Hulu’s The Act
Season 1, Episode 5: “Plan B”
Directed by Steven Piet
Written by Nick Antosca & Lisa Long
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Stay Inside” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “A Whole New World” – click here
In 2015, Gypsy Blanchard (Joey King) keeps falling further into her online relationship with Nick Godejohn (Calum Worthy). They role play. She asks for “daddy‘s sweetness” while he masturbates on webcam. She plays the role he desires. He’s not into eye contact, suggesting troubles with intimacy. There’s also the fact he has a supposed alternate personality, Victor the vampire.
Nick wants to come see her, so they can be together physically instead of digitally. This gets Gypsy thinking of a way for him to accidentally run into her and Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette). That’d help with keeping the wool pulled over her mother’s eyes.
Gypsy asks Dee Dee to go on a trip. Mom is busy suffering because of her diabetes, refusing to take insulin or eat right or exercise— likely too consumed with their intricate fake life to concentrate on her own health. When her daughter presses her about going on a trip she flips out, grabbing Gypsy hard by the shoulder and gaslighting her with the woes of being a mother to a sick child. Anyone else suffering from diabetes has Father Gore’s sympathy, it’s an awful disease.
But Dee Dee can eat shit.
“I’ve got to hurt you
to help you”
We go to Wisconsin, where Nick’s working at Pizza Peddler for his boss, Brian (Joshua Mikel). He’s learning how to cook a pie, though it doesn’t go well. He clumsily knocks two uncooked pizzas onto the floor. Instead of being in the kitchen Nick gets sent out to be the walking advertisement slice. At night, he returns to his lonely room, his computer screen, and his distant girlfriend Gypsy— or Ruby with her “wicked stepmom,” or whichever other personality she takes on to make Victor happy. Gypsy asks what Victor would do for her. He replies: “Violent things.” Terribly dark. Because after the orgasm’s over, they talk about whether the violence could really happen. He says Victor would do those things. She shrugs it off, as if she isn’t actually curious.
Dee Dee’s taking Gypsy to see the new Cinderella. Gypsy’s bought Nick a bus ticket. They’ll pretend they’re meeting for the first time. All another act. One of the many tragic parts about Gypsy’s life is she was taught how to be deceptive by her mother all those years. Like a plant sucks up whatever nutrients it gets, so does a child learn whatever their parents teach them, by word or by their actions. By Gypsy watching her mother deceive people, she learned to do the same. This helps create an act for her and Nick to play out. She’s almost like the director of her own movie, telling Nick what lines to say, what to wear, how to behave.
Gypsy’s dressed up as the Disney princess herself by Dee Dee and they head to the theatre. She’s eagerly awaiting Nick, yet he’s nowhere to be found. Just when she thinks it’s hopeless she sees Nick, fulfilling her hopes like she IS a real princess whose Prince Charming has rode in to save her. Only the act they prepared doesn’t go as planned, and Nick fumbles the first meeting.
Inside, Gypsy’s more concerned with looking at Nick than the screen. Dee Dee moves when she sees him sitting behind them. He only moves to a seat nearby. Mom gets pissed off and moves again, like a weird game of musical chairs. Godejohn gets up and leaves, which just upsets Gypsy. She uses the excuse of going to the bathroom to look for him. They meet in the washroom and she has her “first ever kiss“— another clue she’s been, at the very least, slightly deceptive with him, given we know she had one other kiss with Wolverine. Nick and Gypsy lie on the bathroom floor and have sex for the first time, too. Not quite the fairy tale romance. Afterwards, she goes back to her mom with the permanent dopey smile everyone has on their face after they get laid. When they leave Dee Dee gets aggressive with Nick after he tries to make contact again. She tears Gypsy away from him, calling him a “paedophile” even though her daughter’s of legal age.
Dee Dee’s suspicious whether her daughter’s met Nick before. Gypsy doesn’t do a great job pretending, either. She goes back to that prison in her room and texts with Nick, who’s determined to call her mom. She begs him not to, though he does anyway. Nick tells Dee Dee everything— as in, everything, at least subtly. He makes clear there are no secrets between him and Gypsy and he’s the “father of her future children.” He asserts his dominance, then hangs up. This is only going to make things more troublesome for Gypsy. She and Dee Dee are entering a dangerously antagonistic phase. Only a matter of time before everything crumbles violently. Dee Dee can no longer mentally control her daughter, neither can totally physically control her, so she’s tying Gypsy to the bed in a desperate gesture of horrific, perverse ‘love.’ This prompts the daughter to text her boyfriend: “I need Victor.” Things are finally crossing over into terror. She says the words aloud, asking him to kill her mom. And Nick’s so far dissociated into his alter Victor he’s ready to do the unthinkable.
At the mall, Gypsy sneaks off from her mother. She’s making another purchase, except it’s not a harmless laptop this time. She’s buying the very knife that’ll eventually be used, by Nick, to stab her mother— “a really big deer,” as she describes to the unsuspecting old guy at the hunting supplies counter— to death in her own bed. She buys a knife with a red handle while Dee Dee panics, unable to find her. Mom locates her soon enough, after Gypsy’s had time to hide the blade.
Their plan’s set now. Everything is ready.
At home, Gypsy gets out of her chair and helps clip her mother’s toenails. The diabetes is making life harder for Dee Dee all the time. Gypsy paints her mother’s nails and they spend a normal moment together. She soon suggests they ought to go to the doctor about her feeding tube. This takes them out of the house for a bit. That evening, they go to bed together. Once Dee Dee falls asleep, Gypsy gets up to pack.
That’s when Nick arrives.
“Before you know it
you’ll be a brand new girl”
A wonderfully disturbing chapter in The Act. Not much else to say, other than it’ll be exciting and grim to watch the rest of these episodes and how the writers are going to weave the remainder of the tale throughout them.
“A Whole New World” is next and it”ll bring something gruesome.