This week on PhysicalSheila goes on the lam with Vincent Green in a drug-fueled, disc-scored bonding session.
The wheels on the Sheila Rubin’s aerobics train are clearly about to fall off — and she’s not even going to have the voice in her head to comfort her when all is said and done. It’s another annoying week filled with failed attempts at humor and humanity on Apple TV+’s fizzling ’80s flashback show.
Physical recap: ‘Don’t You Run and Hide’
Season 2, episode 8: In this week’s episode, titled “Don’t You Run and Hide,” Shiela (played by Rose Byrne) goes back to give Vincent Green (Murray Bartlett) his answer. The workout guru approached Sheila for a sponsorship a few weeks back, but she couldn’t accept due to her contract.
Having now broken that contract by showing a sex tape to her investors, she’s free to say yes to Vincent. The two of them spend the day sizing each other up and discussing their futures. Soon, they’re in his basement doing drugs. He details his stifling marriage and stunted emotional growth. She admits her marital trouble and tells him that her inner self has been controlling her.
This is the first clue Physical has given me this season that the voice and Sheila are two separate entities. I guess that’s better than nothing, but it still doesn’t really play the way it’s meant to.
Drugs and more drugs
On the home front, Sheila’s husband Danny (Rory Scovel) and Wanda (Tawny Newsome) have a tense confrontation about their activism group. I must have missed the part where any of the stuff they discuss about ownership of an actual brick-and-mortar company was first brought up, because I was completely thrown up when Wanda demanded tax forms from Danny so she can take over full leadership of their group.
Danny freaks out and walks into the ocean. Naturally, Tyler (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Bunny (Della Saba) appear and save him from drowning. Tyler treats it as a sign. Danny invites them over for dinner to say thanks.
Writers: Don’t do this. Don’t hinge the plot on the insultingly convenient.
They don’t call it ‘dope’ for nothin’
While Sheila works her way into Vincent’s confidence, Danny, Tyler and Bunny bond over food and weed.
Sheila figures out that Vincent can’t help her because he’s too in thrall to the severe European woman (Anna Gunn) who runs his business enterprise after marrying him, despite their sexual interests running in opposite directions.
Sheila simply can’t control Vincent: He’s too scared of the other woman. So Sheila flees from a plan for the second time in 24 hours.
What’s worse, Danny figures out that she’s done it. Tyler lets it slip that the man Sheila was having the affair with was none other than heartless land developer John Breem (Paul Sparks), the one man Danny hates most in the world. He runs to the clinic where Sheila told him she was staying and discovers she’s not there.
Let’s not get physical
Physical’s writers made this kind of mistake of perspective before, but it bothers me enormously that Sheila opens this week’s episode by saying that she still believes Danny wanted to lock her up at a clinic for her eating disorder. Danny suggested the home out of good will — probably the first benevolent thing he’s ever done. He wasn’t pushing the idea on her or anything. He was worried (we know he meant it because we’ve seen 10 times already what it looks like when Danny’s lying about caring about something) and he suggested a solution like an adult.
Sheila and Danny even forgave each other, enjoyed a good night and were actually heading forward. Sure, Sheila led to Danny about going to the facility so she could get out from under everyone’s thumb. But it’s not like she was being coerced by him.
So for her to still claim that Danny was trying to “throw her in the loony bin” requires you to have amnesia about last week’s episode. I really don’t like the idea that I’m paying more careful attention to this unpleasant little show than its own writers.
But let’s say, benefit of the doubt, that Sheila is supposed to be reacting in bad faith. Why doesn’t she just flee? Or divorce Danny? If she’s convinced he’s trying to lock her up like Mr. Rochester, why wouldn’t she just get outta there?!? Take the kid and leave. Call your friends and stay with them. (Although I guess Sheila doesn’t have those because she hates everybody.)
Frustrating and unfunny
Why all this perceived danger and absolutely no response commensurate with it? It’s frustrating no matter how you look at it.
If you think that this is an unduly small semantic detail on which to get hung up, consider that nothing else in this week’s half-hour of television proved even remotely as interesting.
Yes, Della Saba’s character, Bunny, produces a funny moment when Danny asks her if she wants a glass because she’s drinking whiskey right out of the bottle.
“I told you I’m fine with the fuckin’ bottle!” she snaps.
That was truly amusing — maybe the first time I’ve laughed while watching Physical. But the stuff with Vincent seems all too familiar. We knew before the episode really got going that Sheila would never overpower Marika for Vincent’s confidence. But the show still forced us to watch them spin their wheels for an entire episode until the predestined outcome arrived.
That’s always a great way to spend your afternoon. I am well and truly ready for this season of Physical to end.
Watch Physical on Apple TV+
New episodes of Physical’s second season arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.