Episode 3 of Nine Perfect Strangers begins with all our guys and gals waking up after an eventful few days. While Jessica and Ben end up lovemaking – Heather is not in the mood for the same from Napoleon. Speaking of which, Napoleon has a one on one session with Masha coming up and he’s surprisingly upbeat about it.
Delilah is concerned about the project though, believing their candidates aren’t ready. Masha brushes that aside though and sets to work getting ready for day 3. This includes a smoothie for breakfast. While they sit at the table, Lars lives up to his branded nickname I’ve given him of “spoon”, stirring up a whole pot of issues with the different residents. First up, he probes the marital issues between Ben and Jessica.
Well, Yao has just the ticket to cut out all this tension. There’s a potato sack race coming up! Lars does his best to rile up the group further, bringing out Carmel’s pent-up rage following a particularly crude suggestion.
Speaking of which, Tony clearly has rage and grief build-up himself and his drug addiction is certainly not doing him any favours. Flashes to the past reveal troubling revelations, including a football match where he’s taken off on a stretcher.
As we come to find out later on, Tony is actually a pretty famous player but no longer going under his alias of “Smiley”. It’s a pretty ironic nickname in truth, given what we know about him now.
After the sack race finishes, Napoleon shows up to see Masha during his one on one. Here, we learn Zack took his own life and that has obviously affected Heather very badly. Napoleon meanwhile, is very standoffish, deciding to look at the facts and not allowing himself to feel the pain. Although he remains scientific and detached from the situation, his body language shows something very different.
Masha encourages Napoleon to close his eyes, where he ends up seeing his son. Napoleon lies about it though, and eventually skips away from the session. It’s clear he needs to face his grief but it doesn’t seem like the right time to do that.
In order to help “feel” the land, Delilah encourages the girls (who have been kept separate to the guys this session) to get into the river naked. Only Heather does this though, while the others are way too self-conscious to get involved. On the shore though, tensions flare between Carmel and Jessica, especially when the former lashes out at Jess for her Insta profile.
Things do eventually simmer down while in the hot spring (there’s definitely some poetic irony there) as the girls discuss their sex life. It’s very awkward for Zoe, especially when Heather admits it’s been 3 years since she and Napoleon made love. It’s not the same anymore and obviously after Zack, it’s difficult for her to feel that same level of intimacy with her husband.
The guys meanwhile, are off with Yao and trying to forage for food. The attention turns from Tony across to Ben, as Lars probes him over he makes his money. Apparently he won 22 million dollars in the lottery but in doing so, his whole life was upended and completely changed. Lars though? Well, he just continues to lash out and belittle the others.
Well, that is until the guys all rally together and manage to hunt and kill an animal. Given they were supposed to be living off the land, they’ve certainly done what they set out to do but for Masha, there’s more going on here behind her strained smile when she finds out.
Although she congratulates them, she hurries back into her room and begins breathing heavily. Yao shows up to see her though, telling the woman he’s sorry for her loss.
Day turns to night and all our strangers start dancing by the fire. Things have definitely changed, and Lars can sense this too. He hits out at Delilah, given more things have been taken from his room, but that’s soon brushed aside in favour of the big goat banquet.
Napoleon stands up to say a few words and eventually opens up, admitting that it’s his fault that Zack passed. If he hadn’t snoozed his alarm and gone in to see Zack when he should have done, Heather wouldn’t have gone through this trauma.
It’s a cathartic release, one that eventually sees Napoleon face his grief head-on – which is exactly what Heather wanted. During the moments of silence that follow, Heather turns to Masha and asks if they’ve all been medicated. The wry smile back confirms just that.
The Episode Review
Nine Perfect Strangers returns with a longer episode to round out this trio of opening chapters, one that sees Masha’s project get underway.
The whole drama involving the hike and splitting the gang into males and females is a nice touch too. The real crux of the drama here though centers around Napoleon and Heather. The pair have a lot of baggage and that dark cloud in the form of Zack is ultimately what makes this such an engaging watch.
Napoleon is clearly keeping all of his fears and insecurities bottled up and by the end, he has his cathartic release. The one on one session really shows some excellent acting too, with Napoleon’s nervous body language showing a much more troubling and deeper issue at hand.
Who are these candidates being chosen and why are they at Tranquillum? These are ultimately the big questions driving this series forward but they’re important ones in the grand scheme of things. The different players all have their own issues and seem to blend well together – but is there a higher purpose to all this?
The humour is a little hit and miss at times, with the show leaning into satire and not always pulling it off. When it hits its stride though – like last episode’s grape fiasco- the show has these surprising moments of levity in the midst of this dark drama. However, Nine Perfect Strangers is far stronger when it leans into that aforementioned melodrama.
In the end though, the episode finishes with a big cliffhanger, leaving the door wide open for next week’s follow-up.