TV Recap: Dietland – We Are Not Safe …

Dietland
“Monster High” (Episode 107)
July 9, 2018

And Leeta said unto thee, “Plum thinks she’s afraid of other people’s opinions, their judgments, their assumptions. Afraid of not being acceptable. But really, she’s afraid of herself.  She’s afraid of what’s inside. Because the minute she stops caring about that shit? She’s going to be a beast … her words are like fire.”

As we closed last week’s episode (our deep dive recap & review is here), Plum, the Beast, had indeed been unleashed. Where do we go from here? That’s what tonight is going to show us.

Our deep dive recap and review of “Monster High” begins … after the jump (spoilers spoilers  spoilers)!!

As Plum opens the episode with a quick narration of the entire season thus far, we get to witness the next stage of Jennifer – a young woman (Emily Verla), who upon entering a men’s football locker room at Botha University, blows herself and everyone else up – suicide bomber style. Its disturbing … its Dietland.

On the streets of Manhattan, Plum – decked out in a new cheetah skin coat – laughs maniacally in the face of a Wall Street type who dismissively calls her a “fat bitch” after they bump each other by accident.  Yeah, Plum? Plum is unleashed.

Title Sequence.

The Cafe. Fresh off her maniacal laughter, a still smiling Plum enters The Cafe and warmly greets Stephen – remember, they haven’t seen each other since her sojourn to Calliope House … since her transformation – Stephen remarks on how sad the Botha University suicide bombing is. As we learn the death toll is now 10, Plum is clearly less moved – with a nod to the bombing, she says the world is getting “a good shake.”  She says it with glee in her eyes and her voice. Stephen … is disturbed by this.

Shaken from his reverie over the bombing by Plum’s harsh words, Stephen really takes in the “new” Plum for the first time and tells her that she looks like a “Monster High Doll.” HA!  Ben comes out and picks up right where he left off – pining over Plum.  She’s all amused at life and orders a calorie laden lunch of chocolate shake and a tuna melt with fries. Which does sound delicious.

Elizabeth Inghram as Jamie, Julianna Margulies as Kitty – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/AMC

Kitty is in considerably less good spirits than Plum.  She runs into some Mean Girls at a high end clothing store where a few things become apparent – everyone knows her “promotion” in Austen Media was anything but and also, she’s being cut out of “It” functions like the Tom Ford charity dinner tomorrow night.  As the awkwardness subsides, Kitty is also forced to listen to her “friends” refer to her as a “viper” who had it coming for a long time. ** Fucking show – don’t make me feel or root for Kitty! We’ve discussed this before!!**

Elizabeth Inghram as Jamie, Cindy Cheung as Monique – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/AMC

Botha University. We get a quick cut of Cheryl arriving on scene at Botha University – she tells her cameraman that Fox can make the story about football, Cheryl says the real story is about Jennifer – infiltrating college campuses and “warping young minds.” Cheryl is NOT #TeamJennifer.   We see the Jennifer Power Fist logo on the backpacks of several of the gathered women as the entire scene before is one of mourning and vigil – a familiar sight on campuses in recent years following increased gun violence.

The Cafe.  Stephen is clearly troubled by all of these new changes he’s seeing but when she tells him she’s got news to share with him, he relaxes into his familiar role of Bestie.  Plum lays it all out, starting with Dominic. Dominic? Screw that guy, she says. He’s: Married. Not a cop. Working for Kitty.

“Lying Scumbag just like the rest of them.” – Plum

She moves on from Dominic because he’s not really the point of the story. Plum tells Stephen about Calliope House and the reflection rooms (“it’s like a monastery; it’s bleak”) and the Pornhub Room Art Installation. And it was in this Porn Room that she had her epiphany, these women being screwed and strangled and murder – they’re Plum. BUT, and here is the key, they are ALSO Alicia, her thin woman within.

“They look just like Alicia. They are thin and perky and glossy. For what? They get strangled, violated, killed. There is no there there, you know?” – Plum

Stephen is lost and so she continues to try and explain herself, her new world paradigm.   Say she has the surgery and loses the weight and becomes her size 2 self – all she’ll have done is make herself better “fodder for the predators.”

