In episode 5 of The Rehearsal season 1, Nathan really gets into his role as a father. The episode begins with father and son making a video, in which “Doctor Adam” treats Nathan by making him eat his “poop” (a brownie). Unsurprisingly, the video does not amuse Angela.
It’s something she weaponizes against Nathan repeatedly throughout the episode. He ate faecal matter! No matter that it wasn’t real, she holds that it was still disturbing. But Nathan, so adept at blurring the line between fiction and reality, doesn’t see the big deal. Maybe that explains his constant struggle to be affected by this rehearsal. If it’s not “real,” what’s the big deal?
This spat is just one fissure in Nathan’s and Angela’s increasingly strained relationship. And Nathan’s mother sees more issues when she and his father come to visit.
As Nathan and his parents are Jewish, Angela’s Christian faith immediately stands out to Nathan’s mom. She berates her son for not raising Adam to be Jewish. Again, Nathan wonders why someone would care so much about something that’s not real. Why care about how he raises his fake child? But Nathan’s mom reveals that she sees his bowing to Angela as fitting into a harmful pattern from his past relationships.
So, Nathan decides to stick up for himself and push the issue–first by raising it in a rehearsal with a fake Angela, of course. And just like in the rehearsal, Angela is not receptive. She won’t raise a child to “deny Jesus,” she says.
For most of the season, Angela has been strongly opinionated, but also agreeable and quietly restrained in her tolerance of Nathan’s presence. But cracks are starting to show in that veneer. We see it when fake Angela, whom Nathan hires as a nanny, asks the real Angela if she feels it’s been healthy for her in the rehearsal.
Angela hesitates, straining for a response. “Mm…” My guess is… that’s a “no.”
And when Nathan asks her in casual conversation what her favorite movie is, Angela thinks nothing of responding, “Apocalypto.” She’s, in fact, a huge fan of Mel Gibson. When Nathan responds that he’s said “bad stuff about Jews,” Angela’s face goes through a hundred different expressions–all some variation of annoyed.
But Nathan doesn’t seem to notice what thin ice he’s on with Angela, because he then decides to teach Adam about Judaism behind her back, even hiring him a tutor named Miriam. A confrontation can’t be avoided, however, when Miriam discovers Nathan’s deceit and decides she wants to talk to Angela.
Miriam confronts Angela about not letting Nathan have a say in their child’s faith. Nathan doesn’t contribute to the conversation other than occasional repetitions. But Angela still holds that Jesus is the only way, leaving no room for Judaism. Miriam stands up then, saying she can’t reason with an anti-Semite.
Angela then turns on Nathan, claiming they had peace until he decided to start a fight. Suddenly switching topics, as if everything about this experience has been building up to this in Angela’s mind, she blurts out that Nathan can’t be honest. “He lies a lot,” she says to Miriam.
Sometimes, when things get stressful, Nathan disappears to his replica bar from the first episode. There, he views footage from home. That’s how he discovers that Angela abandons the rehearsal when he’s not there. There are no homeschool lessons, no gardening, no working on her business. She talks to Adam not as her son, but as an actor.
He wants to confront her, but has to rehearse the encounter first. This is getting harder for him, however. He’s starting to lose track of which version of himself he’s supposed to be.
When Nathan asks fake Angela why she’s here, she’s combative, asking if she’s a joke to him. This escalates to her telling him to shut up and calling him a liar. If this were real, she says, he’d feel an emotion. But he doesn’t have the capacity to feel.
“You never will,” she says.
“Oh.” Nathan pauses, as if truly affected by this (but mostly likely acting). “Okay.”
In the real talk with Angela, Nathan asks her why she disregards the rehearsal and yet, when he’s there, she tries to control his experience.
Originally, Angela says, she wanted the whole thing–age 0-18. But she doesn’t see an end in sight. Maybe it’s a good time to bring this experiment to a close.
So, she packs her things. But Nathan feels compelled to continue the rehearsal as a single father. He tells Adam that his mom left, but the two of them are still a family.
“It was time to stand up for my own values,” he says. “And the values of those who came before me. We don’t always get to choose what happens in life, but we do get to decide if we rehearse for it.”
This “winter,” he and Adam celebrate Hanukkah with Miriam. It feels like an idyllic ending to the episode, until we cut to a conversation between Nathan and Miriam.
Miriam pressures Nathan to support Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She tells him he must use his platform to share how beautiful Israel is. Nathan is noncommittal in his responses–much the same as he was with Angela.
The Episode Review
It may feel to Nathan like he’s making progress, but his advances this episode are only superficial. He’s only done what others have pressured him to do in regard to his compliant nature–while still maintaining control of the larger scenario.
What is real to Nathan? Angela becomes frustrated about all of his lies in the rehearsal. And while Nathan may be more stringent when it comes to sticking to the rehearsal’s guidelines, Angela also notices his disregard for the real meaning that artificial things can hold for her. There was also Thomas, on the other hand, who in the previous episode found Nathan’s lying to real people disconcerting.
Nathan has repeatedly been upset with others not taking rehearsals seriously. But for most others, like Angela and Thomas, reality can’t be so easily separated from fiction. Maybe Nathan needs to realize that his rehearsals are populated by real people. Their identity is not simply actor or subject or a version of reality–and that includes himself.
And if Nathan can’t take the reality of others seriously and get in touch with who he himself is as a person, what are his rehearsals for? When are they rehearsals for “real life,” and when are they simply an escape?
There are fascinating dynamics to unpack, leaving me with high expectations for the season finale. I think Fielder will deliver.