Zimmer Saves an Unfocused UnREAL Episode

Written by Matt Taylor

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UnREAL has a lot of balls in the air right now – last week, Romeo was shot in a subplot that calls to mind the many recent examples of police brutality, while Rachel finally had the nervous breakdown we’ve been waiting for her to have since the pilot. And in this week’s episode, “Fugitive,” there was a game-changing revelation about Yael, the return of Ruby, a suitor on the run and, of course, the actual contest that is Everlasting. With so much to juggle, even a show as strong as UnREAL can stumble a bit. To be frank, there is just too much going on. But, with so many good ideas at play, these flaws are, at the very least, easy to ignore.

The biggest revelation of the night – that Yael is a journalist writing a tell-all article about Everlasting – wasn’t all that surprising after last week’s cliffhanger, but it set the stage for an interesting hour. Afraid of being kicked off, Yael formed an unlikely alliance with Coleman. But, in true UnREAL fashion, Coleman’s intentions are less than genuine – he wants to save his career, something that could only happen with Rachel’s testimony. And while Shiri Appleby is as reliable as ever, this was Constance Zimmer’s chance to shine.

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Quinn borders on being dangerously cartoonish. She’s the Walter White of reality television, and Zimmer is consistently amusing in the part, but her scenes feel like comic relief at times. This week, Zimmer showed a different side of her character – one that is protective, and almost maternal, of her protégé, despite the fact that they’ve been at odds with each other for almost the entire year. Zimmer is a proven master of throwing a crude one-liner, but, before tonight, we’ve never seen her character be so sympathetic.

Elsewhere in the hour, the contestants fought it out for the last three slots in some amusing, albeit tonally uneven, competitions that proved to further mock the ridiculousness of reality shows. But, with so many serious subplots, this really felt out of place. In fact, this subplot only shows how UnREAL may have bitten off more than it could chew this year: sampling so many different social issues feels lazy, and I think the season would have been stronger had it stuck with one. But its intentions are pure. And, at the very least, tonight’s episode brought back former contestant Ruby in a way that felt organic, and let her deliver one more heartbreaking monologue about the misogynistic lens in which women are depicted on shows like The Bachelor.

With two episodes left, UnREAL could really afford to trim some of its fat and deliver a focused, surprising finale. But, after a shocking revelation from Rachel and an unlikely alliance formed between producers, literally anything could happen. And that’s exciting,

Overall rating: 6 out of 10