How are you enjoying Netflix's Russian Doll? It was nominated for every Emmy under the sun, if there hadn't been that one other show...(which I also adore), it would have been a very sparkly night for Natasha Lyonne et al fo SHO. It's not just the stellar cast that drives how good Russian Doll is, the writing is so tight. So tight. I have no higher compliment. Let's roll into Russian Doll S1:E05 and see if we can't figure out what the Sam Hill is going down. Coz for sure I don't know yet.
Last time we met young and unhappy Alan Zaveri (Charlie Barnett) who is "enjoying" a similar experience to our Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne) with a repeating day or two followed by a horrendous/hilarious death.We did observe that he was able to change his Groundhog Day, though it changed more than could reasonably be expected, so now we have all sorts of questions about whether Nadia can do that and what it would look like if she did! Let's find out!
We open with Alan walking into Nadia's birthday party at the Jewish yeshiva school, he looks uncertain but determined. The first person he spots is his nemesis Mike Kershaw (Jeremy Bobb), who's been screwing his girlfriend for several years and is right now counseling said girlfriend about what a bummer it's going to be when Alan proposes. Can you imagine watching someone you hate casually dismiss something incredibly important to you? And they're not even married yet!
*That's the thing that Alan was able to change; in his repeating day he proposed unsuccessfully over and over to his girlfriend and was somehow able to remove the ring from the scenario.
Nadia welcomes Alan and his excellent posture to yesterday (it's very confusing, I'm looking forward to understand more when I re-watch. Because I WILL be re-watching). They sit separately from the party crowd and try to figure out why they've been gifted this neverending day; he thinks it's punishment for being a bad person and I have to agree, if only because of the movie Groundhog Day. I reference GD a lot, you should probably watch it if you haven't.
*Russian Doll is nothing like Groundhog Day except that the characters repeat a brief period of time over and over. I do not remember there being alternate realities in GD that pop up all over the place in RD. Are we all good? Good!
Nadia takes Alan to the Washroom of Doom so they can stare at the trippy door, I am discombobulated because I haven't heard the theme song yet and I strongly associate it with seeing said door. Nadia thinks it might be a Gravitational Whatsit Pull Thingy that is f***ing with them. Alan also repeats starting from his bathroom, but he doesn't see a black hole there, so. Nadia scoffs at his assertion that the universe not only is morality-based but specifically HIS morality, and we're back out to the party.
Maxine (Greta Lee, who is AWESOME) and Lizzy (Rebecca Henderson) are waiting for them as they emerge from the bathroom, Nadia asks if she's ever done anything horrible to them? Lizzy apparently is easily influenced and makes life choices she chooses to blame others for instead of moving on. Let's open it up to the group!
Nadia asks all the attendees at her birthday party to come up to her individually and explain her misdeeds to her as a birthday present, sure.
Nobody does and Nadia figures she's in the clear, oh hai ex-boyfriend John Reyes (Yul Vazquez)! Nadia introduces Alan as "a child the universe has tasked her with babysitting"; he agrees that's about right.
And we're into it! John's daughter Lucy (Tatiana E. Rivera) has just won an award for her poetry, Nadia congratulates John and explains who she is to Alan. John counters that she wouldn't know any of that because she's never met his daughter. Even though she was supposed to. Because Nadia backed out. John's off for a seltzer, Alan suggests booze but Nadia thinks John's being an arsehole because he's sober. I'm with Alan in thinking it's probably because Nadia is being...Nadia.
I had to capture this in its entirety because it seemed important:
"Sexualizing self-hatred is the hallmark of any relationship that begins with extramartial infidelity."
Alan puts that another way for her: she broke up John's marriage AND skipped out on meeting his daughter and she still thinks she's a good person?
Granted: you can't break up someone's marriage. Nobody steps outside of their marriage if they are in a loving, supportive relationship. Some people can't leave themselves open to a loving, supportive relationship and therefor step out. Either way: nobody else comes in like a wrecking ball and destroys something solid.
Nadia asks John if she can meet Lucy; they make a plan for the following morning.
