overnights

Dietland Recap: We All Need to Worry

Dietland

Plum Tuckered
Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating *****

Dietland

Plum Tuckered
Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating *****

Dominic having convinced her in “F… This” to continue her New Baptist Plan in order to collect intel for him, Plum’s assignment this week is, as previously threatened, to go on some dates. It’s not great. Plum’s been around long enough to brace herself for “The Stare”: “a mixture of revulsion and disappointment” — and sure enough, she gets it from the first suitor Verena (with an assist from, we later learn, her dentist (?)) supplies.

“He didn’t even try to hide it,” she tells us in her voice-over, as we watch him shove a bouquet at her and take off.

Plum’s second swain — who, at her request, arrives having given informed consent as to her weight — seems more promising. Aiden (You’re The Worst’s Desmin Borges) is a human-rights activist Plum impresses by demonstrating knowledge about the international hot spots he’s visited in his work and with whom she finds common ground when they agree that Jennifer fails to acknowledge “not all men are animals”; “I hope I’m a good guy — I try to be,” Aiden says. He confesses that he’s never dated somebody “larger” before; a “fitness freak” himself, he almost refused, but challenged himself to try it and is pleasantly surprised to be having fun with Plum, who’s not what he expected. Pleased and relieved, Plum heads for the ladies’ room before dessert — even turning back, when she hears a fellow patron guessing that Aiden is her brother, to tell her that, no, actually he’s her date. Upon her return, though, he’s gone, having scrawled a note on a napkin: “Not a good guy, turns out. SO sorry.” (They decide to nod to Sex & The City with this character’s name but then don’t call him Berger?!)

The failure of Date No. 2 makes Plum angry at Verena for putting her through such a humiliating experience, but when Date No. 3 just stands her up, she ends up bitter and resigned. She doesn’t know what to say when Verena asks how she would describe her ideal man (maybe not a man at all, if the hallucinations of “Y Not” are anything to go by), but she does know that whatever Verena’s been telling these guys is insufficient, and orders, “Don’t just tell him that I’m plus-sized. Tell him I’m huge … I want him to know what he’s in for.”

Meanwhile, Kitty is still affirmatively aligning Austen Media with Jennifer, going on Cheryl’s show to co-opt female rage: “Women have been angry for a long time — a long time. So is it really so surprising that after all the abuse they’ve taken, they are finally fighting back with deadly force instead of just words?” When a clearly rattled Cheryl asks whether Kitty’s thought through the ramifications of becoming Jennifer’s unofficial brand partner, Kitty retorts that Stanley approved every move she’s made, and that they’ve all been very lucrative: sales of the manifesto covers were way up, and when Kitty tweeted a claim that Daisy Chain subscriptions were down as a result, 11,000 new paid users signed up in less than an hour. Kitty’s so confident making power moves that she finds more for Plum to do, asking her to write something under Kitty’s name endorsing the conversation Jennifer’s started, and dangling the promise of future opportunities for Plum at the magazine.

And it’s at this point that Jennifer changes course: a couple of cemetery groundskeepers find, on a carefully styled bier, the corpse of Stella Cross, Jennifer’s first female victim. (Startled, one of the groundskeepers drops his cigarette onto a trail of accelerant, igniting both Stella’s pyre and himself, though for now he’s survived his injuries.) It’s not until Kitty assigns her to write a piece about Stella that Plum even learns Stella was an adult-film performer; the involuntarily celibate Plum knew Stella only as a model who had appeared in ad campaigns for makeup and jeans. The show, however, has Plum call Stella “a porn star” in her VO: “And not just any porn star. Gang bangs and rape porn were her specialties. She literally broke her vagina from all the abuse it took. It was obvious why Jennifer targeted her.”

As with Plum imagining what we were to read as tragic scars on her postsurgical body in the last episode, the language surrounding Stella is problematic, and since no other character or event counters Plum’s judgments about Stella, it’s hard not to think the show’s producers approve them. (Irony: Plum decrying Stella’s choice to perform in staged rape scenes before essentially saying that when Jennifer killed her, Stella was asking for it.) “A lot of people would say she’s a victim,” Plum tells Dominic later — not about Stella’s murder but about her adult-film career, posthumously robbing her of her professional agency. It’s another instance of the show betraying second-wave credentials; series creator Marti Noxon graduated college in 1987, and sometimes it kind of seems like she hasn’t updated her concept of feminism since then.

