Surface Recap: Sex, Lies, and Audiotape


Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 3 stars


Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Ed Araquel/Apple TV

As Surface reaches the halfway mark, Sophie hasn’t really recovered much from her past, but her mood and overall demeanor are beginning to shift. She’s still confused and lost, but instead of acting like a damsel in distress, she’s letting her anger, frustration, and lust lead the way.

This new twist sees Sophie vacillating between two personalities: a femme fatale and a petulant child. She’s all sexy business when it comes to the men in her life — she aggressively seduces her husband and falls deeper into her affair with Baden — and, in her psychotherapy treatment, she’s beginning to rebel against Hannah.

Unable to wait for concrete answers, Sophie begins to seek out an alternate form of treatment. She Googles her way to a company called Encounter Memory Solutions. The sleek website promises expertise in trauma processing and memory recovery. Now, trauma processing is undoubtedly something that mental-health professionals can assist clients with. Memory recovery … isn’t.

In the field of therapy, memory recovery is considered controversial and potentially dangerous. Recovered memories can be unreliable, and there’s often no way to discern whether a memory is true or false. But Sophie wants answers, and she doesn’t care how; she wants them now. Patience is certainly not a virtue that she possesses.

So, Sophie seeks permission to attend her quick-fix clinic. As James is her conservator, she needs him to release the funds as well as consent for her to engage in treatment there. She goes to Hannah and asks her to refer her out; it’s the only way James will agree. But Hannah is having none of it. She reminds Sophie that there are no shortcuts in therapy and that places like Encounter Memory Solutions can cause more harm than good. Sophie is outraged, putting on a pouty face, but she quickly formulates a plan.

Sophie figures if she can’t get the money from James, she’ll find it herself. She heads home and rifles through endless drawers of expensive baubles. Somehow, she ends up at a jewelry store where the jeweler knows her personally. Someone didn’t think things through. Yet, she bats her eyes, puts on a coquettish smile, and gets the store to hand over cash in exchange for a few small pieces. For her troubles, she earns a cool $15,000, which is more than enough to get her started at the clinic, plus some walking around money for good measure.

Sophie’s experience at the clinic does immediately raise alarm bells. She’s asked to pay five thousand dollars as a “membership fee,” and then she’s immediately escorted down the hall for her first treatment. She talks to some dude with questionable credentials for a hot second, and he asks her if her memory loss was psychogenic, meaning that it was caused by emotional trauma, not physical trauma. Interesting. We don’t know! Sophie doesn’t know! Presumably, if Sophie had access to her medical records, she might know if she had sustained a head injury, but she doesn’t.

After the mini-consultation, the guy steers Sophie toward the sensory deprivation tank. The scene provides a stunning layered visual as we see the experience from Sophie’s point of view — a pleasantly glowing ring of light that then goes dark — followed by a perspective of a suspended Sophie in the tank. Why anyone would recommend a treatment that includes water in any form to a woman who almost drowned five months ago is beyond me, but sure, why not?

As she floats, Sophie does recall snippets of memory. She’s with Baden. She’s with James. And then she’s with the mystery girl who called her Tess in her earlier memory. None of it is particularly helpful, but Sophie feels like something has been knocked loose.

Empowered by this newfound information, Sophie decides that she’s going to seduce James into confessing to all his crimes. It’s a pretty amazing plan, but it’s again born of impatience and petulance. Encouraged by Baden, Sophie seems to believe that once James is arrested for embezzlement, her conservatorship just dissolves, and — poof! — goes away, and she can go live happily ever after with this other man that she hardly knows. Sophie might not have her memories, but she should still have some semblance of logic rolling around in her pretty little head; she is not using it here.

