This episode brings us the return of Anna’s friends, whom we haven’t seen in a few episodes. Mostly Neff, the concierge at the 12 George hotel where Anna lived for three to four months after leaving Billy McFarland’s. If the past few episodes focused on Val, Talia, Nora, Chase, and Alan Reed’s parts of Anna’s story, episode five is all about Neff’s. Though it follows that now-familiar pattern, it’s not telling quite as tight a story as some of the previous episodes because there’s some present-day Vivian plot to get through that, while it connects thematically to Neff’s story, slows down the episode’s pace.
As Neff tells Vivian when they sit down for an interview, she’s ride or die, and she does really seem concerned about Anna’s well-being (she deflects when Vivian asks if she’s visited Rikers, which we saw her attempt in episode two). She doesn’t want to talk about Anna’s background, either; she’s only agreed to talk to Vivian about Anna at the hotel. Luckily, there’s a lot of material there, but I felt the episode, which runs over an hour, could probably do without the long montage, one of many in the episode, of Anna floating around the hotel “tipping Benjis” while Neff gets her name on various social databases all over New York, considering Neff has already explained to Vivian what the databases are and how good she was at getting Anna on them.
The main takeaways from Neff’s time with Anna, in fact, are how good Neff is at her job, a fact established quickly when she recognizes Aby Rosen’s (who owns both the hotel and the 281 Park building Anna is still, at this point, courting for ADF) sons in an employee elevator when another employee doesn’t, and offers to have breakfast sent to their room. And how — as we’ve seen on display in the past two episodes as well — the right connections can get you anything and everything in this moneyed New York world Anna was operating in. And Neff’s ability to grease a lot of those social connections (via said databases) for Anna endeared Anna to her, and fast. While Neff may have just been in it for the huge tips at first, the two eventually became friends after they bond about the industry leaches they have to deal with, and the rest, well … is history. Neff started going out with Anna’s crew, and soon their twosome expanded to a foursome, with Rachel and Kacy entering the scene (cue more montages). Then cracks started to show in Anna’s tales, Neff had to use her hard-earned film-financing money to cover a dinner, and the hotel realized they never got a credit card from Anna upon check-in and she owes over $33,000. Despite all these signs, her boyfriend’s adamant declarations that Anna is a hustler, and Anna’s present-day fraud indictment, Neff still describes Anna to Vivian as a visionary and seems certain ADF was about to become a reality.
This seems weird at first until we learn that Neff (and 12 George) is the only one Anna actually paid back in full. Which brings us to another layer of Anna Delvey and the show’s core question of who the hell she is. So far, we know that Anna is a con artist who can alternate between charming, vulnerable, and cutthroat, and we’ve also seen her be mean— to Vivian about her looks plenty of times — and in this episode alone, she displays her uglier, entitled, defensive side, yelling at the hotel manager and a waiter, and making disparaging comments about the housekeeping staff. But we also know she calls Todd anywhere from 16-37 times a day from Riker’s and gets upset when Vivian misses her visits and/or breaks her promises. And as Vivian theorizes, Anna stayed at the hotel so long, longer than anywhere else she’d stayed, because of Neff. Is Anna Delvey … lonely? The way she lights up when Neff visits her in prison at the end of the episode makes me think she might be. Or am I just falling into the Anna Delvey trap?
I don’t feel for Anna as much as I feel for Neff and Vivian, though, both of whom deal with friendship letdowns and professional woes in “Check Out Time.” The “kid from the article” issue teased earlier in the season pops back up in a big way this episode, and Vivian spends the whole episode off her game, spiraling about it. (She even tries to turn down the Scriberia crew’s support and help, which is hilarious because they have been helping her with the Anna story literally every. Single. Episode.) Even though Viv’s former friend/editor Paul tries to flip Viv’s own “this is your chance to get your side out there” script on her to convince her to take part in an American Investigated interview about the Donovan Lamb incident that got her branded a “bad journalist,” she eventually tells Paul to shove it and to do the interview himself if he wants to correct the record, because he was just as involved as she was.
While I don’t find her storyline to be all that compelling (despite Anna Chlumsky’s excellence at emoting), the short fuse it gives Vivian does lead to some pretty great moments, like when she tells Todd — who I guess just exists in the show at this point as a sounding board/source of information for Vivian? — that Anna is “a manipulative narcissist.” Or when she seems to be cooling on the whole “finding Anna fascinating” thing. I’m cooling on that too, and it might be because this episode sticks so closely to Neff and her film dreams deferred. While she and Anna might be actual friends — and Anna did pay her back — I’m still wary of how caught up she is in Anna, even during the show’s present-day timeline, even though she’s, by all accounts, doing just fine in her life. So far, everyone else Vivian has interviewed has put Anna behind them (despite maybe still feeling some concern for her, like Val did). Maybe the fact that Neff hasn’t means she’s a really, really good friend. I can only hope it doesn’t come back to bite her in the butt (and that she really does finish that film).
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
• Anna-ism of the Episode: “Life is for living, you know.”
• Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge: The first dinner Neff attends with Anna is rife with meta scammer references: Billy’s Fyre Festival has officially blown up and the group gossips about it, while Martin Shkreli sits at the head of the table, loses “credit-card roulette,” and proclaims that “guys like me, we don’t do time.” My eyes … they’re rolling.
• Fashion Is Life: Scriberia on Anna’s financial statements from the 12 George days: “Does the nail polish give the nails the ability to solve crimes or something?” / “Apparently we should all want something called Supreme?” / “What is a Yeezy?”