Things are getting complicated for the female characters on UnREAL, and not just in front of the camera. Quinn, who is struggling to keep her show afloat, is trying to manage female suitor Serena with not-so-great results. Serena, the whip-smart, beautiful suitress, wants so badly to be in a relationship that she's willing to be whomever to get it. Whether the women of UnREAL are distorting their true selves in order to get male attention or staying real, they just can't win, and Quinn and Serena are the most interesting dualities to watch.
Quinn is really on her last legs — Everlasting is a hair away from being cancelled, due mostly to ratings and the disastrous showing last season. Her personal life is great, though, because she doesn't have one. Now that things with Chet are officially O-V-E-R and he's dating a 22-year-old who calls herself his "student" (which is a real punch in the gut for Quinn, because that's what she was, too), Quinn has doubled down on work, and her focus is trying to make Serena as pleasing as possible to the American public.
For everything that Serena says "no" to, Quinn doubles down, because Quinn, her heart permanently smashed, only sees love as performative. She's been the tough-as-nails chick her whole life (which is who she mostly is), and she's being outrun by younger women like Madison and Chet's new girlfriend, who are stereotypically girly and dumb themselves down intentionally to appeal to men. Though Quinn hates this type of woman, she wants Serena to be one, because she's convinced that it will make Serena attractive to the Everlasting contestants and score her a winning season.
If only it was that easy. After that disastrous poker game, where Serena heckled the losing male contestants (it was glorious), Madison (ugh), Quinn, and company (basically everyone but Rachel) convinces Serena to dumb herself down to catch the eye of the guys. It works, since two of them get in a fistfight over her. But at what cost? The Serena in the mermaid gown — boobs out, giggling over something a ham-fisted rodeo clown said — may get her man, but it's not the person that Serena really is. In the end, Owen the firefighter is all, "I liked you the way you were in the beginning," making Serena feel silly she changed herself in the first place. Serena can't win being herself, but she can't win being someone else, either, which is the ultimate dichotomy of being a woman. You can be smart, or you can be dumb, but you can't make a man feel uncomfortable.
The icing on the cake of the Mar. 5 episode is when Quinn seduces the contestant Rachel has her eye on. Is it because she wants to protect Rachel from making a mistake, or because she wants no one to be happy if she can't be happy herself? I'm willing to stage a guess that it's the former, mostly because Quinn has built her walls up so high that they're impenetrable at this point. She loves misery, and she loves its company. Quinn will continue to be the cold, hard "bitch" because it works for her. In her personal life, she's given up being what she thinks other people want her to be, because it's only given her grief. Quinn is a shining example of a woman who eschews convention — she's tough as nails, she's all about her career, and she gets what she wants. But she also still wants to direct other women to act out the exhausting performative actions that men "want" of them.
By the end of the episode, Serena knows that the sparkly dress and "rescue me" vibes she's been giving off are working, but are they attracting the right kind of man? Not really. For a moment, Serena was so afraid of being alone that she forgot herself and what she was looking for out of the whole Everlasting experience. Though I'd never condone a man telling a woman how to act, Owen's gentle reminder that he liked her before the sparkles was just the thing to snap Serena out of it. She's back in focus now, and Serena will hit the Everlasting stage even more so on her own terms.
Of course, Quinn will hate it, and Quinn will put up a fight. But on UnREAL, that's just another day of filming.