Quinn’s Rebirth and The 5 Biggest Moments from UnREAL, “Treason”

(Episode 2.04)

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Quinn’s Rebirth and The 5 Biggest Moments from UnREAL, “Treason”

After last week’s rushed but narratively significant episode, “Treason” often feels like course correction, focusing mainly on the aftermath of the big event of the last episode—Darius’ injury—and approaching the conflict meticulously from every combination of characters. But, even as unlikely alliances are developing like Quinn and Chet and Rachel and Coleman, “Treason” is primarily an episode about characters staking out their own paths.

Coming after Quinn has officially learned about Rachel’s power grab, Quinn is smarting from the multiple betrayals of her life, and vying to live a life apart from all the people who make her life worse. And Darius is coming to similar personal revelations, viewing Everlasting as his moment to pull away from a life that’s been predetermined by responsibilities. Here are five of the most memorable moments from the episode.

1. He Was a Worthless Father, and Now He’s Dead
Quinn’s father, Randy has never been a visible character, but he’s long loomed over Quinn’s character as both a justification of her nature, and a warning for her future. Quinn never needed to have long monologues about an absent father; it was just a statement of fact that he represented everything she wanted to push against.

It’s only fair that his death comes at the worst possible moment in her career, and from one of the symbols of the downfall to her happiness—Madison. The fledgling young producer is still as clueless as they come, deciding to break the news about Randy, bringing in two bowls of cereal—picked of the actual cereal.

Quinn’s main reaction upon hearing about the death may be annoyance, but the death is less of its own entity, and more of a barometer for where Quinn is within her life as past friends and lovers try to check on her.

Upon first hearing of the loss, Rachel rushes to the office to check on Quinn, but where Quinn may have earlier welcomed the opportunity to decompress about the loss with Rachel, this death is a moment of meditation for a wounded Quinn. “Oh, that’s what you’re sorry about?” Quinn asks passive aggressively as Rachel peeks in with her condolences.

Since the reveal at the end of the last episode, UnREAL has been preparing for the big moment of conflict between Rachel and Quinn, since Rachel found out about her attempted coup. But this isn’t some grand battle. It’s a quietly seething moment of clarity as Quinn dismantles every one of Rachel’s attempts to explain her reasoning. These are two master manipulators who know every one of each other’s tricks, or rather, they have taught each other every trick.

As much as Rachel would like to believe that she had some grand design for the show’s greater good, Quinn sees it as nothing more than a power-grab that’s backfired on both of them. But the greater hurt is a shattered friendship and mentorship.

“I plucked you from nothing, you need me behind you…propping up so you don’t crack,” Quinn says in a variation on this season’s earlier monologue, where Quinn tells Rachel that she needs an “iron spine and steady hand” for a producer job. But this isn’t a mere taunting moment, it’s the end of anything resembling a relationship.

2. Raving, Spiky, Promo-Making Television

There’s plenty of backstabbing and new alliances being made, but the big moment of the episode is certainly the powderpuff football game. After Darius is told by his incognito personal physician that he needs surgery, he’s going to play it as safe as possible, even if that means commentating from the sidelines while the rest of the girls battle it out in the game.

With Chet still holding some vague sense of control, the powderpuff game is less a show of sportsmanship than an excuse for the women to parade around in skimpy outfits, and get as drunk as possible. But it’s nonetheless hilarious to see how UnREAL continually puts the contestants in scenarios where dignity is thrown out the window. It may not be a great simulation of the dripping romanticism of its primary real-world influence, The Bachelor, but there’s an appealing goofiness to this season’s mixture of The Challenge and more fairy tale-indebted reality television.

Still, no matter how well Rachel and Coleman orchestrate to keep Darius’ injury under wraps, they’re still dealing with enemies like Chet and Quinn, who are already searching for every opportunity to sabotage Darius and the network’s golden boy, Coleman. And when you’re dealing with a football player who’s one well-placed tackle from the emergency room and a sprawling scandal, it’s a no-brainer.

