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Review: ‘UnREAL’ Teases ‘Guerrilla’ Warfare Between Rachel & Quinn

A revealing episode of "UnREAL" showcased the work behind the camera — and the bodies in front of it.

UnREAL Ep. 203 - "Guerilla" - Day 05 of 07, April 04, 2016, Burnaby, BC, Canada

Bettina Strauss/Lifetime

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: Review: ‘UnREAL’ Takes Aim at Confederate Flag Controversy

This Week on ‘UnREAL’…

It was all about the production in the third episode of “UnREAL.” Upset over their new boss’ inexperience (/existence), Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) put on a producing tutorial for trust fund kid Coleman Wasserman (Michael Rady): Quinn, proving yet again how unwilling she is to give up her hands-on role in “Everlasting,” recruited two contestants and pitted them against each other.

The result was better than she could have hoped for — at first. Brandi (Monique Ganderton) took things into her own hands at the obstacle course, chucking Chantal (Meagan Tandy) off a climbing wall. She still won the date, though, and Quinn coached her into confessing her darkest secrets from a rough adolescence…then, she told Darius it was all lies, in order to get the psychologically damaged contestant to snap. Brandi did, jumping on Darius’ back, but she may have hurt the suitor in a serious way, considering he couldn’t get out of bed at the end of the episode.

But the most striking event of the episode wasn’t in front of the camera. After getting a gloating phone call from Quinn, Gary (Christopher Cousins) showed up on set to a) drop off a gift for Coleman, and b) tell Quinn how Rachel went behind her back to try to steal her job. Now the former tattoo BFFs are about to go to war, but at least Rachel has one boss on her side, as she and Coleman shared a clothes-on makeout at episode’s end.

How’s Rachel Doing?

UnREAL Rachel is sad yellow

This was Quinn’s show — both “Everlasting” and “UnREAL” — so Rachel was largely okay throughout most of Episode 3. In fact, she came close to earning a green ranking far sooner than I expected in what started as a wild Season 2. Though she wasn’t showrunning, Rachel was in control of her own shit throughout “Guerilla”: handling Coleman exactly how she pleased; teaching him firsthand how to produce; sharing a productive back-and-forth with her assigned contestant; and she even worked quite well behind Quinn, which could have set her off if her headspace was worse.

But then Gary showed up. Rachel’s mini panic attack didn’t lead to anything too awful, and it seemed inevitable she and Coleman would hook up. Hopefully, Rachel can work that to her advantage and not be too distracted by his promises of meaningful work. The issue is Quinn and how a separation of the “terrifying” dream team damages Rachel in future episodes. Her immediate fear is telling, but we’ll have to wait and see how angry Quinn is next week.

Quinn’s Quip of the Week

“Oh, yes! Sistine Chapel going online! I am so hard right now!”

Quinn’s mission to produce a show sure to strike ratings gold succeeded so well she deserved that McLaren MP4-12c…but then it was given to Coleman. While she had every right to be upset, Quinn also should have known better than to expect a reward for her hard work. As she said, “If I was a man, they wouldn’t be doing this to me.” The same could have been said for Rachel last week, who went through the exact same false tease with Gary; a redundant and predictable execution that still largely worked, because the show is so aware of itself.

Yet what’s most interesting about the development is how well it lines up with Coleman’s plan proposed to Rachel. When they talked about why he chose Chet’s pitch over Quinn’s, Coleman claimed to be aware of how bad his chosen side was, but he had to play politics. More to the point, he said if Quinn leaves — due to frustration — Rachel could step in and run the show…which may be his secret desire anyway. Why? I’m not sure, but he clearly came in with plans for the flustered showrunner. Either he’s playing Rachel (including playing along with her teaching him how to produce), or he’s got bigger ideas for her. Pay close attention to where Quinn takes this next week.

This is What a Feminist Looks Like

UnREAL Season 2 Episode 3 Shiri Appleby

One of the better elements of “Guerrilla” was how it emphasized how well the work done by women works. From Quinn’s “Sistine Chapel” of drama, to Rachel’s schooling of Coleman on how to produce, to Madison’s impressive (for her) manipulation of Beth Ann, the producers of “Everlasting” crafted an impressive piece of television.

Of course, they couldn’t be rewarded for it. I mean, when have women ever been justly rewarded for their hard work when a man is their boss? So, yeah, Coleman got the fancy car, but the point made by “UnREAL” was far more valuable than that: In case you forgot, we live in an unjust world. Rachel is trying to change it. Quinn is refusing to live in it. But it’s still there, and “UnREAL” won’t let us forget. Hell, Rachel couldn’t even spare a moment for a quick hook up, as she was forced to get back to work before she could get off. Coleman didn’t either, but he was the only one who left the room with a smile. Typical.

Top of the Call Sheet (Episode MVP)

UnREAL Season 2 Episode 3 Constance Zimmer & Amy Hill

As mentioned up top, this was Quinn’s episode. She made producing look all too easy, even after Rachel accurately described a fittingly difficult parallel: “War is easy. These girls are hard.”

That didn’t stop Quinn from strutting her Master Puppet Master status, pulling strings left and right with precision, effect and a remarkable air of nonchalance. Lest we forget, she convinced an unstable MMA fighter to throw another contestant off a climbing wall, locked her in a room to draw out her imbalance, and even set up an elaborate lie to make the “wifey” look better (and tip the final domino in Brandi’s row). And that’s only half of the equation.

Damn, Quinn. You’re still the best.

The Real Behind the Reality

UnREAL Season 2 Episode 203 day 6 of 7
“Guerrilla” may not have been as exciting as the two-part premiere, but it effectively executed story, dug into what makes “UnREAL” feel authentic, and gave better definition to many of the contestants. Moreover, it showed impressive awareness in two areas: structure and drive. Opening and closing the episode with focus on Darius’ body as a commodity, both for him and the show, was a subtle touch that helped hold everything in between together. But it was the choice to move forward so quickly with the Rachel/Quinn fallout that reminded us what makes “UnREAL” so addictive: Conflict is king, and this show is never afraid of engaging. Onto the next!

Grade: B+

“UnREAL” airs Monday nights at 10pm on Lifetime. Season 1 is streaming on Hulu. 

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