Before I begin talking about the most important episode of Spinning Out yet this season, I want to preface this review by asking you to go tell anyone and everyone about this show.
For anyone that loved The Cutting Edge, Friday Night Lights, Make It Or Break It, Bring It On or any other sports television show or movie, this show belongs in that elite company. While at first glance this looks like a modernized and television-molded version of The Cutting Edge, it’s so much more than just a figure skating show.
This is a show that deals with figure skating, yes, but also with the very real people that exist in this world. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows as some might appear to be. It’s honest, it’s harsh but most importantly, it’s real. And it doesn’t apologize for it.
Let’s break down the eighth episode of Spinning Out: “Hell Is Real.”
Kat’s breaking point
I’m not going to pretend that I have any idea what Kat is going through in the course of this episode and the ones to preceded it. But I’ve appreciated the education that Spinning Out has delivered in terms of mental health and bipolar disorder specifically. Because I don’t know what it’s like, and many others don’t, as well.
The term “bipolar” is using associated with the word “crazy,” which is — no pun intended — crazy. If you pay attention to this show, you’ll see it. Being bipolar doesn’t make you crazy. It’s something that you have to live with, something you have to learn to deal with and something you can’t ignore — for your own sake.
The moment Kat decided to go off her meds was leading to the breaking point she experienced in this episode. And it was as scary as I imagined. Because we all knew it was coming. But watching it come to fruition — watching her experience a manic episode — it was quite difficult to watch.
While weaning herself off her meds allowed Kat to skate without fear — without hesitation — it also lowered her inhibitions, specifically with her own mind. And the consequences that ensue are going to be just as heartbreaking.
Jen’s new normal
What if the very thing you lived for was suddenly taken away from you? That’s what Jen learned following her fall in her long program, which broke her femur and left her sobbing in pain on the ice.
Jen is someone that believes that everything will eventually work out. To a dangerous point where she doesn’t recognize real dangers and potential consequences. Looking back earlier in the series when she first learned that her hip injury could be serious if not treated properly, she didn’t take it seriously. She never actually believed something bad could happen.
Flash forward to the present, where overly-optimistic Jen is ready to cut right to the chase — how long until she can skate again? While the doctor assures her that she’s been recovering well, the prognosis isn’t what she was expecting. With physical therapy, the doctor believes Jen will be able to walk without a limp. But she won’t have range of motion, which means that it’s most likely she won’t skate again.
While it wasn’t entirely ruled out that Jen would never skate again, this episode was about her learning to deal with a new normal. A normal she didn’t plan on. A normal that doesn’t involve skating. What does that look like? How does she learn to keep living without the very thing that gave her a purpose?
Thanks to a conversation with the ever-so-wise Dasha, everyone can have a new chapter. And it’s about how Jen chooses to write her’s.
Mandy’s scare & Carol’s comfort
Mandy unexpectedly became one of my favorite characters on this show. She could’ve been the prototypical too-young Stepford wife that’s more puppet than person. But instead, she’s a strong, independent and successful woman who doesn’t hesitate to stand up for those she cares about. And she does it without expecting something in return.
So when the time comes when Mandy needs someone, she finds that person in Carol. Carol, the one we’ve seen puts herself first. But not this Carol. Not this new Carol. She’s determined to rewrite her life the way she wants to, now that she’s back on her meds. And she’s found a real friend in Mandy, who suddenly finds herself in the hospital 12 weeks before her daughter is due.
It’s a stressful situation in a stressful environment, and Carol manages to make it as comfortable as she possibly can for Mandy. Whether it’s antagonizing a nurse to get Mandy some apple juice or singing a ballad-version of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” to calm Mandy’s racing heart. Carol was there for Mandy in her time of need.
And for Mandy, who has already had several miscarriages and given up her only child at 15, she’s terrified of history repeating itself. But it doesn’t. Her daughter is alive, although premature. She still has a long road ahead of her. But if she’s anything like her mom, she’s a fighter.
They say the people that appear the happiest on the outside are sometimes some of the loneliest on the inside. It might’ve taken a few episodes, but this is something we’ve learned about Serena. While she shines in the spotlight on the ice — in her mom’s eyes, her sister’s eyes and her coach’s eyes — she’s actually someone that craves to be loved. For real.
Serena’s loneliness hits a new low in this episode, as everyone around her is preoccupied by something major going on in their lives. Kat is spiraling off her meds, Carol is helping Mandy through a difficult time and Serena’s father has decided that he’s not staying in town — not with a new opportunity at hand.
You know that feeling like everyone around you is distracted with something and you’re standing there in front of them just begging to notice you? That’s where Serena at this point, and we see that it’s leading her to make some rash decisions.
I love how Spinning Out doesn’t ignore the harsh realities people face in society, especially today. And unfortunately, racism is still something that exists in 20-freaking-20. We’re gotten bits of how Marcus has struggled with being a black man in Idaho — an old white woman trying to set him up for theft, the chuckles of him being a skier because of his skin color.
But this was the episode where we got some backstory of the struggles Marcus and his family have gone through dealing with racism. Through flashbacks, we see that his father was harassed by a police officer for just standing outside his home. But apparently the home was too nice — too nice for a black man to own, according to this cop that proceeded to arrest him for doing nothing but trying to explain himself.
That’s why Marcus is hesitant about going public — about having a feature done on him as one of the few black skiers. He’s guarded, and for good reason. For most of this series, Marcus has been closed off. I’ve wanted to know more, because his actions were confusing without context. This was the first time where I felt like I actually got to know Marcus. And it wasn’t because he said anything — it was because we got to see into his past. More of that, please.
Words cannot describe how much of a relief it was to see that Dasha was fine following her eye surgery. She was practically her old self — minus the fact she still couldn’t drive yet. But from the outset, you could tell she had a purpose — a purpose set forth from the experience she just went through.
Dasha entered her surgery aware that she might never see again. But it was the thought of not being able to see her Tatiana again — even though she’s been lost to her for 40 years. It was a reality she had to come to grips with. But it was also something that refocused her in her recovery process.
Dasha ordered a computer from a poor delivery man that was sucked into helping her set it up and assist her with some household chores. But the reason Dasha bought the computer was to find Tatiana. Being faced with the possibility of never seeing again drove Dasha to seek out Tatiana — wherever she may be. Now, it was only the beginning of this story, but if I know Dasha, she won’t stop until she’s found Tatiana — or at least done all she can do.