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Nine Perfect Strangers - Brave New World - Review

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It's Day 4 of the guests' stay at Tranquillum House on Nine Perfect Strangers, and the issue is just that: one episode covers one day, and sometimes not... much... happens. At all. I feel like I'm almost watching the one episode over and over again with slight alterations here and there, a bit of character development, a new, slightly unhinged activity for them to engage in. All four episodes that actually now constitute half a season all seem to blur together in one endless, smoothie-infused, coma. And it's not, not enjoyable, not with that kind of cast, but it doesn't exactly make for riveting TV, either. Speaking of smoothies, if I see one more blender shot of strawberries mixed with whatever else (and a microdose of drugs, of course!), I am going to RIOT.

Beucase, you see, that's the great revelation. Masha and her minions are using a few choice drugs to "help" their guests have a truly transformative experience, and allow them to open up more fully, with realizations that may have taken months to happen otherwise. At least, that's what Masha thinks, and what Masha thinks, goes. The armchair psychiatrist in me wants to say that some deep-rooted issues can't be solved that way and will come back eventually, but hey, Heather and Napoleon finally reconnected, Carmel and Frances faced their demons, and Tony opened up about his, so clearly there's something (albeit fictional) to the technique.

The charm in Nine Perfect Strangers mostly lies in its relationships, whether old or new, but especially new. Zoe and Lars are certainly an unexpected pairing but somehow they bounce off each other particularly well, and I hope we get to dig a little deeper into both their reasons to be there. Zoe constantly distancing herself from her brother and what happened to him is obviously a ploy, and Lars calls her out on it immediately. What kind of 18 year old twins "aren't close" anyway? As for Lars's alleged investigative (and likely explosive) article about health resorts, much like with the other changes from the book, I can't say I'm a fan of this new twist. Believe me, I don't mind changes from the original narrative when they work and make sense. So far, none of the show's choices have felt necessary, piling on the misery doesn't necessarily make for good TV. Did Carmel's ex-husband need to not only have traded her in for a newer model, but also have repeatedly cheated on her and actually been physically violent with her? Did Tony's past have to include a dead man, ruined career, and estranged family? The book's character backgrounds may have been less sensational but they worked better and in more subtle ways.
I'm worried about what else the show is going to twist around in an effort to make the characters seem more compelling, when really it's just using crutches it shouldn't need. On the bright side, Melissa McCarthy still is a highlight in every episode, and her storming off to get her contrabande alcohol after learning she was being microdosed, and subsequently regretting the ensuing hangover the next day, was hilarious. Her burgeoning friendship with Tony is also quite charming to see develop from one episode to the next, and one hopes they can finally find solace in each other. I honestly didn't know people could (still) get scammed the way Frances did with the infamous fake internet boyfriend and his fake, injured son. More realistic is the declining interest in her books, and how one devastating review can throw authors through a loop.
We also learn that 1. Ben and Jess are not being drugged (yet, apparently Masha has special plans for struggling couples), and 2. Ben's sister is a drug addict (which may explain why Masha would be more careful). In fact, the guests aren't the only ones on a very specific smoothie regimen, both Yao and Delilah have to follow those rules too. Which doesn't feel particularly safe, if everyone's brains are addled who is controlling the situation?! Also, how does that work, is there a clause in their contracts that specifies that they could get fired if they don't comply? As usual, Masha's supervision of the whole thing is both completely insane but also what keeps it together. What she may not have factored in though, is that by sleeping with Yao, who is also in a relationship with Delilah, she may not have the hold she thinks she has on Delilah. Delilah, understandably, is not a fan of her boyfriend having sex with her boss (or anyone else than herself, I would assume). If Delilah finally snaps, there's no telling where this little experiment will end.

With four episodes left, I hope the show will tighten its narrative and make it feel less like filler, because there is a lot of potential under the slightly unfocused blur of smoothies, dark backstories, and unclear final motives. The one thing that truly and completely needs to go (but won't) is the Masha stalker subplot. No one cares, it's probably a red herring anyway, and it's not adding anything to the story. So, what did you guys think of this episode? Are you enjoying the slightly meandering pace? What do you think is Masha's goal here? As usual, sound off in the comments!

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