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The Arrangement - The Long Game & Surface Tension - Double Review: "Fake It 'Til You Make It"

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After ten long months of waiting, The Arrangement has finally returned, and from the first two episodes, it’s back in all of its glory and soapiness. Often compared to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ real-life relationship, The Arrangement features a contracted relationship between a Hollywood newcomer and a movie star, who happens to be involved in the Institute for the Higher Mind, a thinly-veiled spin on the Church of Scientology. The premise alone was enough to draw me in during the first season, and one of things I’ve loved is watching Megan and Kyle’s relationship develop. Their romance walks the line of between real and fake, and at times even I can’t always tell the difference. The first season was full of so many twists and turns, with the finale ending on the cliffhanger of Megan deciding to take down IHM, after having been kidnapped and held against her will. While she was resolute then, things are definitely murkier in the first two episodes, as Megan is trying to balance her desire for revenge with her feelings for Kyle. It’s definitely an unconventional romance, but that’s part of the appeal. So without further ado, let’s dive in.

Things seemed to have gotten back to “normal” at the start of “The Long Game,” at from Kyle’s perspective, as he and Megan celebrate their engagement and plan have IHM plan their wedding. While Kyle just wants Megan to be happy, she obviously isn’t, as as evidenced by the continual flashes of her time at the facility. Even Megan describing her dream wedding to Kyle feels hollow, and their lack of intimacy is a clear sign she is still experiencing the trauma of being kidnapped and betrayed by Kyle. After learning that Megan wanted to bring down IHM in the season one finale – something that is completely reasonable and justifiable in my opinion – the first two episodes proved just how daunting a task that will be. Part of her brilliant plan includes tracking down Lisbeth, Kyle’s ex-fiancée, to see if Terence put Lisbeth through some of the same shit that he did to Megan. Shaun thinks it might set off alarm bells if Kyle and Terence find out that Megan’s asking around about Kyle’s ex, but Megan feels like she has to take some sort of risk. Her entire relationship with Kyle right now is a façade, and she can’t keep up that forever. Megan already feels like Kyle senses something is off. So after some junior detective work, Megan finds out what meditation class Lisbeth is attending and stages a run in. Lisbeth, of course, who isn’t exactly thrilled to run into Megan, especially after very clearly spelling things out for our protagonist during the film festival in Venice. But a lot of things have happened since Venice, and Megan just wants to know why Lisbeth left, specifically if Terence had anything to do with it. Lisbeth, who seems a little unhinged at this point, lets Megan know it’s impossible to try to separate Terence and Kyle before telling our protagonist to stay away from her. Except, Lisbeth quickly changes her tune when she texts Megan and agrees to meet with her at the end of “The Long Game.” Of course, the meeting doesn’t go as planned, as viewers learn Lisbeth is completely off her rocker. While she previously seemed a little unhinged and paranoid, “Surface Tension” showed that Kyle’s ex-fiancée isn’t all there. Lisbeth believing IHM poisoned her food and water is one thing – I certainly wouldn’t put it past Terence – but then she basically repeats the entire conversation she already had with Megan, not even realizing that she’s already told Megan those exact things. So really, any chance of Lisbeth being an ally in Megan’s plan to take down IHM just goes out the window, as Kyle’s ex isn’t exactly the most credible or stable witness.

