The Curse – Season 1 Episode 9 “Young Hearts” Recap & Review

Young Hearts

In yet another distinguished opening sequence, Episode 9 of The Curse begins with a first-person POV shot. We have no inkling about the person in the car stationed outside Whitney’s house. We do not know why he waited for her to emerge, only to drive past her nonchalantly to the Plaza.

Whitney is heading toward Iosheka Jeans. The store has been of prime importance in these last few episodes. And the spree continues here as well. Martha, the HGTV exec who informed Dougie and the couple about the show getting picked up, is present on set.

She sits behind the camera with Dougie as they shoot the fake pedestrian couple sharing a joyous moment. While the man tries on a pair of jeans that don’t fit, the woman tries her best to make it work. It is cinematically manufactured but feels very organic and natural. Martha lauds Dougie for his vision and the energy he has brought to the show. But she wants Asher and Whitney to recreate this.

Dougie explains they have another sequence planned for them but Martha is clear in her instructions to get them to do this bit. Before Whitney can make her way to the set – because she would rather walk a mile than run up her car – Martha is gone.

Dougie informs her that Martha has invited the couple for dinner. HGTV is impressed with the progress the show has made. However, the network doesn’t like what’s happening with Whitney and Asher in real life.

They have reviewed the footage that Dougie and the crew recorded of the couple talking about each other on camera. And they have decided that it is not a “positive spin.” Dougie clearly lays down the bottom line: “There is no show without Asher.” This is after Whitney hints that the marriage is crumbling and that she would rather use the natural progression of the show to end things in a reality television high. Before she can rework her “chemistry” with Asher, Whitney has to deal with a couple of issues.

Tonya informs her about a disgruntled employee named Patrick. He has been fired from the crew for leaving a derogatory note on Whitney’s windshield. It reads “slumlord,” which refers to the infamous Bookends Building that her parents own. Whitney is stunned into silence. Carrying on from her saint-like approach and self-image, Whitney asks Tonya to reinstate him and call Patrick.

He is in no mood to talk with her, even though Whitney offers her charming optimism. The real reason for Patrick’s actions is because of how unjustly Phoebe’s uncle Gordon was ousted from the Bookends. Phoebe is a driver working around the set. Naturally, Whitney sets up a quick meeting and assures Phoebe that she has nothing to do with her parents. Whitney also promises to get Gordon reinstated, making Phoebe remark that Whitney is a real-life hero. 

After the meeting, Whitney Googles her name with the Bookends and finds the provenance of the title that Patrick gave her. Honestly, it is a perturbing moment. She has tried hard to get out of her parents’ shadow, to the extent of not allowing them on the set. This is a major blow that threatens to undo the “good work” she has been doing for Espanola. Whitney then turns her attention to Asher. Now that she knows there is no show without him, she tries her best to “cheer him up.”

She suggests going bowling, which Asher loves, later in the day to get him in the mood for dinner. In a brief yet impactful psychological warfare moment, we see Asher trying to catch Whitney’s hypocrisy. When she starts a countdown to get him to agree to go bowling, Asher uses a separate countdown asking Whitney if she loves her. Whitney is surprised but still dismissive as Asher agrees to go. But his question goes unanswered.

They recreate the jeans scene, which is lifeless. They have no chemistry together, unlike Janice and Pascal. However, Asher’s face lights up, probably for the first time in the series, as he crushes the bowling set. He scores a brilliant 195 and exudes confidence. Whitney looks happy as well. Just as the couple is finishing up, Bill, Asher’s friend from the casino spots them. He comes up to Asher and greets him. But Asher is in no mood to respond. 

Bill explains that everyone thought Asher was the traitor who leaked the footage to the press. But now, they have found out it was some other guy. He apologizes profusely, only for Asher to accept he did leak the footage. He says it proudly, taking Whitney in his arms, in a bid to impress her with his moral virtuousness. During dinner, Martha praises Whitney and her approach. The sustainability tagline underscores the entire show, which sits well with the viewers.

However, when Whitney tries to advance her agenda of a “holistic approach,” Martha shoots her down. She also greenlights the “Green Queen” title, playfully calling Asher her “jester.” When they come back to the house, Whitney overhears Asher talking to himself in the bathroom. The contents of his speech are darkly disturbing but a familiar character trope. Whitney is truly shocked and has a blank look on her face. Asher is imagining a sexual scenario where he is tempting Bill to have sex with her. I dare you to watch the entire scene. I couldn’t bear to watch it and ended up forwarding some bits.

