Is it weird to say that I don’t really care about the doppelgänger mystery anymore? Instead, I want a million more minutes of Mama Bowden and Cassie working their shit out in therapy. (And I’m still waiting on that Miranda Croft spinoff announcement. HBO Max, don’t let me down.)
Throughout the second season of The Flight Attendant, the international mystery plotline and the Cassie-is-a-hot-mess plotlines have been almost like two separate shows merged into one. Sure, Cassie has been doing some sketchy stuff to solve the mystery, but those behaviors are more of an indicator that she’s not doing well in her recovery. For the last few episodes, the heft of telling the murderous espionage story has mostly been placed on short snippets of Dot and Benjamin chatting cryptically at the CIA. Given that these two characters aren’t really baked into the rest of the narrative, whenever the show pops in on them, it feels more like an interstitial from another crime-focused TV series like NCIS or Law & Order rather than part of a cohesive whole.
Cassie’s messy personal life makes for the more compelling plotline so far, and it’s very effective. This episode is almost like an exposition sandwich, serving up bits of the doppelgänger mystery (and a quick check in with Megan) on the periphery of Cassie’s trip back home with Davey. But the trip itself — specifically Cassie’s showdown with her rage-filled mother — is the real star of the show.
But let’s check in with everyone else before we dive into the glorious Sharon Stone of it all.
Benjamin and Dot are kind of doing their thing in CIA land. Thus far, Dot has been openly hostile and rude to Benjamin, who is a subordinate, and here she calls Cassie to warn her about Benjamin’s motives. Um, okay. Later, we see Benjamin calling Shane for intel on Cassie and then stalking Dot in a parking garage, so none of this seems great for ol’ Benji. At the conclusion of the episode, we see the doppelgänger head to a boat and straight-up murder the milky eye dude collaborating with Benjamin. (She shoots him in the eye!) The doppelgänger is barefoot and puts out a cigarette with her toe, just so you know how badass she is.
Earlier, we see the doppelgänger sneak into Cassie’s house to plant the knife that she used to kill the two CIA operatives at Echo Park. We get a tantalizing glimpse of her face, but given her thick blonde wig and giant shades, there’s not much to go on. During my fight with the pause button on my remote, it occurred to me that she might not even be a she! The double could certainly be a petite guy in a trench coat and a wig. So, all bets are off. But my money is still on Dot, mostly because she didn’t even ask Cassie about the one million drunk dials from the night before.
Ani and Max are still sort of talking about the ring and their future and whatnot, but Max is distracting himself from the situation by throwing himself into finding out who the Diazes really are. Of course, they’re part of a shadowy group that has its eye on Cassie. They even have Cassie’s flight itinerary to New Jersey! Ruh-roh.
On the East Coast, Megan tries to reconnect with her family, and it’s a total fail. She hugs her sweet son a few times, but once she sees her husband Bill, he tells her he’s turning her in. Megan seems shocked, but c’mon. Seriously, girl?! Your actions completely shattered this man’s life. So, I’m with Bill on this one.
Speaking of going back to family, Cassie is also headed to the East Coast. At the top of the episode, Ani and Max find her passed out on the floor of her trashed apartment. Max scoots out to get coffee, and Ani scoops Cassie up. Through an ocean of tears, Cassie trembles, “I thought if I quit drinking, all my problems would go away, but they’re still here!” Wow. This is such a powerful realization and one that comes up very often in recovery. Addiction and substance abuse don’t exist in bubbles; they’re symptoms of something wrong.
The Flight Attendant is nailing this season is the concept of struggle in early sobriety and cataloging all the painful realizations and changes that come with true recovery. Kaley Cuoco is doing an incredible job bringing Cassie’s frustrations to light. She navigates Cassie’s journey by always wearing her emotions openly; her face never lies. Cuoco’s ability to access anguish throughout this season has also been awe-inspiring. Cassie has been sobbing through her deep existential pain more often than not throughout this season, and I just want to send Cuoco a cool puffy eye mask and a box of aloe-infused tissues for her fantastic effort.
Cassie wants sobriety to be easy, like drinking was easy. She wants a simple answer — stop drinking, and life will get easier — but that’s not how recovery works. She gets much closer to a form of healing catharsis when she and Davey visit their dad’s grave in Jersey. As she reads a letter she’s written to her father (it’s unclear why Davey didn’t write a letter, too), she releases a flurry of pent-up emotion that’s been poisoning her soul for decades. Cuoco’s breathless, tear-soaked reading of the letter had me in tears, especially the part where she vowed never to be him.
