Lies are what kill us. The stress of keeping up with those lies is poison. Every lie we tell is one step closer to the grave.
Or so says the self-help tape Rachel is listening to as the season 3 premiere of UnREAL begins. We find Rachel in the last place I thought she’d be: at some wellness commune/cult in the middle of nowhere, practicing “Essential Honesty” and generally trying to better herself. Of course, that couldn’t last long. Quinn shows up to drag her out of her yurt and back to La La Land.
Rachel has been away for six months but Quinn needs her back because Everlasting is on the verge of cancellation after the PR disaster that was the Hot Rachel/Coleman car “accident” at the end of last season. Quinn’s reputation in Hollywood is in the shitter and she needs Rachel’s help. But Rachel is tired of the lying and manipulation that comes with producing people and she doesn’t want to leave. She’s in a good place mentally for the first time in a long time and the Everlasting set is the last place in the world she wants to be.
But she does it for Quinn, who practices some essential honesty of her own when she tells Rachel, “I need you. I miss you.” And it’s enough, because #QuinnxRachel forever.
Back in Hollywood, Chet and Quinn are pitching the new season to Gary (i.e. Ted Beneke from Breaking Bad who I can never not see as Ted). This season’s twist on the old formula is a woman suitor: Serena Wolcott, a successful venture capitalist in the tech space who has had trouble finding love through the traditional routes. Chet sums it up quite nicely when he says, “She’s hot, sexy, smart, but single. It’s the plague of our generation.” Chet explains that the more successful women like Serena get, the harder it is to find a man—a sad-but-true statement that is a little Too Real for Quinn.
Chet’s goal this season is an Emmy (and, like, good luck with that, dude) but Gary isn’t feeling this whole feminist take on Everlasting. Quinn reminds him that the higher-ups at the network are on his ass about “all this pink-hat, female empowerment crap” and that bringing on Serena as the new suitor would solve his problem.
Gary tells Quinn that she can’t afford to make any more mistakes and Quinn is pissed that she—as a woman executive—is in a “one and done” situation while Chet can fuck up left and right and just generally be a human disaster and it’s all good. Gary gives them the go ahead with the new season but tells her if anything goes wrong, she’s fired. Gary has one more condition: they have to bring Madison back. It’s obvious to Quinn immediately that he is in some sort of relationship with Madison, but she doesn’t have much choice but to go along with it.
Rachel shows up for her first day back at the set of Everlasting and she’s taking her Essential Honesty seriously. She tells crew-member Dan that he doesn’t need to pretend he’s happy that she’s back and he admits that he’s terrified of her. Chet wants in on it, though he should have known better, and Rachel releases “the cleansing fire of truth” on him.
“You are an overpaid, incompetent man-baby who’s riding on the backs of women who do all of your work for you. You’re too dumb to know how pathetic it is that we had to use you to push Serena through to the network just because you were born with a dick. And I never understood what Quinn saw in your fat, sweaty, drug-addled ass, but whatever it was, you wasted the best years of her life and destroyed the one person who is ever gonna care about you.”
DRAG HIM, RACHEL.
Quinn assures Chet that the whole honesty thing is just a phase that will go away in a week. She goes to Rachel and tells her she has to get it together because Chet is still her boss and the network’s guy and Quinn needs things to run smoothly. She also tells her she appreciates her standing up for her but she’s fine, which is a half-truth.
Rachel is ecstatic to be reunited with Jay who is like WTF girl what have they done to you at that cult. Jay’s got plans to get the hell away from Everlasting and Quinn is ready to hear his pitch, except he admits to Rachel that he doesn’t actually have an idea yet. They see Madison arrive and she’s got a whole new look to go along with her executive sugar daddy. Bye-bye pigtails, hello designer bag. Jay and Rachel engage in a little slut-shaming and, I have to say, the whole Madison-sleeping-with the-network-exec subplot is a little squicky given the current state of things in Hollywood. But I trust the UnREAL writers so I’m going to take a “wait and see” attitude with it.
Serena arrives and Rachel explains to her that they pick the guys for her. Serena, who is the type who researches dudes ahead of time, isn’t entirely comfortable with this method but she trusts Rachel. Rachel seems committed to being honest with Serena.
