Sugar S1E4 Recap: “Starry-Eyed” — What’s the Reality?

Bernie looks on, with Sugar in the background
Screenshot/Apple TV+

The following recap contains spoilers for Sugar S1E4, “Starry-Eyed” (written by Mark Protosevich & Donald Joh and directed by Adam Arkin)

“Starry-Eyed” is punctuated by videos from Olivia’s (Sydney Chandler) Instagram account, and I appreciate how Sugar is working to flesh out her character, even as she remains missing. In the videos, she laments the harassment she’s been receiving from trolls but says she’ll persist. We see her at a women’s rights protest of some kind. And, ultimately, we see her scared, saying that she might sound paranoid, but she thinks someone is after her.

As S1E4 comes to a close, John Sugar (Colin Farrell) tells the Olivia in the video on his screen that she’s right about that, but the events of the episode don’t bring him much closer to figuring out what happened to her.

Olivia on a laptop screen, Polaroids of Rachel, and a bottle of scotch, on a table
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Melanie (Amy Ryan) comes to visit Sugar and tells him she’s remembered seeing Olivia talking to a woman who appeared to be very upset—so upset that Melanie refrained from interrupting to say hello. They investigate together, and with the help of a record store employee named Dani (Eliza Blair), who’s a fan of Melanie’s music, they find the woman. Her name is Taylor (Isabella Briggs), and if you were paying attention, you may have noticed Taylor celebrating her birthday with Olivia in one of those Instagram videos.

We’ve known that Davy Siegel (Nate Corddry) has done bad things with regard to women, which his parents have been helping him cover up. From Taylor, we learn the details. She was up for a role in one of Bernie’s (Dennis Boutsikaris) films, and Davy tried to coerce her into sex. She had hooked up with Davy years prior, and it turns out that he secretly filmed that. Davy threatened to release the video if Taylor didn’t let him have his way with her.

Taylor sitting in her apartment
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Taylor refused and called the cops, but they didn’t do anything. Then, the Siegels pressured her to sign an NDA, but she refused. She told Olivia about all of this, but Olivia already knew and confirmed it as a pattern of behavior on Davy’s part.

This information leads Sugar to want to talk to Jonathan (James Cromwell). Sugar tells us that he’s always felt like Jonathan has been hiding something from him, and he wonders now if it’s about Davy. Jonathan invites Sugar to a screening of one of his films and says they can talk in private afterward. They don’t get the chance, however, as news of Davy’s sexual misconduct breaks in the trades just as Jonathan is sitting down with Ben Mankiewicz (playing himself) for a post-screening Q&A.

Ben Mankiewicz holding a mic with a hand stretched to the side
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Jonathan gets up to leave and proceeds to have a heart attack before he gets off the stage. Thankfully, he doesn’t die, but the heart attack means that Sugar doesn’t get the chance to talk to him in S1E4, so he (and we) continue to have more questions than answers.

Is there a connection between the Siegel family’s desire to keep Davy’s misconduct under wraps and Olivia’s disappearance? For what it’s worth, it seems like Melanie didn’t know about Davy’s pattern of abuse until Taylor told her. We don’t hear what she and Bernie say to each other at the film screening (we only see them through CCTV along with Sugar), but it certainly seems like Melanie is confronting Bernie about what she’s learned and then pushing him away when he tries to respond. Indeed, if we’re wondering who took the story to the press, my money’s on Melanie.

Melanie looking out a window
Screenshot/Apple TV+

There is a connection between the Siegels and Stallings (Eric Lange). He calls Davy when he sees the breaking story to make a hardly veiled threat about what will happen should Davy say Stallings’s name to the authorities. Davy freaks out pretty hard at the mere fact that Stallings has called him.

