overnights

Dietland Recap: We’re All Jennifer

Dietland

Woman Down
Season 1 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Nicole Rivelli/AMC/AMC Film Holdings LLC. All Rights Reserved.

We’ve arrived at the season’s penultimate episode, and after eight episodes of being underestimated, patronized, fired, judged, memed, punched, and raped, our heroine has apparently been sufficiently tenderized. Now Plum has to decide how she wants to live the rest of her life.

In fact, the choice Plum is facing takes up almost the entire episode, with only a little Austen Media drama unfolding in her absence. Dominic brings Kitty his findings on Stanley’s history with women at work: several expected complaints about a hostile work environment, but also a $2 million payout for slapping a female HR director in the face at a dinner meeting. “Well, that’s just foreplay for Stanley,” sneers Kitty. “If they’d made it to the bedroom, it would’ve been ten.” Dominic states that he’s done working for Kitty; anticipating her next move, he says that if she tries to prevent him from leaving, he’ll go to HR for her inappropriate behavior with him.

It’s easy for Kitty to let Dominic go now anyway, and she takes Stanley’s file to a meeting of the Austen board. At first, the chairman declares that they won’t make Kitty CEO — that is, until she suggests that she may also have dirt on all of them. One demands that they go through the established process, considering other candidates, and confidently telling Kitty he’s clean. However, every other white male board member is apparently an irredeemable, paranoid pervert, and thus Austen is about to become the first major media company with a female CEO!

Dominic’s only in two scenes this week, and his chat with Kitty is by far the more triumphant for him; when he arrives home, it’s to his angry father-in-law, complaining that Dominic let Bobby do him favors. Also, Dominic’s wife and kids aren’t there, because they’re going to live with Dominic’s father-in-law for a while. “She kept on saying you were going to get better,” claims Dominic’s father-in-law. “That things were going to change once you got off the force … But I knew. I knew. You’re a loser. She’s done.” We’ve barely seen Mrs. Dominic, but the marriage seemed solid from the little that made it to air. If this is supposed to be setting up a happy ending for Plum and the guy who seemed to like her, it feels abrupt and unearned.

Speaking of Plum: her story this week flashes back and forward, but because I respect your time, I will deliver it to you chronologically. Following her rape at the end of the last episode, Plum is holed up in her apartment. She calls her mother crying, but doesn’t tell her why she’s upset, and stops her from getting on a plane from Glendale. Plum’s mother blames Verena for whatever Plum is going through, but even after the showdown at Calliope House that followed Plum’s interview, Plum defends Verena and tells her mother she’s cancelled her weight-loss surgery. Her mother is overcome with relief: “Now you can live. Just live. Have the life you deserve.”

What life Plum deserves is the question of the episode, and clearly on her mind as she watches a news report on Jennifer, and the image of Leeta inset in the corner of the screen starts talking to Plum; Leeta eventually just appearing in the room with her. Leeta wants to know why Plum hasn’t found her, as Leeta had told her to do when Verena was done with her. Plum says, without much conviction, that Leeta is a terrorist, and the Leeta projected out of Plum’s imagination does express an interest in putting Jack on a list, possibly cutting off his pinkie toe. Leeta doesn’t exactly denigrate Verena’s less-violent methods, but comments that “she’s the star of that show,” whereas Plum needs to spread her wings. “Can’t you just tell me what I should do?” Plum asks. Leeta replies, “I’d really rather you decide.”

After Leeta’s visit, Plum stops ignoring Sana’s phone calls, meets her at an art gallery, and tells her about Jack. Sana is horrified and wants to know what actions Plum’s taken, but Plum has talked herself into thinking she was complicit: “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. It seemed easier just to let him do it.” Plum has further decided she isn’t meant to have a sex life except with a fetishist who objectifies her, or perhaps hasn’t quite made her mind up and is trying out the idea on Sana: “Maybe that’s the best we can do. We’re a type … He wanted to play with my fat, I bet somebody wants to lick your scars.” Sana refuses to corroborate this idea: “Being assaulted is not the best you can do.” She asks Plum to return to Calliope House and be around people; Plum lies that she has Steven.