Besides Megan’s failed endeavor, part of what complicates her plan are her conflicting feelings for Kyle. With all the craziness going on, Megan hasn’t even had the time to sort out how she feels about Kyle; she’s still trying to reconcile her love for Kyle with what he did, or rather didn’t do. She wants to believe that Kyle would never hurt her, but, in the end, everyone has a choice. Despite being a great actress, she can’t really hide her true feelings from Kyle for long. After avoiding intimacy and spending quality time with him, Kyle finally asks Megan how she’s really feeling. Six months ago they signed a contract, even though they barely knew each other, and now they’re planning a wedding and making a movie and everything is coming at them a million miles an hour. Kyle feels like Megan isn’t there, and despite her apology about being distracted lately, he wants to know if it’s just distraction. He brings up Megan’s forced time at the facility, saying it would be normal if Megan had feelings about how everything went down. Megan says her feelings toward Kyle are feelings of gratitude and love, going so far as to sleep with him, even though she clearly doesn’t want to, just to prove her point. However, things finally come to a head when Megan finally tells Kyle she can’t do this anymore after he essentially let the investors ruin Technicolor Highway with Terence’s “hero” moment. Apparently, Kyle’s been waiting for Megan to finally be honest with him and stop lying. Megan may walk around like everything is fine when it’s obviously not; it’s all been bullshit. Kyle readily admits that he sold Megan out to Terence, got her dragged off to the facility, and, regardless of what “good” came from that, if Megan isn’t mad, then Kyle has no idea who she is. Kyle just wants the truth because if he doesn’t, he can’t figure out a way to make it better, and he needs to make it better. While Kyle obviously feels guilty for the role he played in Megan’s kidnapping, he stops short of apologizing. Megan says that she was in a perfect relationship with a perfect guy and everything was perfect, until something important happened and this supposed perfect guy turned his back on her and broke her heart. So if she’s not present, it’s because she’s bracing herself for the next time something like that happens. Kyle says there’s not going to be a next time, but Megan says neither of them can be sure. Until they can, it’s just talk.

So what does Kyle decide to do to remedy the situation? Well, he decides he’s not going to change the ending and will focus solely on directing. Megan is now the face of the movie. Even under the threat of the movie’s financing being pulled, he doesn’t back down, instead offering to put up his own money. With Kyle just directing, the project will once again become his and Megan’s again. With Kyle no longer playing Hooper, the movie needs a new male lead. Deann wants to know who’s replacing Kyle as he has been vetoing every actor she suggests, and fast forward two months later, Kyle still hasn’t cast someone as Hooper. It’s gotten to the point where the investors are now threatening to pull their money, and if they lose the investors, the movie is shutting down. Deann, Megan, and, most importantly, their investors think Kyle should cast Logan Travers, a presumed A-list actor, as Hooper, but he would rather kill this movie than cast Logan. Why? Well, Deann thinks Kyle is jealous of Logan and anyone else for the part. We learn that when Kyle met Lisbeth on set she was dating the director, so Kyle’s scared Megan will leave him for her new male co-star. However, Megan reassures Kyle that they have a contract that forbids Megan from having an affair, and even though contracts get broken, she’s not throwing away $10 million on a random hookup. Megan feels like she and Kyle are getting closer and she won’t let anyone get in the way of that. Besides that talk on the beach, the pair has a couple of quieter moments in “Surface Tension” that show that things are getter better between them, from Kyle comforting Megan in the bedroom after her collapse and her inviting him into the shower. Even though these past two months have been fun, Megan says until Terence is out of the picture, everything with her and Kyle is just temporary. They’ve been so busy that Megan sometimes forgets that she doesn’t completely trust Kyle. It’s like her and Kyle are in a holding pattern, and everything is fine, until it isn’t. In the end, Kyle still sort of gets his way when he casts jazz musician Xavier Hughes – a man with no acting experience but with a girlfriend – in the role of Hooper. Megan and Xavier have a moment that could have been mistaken as something romantic while at the piano, but Kyle decides to kill two birds with one stone and offers Xavier the part of Hooper. By the end, everyone except Terence is happy with the casting, which is fine by me, because I love to watch Terence squirm.

