UnREAL: “Infiltration” Season 2 Episode 5 Review

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Season 2’s most devious episode yet finally gives one of the Everlasting contestants a worthy storyline. Unfortunately, some of the main characters fall by the wayside.

Season 2 of UnREAL has made some bold choices for its central characters, and even if you don’t agree with all of them, it’s impossible to deny they’re incredibly interesting. Quinn and Rachel have gone so far down the rabbit hole of Everlasting—or perhaps Quinn has been there all along and Rachel is just now joining her—that you’d be hard pressed to find an ethical bone left in their bodies. The further and further they push things, the more I keep waiting for someone or something to stop them in their tracks, and yet…nothing. It took me a little while to put my finger on it, but that’s probably my biggest issue with this season so far. There are no consequences.

At the same time, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. The hostility in the world of Everlasting literally drove a contestant to suicide last season, and the show is somehow still up-and-running. As crazy of a plot twist as that was, the show was about to bounce back from it in the episodes that followed, correcting their mistakes and coming out incredibly strong in the finale. I like a lot of what I’ve seen so far this season, and so I have hope that the writers will be able to do the same thing here. UnREAL‘s pattern seems to be to take things to their absolute lowest and then build them up from there. I hope the turning point is coming soon, because this week’s episode was brutal.

The one upside to the darkness of “Infiltration” is that it finally gave one of the contestants a chance for her own story arc. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the focus being mainly on the producers, but last season featured some really interesting faces on the other side of the camera as well. This season we have Ruby, Yael, and…I can’t really think of anyone else. Remember how shocking it was when Beth Ann came out in her confederate flag bikini? What even happened to her?

Ruby immediately stood out as a character to pay attention to, so it makes sense that when the show decided to turn its focus on a contestant, it was her. Watching her be humiliated by her father on-camera is gut-wrenching, and in a weird way, it’s empowering to see her stand up for herself and her decision to remain on the show. This makes it all the more heartbreaking when Darius decides to cut her, and yet his decision felt authentic. He knows he’ll never be the man she wants him to be, and there’s certainly a part of him that’s sick of being asked to be a part of other people’s narratives. Darius wants to tell his own story, and even though he devastated Ruby in the process, it seems like it’ll be for the best in the long run.

Less sensical are the motivations going on behind the camera as this all unfolds. It’s easily to believe that Quinn’s heart is getting darker and darker, especially after being betrayed by the one person she thought she could trust. But what the hell is going on with Rachel? She finally seems to be on the right path this week by helping Ruby win an overnight date with Darius, and pleasing Jay in the process. Then, when push comes to shove, she falls right back into Quinn’s lap and follows through with filming Ruby’s dad confronting his daughter and Darius while they’re still in bed. And for what? The sake of “great TV,” as Quinn would put it?

There’s a small part of me that likes the fact that Rachel chose Quinn in that moment because it shows that the two ladies still care for each other in some sick, twisted way. There’s another great scene this week in which Quinn—though still fully mad at her former protege—tries to warn Rachel that Coleman is just using her. It seems sincere, and is a great way of showing how these two can never really quit each other. Yet, that feeling doesn’t really get to cement itself in this episode because of the constant bickering that follows it. Why would Rachel help Quinn mere moments after she sabotaged her pitch to the owner of the network (Ioan Grufford)? The switch from Rachel pushing past Quinn to following her orders once again happens so quickly that it feels fake, and it’s honestly hard to tell who these characters even are anymore.

Outside of all of this, there’s Chet, who, unfortunately, did not leave the show following his arrest as I had expected. Instead, he too has made a totally non-believable 180 and is now nice and accepting of his own faults. After literally one week. Uh, what?

The good news about Chet this week is that he’s less of a nuisance because he’s used more as a plot device than an actual character. His purpose is to use his wilderness retreat techniques to get Jeremy to admit his problems with Rachel, while simultaneously confessing that it’s his own fault he screwed things up with Quinn and his ex-wife. Never mind the fact that the same techniques that turned him into a macho, alpha-male asshole are now also making him into an understanding person. The scene between him and Jeremy doesn’t even really matter, except for the fact that it leads to this season’s most shocking moment yet.

Jeremy assaulting Rachel was one of the most disturbing things to watch, and this is coming from a season that has seen a girl locked in a closet against her will and another girl shamed on national TV after having sex. Still, the horror movie-esque set up to this scene fills it with dread, and when the moment finally comes, it is genuinely terrifying.

Chet coming in to save the day feels, again, totally unearned, but it doesn’t change the fact that Jeremy is finally an interesting character again. His cruel and embarrassing prank on Rachel at the end of last season doesn’t hold a candle to this, but it does make his mean streak a little more believable. “Infiltration” featured a lot of moments that felt like they were at odds with the story UnREAL has been telling so far, but this moment made me think the tipping point is near. There is no coming back from this for Jeremy, but there is a chance that Rachel will be able to rise above this and come out stronger than ever. Or, this could just make her sink deeper into the darkness. Only time will tell. Grade: C+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • I get that Jay is the last remaining voice of reason on this show, but boy did he piss me off this week. Dude, you have been working on Everlasting way too long to not be able to realize that Quinn was up to no good when she put new cameras in Darius’ bedroom.
  • So, Madison is now terrifying and she needs to be stopped immediately.
  •  Darius: “I’m not here to judge anybody.” Dominique: “Um, actually yes. You are here to judge us.”
  •  I’m interested to see what the show does with Ioan Grufford’s character. Right now he just seems like one of the wealthy spectators from The Hunger Games.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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