Enter Psycho Jeremy to interrupt and have a little heart-to-heart with Rachel. Seriously, will someone please get him away from her?!? Rachel storms into Quinn’s office asking what the hell the Actual Murderer is doing there and Quinn tells her that they have to keep him around because he knows too much. Jeremy apologizes to Rachel for his behavior and tells her that he’s sober now and taking anger management classes but that doesn’t make her feel any safer or make it any easier for her to return to Everlasting from Honesty Land. I think this is as good a time as any to say that every time Jeremy appears on my screen my blood pressure skyrockets and I start dry heaving.
Chet comes in and the four of them make a blood pact never to reveal that the crash wasn’t an accident. Concerned that Rachel’s Essential Honesty is going to land them all in jail, Chet makes them all vow “to stay essentially silent about this one thing.”
Meanwhile, Serena is not adjusting well to the Everlasting aesthetic. They’ve got her in some sequined gown, which is not at all her style. She wants to wear her own clothes so they call in Rachel. Quinn blows smoke up Serena’s ass and tells her she looks amazing and that she’d totally bang her “if she swung that way.” Serena turns to Rachel for truth. This is Rachel’s first real test as to whether she can maintain her honesty while also producing the show. She passes this first test, telling Serena that this is just how people in these types of shows dress and that “cleavage communicates a willingness to participate in the process.” Gross, but true. When Serena insists on wearing her own dress—which is perfectly fine but not glam—Quinn shuts her down and tells her that on Everlasting, it’s all about her looking hot to find a husband and no one cares about anything else. Harsh as she may be, Quinn is actually much better at essential honesty than Rachel.
It’s time to meet the suitors, but first we meet Dr. Simon, the former corporate-crisis counselor who has replaced Wag as the show’s shrink. The new guy actually has a sense of medical ethics and will not break patient confidentiality to help the producers. Quinn isn’t thrilled but she rolls with it, confident in her ability to get what she needs without his help.
And finally we’ve got Quinn back in charge of the control room, which is always a blast to watch. Serena got away with wearing her own clothes, and when Chet asks why she’s dressed like a nun, Quinn responds that she dresses for other women, which is why she’s still single. Again, where is the lie?
First suitor up is Owen the Firefighter—one of Rachel’s guys—who brings a picture of his daughter with him to the introduction for that extra level of emotional manipulation, and he turns on the charm. Rachel has decided that Owen is Wifey material right off the bat. Second man up is Jay’s guy, Jasper: a white-collar Wall Street dude with a pretentious accent and an elitist attitude.
Up next is Alexei, the shirtless Russian bad-boy ballet dancer with a former coke problem. Then there’s August, Mr. Peace Corps Man Bun, who is totally Rachel’s type. The squad calls her out for it and predicts that she’ll sleep with him but she says that part of her program is that she’s celibate, which gets a big laugh from everyone. And then there’s Norman, the Kentucky Derby jockey, who is about a foot shorter than Serena. He’s one of Madison’s guys, clearly brought on to make good TV and not for a chance at love.
Rachel and Dr. Simon have a convo on set where we learn that he decided to switch gears after a patient of his went postal and killed one of his colleagues. They are interrupted by Serena, who is pissed off about the whole jockey thing, but before she has a chance to talk to Rachel about it they are ready to film her toast. She insists on not drinking alcohol and they give her what they claim is sparkling cider (although I doubt it is because this is Everlasting and they are all scumbags).
Serena toasts to a “superior and effective season” and Quinn responds that “all the dicks just went limp.” She sends Rachel in to make Serena less boring, with the instantly iconic Quinn directive: “Make my pussy wet.”
God, I love Quinn.
At the intro mixer, in between small talk with The Cowboy and The Social Media Influencer Who Looks 18, Serena finally gets a chance to pull Rachel aside and rip into her about Norman the Jockey. She knows that he’s just there as a sight gag and she’s not on board with it because she thinks it’s a cruel joke. Rachel tries to work her a little but Serena’s not having it and wants one of their backup guys.