Well, Deann was right about one thing: Terence definitely likes to be in control. While we’ve known Deann and Terence have had an open relationship since season one, viewers get a better understanding of the intricacies in these first two episodes. “The Long Game” introduces an individual named Mason, who Deann has been sending flirty texts to, and viewers are able to gather that this person and Deann have some sort of romantic relationship, but the depth of that isn’t explained until “Surface Tension.” I, personally, was under the impression that Mason was going to be just a fling – similar to Annika in season one and the 22-year-old Terence slept with in the season two premiere, which I’ll get into in the next paragraph. However, as we learned in the following episode, Mason is much more than that. She and Deann have spent one weekend a year together for however long, and their feelings have clearly developed beyond just a physical relationship as Mason tells Deann she wants to spend more time with the people she loves. While viewers don’t have any idea how long the pair have been spending one weekend per year together, they know each other well enough to be discussing Mason’s son’s being in rehab and care deeply as the word “love” was just casually tossed around, like it was no big deal. Deann even said that the longer Mason stays, the harder it is for her to readjust to life with Terence. Well, as it turns out, Mason has had a particularly hard year, and she wants to spend more time, more than just one weekend with Deann, with Mason wanting to stay in Los Angeles until summer. This would be great, except Mason staying means Deann would be having a “full-blown” affair, something that Deann hasn’t done before. As we learn from Deann and Terence’s therapy session, the rules of their open relationship are clear: They’re allowed to sleep with other people but not develop feelings. With Mason staying, and Deann continuing to see her, that would constitute as a violation of Deann and Terence’s rules. As dysfunctional as Deann’s marriage is to Terence, she can’t afford to ruin that right now. However, Mason is asking Deann to throw away her marriage; she just doesn’t want to leave.

So fast forward two months, and Deann and Terence are in couple’s counseling. According to their therapist, their problem is the lack of intimacy. We learn that Terence and Deann haven’t been having sex with each other since the tie on the door incident, but they weren’t sleeping together that often before that either. For those who need a refresher, the incident the therapist is referring to is Terence putting a tie on their door to symbolize he was otherwise occupied, with a 22-year-old nonetheless. When Deann walked in, she found the pair together and was obviously displeased to find her husband fooling around with someone just out of college in their bedroom. I’m not exactly sure what is was about Terence’s indiscretion that bothered Deann. Was it that he slept with someone so much younger than her? Was it because he slept with someone else in their bedroom? Was it because he put a tie on the door to rub it in Deann’s face? Whatever the reason, Terence apologizes to Deann, even though he’s not really sorry. Well, two months later, and Terence still doesn’t understand why Deann’s mad, as he followed their rules. Even though Deann says the tie incident was a slap in the face, which it may have been, for viewers, it’s pretty obvious where her distance is coming from. For the past two months, she’s been having an affair with Mason, and while we don’t know the newly introduced character that well, the pair seem to really care and love each other. Also, Mason has the fact that she’s nothing like Terence going for her. She seems like she is very open and honest with Deann and isn’t trying to manipulate everyone around Deann into doing what she wants. From what I can tell, things are just simpler for Deann with Mason; she probably doesn’t have to analyze every interaction they have, trying to figure out if her lover means what she says. It’s probably just a relief to be upfront and honest about what they both want. Deann has always been one of my favorite characters because the way she goes about problem solving is really interesting. If it were up to me, Deann and Terence would only be married on paper, and she could ride off into the sunset with whomever she wanted.

Viewers also get some answers to the cause behind Megan’s stomach pains. When I saw “The Long Game,” I thought she was pregnant, and then during the beginning of “Surface Tension,” I thought she may have been poisoned for like half a second, but it turns out the reason for her pain is extreme stress. I wonder what could be so stressful in her life? Oh yeah, trying to destroy IHM while having to play the perfect fiancée when you’re engaged to a man you simultaneously love and don’t trust. In the two-month time jump, Megan hasn’t seen a doctor because she’s too worried about building her brand so when things with IHM and Terence, she’ll have protection. Her method of ignoring the problem really doesn’t fix anything as she collapses during a livestream at her domestic violence awareness fundraiser, sending the internet into a flurry of what’s actually wrong with her. The doctor, who is with IHM, suggests that Megan take something off her plate, which Megan interprets at her getting kicked off the movie. However, things take a turn for the worse when Terence decides the two of them should work one-on-one to figure out the root cause of Megan’s stress. Raise of hands: Who actually think that’s a good idea? No one. That’s what I thought. This is going to end very, very badly. I’ve never liked Terence, and watching him spin out of control over not having everything go is way is actually really enjoyable, but I’m afraid he’s going to take his anger and frustration out of Megan. Along with his marriage woes, Terence was held at gunpoint and had his car stolen at the skating rink. While it’s not exactly nice to wish pain on TV characters, but Terence really deserves it. However, he seems to be having trouble shaking off the experience, so Megan really needs to be careful as Terence is very unpredictable at this point. While everything he did in season one was self-serving, he at least had allies to fall back on. He and Deann aren’t in a great place. He and Kyle are at odds over Kyle wanting to direct. With no one in his corner, he is a much more dangerous man this season because he has nothing left to lose.