Meanwhile, in Cassie’s mind palace, there’s just one Cassie left. Ostensibly, it’s Responsible Cassie, but in the wake of Cassie’s relapse, she’s now just become Cassie’s worst thoughts about herself. The inner Cassie breaks free of the mind palace for most of this episode, mostly to pop up and whisper borderline suicidal thoughts into Cassie’s ear. It’s all taken a very dark turn.
A lot of the resistance from inner Cassie potentially stems from how much hurt she knows she needs to go through to stabilize her life. Despite bravely reading that letter to her father, it’s clear that she’s never processed the childhood traumas that shaped who she has become. And it wasn’t only her father that left a psychic mark on her life.
Enter: Sharon Stone as Lisa Bowden. Honestly, how good is Sharon Stone in this episode? When she sees Cassie at her doorstep, her expression falls and sours instantly. Davey has ambushed her, but it seems as if Davey intended to mend bridges by showing his mom that his sister was sober. Oops. That’s a good intention, but it’s a terrible idea even if Cassie had maintained her sobriety.
Lisa corrals her son and starts complaining about Cassie’s presence: She doesn’t trust her. She doesn’t have the emotional space for her. Cassie steps into the kitchen, and what follows is a microcosm of repressed family trauma, resentment, and repressed rage. As Cassie and her mother go back and forth, it’s clear that Lisa holds all the power here. She’s the mom, and she’s also willing and able to cut Cassie out of her life. To be sure, she has very valid reasons to be upset with Cassie, but, as Cassie points out, she was also complicit in allowing her husband to treat their daughter as his drinking buddy. Cassie was a child, and her mother was supposed to protect her; she didn’t.
However, Lisa does recognize that Cassie shouldn’t be blamed for her actions as a kid. She’s mad at the now. She rages, “You’re supposed to grow. You’re supposed to learn. You’re supposed to move on.” All excellent points, but Cassie is trying, and Lisa refuses to see that.
The holistic twisted family dynamic plays out thanks to an excellent performance from T.R. Knight, who stands awkwardly next to the stove in quiet agony as both Lisa and Cassie gesture toward him at points in their argument. They’re projecting all sorts of emotions onto him, including blame and anger, and seeking reassurance and validation. Fun family therapy fact: Using a third family member to soften the blow of arguments between two people is called “triangulation,” and it’s not great. Poor Davey.
And then. The slap. Somehow that slap had more violence in it than all of the murders this season. Stone plays the final moments of the argument with one part sadism and two parts motherly love. She front loads with love, which makes the one-two sadistic punch all the more appalling. As she caresses Cassie’s face like a mother might caress her newborn baby, she tells her that she loves her, but she doesn’t like her. Then, she twists on a dime and ends the conversation, telling them that there’s food in the fridge. She insists on being in control. As she leaves, she tenderly pats her daughter on the face again, leaving us — and Cassie — to think that this might just be her mea culpa, her way of showing that she really does care. Nope. The tender pat rebounds and becomes a flat “smack” on Cassie’s cheek, leaving her reeling as her mother walks out of the room.
The rest of the visit to Jersey doesn’t go so well. Cassie finds a planted box with an extra View-Master slide, the scent of Santal 33, and a weird old teddy bear just before the Koreans storm the house. Thankfully, Davey has some old fireworks, and the two get away just in time.
On the plane home, Davey admits that he’s been using Cassie’s problems to distract from his own. You see, he also has a severe mental health disorder — OCD — and he hasn’t been dealing with it. Ah, the Bowdens.
We’ve made our final descent into the end of the recap, so please make sure your tray tables and seats are in the upright position. Until next time …
• There’s a Ferris wheel in the credits, but no Ferris wheel has shown up yet. As someone who’s afraid of heights, I’m very nervous.
• Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but when my friends come to visit from thousands of miles away, I generally clear my schedule. Ani and Max have been staying at Cassie’s apartment for about a week now, but they’ve only seen Cassie for a handful of hours.
• I love how Cassie wrote out all the FUCKS in her letter.
• Favorite line of the week: Davey saying, “Jesus, Cassie. Make better friends!”