It’s really the next logical extension of the cruelty that buttresses the making of UnREAL’s show-within-a-show, Everlasting…: Actively cause physical pain to someone for ratings. With the pill-swapping and suicide last season, playing with these issues is not unfathomable, but we’ve not heard the noises of spines cracking or seen syringes going into bodies to numb trauma. When it becomes clear that Darius (B.J. Britt) has been hiding a back injury which could ruin his career in sports — and, indeed, anywhere — if leaked, Rachel (Shiri Appleby), and then Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Chet (Craig Bierko), all scramble to turn his weakness into their gain.
Rachel believes she is reaching a compromise with Darius by hiding his injury from the public, yet coercing him to stay on the show a bit longer to salvage the season. It’s not as bad, perhaps, as Chet and Quinn’s ploy to outright harm him, ruin his career, and thereby achieve great ratings and end the Coleman (Michael Rady) regime simultaneously. But Rachel’s strategies feel crueler in the end. After a cringe-inducing scene of Darius getting an epidural, he and Rachel foil Quinn and Chet’s plan; however, in the end, she drives a wedge between Romeo and Darius. Rachel has, it seemed, made Darius believe that he is finally doing what he wants, though as we can see, he’s dangerously under Rachel’s thrall, and putting himself at risk.
As UnREAL pushes Quinn to new lows — each episode of the season so far has led her to darker places with less and less repentance — it raises the stakes on her own inner pain and trauma. As if Chet’s lobotomized, testosterone-fueled offensives against her and the network’s disrespect of her work weren’t enough, her estranged father passes away. This comes just after she discovers Rachel has betrayed her, and is the main reason why Gary gave control of the show over to Coleman. Quinn also suffers as Chet begs her, in a maniacal frenzy, to get back together, in a bit of last-straw emotional tug-o’-war. He’s then arrested for stealing his baby, sending Quinn into a tailspin, without anyone on her side. It’s safe to say that her reaction to this kind of pain (all the “trash people in her life”) will only continue to become more ruthless action. It’s time for her to burn everything down – unless something can force her and Rachel to work together again.
Showrunners Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro push harder and harder to challenge our sympathies with each new UnREAL installment, and more often than not, scramble them rudely around over the course of an episode. We spend a lot of Episode 4 appalled at Quinn and Rachel for exploiting Darius, but then feel apprehension for both of them: for Quinn’s losses, and for Rachel, because of the impending campaign mounted against her by her “hot” doppelgänger. Episode 4 ends with everything destabilized behind-the-scenes, even as Everlasting… seems to be up and running after threat of ruin — for at least a few episodes.