Recap: The Curse (S1, Ep4) — Dougie Gets Some Time in the Light in Character-Defining Episode

By the time "Under the Big Tree" is over, we have a greater understanding of the Siegels. Whitney (Emma Stone) is a parasite. We see it in episodes two and three, when she tries to squeeze into an Indigenous art community and the home of the Black family whose daughter kickstarted the "curse" to begin with. Asher (Nathan Fielder) is a chameleon, but he's really bad at changing his colors—he so desperately wants to be likable and a worthy co-host to Whitney, but he's also so, so bad at it. So where does that leave Dougie Schecter (Benny Safdie), the Siegels' HGTV producer?

A major flaw of the otherwise fantastic "Big Tree" is the limited attention Dougie is given, because while it can be fun to watch characters develop in the background, he's probably the most important one other than the Siegels. What we learn about Dougie in episode two is that he's in denial—specifically about his role in the car accident that killed his wife. What we learn in this episode is how in denial he is, to the point where he would rather believe a curse has been put on him than accept that it's bad to drink and drive.

The almost ten-minute-long opening, where he wakes up in a field with three cars and finds the keys buried "under the big tree" (he wrote it on his hand), is a bit overdone—it looks nice, but it's mostly devoid of comedy and its slow pace makes half the time seem more justified. We learn that he wound up in this situation because he tried to police some teens buying alcohol, then drank with them until he blacked out—because of course he did. When he rambles on about his "curse" to Asher, it's weird and sad and awkward (something that I can say about much of this show), but I still wanted more.

We also don't get a ton of time with Whitney this week, but what we do get is both revealing and fantastic. One of the people brought into town by the show throws out his eco-friendly stove, and as Whitney puts it, this makes him ineligible to "be part of what we're building." The guy sucks, yes. He's sketchy, rude, and wears a hilariously fitting Seinfeld shirt when Whitney goes to confront him. But the mirror house that he lives in and that Whitney has been building for her show has often been representative of her, and so it's fitting that she doesn't recognize how much they reflect each other: his entitlement is her entitlement. If the tenant is guilty of taking over a space he doesn't belong in, then so is Whitney, as her last scene in the episode finds her entranced by a ceremony in which she looks very out of place. (If she's really into that stuff in the next episode, I may actually lose my mind. Stone portrays how unlikable she is incredibly well, which is something I say in every Curse article, but it bears repeating.)

The main focus of "Big Tree" is Asher. With their show getting picked up beyond the pilot, Whitney knows she needs to either make him hotter or funnier, and on the surface, one option seems easier. But man, if you like Fielder for his cringe comedy and feel as though The Curse doesn't have enough of it, you really get it here. The self-proclaimed "uncle Asher" can't even make a pre-teen laugh—when he hangs around Abshir's (Barkhad Abdi) family again, his daughter Hani (Dahabo Ahmed) won't even pity-laugh at his old man impression; him playing air guitar and mimicking a galloping cowboy in excitement when he and Whitney learn of their show's success was bad enough as it is. (I like to think Asher putting on a cowboy hat for the bit was what convinced Whitney that he needed comedy lessons.)

When Abshir pulls Asher aside to talk with a "come look at this," Asher asks what Abshir wanted to show him when their talk is over. When Dougie apologizes for mistreating Asher when they were young, he can't even comprehend that there was wrongdoing to begin with. He can't even run off with Whitney's discarded stove—he's paranoid about showing up on the guy's security camera, so he makes his employee grab the stove and he drops it without a second pair of hands to help. He can't do anything right, and it's hysterical. (I swear, I laughed the hardest at him trying to direct the poor guy lifting the stove out of anything else so far in The Curse.)

The final scene perfectly illustrates how much it sucks to be Asher, and partially why he sucks. He shows up to the "corporate comedy" class Whitney had him enroll in, where the instructor challenges everyone to make the group laugh without using their words. Everyone succeeds except Asher (note that everyone else stays silent while he makes incoherent noises), and it's painfully awkward but hilariously done. The characters of The Curse are so unaware of what they are that it's frustrating, but "Big Tree" reinforces that their unawareness is the heart of the show. Will they learn from what they experienced here? Probably not. If anything, they'll take the wrong lesson. It's like what Abshir says to Asher when he pulls him aside; "If you put an idea in your head, it can become very real."

This episode of The Curse is now available to stream on Paramount+ and Showtime.

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Sam Layton

Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.