Season: 1 / Episode: 3, Fix / HBO
Content Warning: Descriptions of self-harm.
This week’s episode of Sharp Objects, written by Alex Metcalf and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, upped the intensity compared to last episode–which I thought was impossible. But here we are. And here go…
Not One of Mine
The good old boys and girls of Wind Gap are out in the woods…chasing pigs. Literally. They’re getting drunk and chasing pigs. Of course Amma is there, bottle in hand, talking shit to John Keene. By talking, I mean yelling across the pig-chasing field as John and his girlfriend Ashley Wheeler sit, near pariahs, in the back of a pick up truck. Before, Amma can antagonize John into action, Chief Vickery breaks up the good time with his silence, lights, and presence. He sends Wind Gap’s finest home, or at least someplace else.
Camille Preaker is at home working on her next article when her drunken little sister drives a golf cart into Adora’s prized rosebushes. Camille hurries outside to get the girl before their mother sees her (which leaves me to wonder what Amma’s dumb ass did before Camille was forced to come back home).
The two go upstairs so that Amma can ramble about how bored she is, how much her friends love her, and, most notably, how she is not a nice person. Noted, Amma. Then she tries to needle Camille. First questioning her interest in the two dead girls, then questioning her desire for a boyfriend and babies. There is an oddness to the way the sisters interact; Amma forces a too-close physical proximity, and it reads as both menacing and needy at once. Amma forces a hug which Camille does not deny. The girl wants to get to know her long lost sister–doesn’t Camille live less than two hours away?. As they hug, Camille is propelled into the past by the rain hitting the bedroom window.
She’s an adult sitting in her car outside the St. Louis rehab center. It’s raining, and she’s drinking.
Then she is… cutting. We’re not shown the actual cut, but we see her wrists and its scars then a razor and drops of blood on the counter as she checks herself into the facility. On the floor in front of the facility’s front desk, a teenager in all black sits listening to headphones. The no nonsense (read: black) intake nurse takes the headphones against the teen’s protestations. And shoos the girl away.
Guess who Camille’s new roommate is at this inpatient facility? The girl, Alice, is not pleased when the nurse delivers Camille to what is now “their” room. Camille shows the girls the scars on her hips as a kind of peace offering, and we can see very clearly the words “fuck you” carved near her hip bone. In the present, Camille is still sitting holding Amma and staring at the rain outside.
Camille wakes up with your earbuds still in her phone, and it vibrating with a call from her editor. Her latest story was OK and he’s going to publish it, but he wants more.
Downstairs the Cleavers, Adora, Amma and Alan, are… bonding [upward inflection]. Amma is complaining that she threw up three times the night before. Of course you did! You were piss drunk and chasig pigs in a field. Adora is a doting on her youngest daughter, stroking her hair, and rubbing her neck.
Camille, on the stairs, sees the affection her mother showers on her half-sister and then she hustles out to the liquor store for breakfast. While she’s drinking vodka and driving through town, she passes Richard the Cop. Yes, he’s a literal dick like an old-school comic. Richard a.k.a. Dick a.k.a. Kansas City is pissed because Chief Vickery is content to try to blame the murders and either a “mysterious trucker” or one of the Mexicans “from wherever.” [deep, deep sigh]
Kansas City knows this is bullshit. Vickery doesn’t want to admit that one of the people in his town did this. Kansas City pushes Vickery to see that these murders were personal but instead just ends up pissed off and walking in the alley where the second girl was found muttering to himself. We’ve all had some version of this day at work before.
About this time, the mother of the most recently murdered girl, Natalie Keene, slams her front door in Camille‘s face as her son John, and Ashley, pulled up. John storms passed Camille into the house. Ashley‘s little sister, Jodes, is one of Amma’s minions and her older sister Danielle went to high school at the same time as Camille so Ashley knows something about Camille– that she was popular, that she was pretty. Her “I know about you” seems to be a very pleasant threat which I think is Wind Gap summarized.
Ashley promises to get Camille an interview with John. Her angle is that the whole town hates her boyfriend and since she needs popularity to breathe, she wants Camille to essentially be PR for him in one of her articles. Camille agrees to come by Ashley‘s house later because John lives there now.
Ashley is wearing a cute short romper and the sight of her in it sends Camille back again. She is in the rehab facility seeing Alice’s legs through the cracked bathroom door. Alice is struggling to put on lipstick/gloss. I don’t know I’m not that kind of femme. It was make up of some sort.
Let’s Get Out of Here
In the present, Camille is driving away from the Keene residence and drinking, but in her memory she still with Alice. The girl reveals her “3 inches above the knee rule” and proves it by lifting her skirt and showing her severely scarred thighs. Camille says “I haven’t worn a skirt since college.”
