dietland TV TV Recaps

“Dietland” Ep.1.06: “Belly of the Beast”

I mentioned last week that I thought Episode 5 of “Dietland” was going to be a turning point for the show and holy crap I’m so glad I was right! This week sees Plum finally enter Calliope House for real. She’s in the basement, she’s a little disoriented, and she’s right on the verge of a major breakthrough! I’m so excited to get into Plum’s evolution as both a character and a woman. Who’s with me?

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(L-R) Robin Weigert as Verena and Joy Nash as Plum,  -” Dietland” Season 1, Episode 6 | Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

The episode opens with a “high speed” chase through New York City, which is laughable because every single time I’ve been to the city there aren’t enough open roads for any kind of car chase. In any case, the cops are after Leeta, AKA “white girl OJ.” They finally corner her and she gets out of the car only to reveal that it’s not really Leeta! Thank goodness.

Stanley Austen and some other douchey looking executives are less happy that Leeta hasn’t been caught while they’re having a meeting with an FBI agent. I almost missed all of this scene because I was so busy laughing at Stanley not knowing how to turn off his own television. Essentially all these men are terrible and the FBI agent is pretty great. Stanley tries to put him in his place by saying if someone drops the FBI agent from a plane no one cares but if one of the men in the room gets killed “the DOW tanks.” I’m sure that’s probably true but I’m also sure you shouldn’t really say things like that out loud.

Plum is having what at first cannot be identified as a dream, but by the time Leeta is threatening to kill her, we all know it is. She wakes up in one of the basement rooms at Calliope House and discovers she’s locked in. It’s not long before Sana brings her a change of clothes and Plum is caught staring at her disfigured face. Sana says it’s okay to stare (we’ll come back to that later). Plum seems to be having a hard time remembering what happened the night before and it turns out Verena gave her something to help her sleep. She’s very uneasy about being locked up in the basement but Sana assures her she’s free to go at any time. Plum debates this for a few minutes but when she starts remembering flashes from the night before she decides to stay.

Back in the real world, Dominic is accosting Julia outside her house. He’s got questions about Leeta, which Julia manages to deflect at least a little bit. Dominic is pretty suspicious, though, and you know he’s not going to let this go. This episode bounces around quite a bit and every so often we just see flashes of Plum remembering her night with her terrible date, the guy who hit her, and Dominic’s betrayal.

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(L-R) Julianna Margulies as Kitty and Tamara Tunie as Julia, – “Dietland” Season 1, Episode 6 | Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

After confronting Julia, Dominic decides to go to the bakery and try to confront Steven and find out some info about where Plum is. Luckily Plum called Steven this time or I’m sure he and her mother would be fully freaking out again. He tells Dominic that Plum is fine, just a little shaken and that she’s at Calliope House with Verena. He then asks what Dominic knows about Jennifer and he’s actually pretty candid about it. Dominic believes everything going on is probably just the beginning since they’ve already gotten so far and not been caught. He’s also pretty sure it’s a huge network with members in high places.

We’re then treated to Steven being totally and completely done with white privilege. He tells Dominic he’s not worried about Jennifer because as a black, gay man he’s not really in their crosshairs, but it must be hard for Dominic out there right now. Dominic says “yes” in an almost self-deprecating way but Steven pins him with a hard look and says, “It must be hard, feeling like you’re being judged simply because of the way you look.”

To his credit, Dominic seems to get it and doesn’t push back but Steven keeps going, this time talking about Plum. He says, “She’s the smartest person I know wrapped around a fourteen-year-old girl who doesn’t know shit.” I’ll be honest, I totally missed this line in my first watch of the episode but I’m so glad I picked it up in my rewatch because it speaks to so much about Steven and Plum’s relationship. It shows they’re close enough that Plum confided in Steven about her feelings for Dominic, that he really knows Plum in a way Dominic never will, and that he sees what Dominic is doing to Plum no matter how slick Dominic thinks he’s being. It is absolutely the best scene Steven has had to date and I really hope we get more content in this direction.