The next day, Whitney goes to Bookends to visit her parents. Paul and Lizzy are staying in one of the apartments – temporarily – on advice from their lawyer. It helps with some tenancy issues that can be nipped in the bud. 

Whitney is quite ferocious in her confrontation. She tears apart her parents’ supposedly high-handed dealings with the tenants, forcing Lizzy to counter with a levelling accusation. She rightly points out that many people from the poor Espanola community come to their apartments because they cannot afford Whitney’s egregiously expensive green homes. They had offered Whitney to run their business in the way she wanted, which could have made a real difference. But she had other ideas. She comes off worse from this conversation in the idealistic battle.

Whitney’s list of unusual encounters grows as she goes to the spa for a relaxing day. However, tensions flare when she finds out that Cara is her masseuse! She explains that after the night at Vivi’s, she is rethinking her priorities and life goals. It is highly uncharacteristic for an artist of her stature to be doing this. Whitney tries to act like it is normal. At first, she pretends to be comfortable with Cara servicing her. But ultimately, Whitney chickens out and cancels her appointment, still paying for it in full and even leaving a tip.

In the episode’s extended climactic scene – which is terrifying, brilliant, and a tip-off to the show’s compelling cringe – Asher and Whitney visit Dougie’s house to watch the first cut for the show. Whitney is completely pissed after having two really bad days. But Asher is excited, akin to a kid, to watch the footage. The five-minute long cut is very well put together and the show genuinely looks good. Of course, the viewers in the cinematic universe do not have the benefit of BTS like we do…so they will never know the ironic falsity in everything.

Midway, Whitney asks Dougie to skip to the “pottery section.” But Dougie says that the network decided to cut it out. She insists that Dougie play it for Asher’s sake and he reluctantly agrees. We have seen this being recorded in the previous episodes. The gist is Whitney bashing Asher as a life partner and calling him a true life jester who worships “an idea of her” as opposed to the person she really is. Asher doesn’t say anything and storms out, making Whitney teary. She perhaps senses that this might be the final nail in the coffin of their marriage.

However, against all odds, Asher gently knocks on the door and comes back in. His impassioned plea to Whitney completely goes against reason but is true to his character’s interface. Asher declares that he wants to be with Whitney for the rest of their lives. Whitney is confused, disgusted, and utterly shocked by his confession. She nods her head in approval but the expressions on her face say something else entirely.

The Episode Review

Everything just hits differently in this episode. It feels like Episode 9 is the culmination of this creative experiment from Fielder and Safdie where all prior imperfections start making sense. The camera being too close to the faces, the music suddenly turning rambunctious, and all details of Emma Stone’s expressive face coming alive. It is fair to say that “Young Hearts” ebbs and flows to an epic conclusion that really elevates the show’s stature. 

Many doubted the format and style that Safdie and Fielder projected. But after this episode, there would be no doubts: The Curse is a modern masterpiece. Somehow, this has trumped all the other episodes in the series when it didn’t seem to be a possibility. Dougie betraying Whitney and leaving her hanging has to be one of the cruellest backtrackings of all time. 

Whitney was priming the pump for a divorce and etching for an empowerment angle using the show. But when that didn’t come to pass, the episode turned the tide. We knew Asher was a strange creature but we rooted for him. After watching the full episode, I am not so sure. 

To be honest, it feels like Whitney is not grateful that Asher still wants to be with her after watching the “Pottery” edit, she’s horrified. Everything that she has been running from since the show started – her parents’ legacy, her past, and her present self-image – now cannot be outrun. She is left to face and reflect on the reality of her character and decisions. Whitney’s plan of keeping Asher on a short leash of strategically withheld affection has backfired and taken the shape of a monstrosity that has her trapped. 

Emma Stone is the finest actress around and this episode cements that status. What she does – especially with her noise scrunch – in a matter of minutes, going from wide-eyed happiness to deadpan, is truly remarkable. 

“Green Queen” promises to be a delightful conclusion to Season 1. I hope other threads of the story revolving around Abshir, Fernando, and the like, are given proper closure. 

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You can read our Season 1 review of the The Curse here!
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