“All my life, I’ve been trying to turn myself into better prey.” – Plum

Stephen has the opposite reaction from Plum’s – he officially thinks that Calliope House is dangerous, dangerous to Plum. Stephen gives her his real talk and says that she needs to worry less about becoming better prey and worry more about “staying fat will kill you.”  “Excuse me,” Plum pulls up quick in the face of his reaction.  His words? Aren’t what Plum wants to hear. At all. Even a little.

“You are not healthy. You are not, well. I can’t tell you how many times you have walked in here and huffed and puffed and I was terrified that you were going to have a heart attack and die on my floor.” – Stephen

Plum knows exactly what Stephen means with his words.  But, she’s not actually listening to his words – she’s hearing his words and applying her pre-determined point of view to them.  But level headed talk is done and both sides begin to escalate.  He likens the basement Porn Room in Calliope House to Al-Qaeda recruitment tactics which dove tails nicely into his Jennifer Suicide Bombing of football players.  “Not all women are victims,” Stephen says … probably taking a step too far in this conversation, “not all women are prey.”

Plum asks him how he can know the female condition and he cites being a gay black man from the South. She calls him on that, saying he moved to NYC and escaped most of his issues, especially since he can pass for straight.

“We’re not going to play who’s the most oppressed.” – Stephen

“Game over,” Plum says, “fat woman wins.”  She makes the good point that there is no hiding as a fat woman. She tries to say she doesn’t want to diminish what Stephen has gone through but women are next level shit.

“We are not safe.  Anywhere.”

As she gets up and gathers her things — oh yeah, this whole fights has been playing out in the middle of Stephen’s Cafe — Stephen pleads with her that he’s worried about her healthy and she (not quite) politely tells him that her health is her own damn business.  As Plum storms out of the Cafe and down the street, the animation kicks with some of that dragon fire we’ve come to expect with this Beast Plum.  Commercials.

Calliope House. Knock knock, wake up Julia.  Verena is all on top of Julia about the football bombing and the real reason Julia is hiding out. Verena is as angry and emotionally unhinged as we have seen her and Robin Weigert’s emotional pivot here is fantastic.   Julia hesitates a moment, deciding if she should lie but decides to comes clean – she didn’t know about the violence end, she says. Julia tells Verena that the money was originally meant to help women, create a legal fund for class action lawsuit … help rape survivors, military women and the like.  And, it worked. Until it didn’t, Julia says.

Back Story Time: Julia takes her story to Leeta – Leeta was working with military rape survivors and running a vlog on her experiences. The vlog was how Julia found Leeta.  Julia was looking for something different to support and Leeta and her cause was righteous. So, she hired Leeta so she could have Leeta do good works for her; Leeta told Julia that the money was with the lawyers.  Julia claims that she would have stopped Leeta if she knew the money was going towards violent concerns.  Verena isn’t buying it.

**Weigert and Tunie, these two are powerhouses. This scene right here:

Verena: “Oh you would have stopped her? Really? With your radical ideas. Your poisonous …”
Julia: “Every woman talks about revenge!”
Verena: “I don’t! It leads to anarchy.”
Julia: “Bullshit. Don’t get sanctimonious with me, Saint Verena.”

Verena tells Julia that she has always said that violence is never the answer and Julia concedes that may be true … “for a right, white woman.”  Sick Burn, Julia. Verena shoots back, asking Julia what the rule is for rich, black women? Julia acknowledges she is black and she is angry but says she still understands you shouldn’t kill people.

“And yet, look what you did.” – Verena

No words left to say, Julia grabs her bag and goes.  Oooh, that scene was intense.

Botha University.  Two female students (who are members of a Jennifer-inspired student group, “Dissident Ass Sisters”) are sitting with Cheryl, giving her background on the suicide bomber, Fiona Trace.  One of the students, Daniela (Melanie Alice Ward), derides Fiona as being off your meds strange and, when Cheryl prompts them about whether Fiona ever mentioned the football team, responds that she is no man hater (her mom said not to speak to anyone without a lawyer). The other student, Luca Tacara (Sage Kirwan), is more than willing to give some straight talk.  

