In episode 4 of Inventing Anna, Anna’s persona is pretty well polished – though it needs one final scrub to make it pass muster on Wall Street. She knows what she wants, and she’s willing to be as ruthless as necessary to get it. But as fascinating as it is to watch her con go down, watching this episode made me more than intrigued. It made me angry.
In the (truly excellent) novel The Princess Bride by William Goldman, he recounts author Edith Neisser telling him, “Life isn’t fair, Bill. We tell our children that it is, but it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s not only a lie, it’s a cruel lie. Life is not fair, and it never has been, and it’s never going to be.” As adults, we know it’s true. When the Lori Loughlin/Felicity Huffman scandal broke in 2020, people weren’t really surprised to hear that admissions officers at Ivy League schools were willing to let unqualified students in for a price. Legacy students are a thing, after all. People were just surprised to find that anyone was willing to act like this knowledge was a surprise at all. And that anyone in a position of power was willing to do anything about it.
What does this have to do with Anna Delvey’s story? In the previous episode, it was made clear that getting everything in life is less about what you do and what you know. It’s about who you know. It’s about shaking the right hands and dropping the right names. All it takes is knowing one person – the right person – for the whole world to open up to you. Which is really depressing for those who have everything they need except for that introduction.
Enter Alan Reed
When it comes to knowing the right people, Anna hits the motherlode in Alan Reed (played by Anthony Edwards). He’s not just able to introduce her to the right people. She’s after $40 million, and he’s able to get her escorted into the bank vault. Must be nice to have those kinds of friends.
“Rich people don’t risk their own money,” as one Wall Street insider tells Vivian. Which again shows you what a different world the 1% occupy, because the other 99% don’t usually have any other choice. But for the richest of the rich, the old saying that “you need money to make money” isn’t entirely true. You don’t need your own money. You just need a seat at the table.
And Anna knows how to set the table. Well enough to convince Reed to fall for her act when he should have known better. He doesn’t even verify her assets beyond a voice on the other end of the line (which he also doesn’t verity) before putting his own reputation on the line for her. Which is just mind-boggling, when you think about it. In a world where knowing the right people is vital, being one of those people is everything. But being that person requires a certain level of reputation. And Reed throws it away for Anna. Why? Because she wines and dines him? Surely he’d been wined and dined before.
Playing the Players
It all comes down to knowing how to play people. Reed throws his reputation away for Anna because she knows how to play him. It’s not about sex for him (though it so often seems to be in this world). It’s about family, about making him see something of his daughter in her. Or who he would want his daughter to be. It’s about money. It’s about power. And it’s about being at the top.
Knowing people is how Anna takes her scam from upper-crust couch surfing to grifting four hundred thousand dollars. It’s what takes her from four hundred thousand to to forty million. (And you know she has no intention of stopping there.) It’s how she manages to steal a plane – because she acts the part of ditzy rich girl well. (Once again, they say you have to spend money to make money, bu the super rich are notorious for not spending money at all. Not when they don’t have to, and not without pulling some teeth to get it.)
And in the end, she’s right about Reed. As a rich, white man, he fails upwards. His humiliation doesn’t get him fired. It gets him promoted. A multi-million salary each year. But it costs him his reputation, and when reputation gets you everything in this world, you lose everything with the loss of your reputation. At the very least, you lose your spot at the table. And, as Anna’s story shows, that is everything.
Inventing Anna is streaming now on Netflix.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below!