To be completely fair to Sophie, it probably feels pretty terrible to have her freedom curtailed by someone who is basically a stranger. Also, James isn’t the most upstanding or forthcoming dude. Before Sophie gets to hatch her plan, we see James sweating it out in his office. From his incoherent ramblings, it’s clear that James feels responsible for putting the money back, but it’s still somewhat unclear whether or not he took it in the first place. (I am 100 percent convinced that pre-accident Sophie had something to do with this missing money.) James’s buddy Harrison tells him that he’s got 48 hours to make a dent in the missing money, and then he calls Caroline for a bailout.

Caroline! Wouldn’t it be cool to have a friend who could just float you four million dollars at a moment’s notice? Sure, the girl is from a rich family, but how rich?! That’s like Succession rich, but the Roy kids would never ever lend someone a hundred bucks, much less 4 million dollars. Unless, of course, the money was used to save their own asses. So, who is Caroline? And why is she willing to go out on such a limb for James?

When James arrives home from his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, Sophie is there waiting for him. She’s in a slinky emerald dress and wearing a simple necklace with their anniversary date engraved. She couldn’t sell it earlier, but she found a way to make it work for her anyway.

Somehow, with no access to credit cards, Sophie has booked a suite for her and her hubby at the Palace Hotel, the place where they got married. James balks at first — he’s got a lot of covering up to do, after all — but then he decides to go.

Using a combination of feigned helplessness and her feminine wiles, Sophie manages to nudge James into a place of nostalgia and lust. They check out the ballroom where they got married, and Sophie encourages him to tell her the story of that day. Eventually, they make their way to the pool, and James recalls how they ended up breaking in together on their wedding night. Pre-accident Sophie sounds more and more like a rule breaker and a daredevil! And James misses her. It saddens him to think that she woke up one day and was just “stuck” with him. Sophie sees her opportunity and strikes.

Finally, we get a bit of sex onscreen, complete with a Titanic-like hand swipe on a pane of steamy glass. At this moment, Sophie has her man right where she wants him, but dammit, she’s going to enjoy herself while she’s hatching her plot. Asking your hubby personal questions after an energetic round of hotel sex might just be a natural truth serum, and once Sophie starts poking and prodding, James spills his secrets. She catches him on tape saying that he owes $11 million to the company.

The next day, Sophie runs this information right over to Baden. Baden’s been busy blackmailing Todd, the IT guy at James’s place of work, but he doesn’t tell Sophie that. (Who’s keeping secrets now, my dude?!) Instead, the two of them fall into a lustful embrace together, and Sophie feels vindicated.

The conclusion of the episode sees Sophie attending another therapy session. Hannah calls her out for acting a bit erratic and impulsive. As Sophie scrunches up her face in protest, Hannah reveals that she knows about the other clinic. And she will not be allowing Sophie to attend there any longer. You see, it turns out that Sophie’s mother had a psychotic disorder, and the methods that the clinic uses to recover memories, such as the therapeutic use of hallucinogens, are not recommended for someone with a family history of psychosis. James supplied the family history at Sophie’s intake, and it was kept from her until now to protect the integrity of the therapy.

In response to this information, Sophie snaps. “You have no idea who he really is,” she snarls. Well. She doesn’t either. Throwing tantrums isn’t going to get Sophie anywhere, but I do believe that her true nature is starting to reveal itself.

Recovered Memories

• Using hallucinogens such as psilocybin (a.k.a. magic mushrooms) in therapeutic mental health treatment is certainly something that has been evolving in recent years. The concept has also been winding its way into popular media (see: Nine Perfect Strangers), but hallucinogens are indeed contraindicated for people with a personal or family history of psychosis or psychotic disorders. Now, whether or not the information about Sophie’s mother is true is a different story altogether.

• While Sophie is at the Palace, she runs into a sex worker in the lobby bathroom. She tosses down a few hundos in exchange for a kiss. The kiss is lackluster and chaste, but it does bring back another flash of memory for Sophie. If the memory is to be believed, the girl that once called her Tess was also her lover. Gasp! I bet we’ll be seeing more of this mystery woman as time goes on.

Surface Recap: Sex, Lies, and Audiotape