The following recap contains spoilers for The Curse S1E3, “Questa Lane” (written by Nathan Fielder & Benny Safdie and directed by David Zellner & Nathan Zellner)
The Curse S1E3 opens with Asher (Nathan Fielder) going to an auction, where he successfully bids on a house on Questa Lane. He goes over budget, but he’s feeling alright about that even though they’re going to have to tear the house down and start from scratch. The plan is to raise the property values in Española, so if that plan works, the land will become more valuable.
A key part of that plan, though, is the reality show that the Siegels are supposed to be making with Dougie (Benny Safdie), which has not yet been approved by HGTV. If you were a little confused about this in Episode 2, so was I, but it turns out that the confidence Asher and Whitney (Emma Stone) possessed in Episode 1 was based entirely on Dougie having said that the network would probably pick it up. We haven’t heard Whitney say anything about “manifesting” to this point in The Curse, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.
Regardless, Episode 3 sees them watching a filmed focus group, and the show’s prospects aren’t looking great. In particular, the group finds Asher to be unlikeable and generally very boring. It’s a real testament to Fielder’s acting prowess to see him play such a stiff and awkward character when we know that in real life he is a very laid-back, cool guy. But, despite the fact that it makes Whitney happy to see people discussing the social issues the show is raising, it’s clear that she comes away feeling like they need to make their reality series more entertaining.
Thus, towards the end of the hour, after Whitney and Asher genuinely break out in laughter over their struggles to remove her sweater, she gets the idea to do it again and put it on Instagram. Immediately, her demeanor seems put on—the re-creation of events feels fake far before the Siegels acknowledge it—and there’s also a subtle difference in Asher when he is trying to play for the camera.
Of course, Whitney is good at playing for the camera, even if you can tell she’s doing so; Asher is not. I made the mistake of taking a drink right before he said that he didn’t want another man to have sex with his wife, and I struggled not to spit it out laughing. I don’t even know what adjective to use to describe this moment. Neither awkward nor cringeworthy does the job.
It is striking to me that Whitney doesn’t seem to realize just how bad her husband is at performing an on-air version of himself. Perhaps it’s because it’s such a minimal difference between that version of Asher and how he is in real life. Or maybe she does realize that he’s terrible at what they’re trying to do and just doesn’t know how to address it directly, so it comes out as her getting angry with him about something else.
As fate would have it, the house on Questa Lane is occupied by the Somali family Asher encountered in Episode 1. Nala (Hikmah Warsame) and Hani (Dahabo Ahmed) would seem to know that they’re squatting since they react in fear to an unexpected knock at the door and proceed to run when Asher removes the deadbolt with a drill and enters.
Asher recognizes them, and thus pursues them trying to give them money, only to be accosted by a large neighbor (Bennie Taylor) who calls the cops. Of course, the cops aren’t a problem for Asher. He’s purchased the property, which is supposed to be vacant, so the officer (Jerry G. Angelo) wants to bring in the sheriff for a quick eviction.
At this point, Asher decides instead to let the family continue to live in the home, which he’s just bought as an investment anyway. I’m not sure whether this is because he feels bad for them, because he feels like he should feel bad for them, or because he’s feeling worried about the curse, but I’m not sure that he knows either. Regardless, the move goes over well with Whitney.
I had thought that The Curse would find a way to mine drama from the fact that Asher lied to his wife about finding Nala to get the curse lifted (and it still might, given how Whitney is clearly onto how the stories don’t line up), but that’s not what happens here in S1E3. Rather, she wants to fix up the house for the family that’s living in it. The Siegels pay a visit to assess what they might do, and she tries to bond with Nala, Hani, and their father, Abshir (Barkhad Abdi).
She’s not good at that! Abshir is making hot dogs, and she awkwardly asks him more than once if they’ll eat them with rice. Nope, just buns. Just hot dogs. Nothing exotic going on here, Whitney.
Nala and Hani are on TikTok, and we learn that Nala was playing on a trend when she tiny-cursed Asher. She doesn’t seem to take it all that seriously, and her sister makes fun of her because the trend is outdated. The idea is that you think of something small while you say to someone, “I curse you,” like their shoes being untied.
What did Nala think of when she cursed Asher? No chicken in his dinner.
That’s very silly, except for the fact that Asher did indeed discover a chicken penne that was missing its chicken in the food delivery the Siegels received on the night of the curse, as seen in Episode 1. You’ll recall he called to complain.
To make it worse, when Asher asks Nala what dinner she deprived of chicken, she says, “chicken spaghetti,” and though spaghetti is not penne, it is pasta. So Asher’s gears get going.
He doesn’t believe that there was some metaphysical curse at play. Instead, he peruses the TikTok trend looking for mentions of chicken. There are none. So now he’s thinking maybe these girls were going through their trash or spying on them through their kitchen window.
This is what Whitney yells at him about in the aftermath of the aforementioned sweater incident. She tells Asher he shouldn’t make assumptions, and he takes that as an accusation of racism (which maybe it was), but again, Whitney might in part actually be mad at him for being such a bad actor. Regardless, Asher wants her to validate his feelings, and it’s all incredibly cringe-inducing until Whitney realizes that her phone camera is still rolling, so she acquiesces and says they should go to bed.
We see her watching that footage back, and I can’t help but think she’s going to do something stupid like post it online with the thought that their interpersonal drama will help draw people in for their show. Maybe it will, but I doubt she knows what she needs to edit out, and I expect Asher to be unhappy about it no matter how much she cleans up the tape.
Meanwhile, Dougie just wants a friend. Asher is supposed to be his friend but hasn’t been acting like it, and Whitney clearly doesn’t like him. She shoots down his idea of ordering a pizza to eat after they finish watching the focus group footage, and later, when he calls Asher because he wants to hang, he gets rejected. Thus we get a very long shot of Dougie lying on his bed and ultimately breaking down in tears. Maybe he should go on another super awkward date.
Barrier Coffee has closed up shop because their contract actually only requires them to stay open for the reality TV show that’s not currently happening, and they were losing money in the meantime. Whitney is mad about that in general, but she does also reach out to Fernando (Christopher D. Calderon) in particular, since they promised him a job there (on film).
It’s a small-scale version of a larger question The Curse is consistently asking: Do these people actually care about the social issues they claim to care about? Or, what’s the difference between actually caring and pretending to care, other than the potential difference in effects?
Whitney hires Fernando to be security for the business complex while Barrier is shuttered, and The Curse S1E3 ends with him arriving to his first night on the job. He’s got a gun and a chair, and we end with a freeze frame of his face.
What could possibly go wrong?