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“Dietland” Ep.1.03: “Y Not”

Now that we’re three episodes into “Dietland” I’m finding it hard to write about. That’s not to say nothing happens during the show. I have two pages of notes to the contrary. It’s difficult because often what’s happening on screen is actually not what’s really happening. There are animated sequences as well as very vivid dreams/hallucinations that beg for description while not actually being vital to the story. Not to mention many characters are more fleshed out than they are in the book and we get a lot of information from outside of Plum’s direct perspective making the world both wider and more difficult to fully understand.

Dietland
Still from “Dietland” | Photo credit: AMC

Having said all that, this third episode “Y Not” moves the plot forward quite a bit, offering more information about Plum, Verena, Kitty, Detective Dominic and “Jennifer”. All the different characters’ reactions to Jennifer are one of the biggest benefits of the series having more perspectives than just Plum’s. We’re able to see and hear multiple characters discuss Jennifer and react to men falling from the sky which is something I was curious about after reading the book.

This brings me to the cold open of the episode. The photographer, whom a few of the characters have described in the past as having an issue with drugging and assaulting his subjects, is tossed from the sky and lands on a lady’s salad, dressing on the side. To be honest she kind of deserved it because she was being super mean to a waiter. You can bet she’ll be less of a pain about her salad dressing in the future.

We cut quickly after that to Plum and Verena discussing the “New Baptist Plan” where Verena’s first step is to get Plum off the anti-depressants. Plum assures her she already dumped her prescription which brings Verena up short. Since Plum’s been on the meds for almost a decade some really bad things can happen if she quits cold turkey. Plum promises to get another prescription and wean herself off instead; except she doesn’t. Verena steps away to talk to one of the other members of Calliope house and I suspect she’s going to be a decent amount more involved in the Jennifer situation than she was in the book.

Plum heads to the bakery where Steven gives her a talking to about Detective Dominic and how he seems interested in her. I tend to agree but I also know Plum is right and some dudes are super shitty. I came to the conclusion in this scene that Steven is a really good friend (and I’m glad they genderbent him from the female Carmen in the book). Plum is a medium friend and a medium person, but I’d argue that’s actually a really good thing. Because the show is full of interesting, well-rounded and different women, it’s okay for Plum to be just medium. There’s also TONS of evidence for why she might be so standoffish and suspicious of others, which helps brings her negative traits into the light of understanding.

Kitty continues to be both awful and amazing as she and Cheryl Crane-Murphy (Rowena King) have a conversation about the dead photographer and whether it could come back to bite Austen media because they paid his lawyers during one of his rape lawsuits. Cheryl seems concerned about the repercussions for the whole company, but Kitty seems concerned only for herself which is pretty on brand.

Plum has started to experience some side effects from quitting her antidepressants cold turkey, which lends the knowledge that six other men have been dropped from the sky a surreal quality. It’s definitely real though. What’s not totally real is the tiger that Plum starts hallucinating, who I’m 90% sure is played by Adam Rothenberg, who is also Dominic. The tiger, who we come to find out is named Benny, eats all of Plum’s food, drinks all the water in the city, and then convinces Plum to order what’s certainly over $100 worth of take-out while he shamelessly flirts with her and she tries to work. Eventually, she gets tired and lets Benny start answering the Kitty letters for her which can only end poorly.

Kitty is meeting with Dominic while the Daisy Chain event for Fashion Week is being set up. She clearly thinks Plum has the motive and opportunity to have carried out the hacking, but Dominic sticks up for her which is actually pretty sweet. Kitty insists that “large girls pretend to be joyful and harmless but they’re jealous of women like me” which is honestly so much to unpack on so many levels. Again she’s treating Plum almost like a pet, she’s dismissing her value as both an employee and a woman, and she’s undermining her in front of a man which presents its own set of issues. In any case, Dominic seems unconvinced, though he makes a show of giving in to Kitty’s demands.