Throughout the episode, Plum feels drawn to a room at the end of the basement hallway in Calliope House. Book readers will know exactly what the room is, but the show keeps it a little bit more of a mystery. I’ll go ahead and spoil it now to simplify the rest of the recap, it’s an art installation of Marlowe’s where the top one hundred searches on PornHub are projected on the walls in an endless stream. I’ll be calling it the porn room from here on out. Before Plum can reach the room Verena interrupts her and says she’s not ready for it yet. When Plum asks what it is Verena deflects by saying it’s hard to describe but that when Plum is ready she can experience it. It’s worth mentioning that throughout this episode, Verena is wearing the best all-white knit outfit that looks like the coziest thing you could ever wear.

What follows is the first of two incredible scenes with Verena and Plum in this episode. Plum is rightfully very angry after her experience the night before (I’m sure getting punched in the face will do that to you). But she’s using her anger as an insular thing, not as a way of getting in touch with any real issues. Plum thinks she gets what Verena is trying to do since she knows a lot about therapy from watching TV and movies. But Verena assures her that just getting in touch with her anger won’t fix anything because “anger is not a finite thing.” She follows that up by saying that anger can be directed and tells Plum to really think about everything she’s been through so far on the New Baptist Plan. This will be the final phase.

Back at Daisy Chain, Kitty and Eladio are packing up her office. Kitty’s taking it very hard and forces Eladio to go get her a pastrami sandwich, fries, and a coke. When he gives her a look she says to tell them it’s for him and that he’ll have to stay in her office with her while she eats it. There’s literally so much to unpack in this exchange it’s staggering, and the whole time Kitty is wearing this amazing long-sleeved sweater dress that is outstanding.

Needless to say, Eladio complies. While he’s gone, Julia comes to see Kitty after her confrontation with Dominic. She ends up admitting that she was sleeping with Leeta (I’m not sure that’s true) and that Leeta was the one who stole the emails (definitely not true but smart on Julia’s part). Kitty takes this information about as well as you’d imagine (not well at all). When Julia says she’ll resign and speak to the FBI Kitty insists that nothing good will come of telling any of this to the FBI and that she’s not resigning, she’s fired. It appears that if Kitty’s going down, she’s taking everyone with her.

After Julia’s unceremonious dismissal she’s trying to go back down to the beauty closet to gather her things when Eladio and the HR assistant whose name I don’t remember accost her at the elevators and tell her she can’t go back because Kitty already changed the codes. She says she just needs to tie up some loose ends, that it would be better for Eladio if he didn’t know, but they’re firm about having her leave. She accuses them of not having the balls to accomplish anything when there’s actual risk involved and Eladio responds with the line of the night: “I’m a Puerto Rican homosexual who wears too much makeup, you know I’ve got balls for days.” He also assures Julia he will tie up her loose ends for her, discreetly. I love that it looks like Eladio is in on at least Julia’s plans, but possibly Jennifer as well.

In the Calliope House basement, Plum is once again drawn to the porn room, but she knows she’s not ready yet. Instead, she goes to the kitchen where there are fun little “eat me” and “drink me” notes on a sandwich and a glass of water. Eventually Plum finds Sana in her room working on her own project. Sana says she’ll tell Plum what happened to her face if Plum shares what happened to hers and we find out that Sana’s mother tried to leave her father so he threw acid on Sana’s face to punish her mother. Plum says she understands why Leeta might want to kill people when she hears stories like that. Sana gets a couple lines about how Verena helped her find the gift in what happened to her, which Plum takes issue with. She doesn’t understand why they all have to go through these horrible things just to learn a lesson instead of maybe just reading about it instead. But Sana continues by saying her burned face acts kind of like a truth serum. Good people treat her normally and the bad people don’t matter. She says it’s freeing because “they have to live with their ugliness, I don’t.”

Upstairs, Verena is making what looks like the world’s best roast beef sandwich when there’s a knock at the door. Julia’s on the other side looking for sanctuary. The next time Plum is drifting toward the porn room Julia stops her. She starts to explain before asking if Plum wants to see a magic trick. Julia then takes off all her jewelry, her wig, her makeup and her clothes. If you were even remotely alive a couple years ago during the first season of “How to Get Away With Murder” you’ll remember a very similar scene with Viola Davis taking off her wig and all her makeup and how it was almost revolutionary at the time. I’d argue this scene is just as revolutionary because not only was Julia putting on a costume of a thin fashionista, she was also semi-passing for white, or “going incognegro,” in Julia’s words. The transformation is absolutely incredible and it makes you realize just how much pancake makeup they were putting on Tamara Tunie.