They manage to share a laugh about their disapproving mothers. The air is heavy after the laugh. Even though Camille has been listening to music off and on throughout the first two episodes, she tells Alice that she doesn’t really listen to music when the girl asks.
“Let’s get out of here” Alice says as she gives an earbud to Camille and in the present Camille turns up the radio in her car.
When Camille sees Kansas City‘s car at the local eatery/dive, she doesn’t waste the opportunity. She has a story to write after all. She tries flirting as a way of extracting information, but he isn’t having it. The conversation ends as he walks away from her and says essentially that she should drop it.
Outside of Bob Nash‘s house and in her car, Camille is still thinking about Alice and visiting day at the rehab center. That line of thought is interrupted by Cheif Vickery who pulls up next to her. He’s concerned that her articles are riling folks up. He pulls away but drives back just as Camille is knocking on Bobby Nash’s door.
Inside the house, Camille is listening to Bob talk about Ann and the case. He knows he’s a suspect, and he resents it. Camille asks if it’s possible a woman is the killer, and he counters with Jon Keene’s class and pretty privilege and his lack of alibi.
There’s a knock on the bedroom were Bob and Camille have been talking and in comes Adora‘s overbearing ass on some how-dare-you mess. I love this woman. It’s like her superpower is ruining. Bob Nash is like “no, she’s not harassing me;” however, Adora can’t hear that. Camille hasn’t yet worked through her my-mom-is-an-asshole issues, so she’s on the verge of tears as she packs up and leaves after being dismissed so her mother can hold a “social visit” with the father of the girl she used to tutor.
Driving away and screaming and punching the steering whee,l as is reasonable in this circumstance, Camille is pissed. She sees Amma skating through town and decides to follow her.
Camille follows her to Preaker Farms. After walking through several buildings, a worker hands Amma a pig. Amma knows Camille is watching her and smirks. Driving away from the farms, Camille thinks about the many versions of Amma that she has seen. To be clear I don’t like any of them.
At Adora’s plantation house, Vickery is mighty cozy at the kitchen counter. She’s thanking him and apologizing. So, it seems the cop ratted Camille out to her mom which is how Adora was able to ruin the interview with Bob Nash. OK. [Disgusted head nod]
Vickery is in a snitching mood. He tells Adora about catching Amma and her pig chasing friends out after curfew. Adora beckons for Gayla, the housekeeper to get Amma and, tellingly, to get the chief his “usual.” Hmmm. So it’s like that.
Adora questions the chief about the investigation and somehow manages to bring her decades ago dead daughter into it–like killing those two other girls were somehow a sleight against her.
Amma comes downstairs and Vickery leaves so fast because he knows the argument that’s coming. Amma, as soon as she’s called out for breaking curfew, uses Camille as a… Reason… She should… Be able to break curfew. Her shaky ass logic is that Camille stayed out late when she was a girl and bad things happened then too. Adora doesn’t miss the opportunity to turn Camille into a cautionary tale and warn Amma about her. Going so far as to say that Amma is “not safe around her.” Yet, she still she won’t go into details.
Across town everyone’s favorite mild-mannered reporter arrives at Ashley Wheeler’s house to interview Jon. Ashley is creepily decked out in her cheerleading outfit even though school is out. This is the kind of girl who answers questions directed at her boyfriend and starts too many sentences with “we.”
Camille asked John about his relationship with his sister Natalie. Every time Camille gets close to a real answer about Natalie or Ann or the relationship between the two girls, Ashley swoops in with some kind of spin. John says he was driving around the night his sister went missing, and Ashley says no he was with me. John seems hapless, a perhaps less housebroken version of Alan, Camille’s stepdad.
John has only been in Wind Gap for two years, and you can see him chafing in the small town and with his sister murdered who wouldn’t hate it there? Someone in the town killed her, and he knows it but everyone thinks it was him. He walks out of the carriage house in anger and tears. Camille tells Ashley they can finish the interview some other time but also slips her number onto the tray of food the boy was eating. Perhaps she’s hoping to get him alone without his publicist.
At the Preaker plantation, Amma is in her innocent little girl costume skating on the porch while Adora tends to the rosebushes. Camille walks over from her car, and Adora starts the bullshit immediately without even turning to face her daughter. Camille… apologizes [upward inflection]. No, baby. No please stop please. Don’t do this. Adora doesn’t deserve your apology.
Camille apologizes because she didn’t realize how well her mother knew Ann. Adora gets higher on her already high horse and spilled some lies about how Bob was “practically quivering” when Camille left. Now, I have TiVo, and I rewound and rewatched that scene to be certain that this trick was lying for no real reason.
Adora insists that Camille hurts everyone including Amma who doesn’t understand “what” Camille is. Wow. Then, karma swiftly cuts Adora with the rosebush. But wait! Somehow Adora blames that on Camille, too. She tells her mother that she didn’t crash the cart into the rosebushes,but Adora won’t hear her.
