Dietland Recap: Jennifer Lives!


Season 1 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Patrick Harbron/AMC/AMC Film Holdings LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The season’s penultimate Dietland challenged Plum to a test of her revolutionary principles, which she failed. The finale opens with the ruling on whether she may still join the Jennifer collective, and: She may! This means she now gets to be part of the discussion surrounding Jennifer’s next intended victim: a Congressman Wells, who’s an enemy of women’s reproductive rights. “What’s our endgame here?” asks Jasmine. “We just keep killing people? Until when?” “Until women feel safer,” says Belle. “Until they have some measure of real equality.” Jasmine doesn’t know how that will happen. “That’s why Plum is here,” says Belle. It is? Uh oh. Plum is barely a blogger; now she’s supposed to be the architect of Jennifer’s policy platform? Even Plum is surprised to learn this is what they expect of her, and manages to make some suggestions that won’t alienate any of the factions among the 12 remaining members of Jennifer (herself included): They should go after Wells; they should continue giving the impression that they’re “everywhere, and scary”; but they need to work on their messaging — which, ultimately, is going to be her department anyway. Kind of surprising Plum was underemployed for so long when she’s this talented at threading the needle in a job interview!

Though we’re told that Plum’s induction was the result of a unanimous vote, Sofia makes sure to let Plum know she had to be convinced: “Physically, you are not up to the task.” Plum, heatedly, says she’s “very healthy,” but when Sofia asks if she can run for half an hour without stopping — not half what she has required of everyone else, she says — Plum can only mutter, “It depends.” You know those running apps that try to motivate you by making it seem like you’re being chased by zombies? Apparently, someone needs to make one that motivates you by making it seem like you’re being chased by cops after, like, setting fire to a pile of lacrosse sticks. Anyway, Sofia tells Plum what she’s already told Belle: that if Plum’s lack of stamina makes her a liability, Sofia will shoot her on the assumption that Plum, if arrested, won’t withstand torture. Having watched Plum get tortured since I met her lo these many episodes, I am not so sure that’s true.

When dinner is chased with a round of Truth or Dare, we find out why Sofia is more confident in the endurance of the other princesses: Belle, Moana, and Sofia herself are all military veterans, and all rape survivors. Belle herself is the driving force behind Jennifer: While she was redeployed, her 13-year-old daughter Luz was raped by three boys in the neighborhood, and to compound her injury, was shamed for it. Belle could only find two of the three, but she threw them off a bridge — an incident discussed at the start of the season, minus the specifics. Belle knew Leeta through rape survivors’ support groups, and because Leeta had looked after Luz. The two of them reached out to their networks to build Jennifer’s membership; Leeta also arranged the financial backing of Julia and her sisters. “But we never should have let her help with Stella,” Sofia adds darkly.

While this is going on, Kitty is triumphantly moving back into her old Daisy Chain office and fielding a request from the demoralized Dominic that she give him his job back. She agrees with him that he proved his worth getting her the dirt on Stanley, but she has a condition: He’s going to have to kiss her foot, or his reinstatement will cost him a 50 percent pay cut. “Are your scruples worth half your salary?” she asks. Turns out they are not, though Kitty doesn’t actually make Dominic go through with it; demonstrating his willingness to do so is proof enough of his loyalty, or at least his desperation.

In the beauty closet, Julia and Eladio are trying to talk Leeta through her trauma, but she’s still extremely upset and confused, accusing Julia of trying to serve her a sandwich made with blood (… it’s jelly), calling herself a witch, and babbling that she killed Snow White. (A Disney princess, HMMMMM.) The plan had been to disguise Leeta and sneak her past security in the lobby, but it’s clear she’s not going to be able to keep it together under any kind of scrutiny.

In Detroit, Plum’s own revolutionary backstory — her father left when she was a baby; it made her weird; as they can see, she’s fat — seems like thin gruel compared to the stories of her new sisters, betrayed and violated by the fellow soldiers they were supposed to trust with their lives.

Photo: AMC

But Plum is welcomed into the sleeping-bag pile with the rest of the 12 — who, she says, felt like more: “It felt like we were the still-beating heart of a body mistakenly left for dead.” Not even the physical proximity of the Jennifer collective, though, can spare her a dream in which a sweet moment in bed with Dominic for their first kiss turns into a nightmare when he attacks her. Plum talks around it with Belle, who pays a little #NotAllMen lip service to the ones she served with: “They did right by me and all the other women on that base. They would’ve killed those dudes if they knew they hurt me.” “So why aren’t they here, helping us?” Plum asks. “I never asked,” Belle tells her. “This is our fight.”

