Dietland’s latest strike against the patriarchy, which opens “Monster High,” is its most ambitious in terms of body count: At Botha University (named for the Apartheid-era South African prime minister or the prefix for “deez nuts”? Maybe both!), a female student named Fiona marches into the boys’ locker room after a football practice and, over the objections of a single team member, starts an exotic dance. Only after the coach comes out of his office to get rid of her does she meet an earlier request that she “show [them her] tits”: She unzips her dress to reveal the bombs strapped to her rib cage and detonates it, resulting in ten deaths. By the end of the episode, Jennifer still hasn’t taken responsibility and Cheryl is dismissing Fiona as a mentally unstable person who went off her meds, but … it certainly does seem Jennifer-y.
Such an attack would have upset the old Plum, but the new one DGAF. When she joins Steven at his café just as he’s watching a news report on the bombing, she can’t even put on a show of concern.
The world’s just “getting a good shake,” in her opinion. When Ben appears to say that Plum’s confinement at Calliope House was “the longest week of [his] life,” Steven sends him for her usual coffee, but Plum would actually like something else, and over her chocolate shake, tuna melt, and fries, she tells him what she learned from Marlowe’s art project: “All these women getting beaten and screwed and humiliated: they’re me. But they’re also Alicia, my thin woman within. They look just like Alicia. They’re thin and perky and glossy, for what? They get strangled, violated. Killed.” Remaking her body so it looks more like those of the women in mainstream adult films wouldn’t make her “safe”: “All I’ve done is turn myself into better fodder for the predators!”
Steven finds this kind of talk disturbing on two fronts. First, even though he hadn’t been especially bullish on her plans to pursue weight-loss surgery, he does think she’s too fat: “Losing weight will turn you into better prey? How about staying fat will kill you? … You are not healthy. You are not well.” When Plum icily tells him she is, actually, he says he’s heard her get winded walking up the steps to the restaurant and worried that she was about to have a heart attack. But he also objects to Plum’s assessment of her own physical safety as a woman in the world, treating it as Calliope House indoctrination: “A basement with a porn room? They’re recruiting you. That’s straight-up Al Qaeda. What’s next, blowing up innocent football players? … You know, not all woman are victims. Not all women are prey.” When Plum asks how he would know, he reminds her that he’s “a gay black man from the South,” but this doesn’t win him the argument. She points out that he can pass as straight, and that he moved to New York to “escape” the worst of his persecution; as a fat woman, Plum can’t pass as anything other than what she is, and there isn’t anywhere she could go where, as a woman, she wouldn’t be at risk: “We are not safe anywhere. And if I like this body, I’m going to live in it as long as I want to.” (We can tell she means it in part because she’s got an edgy new look. Janice, the Waist Watchers meeting disrupter from the series premiere, is a possible inspiration.)
Plum storms back to Calliope House to do some rage baking, but when she smashes the first egg, Verena takes her aside to talk instead. Plum is worried that she’s experiencing dizzying highs and debilitating lows, but Verena tells her she doesn’t have bipolar disorder; she just has feelings. She had an epiphany, and the progress that will follow is also going to involve some setbacks. That the anger Plum feels when she’s down is directed outward is, Verena says, a sign of positive growth; they agree that Plum will live at Calliope House a while longer while she’s still figuring things out. Verena also suggests that Plum spend some time with Sana, making art: “Try a hobby outside of baking — one where you don’t necessarily have to follow the recipe.”
Plum and Sana don’t follow a recipe with their collaboration, but they do follow something else: Plum’s silhouette, which Sana outlines in spray paint and to which Plum adds breasts.
Plum leaves both inspired and armed (with spray paint), and heads for her doctor’s office, determined to cancel her weight-loss surgery and recover her $10,000 deposit. The receptionist states that it’s office policy not to return deposits for nonmedical procedures. (Which, unless the surgery was supposed to happen that day, seems insane? Admittedly I’m not from here and all your health costs seem immoral to me, but wouldn’t a doctor who just straight kept a five-figure sum for doing nothing except temporarily blocking off a space on his calendar get sued? Tell me how naïve I am in the comments!) Anyway, Plum makes a slight scene by loudly talking about the dangers of the surgery for the benefit of the other overweight patients waiting, and the receptionist makes it personal, urging Plum, “Don’t give up on yourself!”
And it works! But not the way the receptionist probably intended. Plum goes outside, where a billboard on the side of the doctor’s office asks passersby, “Ready to change and BE HAPPY?” Plum is ready to change: she takes out her spray paint, reproduces a version of her silhouette as rendered by Sana, across the torso adding, “LOVED.”
And then she is immediately arrested for what is apparently a felony. Somehow word gets back to Dominic, who uses whatever juice he has left to get the charges dismissed. Perhaps thinking he can take advantage of her gratitude, he tries to talk to her about Julia and Verena’s history, but she’s not interested — even less so when she finds out he had someone go through her file and found a thumb drive (though he says they didn’t find anything on it, so if it’s Julia’s manuscript, the really seditious stuff didn’t make her first draft). As Plum’s stalking out, he calls after her, “I can’t stop thinking about you.” “Figures,” she spits.
Plum’s arrest has done nothing to quench her new fire. The photo she’d taken of her work has gone viral, been memed, and might even show up on T-shirts. Little do Plum’s fans — and, inevitably, detractors — know that was only the beginning. While the camera pans around the dozens of self-portraits Plum’s spent the night drawing and affixing to her bedroom walls, Plum VOs, “Maybe the first step was claiming what was my voice all along. Mine. So I used the emails for Kitty’s girls.” Kitty no longer has a platform from which to address them, so Plum steps into the void and types an email to all 49,000-plus letter writers: “Me and Kitty have been lying to you. I’m fat as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.”
Kitty is only around the margins of the story this week: She’s getting iced out by her former social circle, including Stanley’s wife; she’s disgusted by the vent view outside her new office; she’s bored. She tries to talk Stanley into reinstating her at Daisy Chain by threatening reprisal from Jennifer on behalf of a female editor who was the group’s ally. But Stanley wrenches her hand as he tells her he’s not scared of them, or her. So she goes to Dominic, letting him know she’s dug into his NYPD disgrace — so bad not even his father-in-law, the chief of police, could get him out of it — and she’s installing him in security at Austen so he can help her topple Stanley.
Finally, Julia is ejected from Calliope House following the Botha bombing. Verena doesn’t believe violence is ever the answer and is convinced Julia’s involved with Jennifer based on the language of Jennifer’s manifesto. And Verena, it turns out, is right. Through expository dialogue, we learn that Julia also has money, which she’d been funneling to funds for “a class-action suit for rape survivors, military women.” But then she got involved with Leeta, who kept from Julia the truth about what she was using her money for. Julia gets a new wig and a fake ID. She sneaks into the beauty closet to give Eladio a fat wad of cash because she “may not be around.”
And then Julia goes to the least likely place anyone might look for her: an off-brand Hooters, where two women around her age are waiting for her. “Nice wig, you get that from Mom?” one snarks. Julia doesn’t have time for banter with, one may surmise, her literal sisters, because they’re going to do what they “should have done all along: “We’re gonna stop those bitches.”