The pacing in Monarch is absolutely wild. And I mean that in regards to both the season as a whole — we’re only three episodes in and Kayla is already pregnant with her brother-in-law’s child?! — and individual episodes. Sure, a soap opera wants to keep delivering on the twists and turns, but the speed at which “Show Them Who You Are, Baby” plows through scenes does the show a disservice. There are several moments in this episode that should pack a huge emotional punch, but they’re over and discarded before we can fully process them. Faith Hill told us all to “breathe,” and Monarch should really heed her advice.
In that vein, let’s talk about what Nicky gets into in this episode. The woman is dealing with a lot: She helped her mother die, and now her brother is on the precipice of figuring that out, her dud husband Clive is still cheating on her and lying about it, she desperately wants to become a superstar, and she is burdened with knowing that her brother and her sister’s wife are having an affair. That is a lot of emotional turmoil for one woman to shoulder — and yet Nicky still remains too nice, too calm for my liking. I want some anger! I want some fire, both emotionally and maybe literally! When she finds a six-month-iversary gift Clive bought (and left fully wrapped in a pair of pants he tossed on the closet floor because he’s a dope) for his supposed ex-mistress, Nicky just… tosses them in the toilet? And then later tells her sister she actually took them back out of the toilet and donated them to a woman’s shelter? Nicky acts as if this is a big “fuck you” to her husband, but … it is honestly so lame. She should be out there barbecuing all of Clive’s possessions on her front lawn. Let’s go scorched earth on this ridiculous man!
Sure, Nicky’s whole deal is that, for her entire life, she’s believed her parents had the perfect marriage, and since she wants to be just like her mother, she thinks she, too, must act as though she is living a life of wedded bliss. Everyone around her is pretty much like, That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. But it’s not until she and Gigi uncover a song Dottie recorded and left on a flash drive in one of her cowboy boots (you’ll get no further context — it’s so much better that way) that details Albie’s cheating, that Nicky begins to reconsider her stance on pushing through her troubled marriage. When she confronts her father about it, he readily admits how badly he messed up. He was of course grateful Dottie stayed with him, but he doesn’t think that means Nicky should do the same thing. Everyone knows Clive sucks.
And, finally, Nicky makes a truly baller move. She learns Clive is flying in his sidepiece, an actress named Imogen, on the Roman family private jet (this man! His stupidity knows no bounds!). Nicky intercepts Imogen at the airport because she has a plan. Nicky’s supposed to be playing in a Queens of Country concert that evening, a performance that could make or break her chances of getting funding for her own tour. So she rolls up to the red carpet in a hearse, rocking some chic funeral wear with Imogen in her arm, and declares the evening “the funeral of my marriage.” She goes onstage in a hooded cloak and talks about rising from the ashes, then performs Miranda Lambert’s “Kerosene” with gusto. This! This is the fire this show and this character need! And yet the whole thing happens so quickly and is glossed over with little fanfare (there’s no reactions from Nicky’s family? From Clive?) that it feels like a missed opportunity. This should be the moment Nicky steps into her own, but the show treats it like just another performance. She doesn’t even score that big tour deal out of it — the tour producer simply tells her she did a great job and “We’ll see.” Come on! Give this woman something!
It seems, however, that Nicky will have to move her focus away from what this performance might do to her career and family and turn it toward some other things, some “How do I stay out of prison?” things. Just as Luke is getting information from the coroner’s office that Dottie died from an oxycodone poisoning, which seems to point at an illegal assisted-suicide situation, good ol’ Clive finds Dottie’s oxy pill bottle in his and Nicky’s closet. Why on earth would Nicky save that bottle? Someone needs to enroll all of the living Romans in a “Schemes and Scandal Cover-ups 101” course ASAP. Clive is 100 percent going to use this to blackmail Nicky, and you know what? I’m starting to believe she deserves it.
Speaking of Romans and Roman adjacents making bafflingly stupid choices, we should get into the Kayla situation. Kayla, who repeatedly tells us how much she loves her wife, can’t get enough of Luke. Luke is in love with Kayla, so he’s not going to stop this affair, either, and Kayla discovers she’s pregnant. On the heels of this news, Nicky — who you’ll remember caught a glimpse of Luke and Kayla sucking face last week — summons Kayla to lunch to inform her that she knows about the affair, that if she hurts Gigi Nicky will hurt her, and that she wants to handle it with Luke. Although it’s not the best news to learn someone else has discovered her affair, Kayla could’ve survived this lunch no problem. Unfortunately, like every single person in the family she married into (except for our dearly departed Dottie), Kayla has absolutely zero chill. Of course, the two women meet at a sushi restaurant, and instead of ordering, I don’t know, something that is not raw fish, Kayla orders sushi and doesn’t touch it. And when Nicky suggests a sake toast, Kayla could maybe fake take a sip or do a stealth sip and spit like a normal person trying to cover up a pregnancy, but no, she just stares at it nervously. So, yes, Nicky figures out Kayla’s pregnant. How has this woman kept her affair a secret for so long?
While Nicky decides to keep all of this information to herself for the moment — it’s some real “break in case of emergency” type intel, and she knows it — this secret is going to get out soon. Honestly, I cannot wait.
• An update on the flash-forward: Nicky waves off the cops who come to see what Albie was up to in the woods, but the cops can tell she’s lying. Albie and Nicky head back to the location where Albie just buried the body to move it, knowing the cops will be there soon enough, but they’re too late — the body is gone, and they have no idea who took it. I don’t know much, but I know that’s not great.
• If anyone cares, Catt’s tenacity — she has Ana perform in front of Albie — lands her daughter a record contract with Monarch. We’ve gotten so little info on these two women it’s hard to have any type of emotional investment here.
• Luke confronts Nicky about her poor forgery skills, and Nicky tries to explain the fake Dottie letters as being a way for the family to make peace, and Luke buys it. He’ll have to connect the dots eventually, though, right?
• Wade is still super into Nicky, which is great because this show needs to up its horniness levels by a factor of ten, at least.
• How are people feeling about Monarch leaning on covers more than original music? On one hand, watching Beth Ditto perform Lizzo’s “Juice” is life affirming; on the other, most of the musical bits are giving the whole thing a real karaoke sheen. The songs should be some of the most emotionally stirring moments! Or, at the very least, give us important insight into the character singing them.
• Gigi and Albie’s impromptu duet of “Always on My Mind” sounded pretty great, though, didn’t it?
• Hello, Tanya Tucker singing “Delta Dawn”!
• Why has not one single person suggested that Nicky and Gigi band together and form a Roman sisters super-duo?? The answer to all of their problems is right there!