Cheryl tries hard to make a connection between Luca and her dissident group, Fiona the Bomber, and Jennifer but Luca shuts her down pretty hard. She acknowledges that Jennifer came up – who isn’t talking about Jennifer, but their meetings were about how to protest their lacrosse field being taken over by the football team and if they should raise money via a bake sale. As for Fiona? Luca tells Cheryl that she was some strange outlier that just came to their meetings and ate their food – she fully distances her women’s group from Jennifer and Fiona.  As Cheryl stops the camera, you can tell this is NOT the narrative she wanted.

Joy Nash as Plum Kettle, Robin Weigert as Verena, Alanna Ubach as Marlowe Buchanan – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

Calliope House. Marlowe enters the Nice Kitchen to find a sad and just-stopped-crying Verena sitting at the table. She informs Verena that the spiritual cleansing of Julia’s room is complete but gets worried when Verena asks if she was wrong with how she reacted to Julia?  No time to really get into that because an angry Plum comes storming into the kitchen to abuse some eggs. After crushing some poor shells into a bowl and screaming that she hates Marlowe and Verena and Stephen and everyone, and she wants to eat everything and sleep … Plum angrily accepts Verena’s invitation that maybe they just talk?

Robin Weigert as Verena – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

“Change is hard,” Verena begins.  Plum feels like she has bi-polar disorder – she is just bouncing from tremendous highs to dark lows. Verena tells Plum that is called, “having feelings.” Well, feelings suck. Preach, Plum. Preach!!  Verena asks Plum to tell her what it feels like when she’s feeling “high.”

“Like I’m 16 and nobody’s ever told me I suck. Like I’m wild and horny and everything is awesome.”

Joy Nash as Plum Kettle, Robin Weigert as Verena – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

And when you’re on the floor? Plum tells Verena that she feels a rage ball against everyone (except herself, which Verena deems progress).   When she clarifies that she goes from furious to pancaked on the floor, its because she’s exhausted. Verena breaks the hard news that Plum is terribly normal in this regard.  Changes don’t happen over night. Sometimes its one step forward, one step back.   Verena then asks what the deal is with the whole, “I hate Stephen” thing.  Plum tells Verena that she doesn’t think Stephen likes the new Plum, she tells Verena that he’s worried about her health and worries she might die. In a quiet moment here, Plum says she worries he might be right. Verena is fairly dismissive here and focuses on listening to her body and her feelings.

**My concern, and what I think Stephen was trying to convey, is not the emotional impact of remaining fat but rather the physical toll. That is an aspect Calliope House definitely seems to not talk about much.**

“Listen to what your body wants. And have it. Eventually all, I don’t know,  the ice cream, Doritos, the ‘bad food,’ you’ll get full. You’ll have enough. Your body will find its happy balance.”

Joy Nash as Plum Kettle, Robin Weigert as Verena – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

Plum likes the new concept. Verena invites Plum to stay on at Calliope House for a bit, “you don’t have to go through this alone.”  Plum likes this idea but asks if they can maybe not talk every day – its really intense. Sure, sure, Verena says. She encourages Plum to hang with Sana, maybe do some art. Try a new hobby away from baking – maybe one where she doesn’t have to “follow the recipe.”

Julianna Margulies as Kitty – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

Austen Media.  We quick cut to a contemplative looking Kitty. She rings up Eladio, demanding he get Stanley on the phone for her – Eladio can’t do that now, he’s got a new gig and Kitty has a temp for such things. Well, had a temp – Kitty fired him for being a “loud chewer.” I hear ya, Kitty. Gross! As Kitty walks to her window and takes in her new, less illustrious view (its rooftop mechanical parts), she calls Stanley’s secretary demanding to speak to the man and no, she won’t be able to speak to him at the Tom Ford dinner. Gah! Have him call me back, she demands before she hangs up.

Commercials.

Tamara Tunie as Julia, Ricardo Davila as Eladio – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

When we return, Julia is looking for her new wig and more importantly, new ID papers. From here, Julia heads to the Beauty Closet where Eladio has let in, for some reason.  Eladio tells her that Kitty is popping in all the time now (because she’s bored all the time now) and Julia should have texted whatever she needed.  In response, Julia hands him an envelope of cash. Its for Eladio to do with as he pleases, Julia is giving it now because she might not be around …

Calliope House. Plum comes a calling on Sana in her art studio reflection room. She brought muffins! Plum takes in Sana’s remarkable art project we saw a small part of last week, the inverse states of her face collages.