Serena asks Rachel if she honestly thinks that it makes sense for Norman to be a suitor—another test of Rachel’s Essential Honesty—and she tells Serena the truth: he’s there for entertainment value and he’s good for the show, will give them three episodes worth of story, and asks Serena not to cut him right away. Serena agrees to keep him as a favor to Rachel. This leaves Rachel with the hope that maybe it is possible to be an honest producer at Everlasting.
Meanwhile, Jay wants some screen time for his Wall-Street Wifey-contender Jasper. Jay tells Jasper to get in there and he and Serena have a little chat where she says that she broke the rules and Googled him. She got some 19-year-old PA from Kansas to let her use his phone and Quinn promptly fires the dude over the walkie for all to hear. There seems to be some real chemistry between Serena and Jasper—probably because they are both rich, white businesspeople who have rich, white businesspeople things in common—and it’s making good TV, which puts Quinn solidly on #TeamJasper.
Chet shows up at the control room with a very young, very blonde girlfriend named Crystal. Quinn doesn’t appreciate this for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that they are right in the middle of filming. Crystal is a “student” of Chet’s, whatever the hell that means. Also, she’s a model, because of course she is. Quinn is annoyed but she’s clearly seen it all before and she just wants to get back to work without Chet’s infant GF blowing sunshine up her ass.
Quinn’s focus is on a convo between Norman the Jockey and Serena, who has pulled him aside to drop some truth bombs on him. She tells him that the producers want her to keep him but he’s really only there as a joke. Serena cuts him on the spot and Quinn flips. She cuts filming and goes to rip into Rachel. Serena comes over and tells Rachel and Quinn that now they have to get her a backup guy like she asked for. Serena is clearly used to being in control and it’s making Quinn’s life difficult.
Quinn tells Rachel she needs to get control of Serena and Rachel responds that it’s harder to control Serena because she’s smart. She compares her to Quinn and Quinn thinks that Rachel picked her as some sort of avatar for her. Quinn tells Rachel that Serena isn’t the “ambassador for smart women everywhere” and that the most feminist thing she can do is to help Quinn save her career and retain some power in Hollywood.
Owen the Fireman approaches Serena and asks if she’s okay and Serena asks him to get her out of there. They take a little forbidden off-campus trip together where they seem to have some chemistry, albeit a completely different kind than she has with Jasper. Owen is Mr. Down-To-Earth Nice Guy Who Helps People. The two end up kissing, putting Owen in the running for Wifey.
Madison approaches Quinn, who is totally not in the mood since it’s Day 1 and everything is already going to shit. Madison wants to thank Quinn for having her back and assure her that what happened with Gary was a “one time thing.” Quinn knows she’s bullshitting and calls her out on actively seeking out Gary to boost her career. Madison tells Quinn that it’s over with Gary and that Quinn’s respect is the most important thing to her. She tells Quinn that she’s more than just her pussy and Quinn is like, “Sure, Jan,” and tells her to prove it.
Rachel goes out suitor-hunting and finds Serena and Owen walking back together. She scoops Serena up in her golf cart but makes Owen walk all the way back, telling him never to sneak off campus again. On the way back, Rachel gives Serena a talking to. She tells her she’s not allowed to have any important stuff like first kisses happen off camera and that if she doesn’t get with the program, Quinn is going to make her look like a bitch to get the ratings she needs. Rachel gives her some more essential honesty: “You are smart, pretty, and successful. Half of America already hates you.”
Rachel presents a solution to Serena’s problem: kiss Norman on camera in order to make herself likeable. Rachel drops some more truth bombs on her: she’s tried everything else and couldn’t find a husband and now she’s on a reality TV dating show as a last resort. Rachel asks that she just trust her and Serena agrees, but she’s ready to start drinking to get through it.
Serena goes to tequila town and interrupts Norman’s exit interview, where he’s bitching about the producers using him as a joke. She apologizes to him and tells him she rushed to judgment and then goes in for a drunken, sloppy, insincere kiss. Norman can’t seem to tell the difference, though, and Quinn is tickled pink that Serena is finally getting with the program. Rachel watches from behind the scenes and it’s clear she feels shitty about the whole thing.
