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Everything Isn't Beautiful At The Ballet On Flesh And Bone

Not even Kelly Bishop can save this show.

It's Thanksgiving in Sad Dance Land, and if you think that means ballerinas talking about food, you're right! On the plus side, a lot of stuff happens in this episode. On the minus side, it's mostly nonsense with a totally confusing timeline in which Claire teleports to Pittsburgh and back.

Paul's cartoon villainy gets even more cartoony as a reaction to Toni's touchy-feely-ness ("Yes! You're feeling it! I actually got goose bumps, do you see these fucking goose bumps?"). Not that breaking a chair in rehearsal is worse than pimping out one dancer and grabbing another's crotch, but it's much more publicly demonstrative. "Ballet is a classical dance form, demanding grace and precision. Rigor, craft! You will be lucky if you come anywhere close to perfection IN YOUR LIFETIME!" I've known actual artists like this (often, sadly, in teaching positions), but it's such a fine line to walk on screen, and Paul has jetéd over it and into Brooklyn.

Kiira and Daphne's solution to Paul's breakdown, which they think is just how he gets around the holidays, is to bring the entire company (who I guess all missed their flights except for Claire, who was somehow able to book and afford one at the last minute) to Paul's place for a surprise party. Which, (a) rude, the person throwing the party shouldn't be surprised, and (b) only further proves how bipolar and manipulative he is.

Meanwhile, Mia's medical drama continues to be draaaaagged out to its inevitable breaking point, and Claire goes home so that we can finally learn what happened there. It's fucked up, but not in the way we all probably thought!

Did you care about Jessica's bratty child and want to know more about what Romeo does all day? You're in luck!

On the plus side, there's quite a bit of actual dancing! Ross rehearses a pas de deux with both Kiira and Claire, and it's quite lovely. We get to see how the different dancers perform the same bit of choreography differently, both in their styles and just the shape of their bodies. The scene is shot and edited well, with the other dancers -- even Kiira -- reacting favorably to Claire's version. It's probably the first time we've really been shown what Paul sees in her, and it's also nice that it doesn't come at Kiira's expense; they're just different.

We also get the divine Kelly Bishop talking about deer pooping on her tennis courts: "They're actually long-legged rodents with pretty eyes. Speaking of shit...." Well, yes, speaking of shit, you cast original Chorus Line cast member Kelly Bishop in a dance show and waste her on this two-minute scene as Kiira's mother-in-law? Bring back Bunheads.

Six episodes into this "limited series," is the formula breaking? How Flesh And Bone-y did things get?

Flesh And Bone-y Element Present?
Paul treats "his" dancers as property After Toni breaks the company early for Thanksgiving, boosting morale, Paul unbreaks them, demanding proof of the greatness Toni reported, and destroying that morale in an instant. People miss their flights and trains home. He fires one girl for no reason. He breaks a chair. But at least it means we get to see more of the ballet! Later, he announces to the company that Trey's getting his new part had nothing to do with their romantic relationship...which of course doesn't exist, but now Trey can't blackmail Paul and the company will likely hate him. Don't mess with the master!
Art is prostitution At the party, Ross tries to seduce Paul to get his part back. It doesn't work, but Paul is clearly pleased by the chance to say no.
Art vs. commerce Only emotional instability for the company this week, not financial.
Being a dancer is legit hard As I said up top, Paul's behavior is overblown (and I can't believe that a company at this level would be non-union -- the backroom stuff is one thing, but someone would put a stop to a rehearsal that spun that far out of control), but performers do work that hard, and do work through holidays. As is often the case with shows about show business, I think the reality is more interesting than this cartoon version, but there's some truth here.
Bryan is creep-tastic Um...I'm not really sure how to yes/no this one, honestly??? More below. Do we consider his clichéd description of his time in Afghanistan -- "It was messed up over there, bad things happened" -- creepy or just boring? But then...see below.
Claire is the weirdest When I came up with this category back in the innocent days of Episode 2, it seemed funny, what with her lipstick stealing and her taste for lube and blood (okay, maybe not funny, exactly). Now I'm feeling a little less judgy? But still a yes.
Claire is the dumbest Chastising Bryan for keeping pepper in the spice rack, she says, "Pepper's not a spice, it's a seasoning." Do you have a separate "seasoning rack," Claire?? Does anyone???
Claire is so sad, you guys So sad.

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Starz

So very sad.

Claire's past is hinted at Yeah, more than hinted! Claire's starting to feel bad about having Bryan beat up, and also misses her dad, so she goes home for Thanksgiving, where we learn that Dad is infirm (I'm guessing he's had a stroke, but it's never stated), drunk, and fairly abusive. Bryan takes the brunt of it that we see. "You have no idea how hard it was for me to be stuck over there knowing what you were going through over here," Bryan tells Claire. We still don't know exactly what he's referring to, but then he asks, "Did we have a boy or a girl?" AAAAHHHH. She padlocks her door when she goes to bed, but later goes to Bryan for snuggles, which turns into sex. It certainly looks 100% consensual on both sides. Afterward, she gives him a tiny hospital bracelet she'd kept in a box under her floorboards and tells him they had a girl. So I guess that means adoption, not abortion. And now we know why she stopped dancing for a couple of years.
Ballerinas do DRUGS! At the party, Ross finds Kiira's purse on the bed, and we're presumably meant to think he's going to pinch it as some kind of intervention, so that she can't have it, but instead he does some himself to prep for what he thinks will be sex with Paul.
New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of Claire gets into a cab and says "LaGuardia," instead of just "the airport" like on most TV shows (New York has three), so points for that.
Mia is mean to Claire but actually she's nice underneath Another "I guess?" Mia gets her diagnosis and we still don't know exactly what it is but we've watched TV before so we know it's bad. She starts eating all the food, and that night slits her wrists in the bathtub.
Daphne is wild and crazy and doesn't care what anyone thinks but actually she's nice underneath No wild and crazy, but we see her try to play mother to the company, and learn that she's friends with Kiira (maybe the only member of the corps who is), which is a nice touch.
Romeo is weird and psychotic but actually he's nice underneath Did we know that Romeo lives on the roof? Well, now we know for sure, thanks to an extended sequence in his shelter up there, where he makes art with his pet rat. I'm now choosing to believe that Romeo is Mark from Rent. It's been twenty years, this is totally plausible, right? He also climbs down the fire escape and sees Mia's suicide attempt through the window, allowing him to save her, and made some kind of creepy-ass art out of Claire's copy of The Velveteen Rabbit after she specifically told him to be careful with it.
Dancer pain/prep porn Shockingly, none, except for the discussions about Thanksgiving, of which there are blessedly few.
Tovah Feldshuh and her Russian accent are amazing Always.

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Starz

Don't ever doubt it.

Bitchy ballerinas are bitchy "Is she going to give birth to a walrus? She's like a fucking mailbox with arms."
"Who are you all of a sudden, her wet nurse? Got the tits for it."
Sexy sex I mean...the Claire/Bryan scene is kinda hot? They're actors, they're not actually brother and sister!
Deeply unsexy sex I mean...the Claire/Bryan scene is kinda icky? They're brother and sister!
Dance as a metaphor for sex We're clearly meant to believe that Ross and Claire's rehearsal with Toni is somehow magical.
Specific reference to another dance property, intentional or not All of them, basically. Also, Cathy from Flowers In The Attic becomes a ballet dancer, so that totally counts.
Specific reference to Smash, surely not intentional Sadly, not even I can stretch this one.
18 / 22
Final Score
82%
Flesh And Bone
18%
Flowers In The Chorus Line
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