The rose sends Camille back. It’s visiting day at the rehab center, and the nurse must de-thorn the roses Adora brought against her finicky and stubborn wishes so she uses that as an excuse to walk out the facility without seeing Camille.
Later during visiting day, Alice asks Camille if it gets better with her family and Camille, as always, tells her the truth: no, not really. Camille senses that Alice needs something, so she gets the headphones for Alice so she can get out of there.
That evening at the plantation Adora does the classic passive aggressive move of asking Alan if he thinks Amma is “safe” with Camille in the house. She asks while he wraps her hand, because you know she requires some sort of triage care after this vicious rosebushes attacked her. Alan to his credit essentially says Camille is grown. Adora reveals that she feel like a bad mom around her, and I swear that I stood up so fast that the chair I was sitting in flew back right across the room as I screamed: You are! You are the worst mom!
Alan sensing an in, says perhaps I should stay with you tonight. Where do you normally stay Al? Adora quickly shut that down whatever “that” is.
Amma comes unannounced into Camille‘s room and wastes no time jumping into gossip. Jodes, Amma’s henchwoman and Ashley Wheeler’s younger sister, reported to Amma that Camille had interviewed John and Ashley. Camille seems as over her little sister’s bullshit as I am. Emma jumps from “John killed his sister” to “he definitely wants me more than he wants his girlfriend.”
Then, Amma says that she’s going out despite the curfew, despite the killer at loose in her town. Camille tries to dissuade her, but Amma is going out no matter what. But not before asking Camille if she’s dangerous. Amma has to know that this will cause even more tension between Adora and her sister, and I guess that’s what she’s wants. But why? Camille’s answer is so simple: I hung out in parking lots, and I talked to boys. Wild was different back then.
Obviously, she’s omitting things, but it’s hard to believe that she is the dangerous one in Wind Gap.
Camille can’t stop thinking about Alice. This time seeing the ensuite toilet causes her to flash to the toilet in the bathroom she shared with Alice. She decides to run from that memory, so despite telling Amma she was going to stay in, she doesn’t.
On her way out, she steps into her dead sister’s bedroom which is as pristine as the altar it seems to be and is struck by both the evidence of her mother’s mourning (used tissue) and her sister’s apparition in the bed,bleeding from the mouth and nose. When she sees the girl, she drops the picture she was holding of the two of them as happy and smiling children.
At the bar, she was inevitably headed to, she sees Kansas City and buys him a drink. She’s hoping to get info out of him, and they end up arriving at a deal: she will show him around Wind Gap, and he will answer some of her questions.
When the bar closes, they aren’t quite done drinking yet, so they end up drinking in the parking lot and flirting. Preaker seems finally to be relaxed when the local hoodlums, led by her rollerskating sister show up drunk and looking to be assholes. Amma knows what buttons to push so she does. She makes jokes about the two of them sleeping together all while doing a horrible Lolita impersonation. Then, Amma tells Kansas City to ask Camille “about the boys, all the boys.” Then, she and her friend leave.
Having ruined the mood and the night, Camille turns down a ride back to her car from Kansas City and instead walks by herself. She’s driving away angry and much too fast. All the while, she’s slipping back into memory. Amma becomes Alice. She’s staring at the toilet. She’s talking to the nurse. She’s driving. In rehab, she asked the nurse for phone and sits there talking. She gets the five minute warning then the nurse walks her back to her room, and something is wrong. She turns the light on, and the nurse is screaming and pushing her back into the hallway.
And then Alan is listening to his music on his headphones – he is getting out of where he is too. Adora is looking at her dead daughter’s room, and the picture Camille broke earlier. Camille is still driving. Faster now. Alice is on the floor, blood pooled around her mouth and nose. Camille runs to the toilet to vomit and realizes there is a screw holding the toilet seat in. Alan is still listening to music. Camille takes the screw and presses it to her wrist and forearm. She’s driving faster now. Alan is staring out from the plantation porch. Camille can see her sister, young and walking across the field. She’s cutting her wrists in the bathroom she shared with Alice. Alan is biting his fist to avoid screaming. Camille sees Amma in the road ahead of her. She slams on the break, and we can see that she’s only 90 miles away from St. Louis. With her hands on the wheel, we see her wrists are healed now. The scars say: fix.
I have questions: Besides being genetically unlikable like her mother, Amma’s motives seem to shift. Does she want Camille to like her? Is she motivated simply by a quest for popularity? Do Adora and the chief have something going on? Where does Alan sleep?
If you or someone you know struggles with self-harm or substance abuse, please seek help by contacting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1–800–662-HELP (4357). For additional resources visit www.hbo.com/sharp-objects/resources.
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