The Curse S1E8 Recap: Things Are Always a Little Weird

“Down and Dirty”

Asher and Whitney sit on their couch, with a splatter painting behind them, as they talk to Fernando in The Curse S1E8, "Down and Dirty"

The following recap contains spoilers for The Curse S1E8, “Down and Dirty” (written by Nathan Fielder & Benny Safdie and directed by Nathan Fielder)

Word has gotten out that you can just straight up take things from Iosheka Jeans without facing any repercussions. The Curse S1E8 begins with a group of teenagers driving into Española from out of town to do just that. The cashier doesn’t care. She flirts with one of the guys and only intervenes at all to ask them how many pairs of jeans they are stealing, so she can charge them to Whitney (Emma Stone).

A teenage boy talks to the cashier at the jeans shop in The Curse

This whole scene is hilarious, but there is a question in the background that might be worth thinking about, particularly since it’s come to light recently that scare-mongering stories about shoplifting that circulated within the past couple of years were completely made up.

It’s true that the most effective deterrent to retail theft is a sense of a shared social contract, and there are problems with any notion of store employees or hired security confronting shoplifters with force, or threat of violence. Equally, Whitney has a point when she insists that it’s a minor crime, often motivated by economic desperation.

But these people aren’t stealing food or sundries; they’re stealing designer jeans. Whatever she tells herself, Whitney isn’t just concerned about calling the cops because it might ruin people’s lives unfairly, she’s worried about how police activity around the shops will look in terms of her overall project and reality TV show.

Whitney answers the door to her house with mirror walls to find Fernando and others outside with large guns over their shoulders

So it’s interesting to see Fernando (Christopher D. Calderon) show up at the Siegel residence with some brothers in arms to lodge a complaint. He thought they were supposed to make the community better, and can’t tolerate what’s been going on. He understands that any social contract worth its salt has to carry a threat of punishment for violating it in the background, and sees right through Whitney’s posturing.

The way that Asher (Nathan Fielder) tries to stand up to Fernando is worthy of the mockery that Whitney gives him in the aftermath of this visit, but it’s more striking how we see her façade drop in this scene, perhaps for the first time. She wants to just shoot what they need at the shops and start charging them rent, which will mean they close up shop, as has been previously established. She doesn’t care. And it’s when Asher asks about Fernando, citing the promises they’ve made to both him and his mother, that Whitney really starts laying into him, imitating him as though he’s a stupid child.

Whitney is not a good person. Of course, we already knew that.

Asher with a confused look on his face

We don’t see Whitney and Asher together again for the rest of the episode, so it’s not clear whether they’ll reconcile or if we’re on the path towards an ever deepening schism. Signs point to the latter, but through these first eight episodes, The Curse has been known to surprise me.

Asher sits down to film some confessional scenes with Dougie (Benny Safdie), and it seems pretty clear that Dougie is trying to get particular soundbites, which he’s going to use in ways that will make Asher look bad. At least, that’s how it all felt to me; Asher doesn’t seem suspicious for the most part. He does take offense when Dougie starts plying him with questions about his ex, and how she left him because he wanted to watch her having sex with another man, but then Dougie insists to the room that he was kidding, and Asher seems willing to move on from how Dougie broke his confidence.

At the same time, the pair’s conversation after they’re done filming is awkward. I don’t know if Asher was about to ask Dougie to dinner (since Dougie is ultimately the one who says that), but he is trying to get a sense that things between them are OK. It’s another instance of Asher basically not understanding social interactions, but he has the inkling that Dougie isn’t happy with him and wants to rectify that.

Thus, when they go to dinner, he apologizes for having been a bad friend. And while Dougie shrugs this off, he appreciates it. Dougie is always fronting in his own way, which I think stems from a constant attempt on his part to repress his pain and sorrow.

I’m not suggesting we forgive Dougie of his transgressions, but he is a really intriguing character in that he’s really hard to pin down. He goes on dates where he tells the story of how his wife died when he was driving drunk, denying that he bears any fault. And here, with Asher, he insists that he’ll drive so that Asher can drink, making a show of switching from beer to Coke with their server, but then secretly tells the staff to make it a rum and Coke in a normal Coke glass, so he can keep drinking without Asher knowing.

In the car, he has Asher hand him his glovebox breathalyzer to set his mind at ease, but it’s hard to believe Dougie is operating in good faith. I suppose if he truly blew .078 he was below the legal limit, but the whole thing just feels weird.

Dougie, about to cry

Abshir (Barkhad Abdi)—who is apparently completely fine in the wake of that chiropractic adjustment—has been texting Asher to complain about a chirping smoke detector, so Asher gets Dougie to take him to the house to replace the battery. On the way, Dougie hatches a plan to get Nala (Hikmah Warsame) to curse him, but none of this goes well.

Nala is in her room when they get there, so Dougie suggests that they should replace the batteries in all of the smoke detectors, claiming that he has batteries in his pocket. Asher, despite his protestations before and after the fact, plays along with the pretense so that Dougie can get a chance to talk to Nala alone, but she isn’t into it.