We follow Stallings as this call ends and he emerges from a basement, securing the door with a padlock. Maybe he kidnapped Olivia and has her down there, but I’m not sure if that fits with the way that Stallings still doesn’t know what happened to Clifford. I suppose if Olivia has managed to keep her mouth shut about killing Clifford, and Stallings was negligent enough to not check the trunk of her car, it could be plausible, but I find myself thinking that he’s got something else down there that will be relevant in a different way.

Stallings locks a padlock on a door
Screenshot/Apple TV+

It’s worth noting that we still don’t know what happened to Clifford’s body, even though Sugar hasn’t followed up on that question since Episode 2, when John returned to the trunk to find the body missing. He also found a lock of hair in that scene, so we might expect that he’d be investigating whose hair that was. Maybe he handed that task off to Ruby (Kirby) and is waiting for her to get back to him.

The only time we see Ruby in “Starry-Eyed,” she’s lying to Sugar about what she found on Stallings. She erased his records in “Shibuya Crossing,” so here she’s just sitting in front of blank screens and making up stuff about DoorDash and Pornhub.

Ruby on the phone
Screenshot/Apple TV+

You’ll recall that prior to erasing Stallings’s records last week, Ruby called Dr. Vickers (Scott Lawrence), to whom John finally pays a visit at the beginning of S1E4. Vickers doesn’t find anything wrong with him and doesn’t seem terribly concerned about the way John’s hand acts up at the end of their session. But bigger questions remain: what is the connection between Vickers and Stallings, and who is the Miller that Vickers mentioned to Ruby in Episode 3?

That all ties into the big question of what is going on in Sugar overall.

Dr. Vickers in his office, standing by a skeleton poster
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Vickers asks John if he sleeps, if he dreams, and if he has intimations of despair. John brushes these questions off but wonders why Vickers is asking. I wonder about that, too.

During their visit, Sugar asks Vickers if he’s ever seen the movie with Kurt Russell set in Antarctica where a doctor collapses a man’s chest during defibrillation. He’s referring to The Thing, which is interesting in its own right, but it’s also interesting that Sugar can’t seem to recall the name of the film, given that he’s a film buff.

Sugar looking downwards, distraught
Screenshot/Apple TV+

The scene is intercut with shots from The Thing, and Sugar has regularly deployed bits of classic films throughout its first four episodes. Those are real films. However, the film that John goes to see a screening of in “Starry-Eyed” is not.

This fictional film is called The Winds of Change and stars Lorraine Everly (Ruby Lewis), who was Jonathan Siegel’s wife for 23 years. It reminds Sugar of the Polaroids of Rachel Kaye (Natalie Alyn Lind) that he found in Olivia’s apartment. In one of them, Rachel is wearing the dress Lorraine wore in The Winds of Change, and John isn’t quite sure what to do with that.

Sugar looks at a poster for a film called The Winds of Change
Screenshot/Apple TV+

We’d do well to remember the video of Olivia reenacting a scene from one of Rachel’s films that John watched in Episode 1. It’s oddly parallel with Rachel wearing Lorraine’s dress. But this video also seemed to trigger Sugar’s episode, in which he hallucinated that he was bleeding and lost time in the shower.

Olivia reminds Sugar of Djen (Maeve Whalen). Is Djen real? And if she is real, is she really John’s sister?

Helen at the door of her house
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Davy and Kenny (Alex Hernandez) visit Helen (Jayne Taini) in Episode 4. They think she is Sugar’s mother, but John indicated in the premiere that Helen isn’t really his mother. Sugar’s past remains a mystery amongst many others as this season hits the halfway mark.

There is a real film called Winds of Change, by the way, but it’s not at all the one John watches in “Starry-Eyed.” It’s an animated film by Takashi Masunaga that was originally released in 1978 under the title Metamorphoses. Ovid gets a writing credit, and the film is an anthology with segments pulled from Greek mythology.

That might be completely irrelevant to where Sugar is going, but all indications are that there is more to this series than meets the eye. The mystery of what happened to Olivia (and why) is compelling, but the biggest questions center on Sugar himself.

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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