“It’s the same, but different.”

Plum grouses to Sana because her doctor’s office is ducking her calls — she’s trying to cancel her surgery and get her deposit back.  Sana suggests she got here in person and get it back.  Interesting idea.   Plum tells Sana she’s there because Verena suggested that Sana might be able to hook Plum up with some art therapy/hobby knowledge.  When Sana asks Plum if she wants to try art, Plum says she doesn’t know – she doesn’t know what she is or what she is feeling.

Sana makes a Plum shadow on the wall and taking the idea forward, spray paints a Plum outline on paper. Instant Art. “You’re here now,” Sana tells her.  Plum grabs the spray  can from Sana and adds in some boobs and tells Sana, “I’m gonna get my money back.”  She leaves, spray can still in her hands.

**I don’t know if the show is going to go there but the sexual chemistry between Sana and Plum is fantastic … it’s just that side of “friendship plus” and it’s really interesting and fun to watch … because I don’t know that either feels or sees it yet – I think Sana does.**

Julianna Margulies as Kitty, Campbell Scott as Stanley – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/AMC

Austen House. Kitty pays Stanley a visit. Stanley, who is reading the Manifesto issue of Daisy Chain.  Kitty doesn’t miss the opportunity to remind Stanley that that issue was a massive seller and asks why he is reading it at all?  Stanley confesses they can’t find a new Kitty and he’s trying to decipher her “special sauce.” Kitty is quick to point out that she, herself, IS the special sauce.  Stanley holds firm that he can’t take Kitty back. She counters by telling him about the Jennifer computer hack and assures him that she’s on top of the situation. Her larger point in bringing this all up is, what will Jennifer do when they realize Stanley “silenced” the only woman editor at Austen Media, hmm? “An ally no less.”

“I am not afraid of them. Or you. Especially, not you.”

As Stanley spits these words to Kitty, he is grabbing and holding her strongly and aggressively. Its maybe the most truly menacing thing we’ve seen a man do on this show to a woman (because she’s a woman).

Julianna Margulies as Kitty, Campbell Scott as Stanley – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/AMC

Doctor’s Office.  Plum gives the receptionist her information, tells her she’d like to cancel her surgery and requests her deposit back. She can cancel the surgery but the deposit is non-refundable. It was in the contract Plum signed. Plum begins to raise her voice for the crowded waiting room to hear that the doctor is hanging on to her $10,000 even though she’s decided not to have this extremely serious, and maybe dangerous and life threatening surgery?!?! All the shouting now. The receptionist tries the wrong tack when she tells Plum to “not give up on herself.”

“I’m not giving up on anything. I’m giving myself a chance.” – Plum

Joy Nash as Plum – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

Outside the office, Plum narrates that it wasn’t so much the money as the way the receptionist looked at Plum – like she was a chump.  Plum is angry, she wants to fight! So, she does what anyone would when they have a can of spray paint in their purse … she vandalizes the Doctor’s billboard on the side of the building. Instead of desecrating the doctor’s face, she changes tactics and decides to adds in her own “Plum Outline Shadow” portrait, a la what Sana did for her at Calliope House.  She writes “Loved” across the middle. It’s beautiful.

Joy Nash as Plum Kettle – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

Then she gets arrested. Commercials.

Police Station.  Plum is finding out that vandalism of the sort she committed is punishable by up to 4 years in prison – the detective also wants to know if she was maybe signalling an attack for Jennifer?  But, all of this is interrupted by Dominic interceding on her behalf.

“Thank you” being in short supply, Plum goes with hostile and tells Dominic she can take care of herself.  He wants to talk about the case. Dominic, not realizing that Beast Plum has been unleashed, tries to appeal to Plum’s sense of sympathy over people being killed but that boat has sailed. He changes tack and tells her that Verena and Julia have some sort of shared past and that past may be the connection the case needs to bring down Jennifer.