At the end of the season one finale, Megan had just confided in Shaun, but viewers had no idea what Shaun would do. Would she side with Megan? Would she betray her best friend and tell Terence? Well, Shaun continues to be the only person Megan can really count on, as the it looks like the lawyer is joining Megan’s quest to take down IHM. Unlike Megan who just wants to burn down the Institute, Shaun’s approach is more thought out. Like she tells Megan, she can’t just go poking around Terence’s office and find something incriminating on Terence instantaneously. Apparently, being IHM’s lawyer doesn’t give Shaun as much access as one would think, especially given that Terence is “extremely careful.” While Shaun may not be able to be Megan’s point person on this operation, she still finds a way to help through her ex-boyfriend James. Skipping over the part where I actually knew or cared that Shaun and James broke up, it looks like her former paramour is going to be working at the facility, also known as the place where Megan was held against her will. So if Megan and Shaun know where the facility is, it would be a big step in helping them take down IHM. The only problem is that Shaun and James aren’t exactly on the best of terms since their breakup, so Shaun has some mending of fences to do, which include her only slightly using James. While Shaun isn’t exactly keen on lying to James, Megan tells Shaun to be as honest as possible, which leads to a maybe, slightly truthful version of why the former couple broke up. Supposedly, IHM is the first job Shaun has had where she doesn’t feel like she’s settling and she got scared, thinking her relationship with James would interfere with that. However, now that she’s had some time to get settled, she’s thinks there’s room for both her job and a relationship. Do I buy that? No idea. Do I care? Not really. Whether real or not, Shaun is able to convince James to take her to the facility; the only caveat being he can’t let her know where it is. Even as IHM’s lawyer, Shaun isn’t authorized to know the exact location and has to wear a blindfold on their road trip. So Shaun getting back together with James didn’t exactly accomplish her end goal, but it is a start. She may not know the exact location of the facility, but she at least has the opportunity to see how it functions, and that could be a critical piece in taking down the Institute.

Some stray thoughts:
- This better not be the last we’ve seen of Leslie because I love Autumn Reeser. I’m also kind of confused on why Megan had to fire her in the first place. Was it because Leslie was too outspoken at the meeting with the movie investors, and Terence suggested it would be best if they never had to see her again? It just seems like if Megan really wanted to keep Leslie as her agent she could have, or maybe she needs all the good will she can get from Terence.
- Xavier’s girlfriend whose name I can’t remember comes on way too strong, like creepy potential stalker strong, with her just like randomly showing up at Kyle’s house uninvited just after meeting Hollywood’s It couple the night before. Like who does that? Someone who’s only interested in furthering her career.
- Is it weird that these two episodes were the first time we learned anything about Technicolor Highway. I know the movie is fictional, but it just seems like viewers should have learned a little bit about the film before now. Then again, I still don’t know that much about The Kill Plan, so maybe it doesn’t really matter.

So hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. Will Megan succeed in bringing down IHM? Do Megan and Kyle have what it takes to go the distance, or will Megan end up falling for new co-star? When will Deann finally leave Terence? Is Terence more dangerous this season?

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