plays on UnREAL, but “Casualty” proved that they do have one major thing in common: they’re both great at commanding chaos.

Appleby sat in the director’s chair this week, and proved to be a natural-born storyteller, especially during larger group scenes. Beth Ann’s disastrous hometown date is filmed with great frenetic energy, especially when her sleazy ex-boyfriend—and father of her unborn child—steps into the fray during a family barbecue. Even though we know all hell is going to break loose as soon as Rachel leads him on camera, it’s still a nail-biting experience to watch everything unfold.

Similarly, when the remaining contestants back participate in Dr. Waggerstein’s “Mirror of Truth” segment, a supposed time of self-reflection becomes a swirling mess of emotions and jealousy. This, juxtaposed against the pillowy white background where the ladies are sitting, makes for one hell of a sequence…and this is without Rachel or Quinn pulling strings at all!

An actor directing an episode of his or her own show isn’t unheard of, but usually their character stays in the background while they’re onscreen. Appleby clearly likes a challenge, because she chose to helm a narrative that put Rachel and all of her issues front-and-center. Yes, Beth Ann’s tragic hometown date is actually only a minor plot compared to everything else that goes on.

“Casualty” picks up right where “Infiltration” left off and hits the ground running. UnREAL gets back to its multilayered roots, with plotline that makes your skin crawl with uncertainty. Quinn gains some major likability points this week by proving that she can effectively put her issues with Rachel aside when it’s clear she’s experienced a real trauma. Her going to the van to both berate Jeremy and grab his balls (which she plans to cut off if she ever sees him on set again) is an awesome show of friendship and solidarity. Then, later, she sides with Chet in convincing Rachel not to press charges.

It’s incredibly disturbing to watch as Rachel, who, in the beginning of the episode, takes photographic evidence of what happened to her, nods in agreement that she’s not going to go to the police. Quinn and Chet are terrible for doing this, but it’s easy to see why they did. Quinn might not have her mentee’s best interests at heart in terms of her actually leading a healthy, stable life, but she knows that Everlasting is all Rachel has right now, and it would all go away if she were to go to the authorities.

Last week I mentioned that one of season 2’s issues is the general no stakes zone the producers were in. They were basically getting away with murder and then resetting for the next scene to do it again. I am in no way implying that Rachel getting assaulted was some kind of earned consequence for her actions, but, the aftermath of the situation does leave her feeling more trapped and vulnerable than ever.

You wouldn’t know it right away, though. Most of “Casualty” sees her going through a manic upswing, producing Beth Ann’s hometown date with an unsteady determination that’s almost frightening to watch. Still, Appleby once again displays a well of emotion with just the simplest of facial tics. You can see it when Rachel is sitting with Quinn and Chet, and then later when she and Coleman finally hookup. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, and she just needs to escape. Unfortunately for her, it doesn’t look like anyone around her is going to help out. Coleman might appear to be on her side, but even he doesn’t know what’s best for her. If Rachel wants to make a change, she’s going to have to put on her big girl pants and save herself.

She’s going to have to do it sooner rather than later, too. This week’s episode ends with something that is executed like a major plot twist, but actually has been quietly built-up since the premiere. I knew that the brief scene in “War” when Rachel receives a call from Adam meant he was coming back. Quinn’s line of “I’ve seen her this way before,” sealed the deal. Normally this kind of move would feel cheap, but I think it’s exactly the right direction for this show to go in right now. If “Casualty” is UnREAL getting out of its funk, then I can’t wait to see what happens next. Grade: A-

 

Some Other Notes:

  • My one complaint this week is that Beth Ann admitting her love for Darius felt a little too forced. This is, I think, a side-effect of not giving the contestants enough screen time.
  • Speaking of which, can we talk about how there’s now a contestant named Jameson who’s a cop? I liked her a lot, but she has literally never been seen until now.
  • Ok, I lied, I have two complaints. Why is Chet still on the show?
  • Still, I have to admit, he wasn’t as annoying this week, and also I do agree with him that Quinn’s relationship with John Booth is moving way too fast. Who takes a guy they just met to a funeral?
  • This week’s unintentionally funny moment was when Quinn literally cackled like a Disney movie villain.
  • This week’s intentionally funny moment was Rachel telling Darius that if they did Everlasting his way, they would lose ratings and end up on some “niché cable channel.” It’s a sick burn, and it’s totally meta. I approve.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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