Dougie practically breaks into tears begging this young girl to curse him, saying that he needs it, which is really weird and needs to be worked into our character profile of this man, but also causes Nala to scream for her dad, bringing an end to the interaction.

She doesn’t tell Abshir exactly what happened (perhaps because he’s expressed his disapproval of curse talk forcefully by this point), so Asher and Dougie are able to leave the house without it becoming a whole thing, but who knows if this will come back around on them in the future.

Regardless, Asher indicates that he was onboard with the attempted test as he notes that the chicken is still in Dougie’s car, before Dougie tells him that Nala wouldn’t curse him. Then, he yells at Dougie for making him do these things. Dougie insists that he didn’t make Asher do anything, and that the real Asher was the one he saw in that house, pretending his Kleenex was a battery. Doesn’t it feel good to drop the act?

Asher’s rebuttal about Dougie’s wife is something that he tries to take back, but you can’t really take back how you’ve invoked the idea that a guy killed his wife, so the rest of their car ride is awkward silence. As he drops Asher off at his house, Dougie insists that they’re cool, but after Asher leaves the car, Dougie looks at him intently and says, “I curse you.”

We’ve got a second curse, folks!

Whitney talks to Wyatt at the party

Meanwhile, Whitney’s plan is to attend an art event and gather some footage for Fliplanthrophy of her life outside of her relationship with Asher, which is something she insists she has.

First, she meets up with Cara (Nizhonniya Austin) at a restaurant, where she’s eating with her friend, Brett (Brett Mooswa). And I have to say that Brett is my favorite thing about this episode of The Curse. After he jokes to Cara about the possibility of getting some of Whitney’s money for himself, he takes on a voice and disposition that Cara insists he cannot use once Whitney arrives—it’s basically a very stereotypical Wise Native act.

But Brett does the opposite of what Cara says; he only acts in this stereotypical way with Whitney. We know it’s an act because we’ve seen how he is normally, but Whitney never catches on at all, and this just continues when she sees Brett at the party later. The best moment in The Curse S1E8 may be when he secretly laughs at her after she says that his bit about buffalo or whatever was beautiful.

Whitney talking to Brett, who gestures largely

Brett also gives us further insight into how Cara views Whitney, or provides corroboration for how I read the interactions between Cara and Whitney last week. Cara sees Whitney as a phony, doesn’t respect her, and doesn’t really want to be associated with her. We see at the end of “Down and Dirty” that she put that offensive statue from the mini-golf course out for the trash.

I suggested last week that, while Cara would take Whitney’s money, she was trying to figure out where the line was between taking advantage of Whitney and selling out herself. I think that was right, and that Brett’s behavior in S1E8 bolsters that interpretation. Unfortunately, Cara finds herself crossing that line in this episode, as Whitney manipulates her into saying things on camera that she doesn’t really believe.

It’s an interesting structure, where Cara feels beholden to Whitney because she’s taken her money, even though she already has that money, and it was cash. From a certain point of view, she could refuse to play along, but the social pressures make her play along anyway.

She’s not happy about it.

Cara looking downwards, ashamed

Among other things, Whitney makes Cara explain her art installation to her in this scene, because of course Whitney is still hung up on that whole question of whether she was supposed to eat the turkey. It’s incredibly cringe-inducing, but in contrast to her coerced statements about the value of Whitney’s houses as art, I think this is Cara taking an opportunity to tell Whitney what she really thinks of her.

So the slicing of the meat is me giving pieces of myself to people, whether I want to or not. And as a native person that’s basically what you’re doing everyday, just f*cking slicing off pieces of yourself, and it’s exhausting. And whether people choose to eat it is totally up to them.

And you eat it.

I could interpret that for you, but do I need to? The metaphor feels more powerful left alone.

More Things That Happened

The song that Asher and Dougie sing along to in the car is “Hell Yeah” by dead prez. I find it endlessly hilarious that Asher sings along by saying “N-word.”

The man that Whitney flirts with at the party is credited as Wyatt Singh (Morse Bicknell). The last name Singh, in addition to his turban, would indicate that Wyatt is a Sikh, though his lack of beard would indicate that he’s a relatively recent convert. You’ll recall that Whitney briefly visited a Sikh temple in a previous episode. I expect to see Wyatt again.

The party Whitney attends is hosted by a man named Vivi (Antonio Weiss), who is an art collector but also apparently a military contractor. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s something The Curse brings back around into its story down the line as well.

I could have mentioned this before, but the jeans store is named after Iosheka, who features as the creator god in Wyandot mythology. It’s a pretty clear symbol of how the Siegels relate to Native culture, both insofar as they’re profaning the sacred by making a god a brand and insofar as the Wyandot are indigenous to the Northeast, not the Southwest. Also this seems worth noting on background when it comes to how Cara and Brett view them.

There are two episodes to go in this season of The Curse!

See you next week.

Written by Caemeron Crain

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

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