Plum stops and tells Dominic that whatever Verena and Julia may have done, at least they treated her with honesty and respect and didn’t try to manipulate “the lonely fat chick.”   Dominic sees him bailing her out of trouble as a road to a new start and then tells her the good news that he didn’t find anything incriminating on her computer when he stole her files!! “What a piece of shit you are,” Plum says. I don’t think that played out the way Dominic thought it would in his head.  As she leaves the police station, he tells her that he can’t stop thinking about her. “Figures” she says as she leaves.

On the street, Cheryl and cameraman Gerald brainstorm how to spin the Botha story because the Jennifer angle just isn’t playing out. Cut to Cheryl on air where she alludes to Fiona’s bombing as maybe a Jennifer “copycat” but more likely, its a mental health story about a woman who fell through the cracks. Lemonade out of Lemons, y’all. Cheryl is scrappy!

Mark Tallman as Jake, Joy Nash as Plum – Dietland _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

Calliope House.   Jake finds Plum in the kitchen as she is reflecting on her “Loved” portrait going viral.  Jake tells her that she needs to delete the predictable angry backlash from her phone and her mind.  **The internet can be savage as fuck, people.**  Jake tells Plum that her voice she used as Kitty’s ghost writer was Plum’s voice and she should reclaim it – it’s how she’s best able to change the world.

“You’re showing yourself – loved – and look what a stir it caused. You should be proud. Nobody truly remarkable is universally liked.” – Jake

At a restaurant, Kitty meets Dominic for an update. He tells her that Julia Smith isn’t really Julia’s name but Kitty doesn’t really care.

“Not my duck, not my bottle.”

Which leads to a long roundabout way of saying she no longer cares what happens to Austen media vis a vis Jennifer. The FBI and Austen’s security can handle that problem. Dom questions how good the security guards can be? Kitty is more interested in talking about Dominic and the thick filed she had pulled on him. The trouble on the force (even with a father in law as chief of police), voluntary resignation, the financial problems … it’s not the whole story but it’s the only part of the story people care about.

Kitty confuses Dominic, which is how she likes it.  Anyway, she’s bringing him on to Austen media’s in-house security team – that includes a $15,000 bonus; she knows his buttons to push. The money is a secret bonus because he is going to help Kitty bring down Stanley.

Somewhere in the City, Julia enters a :Hooters” like restaurant where her two sisters (she has sisters apparently?!?) plot to take “stop those bitches”. Those bitches being Jennifer.

Wrap Up. In Plum’s room, a naked Plum is busy drawing herself, silhouette style, over and over again. She’s doing this while she ruminates on Jake’s words (“Verena’s Husband #2”). As Plum faces the camera, she narrates for us an email she is about to send to the purloined “Kitty’s Girls” E-Mail List:

“Dear Kitty’s Girls.  My name is Plum.  You’ve been writing to me all along. Me and Kitty Montgomery have been lying to you. I’m fat as hell but I’m not going to take it anymore.”

The episode ends as a very naked Plum lies on her bed and begins to type the email we just heard. And scene.

Thoughts.   This is a pretty straight forward episode without much in the way of subtext that needs unpacking.  I am interested to see the Julia storyline play out now that she has sisters in the mix. And, maybe, factions of Jennifer begin to eat itself.  The terrorist style suicide bombing of college age football players seems like perhaps it was a step too far for mass consumption and support?  Jennifer has maybe over played its hand?

The subtext issue I’d like to think about post this episode is whether Stephen was wrong in his approach to Plum. Is he shaming her by saying he’s concerned for her health? Is Verena correct in saying that Plum’s body will eventually feel full? And if so, will it be too late, from a purely health standpoint?  I honestly don’t know. My gut tells me that Verena maybe spending too much on the emotional therapy without properly diagnosing the physical issues associated with being fat. At the same time, Stephen should have known better, the time and place of airing his concerns about Plum’s weight and the revolution that was clearly going on inside her.

It’s so hard when you see the ones you love suffer — or at least suffer according to your definition. There is no bright line of intervention and so it’s always a messy business to stick your nose into other people’s affairs.

As we speed towards the season’s end, I cannot wait to see all of these pieces we moved around on the board tonight, enter their final phases.  Dietland continues to be the best ride of the week – and I cannot wait to see what happens next!

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