Julia also reveals that she has the book Leeta was writing notes about Plum in. Before she hands it over, she reads Plum her favorite part, including that Plum thinks she’s afraid of other people’s opinions, but “the minute she stops caring about that shit she’s going to be a beast. Her words are fire.” You can see Plum processing these observations and not fully believing they could be about her. Plum’s sense of self-worth is so tied up and wrapped around her weight that she doesn’t even realize how powerful she could be if she just let go of that one worry. We’ll get back to this at the end of the episode.

Meanwhile, in the beauty closet, Kitty is jade rolling her face and lazily “shopping” now that Julia’s not down there. Dominic is there with her trying to get whatever information he can about Julia but Kitty’s not really letting anything slide. She is, however, hitting on him so aggressively I’m surprised she didn’t just mount him. It was honestly a highlight of the episode when he just got more and more frustrated with Kitty’s total lack of both help and discretion. When he doesn’t take her bait for the final time she calls him dull and “a waste of a brute,” which made me cackle.

Julia is eating a sandwich with extreme gusto while both Plum and Verena look on. She tries to ask Plum some questions about the stolen emails but Verena intervenes. She finally does relent and they have a very stilted kind of conversation where they both have to look to Verena for approval over what they can say. They do eventually share the information that Plum didn’t tell anyone about the emails and that Leeta is still alive.

When Plum is back in her room reading Leeta’s diary, Julia comes in to ask a favor. First, she gets into bed with Plum and gets her to spoon with her because she’s cold. The favor is that she needs Plum to promise she’ll finish Julia’s book if anything should happen to her. Plum agrees and then they’re just in bed together, Plum spooning Julia as she falls slowly asleep.

What seems like only a short time later, Plum is speaking to Verena again. She talks about her moment with Julia, and how good it felt to just touch someone because it’s been so long. Verena steers the conversation to the night before and Plum gets very upset, first about the man who hit her but then her anger about Dominic understandably pushes to the foreground. It makes perfect sense that his particular betrayal would be more devastating because Dominic practically engineered it that way. Getting hit in the face by a stranger isn’t as emotionally hurtful as being lied to by someone you thought genuinely liked you. She tells Verena that it was just nice to have something fun to talk about with her mom, that she could say she met a boy, even if there wasn’t anything really going on. Plum goes on to say she hates being the way she is and Verena counters with “what if it’s not you who’s the problem? What if it’s not you that’s wrong, it’s them?”

Unfortunately, before Plum can fully process that possibility, Sana interrupts to say there’s a very insistent man at the door. It’s obviously Dominic, and Verena obviously puts him right in his place. She says that Plum wasn’t very coherent the night before but that she as able to give Verena enough information that she knows Dominic shouldn’t see her. If he wants to say anything he should write Plum a letter on paper so she can read it if and when she ever feels ready to. If that’s not good enough for Dominic then it’s not really about Plum, it’s about making himself feel better. She also understands why he liked Plum so much: because she saw him as he wanted to be seen, not how he truly is. Dominic gets super defensive after that and it’s the ugliest he’s been in the whole series so far.

While Verena is reading the absolute hell out of Dominic upstairs, Plum follows Sana into the porn room. She asks how Sana can stand it and she says it’s actually kind of soothing in a way because the people on screen are so perfect, but it’s not working out so great for them by the looks of it. Plum is pretty disgusted, literally says, “fuck this,” and storms up the stairs to the kitchen where Verena is waiting. She’s preceded by a flash of fire. When the smoke clears Verena looks at her with an extremely satisfied look on her face and says, “Look who’s awake.”

You guys, this episode was a wild ride and I think it’s only going to get wilder now that Plum is “awake.” I can’t wait to see what happens next and I’m so happy Plum is angry!

“Dietland” airs on Mondays on AMC at 9/8c. Join us on Twitter @ShuffleOnline as we live-tweet! 

Featured image credit: Patrick Harbron/AMC

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