To see UnREAL is to obsess over it. This brazenly feminist TV drama skewers The Bachelor with an insightful eye toward creating complex characters and spooling out the kind of juicy scandal that makes it downright addictive.
I’ve sung the show’s praises before. Now we want to dig into its most pressing question, in an ensemble packed with bad-to-the-bone characters, who’s the biggest jerk?
Let’s take a look at the contenders…spoilers ahead.
As host of “Everlasting,” Graham has made a living off of this exploitative reality show-within-a-show. But his greater offense is an apparent habit of bedding the castaway contestants desperate for a comeback. These are consenting adults, but the agendas of all involved are downright gross.
She’s the Omarosa of “Everlasting,” mercilessly exploiting the stereotype of the “black bitch” and “playing the race card” to make her (in)famous. Hey, all the better to open her salon successfully. While crass, this is one of the lesser offenses in the mansion.
One of the show’s most disturbing offenses took place off camera when Adam’s old school chum took a beyond hammered Maya into a remote room and (presumably) sexually assaulted her. When she was rescued by Rachel, Maya was shaking and in tears. And Roger’s response when questioned by Adam was essentially the motto of those running the show when things go bad for its contestants: she knew what she was getting into.
But as UnREAL reveals again and again, these women can in no way be prepared for the hearts of darkness behind TV’s “romantic” reality shows. In our head canon, this one-ep wonder is never seen again because he died horrifically on his way back to England, and no one mentions it because no fucks are given about this grade A asshat.
What a prince. He cheated on his ex-fiance with a pair of prostitutes, and posted a selfie of it. He uses the women contending for his affection as a sexual smorgasbord. He’s an entitled douchebag, and even when he does something nice—like save Faith from being outed on national television—it’s by doing something shitty—like revealing a sex tape with his ex. Adam is a real scoundrel, but like our heroine Rachel, he’s working hard not to be.
UnREAl centers on Rachel’s struggle to do what’s right, and what’s right for the show. And sometimes they collide in super squicky ways, like when she agreed to help Anna get her bulimia under control while slying convincing the grieving girl to start a full on “cat fight” with the buxom blow job queen, Grace. Rachel’s a master manipulator who may have blood on her hands. But at least this bothers her, unlike some of her co-workers.
Jay’s turning Athena into a walking screeching stereotype earns him the a scathing “Uncle Tom” label from Smith grad Shamiqua, but he’s not done betraying an underrepresented group to which he belongs. When Rachel begs him to hide Faith’s coming-out footage, Jay instead peddles it to “Everlasting”s creator Chet for a promotion—then lies about it to Rachel’s face.
But oh, Shia. Her desire to outdo Rachel pushes her into meddling with single-mom Mary’s medication. And while a lot of fingers can be pointed over Mary’s fateful leap, mine is pointed squarely at ambitious to a fault Shia.
He is almost cartoonish in his vices. A coke fiend who crudely inquires about Anna’s dead dad. A horn-dog who religiously cheats on his trophy wife, not just with his employee/EP Quinn, but also with the occasional ambition-driven intern. He regularly forgets that “Everlasting”s contestants are people, and seems driven almost purely by selfishness and hard drugs. As we saw when he threw Rachel into the driver’s seat, then nearly off a cliff, Chet’s world view is very dog-eat-dog. And he refuses to apologize for being a top dog.
Rachel’s mentor/master/best friend/enabler is hands down one of the show’s most thrilling characters, in part because women on TV are rarely allowed to be so callous. And yet UnREAL’s writing gives us a depth to Quinn’s single-minded desire for big ratings as well as a sense of her vulnerabilities through her fucked up romance with Chet and friendship with Rachel.
Quinn’s the kind of woman who doesn’t take “bitch” as an insult. To her it translates to “boss.” And while she treats the cast on her show like chattel, she genuinely cares for her crew. As Jay puts it, “Quinn’s a surly ass bitch, but she looks out for her own.” Often that means rescuing them from themselves, whether it be secluding Shia until the Mary situation blew over, or manipulating Rachel’s court orders to keep her “dragon” rested. Quinn’s moral compass is fucked with her number one loyalty being the show, but second to that, she is genuinely protective of her people.
He’s the third spoke in the Rachel-Adam love triangle. If this show has one fault it’s him, the unfaithful camera guy who’s cute, but no prize. For all the odious things I’ve seen done on UnREAL, it’s Jeremy who most gets under my skin the most. Why? Because while everyone else has done shitty, heinous things, Jeremy is almost alone in not recognizing his sins. (Except for Roger, but like I said: he’s dead as far as I’m concerned, castrated then burnt to a crisp while solo yachting or something. Details of how he ends up a douche kebob don’t interest my head canon.)
Jeremy’s crimes may seem minor by comparison to his peers. He hasn’t killed anyone, or purposely manipulated an isolated, starved and inebriated young woman into making an ass of herself on national TV. However, he’s more than happy to dedicate his career to the show, begging for a promotion that locks him in and bringing his hair stylist fiancee Lizzie into the crew. But this doesn’t stop him from trying to be the mouthy conscience of Rachel, sneering at her manipulations while dutifully filming the carnage and blood they bring.
It’s Jeremy. Jeremy is the biggest jerk.
Jeremy is a judgmental hypocrite. He’s happy to film the cruel conniving and malicious manipulations of “Everlasting,” yet he lectures Rachel on how she should behave regarding the contestants. He cheats on Lizzie on the job, then tries to re-enact this illicit tryst with the bubbly blonde as a Rachel stand-in. He’s smug and condescending, giving Rachel advice as if he’s got his shit together. And to top it off, his pillow talk is essentially “Tell me about how our romance derailed your life.”
Like Adam, Jeremy has a overblown sense of entitlement, but at least Adam and Rachel are aware when they’re being assholes. Jeremy genuinely thinks he’s a good guy in his own love triangle, between himself, Rachel and his fiancee. Like the hopefuls of “Everlasting,” he—as he sees it—is just looking for love. Is that so wrong?
His asshattery made it all the sweeter when Adam and Rachel finally hooked up, hot heavy and in a real bed last week—leaving post-fiance Jeremy in the lurch of the grip van. And of that shot of his sext lighting up on a phone atop Rachel’s discarded panties! It was not only a pitch perfect intro to the long teased and titillating tumble between reluctant friends Adam and Rachel, but also a delicious burn for those of us on team #JeremyistheWorst.
Of course, the show’s not over yet.
We know from last week’s teaser, tonight’s pen-ultimate episode will focus on Quinn blackmailing Rachel and Adam with their unintended sex tape. And—why is it not 10PM yet!?
Kristy Puchko wants every outfit Rachel wears.