Body issues are covered on several fronts, and from entirely different vantage points. Kristen’s daughter Lexis (Maddy Crocco) is putting herself under a microscope and doesn’t like anything she sees. She had to have reconstructive oral surgery because she spouted the same protruding canines found in other children who were conceived with help from RMS Fertility. It’s not necessarily the teeth she’s having problems with so much as the distribution of her weight. Baggy sweatshirts can’t cover it, and plastic wrap doesn’t mask its telltale signs.
Ben’s (Aasif Mandvi) girlfriend Vanessa (Nicole Shalhoub) is dealing with a different issue. While still in the womb, her body absorbed the fetus of her twin sister, who didn’t remain dead. Vanessa feels her sister like a phantom limb, but lately the phantom has been taking center stage. While Ben suggests therapy, for what seems like a case of dissociative personality disorder, Vanessa opts for a more spiritual approach. Either the auras are horribly misaligned or the spiritualist’s invisible strings are set up perfectly, but Ben and Vanessa get their $350 worth. The bumping of the tables, and all the other seeming phenomena are old tricks in the spiritual trade going back to Helena Blavatsky of the Theosophical Society. There’s a reason most ads for psychics say “for entertainment purposes only.” Spiritualists have been rigging conjuring rooms long before clap-on lights.
Ben is appreciatively amused during the scene, and is visibly looking for the devices. It is interesting that the psychic appears to separate Vanessa from the ghost Maggie in time with our seeing Lexis grow the phantom tail. But we should have guessed it wasn’t all peer pressure. Lexis is probably well below whatever the prime body mass index gauge for her size and height, but she’s taking lessons from an online influencer who augments her looks with whatever tools are available. There is an underlying sadness to all of this, but at least Kristen’s mother brightens things up.
After a scrumptious dinner of Baphomet-on-rice, Sheryl is ready to shoplift the perfect dress for her big “influencer party.” She claims to be drawn to Leland through their shared hatreds, but must be leaving something out. She does with everyone else. Attending the soiree, where Sheryl stands out in red against the all-white dress of all the other guests, are important people like formerly young rock star and perennially aging Pete Townshend. They don’t show him, though many will look up those stairs for a glance. I wonder if The Who’s guitarist and songwriter is related to Leland, and hope he will put in an appearance if he is. A quick one, at least.
Edward the influencer is exasperatingly ingratiating. He is a master of lofty small talk which says nothing at all. But the things he leaves out are more illuminating. The scenario which follows his and Sheryl’s business-over-drinks meeting is quite horrifying, especially as each point is spelled out as it goes along. But Sheryl doesn’t put the pieces together until she can’t move her legs.
There must be something far more sinister about Sheryl than we know. She burns what appears to be ever-increasing denominations of cash to her voodoo doll friend, Eddie, and she’s not above blood play. Tonight’s exchange seems to be exactly that, but we don’t know what went in and what came out. All we know is in the morning light, she’s not doing the walk of shame. The odd thing is, even after all Sheryl goes through, she doesn’t elicit much sympathy. We wince, we groan, but we don’t really care. She has objectified herself beyond empathy, and she doesn’t earn any points “boody-bop-bopping” out after a night of enforced fluid exchange.