The party rages on and Serena and the contestants all get wasted. Quinn congratulates Rachel on removing the stick from Serena’s ass and loosening her up via alcohol but Rachel is feeling guilty. Dr. Simon is also uncomfortable with them continuing to film when Serena is clearly intoxicated and tells Quinn as much. She eventually agrees to cut—not because of any moral objection but because the night is almost over and she needs to film the elimination ceremony.
Rachel goes to get Serena and finds her in the bathroom, absolutely wasted and letting Norman the Jockey hit it . Rachel chases Norman out of there and Serena pukes and then has a bit of a breakdown about what she’s done. She tells Rachel that she usually follows the “rules” of dating: don’t kiss (or bang) right away, don’t text first, etc. Serena tells Rachel that her circle of friends are all married with perfect lives and that even though she did everything the right way, like they did, she’s still alone. Rachel gives her a pep talk and promises that she’ll find Serena love.
Serena goes to the elimination ceremony, where she has to cut half of the contestants. In a new Everlasting development, they’ve introduced a sponsor into the actual show—some sort of luxury watch that Graham tells the contestants they will receive if they are chosen by Serena to move forward. Quinn hates it but she knows how desperate Everlasting was for sponsors so she sucks it up.
There are not many surprises when it comes to who Serena keeps (it’s the guys who got any sort of camera time and a few other randos). She keeps: Man-Bun August, Sexy Alexei, Cowboy Warren, Influencer Zach, Silver-Fox Preston, Wall Street Jasper, and Fireman Owen. Norman stands confidently in the front row, waiting to be called as the last keeper, but Serena chooses Billy the Race Car Driver instead. Quinn is pissed at Rachel and when Rachel goes to confront Serena about it, she asks her if it’s because she didn’t want Norman to tell anyone they had sex. Serena insists she cut him because she knows he won’t end up her husband, but I think it’s a little bit of both.
Quinn is editing, going through some footage of a Serena interview in which she’s talking about who she is as a person. Quinn isn’t impressed with her interview, in which she is openly confident and ambitious but pretty bland. Chet is hovering over her shoulder, pointing out that no one is gonna want to jerk off to her, and Quinn has about had it with his presence on set. She doesn’t want or need Chet’s input but Chet has decided that he’s going to take the show seriously and actually put in work because he wants that Emmy. Regarding his new GF Crystal, he tells Quinn, “It’s easier. She’s easier.”
Man-Bun August is setting up a hammock outside because he’s the type of dude that sleeps under the stars and finds an actual room “too confining.” [Can you feel my eyes rolling, dear reader? Can you?] Rachel and August start flirting over their mutual love of Africa and the Peace Corps but Actual Murderer Jeremy comes to have a chat/cock-block her.
Jeremy insists that Rachel is the one who told her to kill Hot Rachel and Coleman (and I think he actually believes it, which makes it even creepier somehow). Rachel insists that she was just venting and didn’t mean anything by it. But since Jeremy still loves her (i.e. is totally unhealthily obsessed with her), he did it to keep her out of jail. Dr. Simon comes along to save Rachel from Jeremy and Rachel realizes that the doctor is actually there for her, not to be the show shrink. She returns to the truck she calls home on the Everlasting set and padlocks herself inside, because that’s totally normal.
Meanwhile Gary and Madison are still together and it turns out that Madison is also reporting to Gary about the day-to-day of the show, especially Quinn’s performance. He’s really got it out for her, and if I had to guess, I’d say Madison is gunning for Quinn’s job.
The episode ends with Quinn deciding to use the part of Serena’s interview where she says, “I’m really, really good at my job and I don’t want to have to apologize for that.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, Quinn? Maybe she’s starting to accept that she does see herself in Serena and wants to make the feminist Everlasting of Rachel’s dreams. Or maybe she’s doing it to piss off Chet and the rest of the hopeful masturbators out there. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
I really missed UnREAL and “Oath” was a strong episode to start things off. I’m interested to see how long Rachel can keep up her honesty kick. I’m also loving the in-your-face, topical feminist themes of this season. Not that Quinn and Rachel are any sort of feminist icons, but I think this season has potential. At the very least, Quinn is still in classic form and I would watch an hour of just her being savage every week.
Tune in to UnREAL on Mondays at 10pm EST on Lifetime.