UnREAL S3E6: Transference
Last week was a strong, defined choice of direction for UnREAL: Chet and Quinn drawn back together, Quinn undeniably on top and ruling her Quinndom with an iron fist, Rachel breaking her father out of her mother’s “care” and smuggling him to set. Only thing is, after all those changes, the episode that follows them has to bed them into the world of the show, which is what this week’s outing, Transference, finds itself doing.
And I actually think it does it pretty interestingly for the most part. The subplot revolving around Rachel and her father is another in a long line of stories that deal with mental illness in UnREAL, and this one is towards the upper edge of that quality curve; there’s been some real garbage, but this week’s take on the issue was probably the best thing the show had to offer this week.
Rachel has been trapped in the idea of something better for herself since the start of this season: whether that was an honest life, a cabin in the mountains, or a reconnection with her father, she’s been looking for more than the world of Everlasting can give her. And this week, that dream firmly falls apart, as her father’s withdrawals leave her faced with the knowledge that she can’t just snap her fingers and get the things she wants. Quinn has a speech in this episode, aimed at Chet, about being able to get anything you want provided you work for it. For Rachel, that work involves giving up on the fantasy of moving her and her father out to the mountains to live together outside the influence of her mother and spending that money on getting him into a treatment facility. Shiri Appleby, hollow-eyed and exhausted, is killing it this season, and I’m intrigued to see where her plot will go now that she’s had to give up on her dreams in such a quantifiable fashion. Quinn reminds her that Rachel fixing her father won’t fix her, and it’s clearly a rug-pull moment for her, even if Rachel would never admit to believing something so trite.
Over in New Quinnland, it’s great to have Constance Zimmer and Craig Bierko working so closely together again, as Chet and Quinn conspire to forcibly out a contestant and push another, straight dude out of the closet along with him. It’s a seriously icky plot, but it suits the two of them down to the ground: Quinn is on a roll here and there’s nothing she can’t do, so it makes sense that she would push this seriously gross storyline for Everlasting to it’s natural breaking point (also, the delivery of “Not every good-looking, single cowboy is gay!” made me screech with laughter, so there’s that). But while that story taps into the rollicking, evil-minded fun that UnREAL revels in, it’s the downbeat scene afterwards between Quinn and Chet as they try to navigate their feelings for each other, their futures, and their show that’s the most interesting and potent. Bierko and Zimmer are my double act of choice, and their chemistry feels lived-in (probably thanks to the fact that the actors have worked together before, on Boston Legal) in a way that gives the sprawling, indefinable nature of their relationship real depth.
I think it’s worth touching on Jay’s plot this week as well, since it takes a turn into the even-more-bleak – Jeffery Bowyer-Chapman really deserves some credit here, since he’s making the on-paper crazy plot of Jay basically accepting sex for drugs in order to get his show off the ground somehow feel like it has real roots. There’s a moment this week, after his boyfriend dumps him and he finds comfort in the arms(/mouth) of one of the contestants, when he looks in the mirror and there’s just a crushing lack of anything there. A Crushing Lack of Anything is the name of my memoir, so I appreciate this.
Over in the actual machinations of Everlasting, both Serena and Caitlin Fitzgerald seem to be growing more and more comfortable with their roles on their respective shows, as Serena actually seems to have most of her suitors chasing her tail and knows it. I’m glad the show kept the “men want a bimbo so you need to act like a dumb-ass blonde” plot to one episode, because Serena in charge is way more engaging than her struggling with herself. A fair shout-out here needs to go to Brennan Elliott, who plays Graham, host of UnREAL, for consistently killing it with his pitch-perfect cheese and delightfully on-the-nose product placement, giving even the bleakest episodes some levity. Keep on keeping on, you oak-hued madman.
Honestly, when I put the pieces together, this is a solid episode. It’s just that, after the enormity of last week, it feels downbeat, as the characters hit the come-down from everything that’s happened over the course of the season (apart from Quinn, who doesn’t know the meaning of the term). It’s certainly pushed a lot of plots to rock-bottom, which is an interesting place to be working up from – and I’m looking forward to seeing where those stories go from here on out. Even if I have no idea what the rest of the season is shaping up to be.
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(header image courtest of ew.com)