It’s an All-Out War on UnREAL

Written by Matt Taylor

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TV Recap: UnREAL Season 2 Episode 9, “Espionage”

It’s this season’s penultimate episode, and UnREAL is an all-out war. The ninth episode of the season, “Espionage,” finds producers Quinn, Coleman and Chet each backing different contestants, and Rachel trying to worm her way back into the ring after a traumatic last few weeks. And, as the TV-MA rating this episode suggested at the top of the hour was any indication, viewers were given a wild ride.

With only three girls left, Quinn is desperate to deliver a satisfying finale, and, specifically, wants Chantal to win. Chet, meanwhile, initially wants Tiffany to win to help him secure a job within the NFL, but begins to second-guess himself after he develops feelings for her. And Coleman wants Yael to win so she can write her exposé on the show (to help further his career, mind you, not help shut down an abusive program). Rachel, meanwhile, has her own agenda, especially after she begins to suspect that her new boyfriend is hooking up with her devious look-alike.

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This week’s installment was a welcome return to form after numerous crowded episodes that tried a bit too hard to be socially relevant. “Espionage” was another intelligent, crude and black-hearted spoof of reality television. The episode actually contains one of the most surprising sequences of the series so far – a moment that is so painful to watch, but unsurprisingly entertaining. And while having all the producers at odds with one another makes for great drama, watching Rachel try to get herself back into Quinn’s good graces is truly a joy to behold. Zimmer and Appleby play off each other so well, creating the female equivalent to the Bryan Cranston/Aaron Paul relationship that made Breaking Bad so compelling.

But while UnREAL certainly brought back the dark comedy aspect that made the series so good in the first place, the episode was also richly dramatic and filled with thought provoking twists. Coleman continued to reveal his true colors, proving to be quite the antagonist, made even more sinister by the fact that he has no idea how abusive he truly is. The episode also found Quinn showing her human side as she considers the prospect of becoming a mother, a plot point that could open the door to some fascinating subplots. If there’s anything I’d like to see out of the last remaining episode, it’s more Jeremy, who has largely been sidelined since his dramatic domestic violence subplot a few weeks ago. But, with the ever-underused Madison and Jay being given something to do, it’s hard to complain about this week’s episode.

After a couple of overstuffed episodes, it’s refreshing to see UnREAL return to its roots as a twisted, morally murky drama that explores social issues. From beginning to end, “Espionage” was a treat, and I can’t wait to see what next week’s finale brings.

Overall rating: 10 out of 10.