The Curse S1E2 Recap — Why Did You Do That?

“Pressure’s Looking Good So Far”

Whitney and James Toledo pose for a photo on the side of a highway in The Curse S1E2, "Pressure's Looking Good So Far"

The following recap contains spoilers for The Curse S1E2, “Pressure’s Looking Good So Far” (written by Carrie Kemper & Nathan Fielder & Benny Safdie and directed by David Zellner & Nathan Zellner)

I’m sure there are some who will lament that the second episode of The Curse does little to move the plot forward, as if the plot is ever what matters. No! The Curse S1E2 wants you to suffer, and to luxuriate in every discomfiting frame of its hour. It’s about the pregnant pauses and the facial expressions that belie a difference between surface and depth. It’s about the uncertainty that creates and being asked to live in that space. And by this metric, “Pressure’s Looking Good So Far” is brilliant.

The reflective outside of the Siegels' house, with a distorted reflection of Whitney in the mirrors

This whole episode builds pressure without releasing it, and while some release will surely come—forward plot movement will surely come—we need to appreciate what The Curse is doing here.

It’s exemplified in the date that Dougie (Benny Safdie) goes on with Laura (Adrianne Chalepah), as this truly does not seem to relate to anything that you might call the plot of this show. We enter in medias res, with Dougie telling his date about the science of breathalyzers, but what slowly emerges is that he’s telling the story of his wife’s death. He was over the legal limit, but it was a freak accident. The car was T-boned, and he insists it would have happened anyway.

It’s really weird that he’s telling this story on what I think is a first date, but I almost respect his desire to be upfront about his past. What’s harder to stomach is how nonchalant he is in telling the story and the extent to which Laura is just vibing with it. The dynamics of the conversation are entirely at the level of a date, while the content of the conversation is pretty messed up.

When they leave, Dougie offers Laura a ride, but she hesitates, asking if he’s OK to drive. He says he’s not going to make that mistake again, but he ultimately has her get a breathalyzer out of his glovebox while he’s driving and pulls off to the side of the road because he’s over the limit, saying they’ll just walk from there.

I don’t know if things are meaningfully different in New Mexico from every place I have ever lived, but just parking your car on the side of a highway strikes me as pretty abnormal. Still, what really makes the scene uncomfortable is how Laura likes that he did that. But we don’t get a consummation to their evening. We’re left with them walking down the road. And if you’re really cynical you might start wondering if Dougie planned this whole thing.

But also, none of this seems to connect to anything else in The Curse, and I’m not sure it even will later. This is just Dougie, hanging out while he’s not sure what’s happening with the reality TV series.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Dougie smiles while talking to Laura on their date at a restaurant

The Curse S1E2 begins with a close-up of a pregnancy test as it turns positive, while the statement Whitney (Emma Stone) made in Episode 1 resonates in the background. She said they weren’t trying, and Asher (Nathan Fielder) thought it was funny that her parents thought he was the reason. It’s not at all clear that Whitney wants to be pregnant.

She doesn’t tell Asher for a full day, which I think is fine in principle, but when she does tell him, it seems like a tactical decision. They’ve just met with Cara Durand (Nizhonniya Austin) for an incredibly awkward dinner. They want her to be a cultural consultant, but Whitney chastises Asher for bringing that up too quickly. It feels like Cara says no anyway, as she remarks that she wouldn’t be OK with them using her art to stage houses (which they are definitely doing, even if they assure her that they aren’t), but then she has to go. Whitney scolds Asher for his social ineptitude but then mentions the pregnancy to get herself out of this uncomfortable interpersonal space.

Asher does something similar when he tells Bill (David DeLao) about Whitney’s pregnancy later in the hour. Asher is trying to get into Bill’s office in the casino so he can steal the surveillance footage he’s promised to Monica (Tessa Mentus) for a news story, but his plan isn’t working. Bill just tells him to send the funny viral video along later. So Asher uses Whitney’s pregnancy to create a moment of intimacy with Bill in order to emotionally manipulate him into changing his mind. And it works. It’s not rational, but it makes sense that it works. The Curse plays in the space of weird social tensions and what we’ll do to resolve them.

Asher puts on the video, which Bill says he’s already seen, but they’re going to watch it anyway. Asher takes a bottle of Gatorade out of his bag, takes a swig, and places it on the desk without its cap. We know where this is going. And, indeed, at the appropriate time, as the jogger in the video slips and falls on the ice, Asher leans back in his chair laughing, knocking over his bottle of Gatorade.

Asher sits at a computer with an open Gatorade on the desk beside him, as Bill looks at the computer monitor with him

It’s kind of perfect in that no one would suspect such a plan, and I really recommend that you don’t live your life suspecting people of doing stuff like this, even if they do sometimes. I’m thus glad that Bill isn’t paranoid about it. He plays along, even as Asher spills more Gatorade and insists he’s just having a laugh.

But I do wonder what will come of this, as Asher succeeds in getting the footage he was after. Will it get the casino in trouble, or will it be just as useless as what he’s given Monica before? I could see The Curse making us squirm by taking either option.