Any of those men, one imagines, would be a better ally than Verena, who meets Agent Grace of the FBI, makes sure she’s going to be protected from prosecution, and then starts shooting her big mouth off — with the justification of her own moral code, of course: “Some people are just so reckless and selfish. You can’t just go unpunished for that.”

I suppose I can’t be too disgusted by Verena’s cop-loving heel turn when Plum is sitting in the middle of an armed revolutionary corps, crafting this uninspiring message: “Every nation has an OS, just like your computer, and sometimes it needs a serious update. How do you change it? March. Disrupt. Make yourself a thorn in the side of the status quo. But you also have to become the status quo. Run for office. Lobby your representative. Not as sexy as murder, but trust me: laws. That’s what makes the primal beast behave.” Hoooooo, Plum! Never mind how hard it’s going to be to win over Jennifer with this neoliberal pablum: you better worry that the authorities are going to be able to find you when they get a whiff of this bad writing on the wind!

And that might happen soon, as Moana enters with a newspaper, on the front page of which is a photo of Belle in uniform.

Photo: AMC

It doesn’t matter that their prints are on everything: they have to move.

Cheryl’s not going to be able to cover the story from here, either. Kitty calls her in for some broad hints about Cheryl’s dim future at the network. Cheryl tries a power play: “I am the most recognizable, respected anchor at UNN. But if you feel my job is, I don’t know, mindlessly following orders, then maybe this isn’t the right home for me.” Kitty is so glad Cheryl feels the same way, and thanks her for all her good work with some hilariously cynical prayer hands.

Photo: AMC

Bluff called, Cheryl tries to backpedal. No dice.

Julia’s on the street trying to figure out an exit for Leeta when she sees the FBI’s SUVs blocking her in. She tells Eladio, underground with Leeta in the beauty closet, “Don’t leave her!,” before throwing her phone away. Eladio immediately does exactly that, panicking and abandoning Leeta, who’s so far gone she doesn’t even know she should be concerned that she’s entirely alone. Julia is arrested, as are each of her sisters.

Photo: AMC

Verena the sellout is smug as hell.

In their hiding place, Belle wants to go out and assess the threat. Sofia says she’s too valuable and goes, instead, to sacrifice herself in a suicide by cop, giving Belle and Plum the chance to get away.

Kitty has seen that Jennifer’s going down, but she has a radical idea: She wants Dominic to find her someone inside the organization, so that each may be an ally to the other. This seems like a request he won’t be able to fulfill: Dominic’s been trying and failing to get hold of Plum throughout the episode. But on his way out, he happens past the beauty closet, and finds a surprise inside.

Photo: AMC

“Hi!” Leeta chirps. “Is it time?” The makeup the show has given her to indicate that she’s not 100 percent sane is pretty much what mine has looked like since I moved to Austin, Texas just in time for a summer of record-breaking heat, by the way.

When we see Dominic next, he’s broken into Plum’s apartment and is on the phone, leaving her a voicemail. At first, he’s his old flirty self, but turns grave as the camera swings around and we see that Leeta is there. “All I have is my gut, you know, and my gut tells me you’re good. A good person. I used to think I was one too. I mean, I want to be one. So call me back.”

Plum’s not going to be able to return any time soon, though, because she’s in Detroit, trying to evade arrest. When she tells Belle, “I don’t know if I can do this,” it’s not clear whether her cardiovascular strength or mental resolve is at issue. “You were a hostage, got it?” Belle tells her. “When they find you, you know nothing. Tell our story.” (Oof, Belle, you should have told her to delegate that job to someone who uses fewer clichés and isn’t such a centrist.) Belle gets into a getaway vehicle with Moana at the wheel, and Plum watches them go, telling us she feels lost: “Where else was left for me? Then I realized: it wasn’t just that I had burned every bridge. It was hope.”

Peter Gabriel’s cover of “My Body Is a Cage” starts playing somewhat on-the-nosefully (“My body is a cage that keeps me / From dancing with the one I love / But my mind holds the key”) as Plum’s narration goes on. “What had I learned about myself, really? I was a fighter. A crazy, adventure-loving badass mama. And I really did believe the world could be a better place. Even just a little.” Plum summons some adrenaline, chases down the getaway van, and gets in. “I think we’re in the clear now,” says one of the other princesses.

Photo: AMC

Does Plum?

Dietland Recap: Jennifer Lives!