Plum does spy a little on Steven and Ben — she is disappointed to see the latter leave with his arm around a very basic-looking hipster girl — before returning home to resume reading Leeta’s journal. Once again, she hallucinates Leeta in the room with her, this time trying to recruit her as Jennifer’s press secretary: “Revolution needs violent public outburst as a catalyst, but, well, we are not very great at the communication part.” Plum’s still not sure: “What you’re doing is so dangerous.” Leeta counters, “You were literally going to cut your body open to have a meaningful life.”

Using clues from Leeta’s journal, Plum contacts an IP she thinks belongs to Jennifer. Sometime later, she’s back in her drab clothes and out for a walk in a park when she’s flanked by two women, dressed just as somberly as her. They lead her to a van, put drops in her eyes to keep her from seeing where they’re going, and eventually bring her into a warehouse. Jennifer’s HQ is filled with the things you’d expect: guns, laptops, hygiene projects. Plum is introduced to Belle (Orange Is the New Black’s Selenis Leyva), apparently her IP correspondent, before another member of the collective brings her into the dorm area, and orders her to find herself an unclaimed sleeping bag and prepare for her training the next day. “Be up, dressed, and fed before noon,” she is told. “What am I supposed to do all morning?” Plum responds. “Wait,” snaps her liaison. “Try to remember you are not the priority here, princess.”

Photo: AMC

Turns out Jennifer has really run with the “Disney Princesses Reimagined” meme. Plum decides not to pick one, and for her own alias adopts the generic “Princess.”

While back in New York, Verena is getting defensive under Sana’s questioning about Plum’s departure: “How many women have left like Plum?” Plum goes out on patrol with another member of the collective and discovers that they’re in Detroit. (The guard also slips and tells Plum Belle’s real name: Soledad.) She doesn’t seem to bear Plum any animosity, but says that she’ll have to shoot Plum if she turns out not to be “the real deal.”

Plum does earn some cred the next day when the members of Jennifer debate Julia’s offer of trusts for their families, and Plum defends her motives, so they know that she and Julia have had a meaningful IRL acquaintance. They can’t agree about the offer, and the deal is that either they all take it or none of them do. “I came here to change the world,” says Belle, “not get paid.” Afterward, she and Plum discuss messaging: Plum will help get Jennifer’s message out, but warns Belle that they lost some public support when they started killing women and college students, though Belle disavows the locker room bomber. “People talked about the manifesto but they didn’t do anything,” says Belle. “You’ll fix that, right? Explain why things have to change.” “Hell yes, I can help you,” Plum assures her.

And just in time, because Julia meets back up with her sisters. They’ve waited a week for Jennifer to take them up on their offer, and without any acceptance, Julia needs to hide, because her sisters are going to the FBI. Julia returns to the beauty closet to meet Eladio, who opens the door to the storage room where Leeta has apparently been lamming it in solitary confinement and is mentally falling apart. “I told you, it’s getting worse,” Eladio tells Julia. “Good luck getting anywhere with her.”

In Detroit, Plum’s training begins with a lesson at the gun range, where she proves a quick study. After dark, Belle takes her to stake out a house and points to a man smoking out front. A serviceman who raped four women in Afghanistan, he sent the one who reported him on a suicide mission. “He smokes every day after he pays to have sex with an 11-year-old girl in that building,” Belle tells Plum. “Aim for his chest, keep firing until the magazine is empty, then drop the gun and run … You want to join us? This is what we do.” Plum aims the weapon, but finds she can’t shoot — which is just as well, since Belle made up the whole story and the gun was empty anyway. But it was a test, which Plum has failed. She asks if they’re going to send her home, but Belle says she knows too much. What happens to Plum now isn’t up to Belle: “The group has to vote.”

Will democracy work this time? We’ll find out in the season finale!

Dietland Recap: We’re All Jennifer