Plum wakes up after her hedonistic night with Benny the Bengal Tiger only to find her face covered in red splotches and SO MUCH food outside her apartment. She rushes over to Julia in the beauty closet with such focus she misses the next body get dropped from the sky despite it taking place less than a block from her path. When she gets to the beauty closet Julia knows almost immediately that something’s going on with her meds, especially since Plum keeps talking about how she’s allergic to tiger fur. Eventually, Julia is able to calm Plum down and get her back home, but not before we find out that Leeta has left the magazine much to Plum’s disappointment.

Kitty rides to the Daisy Chain fashion week event with Abra Austen (Kelly Hu) only to find out upon arrival that the mayor has canceled fashion week, which, LOL. I get that serious stuff is going down but I can’t even imagine. Naturally, Kitty is extremely upset but she and Julia retire to a nearby bar and trade stories about Stanley Austen who sounds legit awful and has also been stepping out on Abra with the porn star Stella Cross (who we haven’t met yet.)

Kitty asks Julia about Leeta as well, calling her the “Hot Topic reject,” and Julia insists she fired her. That’s when they notice they’re being watched and photographed by a man across the bar. Julia is sure he couldn’t have heard them so they won’t get in any trouble but Kitty is more worried about the “optics” of being seen eating. I personally can’t imagine being that on my guard all the time, but perhaps that’s also why I’m not editor-in-chief of a magazine.

Plum is having some more hallucinatory dreams where she’s in a fashion show and she looks so amazing. Naturally, Dominic shows up with Benny the Bengal Tiger’s tail which all but confirms they are one in the same. It turns out Plum is only partially hallucinating because Dominic seems to be actually in her apartment being very sweet to her until he starts snooping on her laptop! I was really rooting for Dominic but that’s not cool!

Back at Calliope House we finally meet Marlowe (Alanna Ubach) and baby Huck! We don’t get too much more info, that seems like it’ll happen next week, but she was one of my favorite characters from the book so I’m excited about her debut. They have a quick discussion about how Verena believes Plum is bright but impulsive. But despite that, she could really be helpful to their cause.

We’re finally treated to the videos of the so-called “Dirty Dozen” confessing to the crimes that got them thrown out of the sky. Though I’m not an advocate for violence as an answer to misbehavior, it is decidedly awesome watching terrified men being made to confess their crimes.

After we see this, there’s a scene of Cheryl reporting on the story followed immediately by a very odd power play between her and Kitty. I’ll be honest, I watched this episode twice and I still don’t completely know the point of the power play, only that Kitty won.

The second to last scene of the episode reveals several things, all of which were a continuous source of bafflement. First, we find out Detective Dominic has a son and daughter which is fine. Second, we find out his kids don’t think he’s a cop anymore which is odd. I thought maybe they meant they’re glad he’s a detective now and not like a vice cop but I can’t be sure. The third is that Dominic is a dirtbag because he’s for sure still married while he’s flirting with our darling Plum! It does seem to be a relatively rocky marriage, but still, he’s deliberately not wearing his wedding ring so the women he’s interviewing “will trust him.” I don’t care for it!

The final scene has Plum mostly out of the woods with her withdrawals just in time for her mother (Debra Monk) and Steven to bang on her door in a panic because they couldn’t reach her while she was hallucinating a tiger boyfriend. I won’t lie, this scene pretty much broke me. I can definitely see both sides of the argument. Steven and Plum’s mother love her and don’t want her to suffer which is the way it should be. But, as Plum points out, they can never know what it’s like for her to fly on a plane or try to flirt with a man. They can’t understand what it’s like for her just to walk through life with everyone telling her she has “such a pretty face” before criticizing the rest of her appearance. It’s a heartbreaking revelation made all the more so by her final line “If this is it, if this is my life, if this is my body then I’d rather be dead.”

It’s a rough note to end on but if we know anything about Marti Noxon it’s that she’s not afraid to explore our dark places and make us experience those parts of ourselves fully before letting us go again. I suspect Steven and Mrs. Kettle will both come around, at least nominally. But for now, we’re left with Plum, standing alone while her mother and Steven sit and try to absorb this latest shock.

“Dietland” airs on Mondays at 9/8c on AMC. Join us on Twitter for live-tweets of each episode! 

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