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A Teacher - Episode 9 - Review

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Does anyone else really wish this show would orient us in time. I know at some point we saw a 2013-2014 banner but nothing since that moment. How long has Eric been in college? How long has Claire been out of jail? How much time has passed since Eric quit the fraternity? Long enough for him to be on academic probation. Does that take a semester? A year? This show isn’t timeless so no need to play coy with your viewer.

Claire is on a date and she has a job. Apparently, they met on Tinder. He doesn’t seem tall enough to be her type, but he seems friendly and dorky. The nameless date starts asking flirty, I guess, questions—last date, last kiss. They cut away before the next question is asked, but I think we all know what came next. Here we are back at his place.

The kissing begins, but Claire interrupts it to talk about her ankle monitor and the bad thing she did. He doesn’t care. Once we move the party to the bedroom it’s clear he knows about Eric. What isn’t clear is whether Claire told him during her ankle monitor confession or if he knew before swiping right. He calls her dirty and a slut. She “likes” it and asks for more. Before she asked for more, I thought this was going in a different direction. It looked like she was going to ask him to stop and by the way her head was nearing the headboard I thought he was going to ignore her. I’m glad the show didn’t go there.

Despite Claire claiming to like the name calling, we all know Claire doesn’t really like it. Mara’s expression tells the story. Claire can’t admit she’s wrong, so this is how she’s punishing herself. It’s the outward manifestation of internalized hatred. And call me a horrible person, but there is still not an iota of sympathy bubbling for her in my cold, cruel heart. Truthfully, I’m a little offended. This degradation feels like the show’s last ditch attempt to manipulate the audience into caring about Claire. It’s too late. There wasn’t enough character development early on to make it a possibility now.

Eric, as expected, is suffering. He’s depressed, spending his days sleeping in a darkened room and scrolling Instagram looking at the lives his peers are leading. His roommate, Ryan (Devon Bostick) returns and asks him about missing class before telling him to get dressed. To dinner they go. Fun fact: Devon Bostick starred with Nick Robinson in Being Charlie. They were both so good in the film.

Turns out Claire is working for her father, Wyatt (M.C. Gainey). He’s concerned about her and asks if she’s thought of going back to Al-Anon. Claire brushes him off. A co-worker sees Claire’s brush off and shares that Wyatt helped save him. He never would have made it to one year sober without him.

The dinner with Ryan turns into a bit of an intervention. The roommate clues the audience in on how far Eric has spiraled since we last saw him. When last we saw Eric, he was drowning in sex, drugs, dangerous hijinks, and Claire. Now, he’s on academic probation and about to lose his scholarship. Of course, Eric claims all is well with him. It’s really not. Eric’s future is at stake meanwhile Claire’s father has given her a place to stay and a job. None of that is to say Claire’s life is easy at the moment, but does she deserve easy?

Matt’s back. The papers to finalize the divorce are ready for their signatures. He’s another victim of Claire, so her asking how he’s doing doesn’t feel like the right move. Guess what? The band thing maybe sort of worked out for Matt. He’s recording an album, travelling to cool cities for work, and dating. I was waiting for Matt to unload and he doesn’t disappoint. He’s pissed. And tells Claire, she never would have done what she did if she actually cared about him. In a show of diplomacy, I’ll say, it isn’t that Claire doesn’t care about Matt, it’s that she cares about herself a lot more. He also puts a stop to her labelling the sexual assault of a student a mistake. You didn’t make a mistake Claire, you committed a crime. We have one episode left. Are we ever going to get her taking ownership? Ever?
This episode is so quiet. And slow. We return to Eric. He’s still at the bar, but is it the same night? I can’t tell. A group of women barrel into his space and adopt him. At one point he’s offering them advice about men. So bizarre. Really they want to know if he’s in a relationship because their friend Chloe is single. They also emphasize that she’s a yoga teacher. Why? Because she’s bendy? Is this supposed to be innuendo? The writing for this show is exhausting.

We’re back at the Tinder date’s apartment. Claire doesn’t want his pleasantries, just the hard and fast with some choice name calling to enhance the mood. DIdn’t we all just love the closeup of him gripping Claire’s ponytail for leverage? I mean, this is all consensual, which is what matters, and to each their own, but in the larger context of the show, everything involving Claire feels problematic.

The sex and name calling isn’t enought this time. Claire wants him to hit her. He gives her a little smack on her butt. She wants to be hit harder, and he obliges. It isn’t enough. She wants him to hit her in the face. Harder and then harder. When he draws blood, Claire still wants more, but he can’t do it. Like Eric she’s spiralling. You know what else happened in this scene? Claire left another person more broken than she found them. Stop dragging other people into your crap, Claire.

Back to the women at the bar, Chloe’s friends have abandoned her in order to facilitate a hookup with Eric. They drink. They dance. Chloe cries. She says things Eric needs to hear. The first being that he’s too young for a grown woman. The second is how she was so in love with someone that it ached, but once she was out she could see he was an awful person and that being with him made her unhappy. She’s telling Eric his own story.

Claire arrives home with a bloody lip and Wyatt is worried. He wants to talk, but she doesn’t want his help. Not only doesn't she want his help, but she unloads on him about the past. How she used counted the empty bottles in the trash to make sure he wouldn’t die. She also rails against his present. She’s pissed that he beat it, which is an oversimplification of the daily struggle addicts face. She’s pissed that he’s thriving. She says that she spent her life trying to feel safe, and part of that was running away from him. It’s why she became a teacher. She wanted to make children feel safe in a way that she never did. Well, you failed Claire. Here we go again with the show casting blame for Claire's behavior on anyone that isn't Claire. I suppose she does finally admit that she’s a horrible person, but is it just another pity party, or is their some personal responsiblity in the mix? We don't find out because Claire has hit a wall. When her dam bursts it reveals suicidal ideation. Wyatt empathizes. It’s clear he’s been there himself. He tells her she’s gotta stay while rubbing her back. It mirrors Eric and his mom when he came home from the motel. Speaking of Eric and his mom.
Eric goes home and tells his mom he’s going to stay for the weekend or longer. Robinson’s eyes are haunting in this scene. They are so devoid of life or light, and he admits he needs help. Finally, we end with the victim. The one strugglig to survive. This is his story.

I think that’s been the biggest mistake. The show has been written at times like it’s their story, Eric and Claire's, or just Claire’s story, but in the final moment of episode nine it feels like there is an understanding that this should have been Eric’s story. This isn’t a better late than never situation. It’s a clear reminder of how this series wasted opportunities and squandered its potential.

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