UnREAL Recap: Essential Honesty

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Photo: Lifetime
UnREAL

UnREAL

Shield Season 3 Episode 2
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Hello there, I’ll be your UnREAL recapper tonight. Many thanks to Kathryn for filling in last week as I caught up on the end of season two. Maybe you and I have that in common! Season two was, let’s just say, quite the whirlwind. But instead of dwelling in the not-so-great past, we can take in what happened (murder!) and move on to greener, hopefully more coherent pastures.

I’m already looking forward to the new direction UnREAL is taking with season three. Delving into gender politics is a good look for this show, and the women on UnREAL are some of the more interesting, complicated ones on TV. We’ve got Quinn and Rachel, and now our new Everlasting suitor Serena, whose motivations for being on this silly show become more and more clear with every episode. At first, I was wondering why she’d do it, if she perhaps had a dark secret. (Well, doesn’t everyone on this show?) Much like how Adam from season one had to work on his crappy reputation, I thought it would come out that Serena had been involved in some shady dealings. But it seems more and more like she’s just there … to find love? Couldn’t be.

We open with our resident cipher, but Rachel’s bad behavior (hooking up with contestants and crew, etc.) is now against the rules of her new “essentially honest” mantra. But that’s not to say she can’t flirt: August, the hottie with the man bun, emerges from the pool to ask if he can get some news from the outside. (Something about his NGO work in Africa, blah blah blah.) Is that really what he’s saying, though? No, the glint in his eye and gleam of his pecs says otherwise. “How come I keep getting the feeling that you are a lot more interesting than your job?” he asks her.

Can Rachel continue to resist temptation? Is she truly being “essentially honest” if she’s denying her feelings for August? Later in the episode, Dr. Simon will say to Rachel, “It just seems like nothing is ever your fault. Like you blame everyone else for your anger. Have you ever tried turning that essential honesty on yourself?” But no one seems to be really sure what “essential honesty” means, not even Rachel herself.

On the other hand, Serena is more predictable. She’s visited the control room while everyone was still asleep, gotten a good look at the suitors via hidden cameras and collected information on them so that she can better choose who stays and who goes. “It’s how I buy companies, so doing this any other way would be irresponsible,” she tells Rachel and Quinn, who are visibly shaken by her … due diligence? This is clearly against the rules, but everything rides on her participation here. Isn’t this what you guys wanted? A strong, capable and put-together woman? (Well, we can just forget last night’s festivities — Norman’s long gone.)

So, why is Serena here? I asked the question above, one that bothers me to no end. Why would someone as successful as Serena have trouble finding a man, and why would she choose to solve that problem by coming on reality show? (At least hire a matchmaker first!) As Kathryn put it last week, “I’m not sure how plausible it is that a female Elon Musk would come to the conclusion that the not-Bachelor is the best way to ‘maximize [her] dating flow,’ but then again, many people died last season.” Fair! But to I want to push beyond last season’s craziness and give this brand-new season the brand-new respect it (so far!) deserves.

After we watch Serena push away each suitor by beating them in a group poker date, we finally get to the heart of her decision to appear on this show. “It’s great that you go to the office and kick ass … but the woman you are at work is not the girl a man wants to date,” Chet says, confronting her with Madison by his side egging him on. “All you have to do to keep a guy forever is bake him cookies and give him blowjobs,” he continues — but, like, metaphorically? Quinn and Rachel flip out. How dare he devalue Serena like that to her face? But she’s listening to Chet intently, looking far from the powerful business woman we just saw in the last scene. “You have to make space for the guy and you have to make him feel important.”

He has a point, she decides. Quinn and Rachel’s way isn’t working, and that’s how they “lose” her to Chet’s vision. This more than just about Serena, though: It’s about Chet choosing 23-year-old Crystal over Quinn; it’s about Quinn and Rachel choosing their careers over everything else. Look where it’s got them! Talking about Serena in the control room, Madison says, “She is what my friends call an ‘old sad’ … somebody who made the biggest mistake ever and chose her job over her career over a boyfriend.” The divide between Quinn/Rachel and Chet/Madison is only getting wider now that Serena’s gone over to the Chet side.

Alas, Serena puts on the sexy dress and demands a one-on-one with Billy the Trump-voting race-car driver. Quinn puts on a brave face — after all, she’s got a TV show to produce and this guy is good TV. Meanwhile, Rachel tries to push the meek Owen in Serena’s direction. (“Go and save her!” she urges.) When that doesn’t work, she gives up entirely, planning a karaoke challenge that ends with the men in fisticuffs — but only after Rachel eggs on Alexi (the dangerous Russian one) to start a fight with Billy. (“You have a Russian soul, there’s a darkness in you,” he says to Rachel. She really can’t go one scene without being hit on, huh?) Quinn is drunk in the control room with boss Gary by her side, ordering her to shut it down before they get sued again (God, if he only knew … ), but she knows good TV is just around the corner. She’s right: Serena gets knocked over mid-scuffle and then scooped up by one of the suitors. Romance! Save that one for the promo. Here’s a not-so-subtle reminder that Quinn is actually quite good at her job.

Turns out, race car Billy does threaten to sue and that’s why Serena makes a deal with the producers to keep him around. (On top of that, Chet donates to a charity and Everlasting does a shameless advert for Billy Byrd’s Racing Accessories.) Not very important, but we’re officially given a reason as to why Billy stays. He’s not the only suitor standing out this episode, though: Keep your eyes on sweet guy Owen, who tells Serena he liked her better before she put on the flashy dress.

Things may have turned out perfectly on this week’s episode of Everlasting, but this is UnREAL, which means the other shoe is bound to drop. After Rachel climbs into a hammock with August for some star-watching, it’s like just freakin’ kiss already. He can’t make a move and she freezes, bolting for her makeshift bedroom inside a gear truck. (Why she doesn’t have a proper room is still beyond me!) Meanwhile, Quinn was watching them on a camera and heads out to August. And just as Rachel appears to have changed her mind, running back to the hammock, we cut to Quinn and August fully getting it on. Oops!

Guess that essential honesty thing will last at least one more episode.

UnREAL Recap: Essential Honesty