The expansion of Jennifer’s murderous mandate spooks Stanley, who makes a rare trip to Austen to scold Kitty for her reckless TV interview and demote her. She storms down to the beauty closet to complain that Stanley’s clipped her “creative wings,” but in light of Stella’s murder, a weepy Julia suggests that Kitty might be safer working behind the scenes; with everything that’s been going on, Julia’s worried. “You should worry,” spits Kitty. “We all need to worry.

It’s straight from this exchange that Kitty returns to her office, which she apparently trashed in the aftermath of her meeting with Stanley. Plum, waiting there to drop off her piece on Stella, immediately tries to help Kitty straighten up, but Kitty refuses her assistance: “Besides, you’ve done enough.” No more should Plum count on the vague promises Kitty had made about Plum’s future at Daisy Chain, because Kitty has traced the blame for her downfall to Plum’s characterization of Kitty’s girls as pro-Jennifer, and she is pissed: “Do you know what I went through to get here? What I really went through? I sucked a lot of dick. The actual dick was a picnic compared to the assholes I had to flatter and humor and cater to, while the whole goddamn time I was smarter, and better at the job. But I did it. I smiled and nodded and took loads of shit, all to get to the day Stanley would say, ‘Do what you want, Kitty! I trust you!’ What did I do? I listened to you.” Unceremoniously, Kitty fires Plum — who, perhaps in shock, reacts by immediately resuming her efforts to pick up Kitty’s office. She babbles that she loves her job, she’s going to get bypass surgery because of Kitty, she’s going to write about the experience and credit Kitty as her inspiration! “Please, Kitty,” she begs. “All I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer. A real one.” Kitty walks around her desk, gets close, and says:

So: Plum’s still smarting from this setback when she meets her last date. Jack (the suddenly ubiquitous Drew Gehling) makes an even better first impression than Aiden, saying, “They told me you were stunning, but: color me stunned.” Plum is suspicious of his compliments, and accuses him of being into “big chicks”; he cheerfully admits he is, which she supposes is better than the alternative, and when he suggests that she have a burger, she starts to refuse, due to her diet, but then changes her mind. Jack proceeds to get her something from each of the food trucks parked in their vicinity, lasciviously watching as she eats it all and, when she says she’s getting full, urging her to have more: “‘Cause when you eat it, I get so hard …You’re my dream girl.” Plum decides she isn’t interested in participating in Jack’s fetish and rejects him: “You should climb back into the slimy little cuck cage you crawled out of.” Getting drenched under her own personal rain cloud, Plum VOs, “Kitty’d said it: I was a basement-dwelling malcontent. And that’s how I felt — like a creature. Less than human. What did it matter what a creature does? Who cares about consequences when you aren’t even afforded the consideration of a dog?”

On-the-nose-ishly, this transitions us to Plum getting a hot dog from a street vendor. When a strange man bumps into her, getting condiments on himself, he barks (see, I can do it too), “Get your eyes off your food, fatass, and watch where you’re going!” Plum responds by smashing the hot dog into his shirt and spitting the first bite into his face, whereupon he punches her in the face …

… and Dominic emerges from the shadows to punch him. Plum has spent the episode checking in with Dominic to report on her interactions with Verena, and trying, at his urging, to maneuver her way into sharing intel Dominic might link to Jennifer. All they really end up with is a pic Plum snapped of a framed photo of Verena with a woman both Plum and Dominic think they recognize but can’t place, the rest of the time taken up with Plum’s flirty attempts to get to know him. When Stella Cross’s murder had Plum, once again, doubting her safety while investigating Verena, Dominic had promised to protect her, and we saw before she did that he was shadowing her on her date with Jack. Her physical assault by a stranger, however, leads Dominic to call on his old partner Bobby (Marc Blucas) so that Dominic can give his statement, which means Dominic can no longer pretend to Plum that he’s still on the force; he also admits that he pretended to be single, like her, so that she’d open up to him, but that actually, he’s not. And also he has kids. Plum’s purpose sharpens: “A creature doesn’t feel. A creature can be punched, lied to, abused, debased, ridiculed. But there’s freedom in that. If you don’t feel, you can’t care. And if you can’t care, you can do anything.”

Plum heads from this confession (in what seems to be Times Square, where we see a digital billboard lit up with Leeta’s image, identifying her as a “fugitive on the run” and “the face of Jennifer?”) straight to Calliope House. She’s spent all her interactions with Verena during this episode advancing Dominic’s agenda, but now she’s here to repudiate it, telling Verena:

If this is “the face of Jennifer,” then we should probably expect that, before long, a real rain from Plum’s personal cloud will come and wash all the porn stars and cucks off the streets.

Dietland Recap: We All Need to Worry