Alan finds Maxine and Mike discussing modern art, Alan says the decline in notable recent art is due to the internet but Mike thinks it hearkens back to the 80s AIDS crisis wiping out a wide swath of the arts community.
WHAT is the attraction to Mike? He's a totally average chubby guy with a receding ginger hairline and now Maxine is throwing her vagina into the pot, Nadia banged him episode one and Alan's girlfriend Beatrice (Dascha Polanco) has been on his jock for years. Is it the supercilious attitude? The ability to converse? I do not get it.
Nadia leaves with John, they head to her place as Alan drunkenly staggers outside to steal a rental bicycle.
Nadia gets up early so she can take a detour to Ruth's house to pick up the book "Emily of New Moon" for Lucy before breakfast, we're all assuming she's not going to make it, right? John is for sure.
Instead of gathering the book, first Nadia plays with Russian Dolls and wakes up Ruth Brenner (Elizabeth Ashley) by accident. Ruth is the connection between Nadia and her late mother, who also died at 36.
Ruth is also Nadia's therapist, so Nadia asks some existential questions before they switch over to Emily Of New Moon, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, who also wrote Anne of Green Gables.
*Fun fact: a close-ish relative of mine wrote what's considered the definitive biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery!
Ruth makes some tea in a completely unlikely way and they blow up and we're back in the Washroom of Doom with our cheery theme song, yay!
NO CHEERY THEME SONG. But we've Gotta Get Up! What's going on??? All we can hear is music thumping and pounding on the door.
Alan died in a bike accident and is still having trouble working out his own morality theory. Alan might be a "moral narcissist" but he's basically a good guy, if slightly boring and clingy. Nadia asks why obvious doucenozzle Mike isn't in Purgatory instead, we all have to ponder.
Hahahaha Nadia leaves with John in the best way possible.
Leaving Alan to confront Mike as he's being talked about on the phone. He can get that close because of course: Mike doesn't recognise him. Interestingly, Maxine references sexual tension when breaking up the fight, hmmm.
Alan grabs a bottle on the way home and calls Beatrice, who does not want to hear it. He and Nadia die and meet up at the party again, Nadia leaving immediately with John and Alan hitting the streets with a bottle.
He walks a few steps behind two dressed up young ladies talking about men (someone who likes to choke, then stalk someone: hard pass, all done, fanks) until one maces him and Nadia calls someone about the gas leak at Ruth's house.
She's then shot by Ruth, who thought she was an intruder in the middle of the night.
We don't usually see that much of Nadia dying, that looked terrible! She's still crying when she re-crystallizes in the bathroom.
Still no theme song.
Alan's just noticed that his fish is missing, where did Boba Fett go, anyway?
Alan walks into the party to confront Mike immediately, pre-drinking, why him? Why did Beatrice choose Mike and not him? Mike counters that nobody chooses him. He's the hole where a choice should be, what Beatrice chose was not-Alan. She didn't want to be with Alan so she jumped on the first jock available. Hm.
What must that be like, knowing you're not a choice, you're a placeholder, a not-her or a not-him or a not-my-wife?
Nadia's got other existential questions on her mind, what if all her friends had to relive her death 15 times!? It's gross! Especially that last one with Ruth actually being the one to kill her. Alan's caught by something else: it's been 15 times for her too?
Nadia runs off with John and Alan breaks up a tryst between Mike and Claire (Jocelyn Bioh), forcing Mike to give excruciating detail of all the things Beatrice said about Alan. Alan stares at the modern art on the walls, the lines are all made up of numbers - 781-929-1965 repeated over and over.
That sounds like a phone number! You should call that!
Nadia arrives for breakfast with John and his daughter, Lucy, Monday morning. Lucy flips her off before she even gets inside. Nadia spots one of the places she died in front of the restaurant, she can't meet Lucy now. She doesn't want to die in front of her. "I'm not rejecting her, I'm protecting her."
John begs her to reconsider, do not do this to his daughter, don't do it to him. She kisses him and leaves, which is literally the only time I wished she would die immediately.
Alan wakes up in bed next to some guy and heads downstairs to meet Nadia so they can both be crushed by a falling air conditioning unit. They die a the same time! We learned this now! And we're out.