Bringing the girls in for an impromptu huddle, Chet easily plays the girls as she changes the goal from a football game to tackling Darius. “You can kiss him, grab him, just bring him into the dirt,” Chet says before promising the winner a one-on-one date with him.

Of course, the last thing the doctor prescribes for an injured football player is being the bottom of a dog-pile, whether you’re dealing with burly linebackers or the ladies of Everlasting. And for a short time, it seems like the end of the line for Coleman, the designated show runner of Everlasting who must take the blame for this avoidable disaster.

3. I’ve Been Working Really Hard Letting Myself Off the Hook

Before everything goes to hell though, we also get what is perhaps our most real moment of this entire season, as Darius has a heart-to-heart with Tiffany about the comparable weight that they feel. They’re both on the sidelines, and Darius is taking the commentating far too seriously, even going so far as to yell cut at Jeremy after messing up the line. It leads to a great punchline when he responds without interest, “Relax, dude, it’s called editing.”

But even as the scene barely lasts two minutes, it feels important in showing that Darius is reaching a breaking point in having to deal with all the pressure. “I haven’t done anything for the first time in 16 years,” Darius says to an agreeable Tiffany.

These two have sparks, and football in common, but they’re also people who’ve struggled under the weight of their responsibilities. Tiffany needed to be the golden girl, and as a result became a constant over-achiever. Darius feels this same pressure. As he says later in the same episode when making a big decision, “there’s a lot of people who depend on me.”

This conversation is a moment where Darius is releasing some of that weight. He’s freeing himself in any way he can. And it’s probably unfair to say this is a moment that defined his decision to take the epidural, but there’s a palpable catharsis in the choice that evokes that conversation.

4. He’s Family, You Just Can’t Let Him Go

Darius’ decision to stay on the show with the help of an epidural is undeniably the headline of the episode, but following in the themes of “Treason,” the break with Romeo (Gentry White), his best friend, feels nearly as monumental for what it signals.

Romeo’s certainly not wrong to be wary of Rachel and her apparently noble intentions of helping Darius, no matter what the cost. And it’s even more heartbreaking to see that he’s a person who only has his friend’s best interests in mind. The TV show, and even football have always been secondary to him—he’s more worried that Darius could be spending the rest of his life paralyzed.

Never mind that Rachel stoops to trying to seduce Romeo again, in the hopes that her problems will just disappear with a little bit of sexual manipulation. But Romeo is lamenting the loss of something that’s much bigger than a television show. “I gave my life for Darius, and you just poisoned the best thing either of us had,” Romeo says before he leaves.

This isn’t the first time that Rachel has caused a schism between close characters, but it nonetheless feels like there will be more severe consequences to come.

5. I Am Done With All the Garbage People In My Life

Earlier in the episode, Quinn was upfront about her anger in dealing with Rachel, a person who she sees with the closeness of a child, but that scene felt ambiguous in its conclusions. Would Quinn eventually welcome back Rachel? It seemed unlikely, but a possibility nonetheless.

The same can’t be said for one of the last scenes of the episode. Chet has just been arrested after kidnapping his child, Darius has walked away seemingly unscathed from her scheme and Rachel is still trying to act like they’re friends. “I know we’re fighting about work stuff,” Rachel begins as she vaguely asks if Quinn wants a beer. If there’s one thing that’s been made clear in UnREAL, it’s the totality of the job. As Quinn responds in anger, “That’s us… we work, and not well.” The job is the beginning and the end and any sliver of an interior life is an incident that happens in between the job.

But Quinn’s final proclamation of burning down Randy’s house feels like far from an empty threat in the moment. She’s been underestimated by everyone around her, and it’s time for a change. Quinn’s used to being the villain, and if that’s how everyone wants to see her, she’s going to embrace it. This feels like a rebirth, and one that’s guaranteed to be messy.