I Love Dick
For a brief moment, Marfa did wonders for Sylvère and Chris’s relationship. With Dick “the Roman sex god” looming over them in their fantasies, their sex life blossomed like the desert after a wet winter. But we knew it wasn’t going to last. From the beginning, Sylvère worried that their fantasies would get out of control. For Chris, getting out of control has always been the point.
At the start of the episode, they’re playing by Sylvère’s rules. They’ve concocted a plan so that Chris can intercept Dick on his way into an institute gathering and convince him that Sylvère was completely ignorant of her little “art project.” Sylvère insists that he’ll be fine once Chris “clears his name.” She tries to resume their teasing flirtation from the night before, asking him if he finds it all a bit sexy. “The fun part’s over,” Sylvère declares. They go over the plan once more. “What’s rule number one?” he asks. “No touching,” she says dutifully. Rule number two? She gives him a peck on the lips. It’s a sweet moment, but it doesn’t stop the plan from going immediately awry as soon as they part ways.
The problem is that Dick is already upstairs at the salon, where all of his fellows will give presentations on the work they’re undertaking at the institute. Sylvère sees him in the corner of the room and panics. He’s too distressed by Dick’s presence to speak to the president of the institute’s board — even though she’s apparently a “huge fan of the Holocaust.” Instead, he goes to the window and awkwardly tries to signal to Chris who is waiting for Dick two stories below. In an excruciatingly awkward moment, Sylvère starts whispering Chris’s name at the window — far too quietly for her to hear it, but loud enough for people in the room to wonder what he’s doing. He seems to be trying to communicate with her telepathically, but unfortunately for him, she’s fantasizing about Dick again. As usual in her fantasies, he’s shirtless. This time, though, he’s carrying a baby lamb across his shoulders. Cradling it in his arms, he gently shears its wool, using what appears to be an ordinary beard trimmer. A car horn finally brings her out of her reverie, and it’s then that she becomes aware that Sylvère is frantically rapping on the window pane above, attempting to alert her to the fact that Dick is upstairs.
Suddenly Dick is standing right behind Sylvère, who does his best to pretend that he’s just admiring the view. Dick asks to have a word with Sylvère; one gets the sense that he doesn’t intend to ask about his latest insights into the Holocaust. Sylvère, still burning with shame, flees to the bathroom. He tells Chris, who has finally arrived, that he won’t give his talk until she has spoken to Dick. As the talks begin, Chris sidles up to her obsession.
The first fellow to speak is Geoff (Adhir Kalyan), whose work lends the episode its name: Ilinx. “In video games,” Geoff explains, “Ilinx provokes the feeling of being pulled into a circling cyclone.” Ilinx is a real term in sociology: Coined by the French intellectual Roger Caillois, it describes the pleasure that comes from a temporary disruption of perception, the feeling you get when you ride a roller coaster or eat a psychedelic mushroom. This is exactly the feeling that Chris is seeking — and she has no intention of stopping, no matter that it’s making her husband more than a little queasy.
As Geoff instructs the people in the audience to put on virtual-reality headsets so they can see the world through the eyes of a wild stallion, Chris asks Dick what he thought of her letters. “It’s just a rough draft,” she quickly adds, as though the most embarrassing thing about them is the syntax. It’s easy to miss, but she never pulls the VR goggles down over her eyes; she’s uninterested, and perhaps incapable, of seeing the world through any eyes but her own.
She and Dick are already standing too close for Sylvère’s comfort — Chris’s bare arm pressing against Dick’s suede jacket — and Dick leans closer. He wants to know if Sylvère knows; she assures Dick that he doesn’t. At the front of the room, Sylvère is telling the crowd about how he has dedicated his life to becoming a “walking compendium of the Holocaust.” Ooph. It’s enough to make Chris lean over to Dick and tell him that she’s free on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons, which is patently absurd. She is free every afternoon, and every morning. Dick snakes an arm around her waist and for a moment it seems as though he is finally about to cave to her desire.
In the hallway, it soon becomes clear that Dick has other plans. He presses Chris up against the wall and demands to know what she’s up to. Her voice low and sultry, she turns the question back on him. “Shut up,” he interrupts her. “You’re married.” He knows what she’s doing — and he wants her to know that he’s not interested. She doesn’t believe him, but he won’t back down. “I don’t find you interesting,” he tells her. “Not now, not ever.”
With that, he’s gone, leaving her to collapse against the wall in tears. When Sylvère learns what Dick told her, he suggests they go home and drink three bottles of wine and try to forget the whole thing. Maybe he thinks they’re on the same team again, now that she’s upset with Dick. But Sylvère is missing the point of ilinx: You don’t back away when the darkness comes at you, you run toward it.
And so, as the hipster artists leave the salon and head toward the Lost Horse Saloon, Chris joins them, fluffing her hair as she enters the bar, as though to make it perfectly clear that she is out of control and proud of it. You can see her through Dick’s eyes: Who is this crazy and pathetic woman shrieking and gyrating alone? Chris isn’t unaware of how she looks. The screen fades to red. “Dear Dick,” she purrs, “did you think this was going to be pretty?”
Across the bar, things are also getting ugly between Toby and Devon. In all fairness, Devon hasn’t had a great day. That morning, her sister informed Devon that she couldn’t use the bar as a rehearsal space for the play, and managed to sneak in a few other barbs about Devon’s tendency toward needing a bailout from family (while insisting on calling her Dolores). When Devon sees Toby talking to an oil-rig worker at the bar that night, she accuses him of “raping the Earth.” Toby says she finds his work interesting, but it’s not clear whether she’s really interested in him or if she’s just using him in some way. By the end of the night, she’s riding off with him to his “man camp.”
Chris and Sylvère are about to agree to part ways, too. At home after the party, Sylvère tells Chris that Dick was right about her; she’s getting in the way of his work with her antics. “He has no idea who we are,” she retorts. But Sylvère doesn’t want to argue anymore. “I don’t like what we’ve become,” he tells her, utterly serious. “I don’t like how this feels.” Whatever thrill he got from their little game is gone. He asks if they can just stop playing. “I don’t think I can,” she responds sadly. If her thing with Dick is a circling cyclone, there’s no escaping until the storm has run its course.
Film clips, in order of appearance
I Love Dick weaves short clips from avant-garde feminist directors throughout each episode. Sometimes, those clips blend into the story lines unfolding in Marfa; other times, they’re used for contrast. In each recap, we’ll identify them.
1) Vanalyne Green, Trick or Drink