UnREAL: “Espionage” Season 2 Episode 9 Review

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Some shocking moments lead to an excellent reunion on season 2’s penultimate episode.

The episode before a season finale is often rife with setup. After all, several narrative elements need to be orchestrated before the show can effectively go out with a bang for the year. “Espionage” certainly contains a lot of preliminary pieces, but it in no way feels like one half of a two-part story. The pins have been lined up rather terrifically, so that next week’s episode can totally wipe them out.

The core of “Espionage” surrounds Quinn and Rachel, who, after weeks of setting each other’s teeth on edge, have finally reconciled. Watching Everlasting‘s Dream Team go from not speaking to each other to a full-on embrace over the course of an hour is immensely satisfying, especially when you consider all of the factors that brought them together. It’s Rachel who ultimately realizes that Coleman is a total dirtbag, and that Quinn—as twisted as she may be—is the only one who really cares about her.

This comes about in an interesting way, partly because of Shiri Appleby’s masterful method of burying Rachel’s true motivations, and spooling them out through small facial tics or gestures. Rachel understands that Coleman is only out for himself at the beginning of the episode, but we don’t fully realize this until it’s made clear that her brutal attack on Yael was a genuine attempt to get back in Quinn’s good graces, and not a double-cross.

Yael’s scatological disaster is supremely upsetting, especially since Quinn finds it to be so hilarious. Yet, what’s so important about this moment is that it confirms Rachel has dropped her valiant crusader act and admitted what we’ve all known to be true from the get-go. This show is all she and Quinn have. They live and breathe in this ridiculous fantasy world because it’s the only thing that they know they can 100% control. Everything else is untrustworthy and dangerous. Here, they’re safe.

Because Rachel and Quinn are equally as damaged, it’s painfully clear that they deserve each other. It’s a relief when we realize that Coleman tapped Rachel’s phone, and her goal has been to get back on the show and back with her true love. After weeks of watching her fawn over Coleman’s false compliments, it’s great to see her take agency over the situation and pull herself up again. The final “I love you,” “I need you,” exchange between her and Quinn is powerful, because together these two are a force to be reckoned with.

Less engaging this week are the show’s ancillary characters, who fight and fail to steal the spotlight away from UnREAL‘s central plotline. Whatever’s going on between Chet and Tiffany is weird and gross, and I don’t really want to pay attention to it unless it leads to her becoming next season’s female suitor (that HAS to happen, right?). After expertly bringing back Darius last week, Jay loses all credibility in “Espionage” for failing to stop the—very basic, by the show’s standards—manipulations going on right in front him. Rachel and Quinn are two characters who are so well-crafted that everything else almost fades into the background when they’re onscreen together. Unfortunately, there are huge chunks of the episode that don’t feature either of them and it’s hard to care about anything that’s happening in those moments.

There’s also the fact that we still haven’t gotten a status update on Romeo from his perspective. At this point, it’s just embarrassing for the UnREAL writers, and a sign that they bit off way more than they could chew.

Still, the good outweighs the bad this week once again. Rachel’s eyes say it all when she looks at Coleman and thanks him for everything he’s done. Next week, all hell will break loose. And I can’t wait to witness it. Grade: B+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • I talk a lot about Shiri Appleby’s incredible acting on this show, but I wanted to give a shout out to Contance Zimmer this week who fully proved why her recent Emmy nomination was so well-deserved. Yes, I’m sure a lot of people will be talking about the scene where she shouts at the crew in the viewing room and smashes several TV monitors, but it’s actually the scene prior to that that most impressed me. Quinn’s standoff with Booth after finding out she can’t conceive was absolutely captivating, and Zimmer flawlessly showed layers of sadness and vulnerability through her surface-level rage. All in all, a marvelous performance.
  • Yael’s takedown was very hard to watch—as was Quinn’s almost maniacal laughter at it—but I don’t think we can count her out just yet, especially after her final scene with Coleman (which, ew).
  • Speaking of which, Madison telling Rachel about Coleman and Yael was obnoxious, and only ended up working in Rachel’s favor. Still, I have to give the girl points for her speech to Chantelle, who might actually win this thing.
  • “Do we ever clean that thing?” “Every time Graham gets out of it.”

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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