The Critical Path
Episode 2 of Nine Perfect Strangers begins with Francis heading off to catch up with Zoe, who ran out of the session last episode. It turns out the family are dealing with a big loss in the form of their son Zack. He died 3 years back and it soon becomes clear that this is a black cloud hanging over the family. When Heather shows up, Francis does her best to try and help but the woman simply walks away.
Back in the heated therapy room, all the different residents turn on Masha. Given she only accepts 10% of applicants, it’s clear that these people have been chosen because they’re damaged and are there for a reason.
It’s here we learn a little more about Tony. He’s divorced, a drug addict and also has two kids as well. His relationship is pretty estranged but Tony believes Masha is using this as a weapon against him. He’s clearly not happy with his life and eventually gives in, allowing Tony his vodka and pills back.
As he settles back into a destructive state, Masha reminds him she just wants his secret and to make him feel better.
Given Jessica is such a fan of Francis’ work, the two have a nice chat down by the pool. Francis reminds the girl not to use her novels as love advice, especially given how romanticized and fantastical some books can be. It’s clear these two were chosen for a very specific reason, and it seems that their connection with Francis’ books may be why.
Outside, Masha gets taking to Yao. Apparently Delilah gets jealous a lot as Masha kisses Yao’s legs and tells him they’re inexplicably bound together. There’s clearly a lot more than meets the eye here but for now, it’s being kept under wraps.
Anyway, today’s big session involves our 9 strangers digging themselves a grave and lying within, reflecting on their life’s choices. It’s all laid out in a big semi-circle as Masha arrives and gets them to control their thoughts.
With chimes echoing through the air, she tells them all to step out their graves as new people. In doing so, Francis heads back to the spa for some acupuncture. There, the workers at Tranquillum take blood samples.
The one person whom this grave task seems to work for is Jessica. She heads off for a one to one with Masha afterwards, telling her she wants to transform her life. Jessica wants to transcend beyond her simplistic life and actually be someone. Masha sees through this façade though and claims that a lot of Jessica’s drama stems from Ben. She thinks the love has gone but won’t admit it to herself.
Tony and Francis end up having some hilarious interactions down at the pool. With Francis noisily snoring, Tony throws a grape straight into Francis mouth. Although she starts choking, Tony jumps in to help the girl out. The pair actually have really good chemistry on-screen, with Francis admitting she’s still reeling from a past relationship with a guy called Paul.
When the conversation turns to Francis’ latest book, she learns the critics have given it bad reviews. She’s not happy and eventually walks away.
Off on the hike, all the gang get involved in their trust exercises. Heather however, turns away from the group and stands precariously on the edge of the cliff-face, looking out at the drop below. Napoleon holds her shoulders but Delilah warns him off, telling the guy to back up. It’s clear Heather has a lot of demons and although she’s talked out of jumping, it’s still an alarming moment.
On the back of her despair, Francis shows up to see Masha. She’s worried that as a novelist she’s a one-trick pony but Masha turns that metaphor around, telling her she’s a car that’s run out of gas.
When Francis leaves, Masha turns back to her monitors. Interestingly, Tony decides to get back in his grave to find relief while Zoe and Napoleon hash it out in the woods. With everything bubbling up, and the group not fully detoxed yet, Masha makes the decision to “start the protocol.”
The Episode Review
Nine Perfect Strangers won’t be for everyone but this delightful cocktail of different characters has enough intriguing developments to keep things interesting. It seems like each episode is going to take a few different characters, bring them together and allow us to explore their innermost concerns and worries.
It’s a nice way of doing things, although there’s clearly a much more sinister purpose to Tranquillum that’s being kept from us for the time being. Quite what this is, and what the “protocol” may be, remains to be seen.
This isn’t a particularly satirical or comedic offering like White Lotus though but instead, the show leans into its character drama and trauma. It may be a little simplistic at times, and I can imagine there will be some who really don’t enjoy this show but the various different characters and their history – not to mention the fantastic acting – should be enough to stick with for the time being.