Meanwhile, people online are claiming that the Siegels are ripping off Doug Aitken in the design of their homes. Whitney insists that this isn’t true, though I can’t help but think she probably did crib from Aitken’s ideas and just doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Asher insists that he knows who Doug Aitken is, but I’m not sure if I believe him. So, it’s kind of hard to say whether they are guilty.

Regardless, I do believe that these accusations upset Whitney, and she wants Cara to give the Siegels’ project credibility. This is also why she’s courting James Toledo (Gary Farmer), but it’s not clear that Cara likes the Pueblo governor. Is Whitney making the mistake of thinking that all natives feel solidarity with one another? Probably.

Whitney invites Toledo to Cara’s gallery opening, which seems to impress neither party. And while Whitney insists to Asher that she and Cara are friends, you really have to question whether that’s true as this scene unfolds.

Cara Durand bends downward and screams

There is a performance aspect to Cara’s installation, which involves one entering what I want to call a tepee, but which they consistently call “the structure.” There’s certainly some commentary being made there.

Regardless, when Whitney enters the structure, she finds Cara, who proceeds to slice some turkey on the kind of machine you’d find at a deli. She hands Whitney the plate of sliced turkey, which Whitney proceeds to eat. Because that’s what you do. Or is it not what you do?

Cara screams and says, “Why did you do that?” twice. She then rings her bell, and the attendant comes to usher Whitney out, telling her not to share her experience in the structure with anyone.

Whitney breaks that rule by telling James Toledo she doesn’t think you’re supposed to eat the turkey. So he doesn’t, but his experience is largely the same beyond that. Cara still screams. She doesn’t say, “Why did you do that?” but that’s the only difference, besides the fact that Toledo is completely unfazed by the whole thing. That’s it? OK.

Of course, Whitney becomes obsessed with knowing whether Asher had the same experience she did, but he won’t tell her because they aren’t supposed to talk about it. Do we respect his desire to follow the rules, or do we think he’s being unkind to his wife? Or is it just that he’s doing better than she is at recognizing this is all part of an art installation they shouldn’t be taking too seriously?

When Whitney approaches Cara afterwards, what she wants is something that anyone who has experienced social anxiety can relate to—she wants to know that they’re cool. Cara doesn’t really provide this answer insofar as she doesn’t really get that Whitney is caught up in this question. She’s friendly, but Whitney isn’t sure whether this is just for show. So she lingers. As the others chat and laugh, Whitney is at the margins, in the space of an uncertainty that hasn’t been assuaged (and will not be). And The Curse makes us sit with that for longer than you might like.

I’m not saying I feel undue sympathy for Whitney, insofar as she’s a pretty horrible person in a lot of ways. She remarks to Freckle (Edward Martinez) that another bird has died by flying into the reflective siding of her house without any grief for the bird. Rather, she notes that there is a smudge to be cleaned up, too. And her overall program in Española smacks of a narcissistic white savior complex that makes her incapable of honestly reflecting on her own behavior. Maybe the scene with the bird is symbolic of that.

I do empathize with her awkwardness and with Asher’s, even as I don’t think it forgives anything. These people might be up their own asses, but they don’t know it, and it adds to the uneasiness that pervades The Curse to see how they don’t know how to be authentic or genuine.

Asher and Whitney sit in a car

As S1E2 ends, Asher assures Whitney that she can tell him anything, and she says she knows that, but you could cut the tension between them with a knife.

Much as Episode 1 ended with a long shot on Asher’s face, wherein Fielder wonderfully made clear that he had been lying about finding the girl who’d cursed him, Episode 2 ends with the Siegels sitting in their car, nonverbally telling us far more about where their relationship stands than their words ever could.

They’ve found out that Whitney’s pregnancy is ectopic, and thus not viable. Asher is clearly more upset than Whitney is, though of course she insists that she is upset because she’s supposed to be. And that’s the important point here: not to pass any kind of ethical judgment on her for how she feels, but to think about how her entire headspace is caught up in thinking about how she’s supposed to feel without ever acknowledging how she actually does.

Through two episodes, The Curse has established itself as a unique entry in the world of television programs. I haven’t said nearly enough about how it’s shot or how it’s scored, but these elements definitely feed into how effective this series is at doing what it sets out to do.

You might hate it, and I couldn’t blame you if you wanted to say that The Curse is just not for you. But if you’re frustrated by a lack of plot movement in this episode, get over it. Enjoy the incredibly uncomfortable ride.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos


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  1. Like your own perception, I love this unique, uncomfortable and unequivocally brilliant show. I have only watched the first two episodes – I’ll watch the third tomorrow – but wanted to ask at this juncture if you noticed the change of the cars in the parking lot scene with Dougie and Laura; the car they are standing in front of in the corner parking space is red, then it changes to a different white car – still in the exact same parking space – and Dougie even points out that it’s a Mustang. As you said in your prior article about this show, ‘but what is reality anyway.’

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