Recap: The Curse (S1, Ep5) — Whitney Cracks Under Pressure in Tense, Excellent Episode

Just as I thought the first season of The Curse was meandering a little, it sucks me right back in. Things have been looser after the pilot episode, as the show splits its focus between its three major characters. While that's not the worst thing, it did make me wonder if the focus would ever return to the primary serial elements. But I should know by now that if I doubt creator Nathan Fielder, I'm just going to be wrong, and now we have an episode that progresses The Curse's story, develops its characters further, and is sublimely entertaining.

"It's a Good Day" sees the characters finally filming an episode of their HGTV show, and it's as comfortable an environment as you'd expect if you're keeping up with this show. Take the scene where co-host Whitney Siegel (Emma Stone) and her cameraman "joke" with each other about their true feelings—he sees her as snotty and condescending, while she sees him as completely beneath her. But he has a job to keep and she needs to look good for the show's subjects, so they end their statements with a "just kidding!" and never bring it up again. Whitney already bottles up a lot, so to have a full episode dedicated to watching her internalize even more is a little bit of a nightmare.

The couple they're filming does not mesh with Whitney at all ("So we'd be paying $850,000 to live in a prison?" the man observes when he realizes the toilet has no lid), and the dealbreaker is their plans to install air conditioning, making them more ungrateful customers who dare to violate Whitney's passive home plan. Her husband Asher (Fielder), busy looking over his comedy notes ("Be self-deprecating (eg. James Corden)" is my favorite), steps in to deal with the unruly customers. This "dealing" amounts to him standing around while Whitney presses them to sign a document supporting Pueblo land reclamation rights, a surprise to the unaware buyers. ("You do have to watch your fucking language, though!" he halfheartedly sputters after they curse around Whitney, both of the Siegels recognizing the deal as dead.)

With the first couple out, Whitney calls up Pueblo artist Cara (Nizhonniya Luxi Austin) to pose as a homebuyer. But Cara, already annoyed with Whitney after the art show a few episodes ago, takes the opportunity to be as disruptive as possible. ("I heard there's a lot of crime in this area!" she chirps while strutting around the home.) Unsurprisingly, Whitney removes her and goes looking for replacements, while Cara hangs around producer Dougie (Benny Safdie) and they form a strange rapport. If The Curse is about characters who are always trying to act as though they're on camera, this scene delineates Cara as someone who doesn't care. ("My wife died," Dougie huffs as they argue about Cara's smoking habit, trying to score sympathy points. "Of smoking?")

Whitney takes a brief detour when one of the show's sponsored shops catches a shoplifter—hired security Fernando (Christopher Calderon) detains the thief and the police have her in handcuffs when Whitney arrives. Ever the "sensitive" woman, she gives the cashier her credit card and tells her to charge it for any future thefts. Like with Cara (and as we'll see later, Whitney's parents), The Curse likes to set up things that come into play later, so I can't imagine this won't come back to bite her. The "couple" she secures aren't a couple at all—one has a girlfriend and the other has a baby—but Dougie insists it's fine, so it's good enough. (It's not good enough, actually—the guy doesn't want to go without his girlfriend, so Whitney loses yet again when the mother drops out.)

Her breaking point is when the aforementioned parents show up, wanting father Paul's (Corbin Bernsen) birthday to be celebrated in one of Whitney's houses. It's not enough that her crew and subjects won't cooperate with her, let alone Cara, the representative (in Whitney's eyes) of a culture she's so adamant about helping—now her wealthy slumlord parents are butting in. "You treat me like a child, and I'm a grown-up! I'm a grown-up woman!" she shouts, missing the obvious irony in being a grown-up woman saying this to her parents. And then, in perhaps her most revealing line of the series so far, she snaps that "Española is mine," and that's the end of that.

And then she caves again. The next buyer is a burly white guy with a Blue Lives Matter sticker on his truck and the last thing she wants to do is sell to him, but it's the last thing she can do. The cruelest twist of all is that he's her ideal buyer—he loves her passive home design and happily signs the document. When Asher asks if she's mad at him for suggesting the guy as they get in bed, she says no, because of course she does. This is not an episode that makes Whitney more sympathetic—if anything, it makes her less—but it's one that lets us see the pettier, more controlling side of her.

Again, The Curse is about people who are always trying to act as though they're on camera, and "It's a Good Day" is about the consequences of trying to live that way. Whitney is so deep into the role of the perfect reality show host that she can't turn it off, even when her buyers are talking down to her. The falseness permeates every aspect of her life, even her marriage. "We don't want the neighborhood filled with people whose rich parents bought them houses" she insists, and Asher chuckles.

"Oh," he mumbles apologetically when she gives him a look. "I thought you were being self-deprecating."

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.