The Rehearsal

The Fielder Technique

Season 1

Episode 4

Editor’s Ranking

4 stars

The Rehearsal

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The Fielder Technique

Season 1

Episode 4

Editor’s Ranking

4 stars

Picture: Allyson Riggs/HBO

The opening second of “The Fielder Technique” is a humorous one — quietly so. As Angela stirs a pot of noodles within the kitchen, she asks Nathan whether or not he likes spaghetti. Then, after a pause: “If you have been younger, did you ever hate certainly one of your mother and father?” As she explains how her anger at her father drove her to drink and use medication as a teen, Fielder conveys a convincing diploma of shock. “You probably did acid?” he asks, abandoning his customary flat tone. “You probably did cocaine?”

It’s a superbly elegant overture to The Rehearsal’s most intense episode, subtly calibrating our expectations for what’s to return. However we’ll get again to all that. For now, the opening scene dissolves out of our minds as Fielder leaves Oregon for a visit to Los Angeles to begin a college to coach actors within the exacting, exhaustive method his rehearsals demand. The outside has an indication for the college’s title and a outstanding HBO brand.

Throughout the first-class, Fielder explains the stakes of his work to a room stuffed with attentive actors. As he screens some footage of Kor’s rehearsal for the group, a pupil factors out that they’ll must observe their topics secretly. Just a few individuals agree: the phrase “stalking” ripples via the room, together with scattered, uncomfortable laughter. “Sure, sure!” Fielder says, smiling and nodding. “You guys are getting forward of this, good!” On the finish of the category, he provides the actors their first task. They’re to observe a stranger, observe them, collect as a lot private details about them as potential, after which come again tomorrow dressed like them. The group appears uneasy, but when anybody has a robust objection, they don’t voice it in entrance of the cameras.

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That is the place the episode takes a flip as Fielder meticulously reproduces (not technically a rehearsal, because it’s already occurred) the real-life scene of the category he simply taught. This time, nevertheless, Fielder has been changed by a Pretend Nathan, whereas the actual Fielder performs the position of certainly one of his college students. From this new perspective, Fielder watches himself instructing and concludes that his technique is sensible even when the chairs needs to be organized in a different way.

The scholars arrive in costume for the second day of the Actual class and (sitting in a circle this time) share the lengths they went to analysis their primaries, together with watching them at work and stalking them on social media. Fielder praises their diligent work, appearing way more expressive and enthusiastic along with his new college students than we’ve seen him all collection. His new have an effect on has an eerie edge; to the actors, Fielder in all probability simply looks like a devoted instructor, however as viewers, we all know it’s a selection and presumably a manipulative one. And it really works: his college students get more and more snug as they focus on how they have been capable of coax out private data from the strangers Fielder refers to as their “primaries.” It’s unsettling to see how simply this transition occurs; yesterday, everybody was creeped out by the Fielder Technique, however at present they’re vocal and enthusiastic, applauding one another for the dangers they’ve taken. You may’t assist however consider how individuals get inducted into cults or entwined in abusive relationships, and even how we, as viewers, have turn into acclimated to the logic of this present.

This pattern grows extra intense as Fielder locations his college students in actual jobs. Fielder continues his personal class simulation as his real-life pupil Thomas. In the actual lessons, Thomas remains to be probably the most vocally uncomfortable with the Fielder Technique. Fielder pulls him apart to ask about his reluctance. “I don’t like mendacity to individuals,” Thomas says, his discomfort clearly conflicting with the nagging intuition that he’s being requested to do one thing fucked up. “Yeah, neither do I,” Fielder says defensively.

To raised perceive Thomas’s discomfort, Fielder relives the primary day of sophistication as him once more. This time, he begins to “discover” one thing new. As the category progresses, he articulates his finest guess at Thomas’s internal monologue in a voice-over. He’s excited concerning the appearing alternative the Fielder Technique gives however confused and unsettled by its premise. Nonetheless, he’s reluctant to talk up or ask questions for worry of offending Nathan or jeopardizing a possible job.

And right here, Fielder reveals a brand new scene: what occurs after the scholars depart the category. A faux manufacturing assistant tells Nathan-Thomas he must signal an look launch to be on the present. As he stares down on the launch type, Nathan-Thomas’s voice-over questions the contents of the discharge and hesitates to signal it. He notices everybody else signing, and when the assistant reassures him, “it’s all customary,” he provides in to the stress and indicators.

Right here, The Rehearsal explicitly invitations us to contemplate the mechanics of consent — one of the mentioned and debated elements of Fielder’s work since his Nathan for You days. When watching a Fielder present, you’ll be able to’t assist however surprise how a lot his topics find out about what’s happening and why they comply with look so awkward and uncomfortable on tv (even when Fielder maintains and his stans assert that it’s Nathan who’s the butt of the joke). On this scene, Fielder offers a potential reply to those questions by displaying us how his topics succumb to the highly effective mixture of peer stress, HBO’s legitimacy, the digital camera’s mesmerizing gaze, and Fielder’s affect as director, producer, tv star, and potential employer.

“Reliving the day as Thomas made me understand there was an entire different layer of his expertise I hadn’t thought-about,” Fielder says. For one gullible millisecond, I felt aid, like once you let loose a breath you didn’t understand you have been holding. I puzzled if possibly the strain of this entire train was going to interrupt, just like the present’s relentless self-reflexive spiral was going to sluggish or nonetheless or reverse its course. However in fact it doesn’t. “I started to surprise if I used to be going far sufficient,” Fielder says. The conclusion is as darkly humorous as it’s unsurprising. Fielder’s work has every little thing to do with understanding individuals’s discomfort and nothing to do with assuaging it.

Fielder brings his college students deeper down the rabbit gap with him till the actual Thomas is working at an acai bowl place along with his main, and Nathan-Thomas is working at a special department of the identical franchise and residing in the actual Thomas’s condo (seemingly with out his information or consent). By the point the Fielder Technique lessons finish, the train has gone about so far as it may well, legally and bodily. The scholars maintain a last showcase, and Fielder provides all of them diplomas earlier than heading again to Oregon.

Are you able to imagine this episode is just half an hour lengthy? The final ten minutes are their very own fully separate, if thematically linked, wild trip. Within the sped-up timeline of Angela’s rehearsal, Fielder has been gone for a full 9 years. His son is now a youngster, asking for a hug when he comes via the entrance door. After a pleasing dinner with this teen-Adam and Angela (who screened his calls whereas he was in L.A.), Fielder takes Adam apart and, asking whether or not he can communicate to him out of character, requests they fight the scene of him coming dwelling once more with a bit extra resentment from Adam, who would in all probability be fairly upset in his actual dad’s lengthy absence. Fielder encourages Josh to make use of a good friend’s expertise with having an absent father as inspiration. Josh takes the word, rising to the problem simply as enthusiastically as Fielder’s college students again in L.A.

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That is the place issues start to spiral out. Over the subsequent few days, Josh/Adam begins rebelling towards Nathan and Angela, starting to drink and use medication in an uncanny parallel to Angela’s story about her previous from the episode’s first scene. For her half, Angela is probably the most animated we’ve seen her in a while when she pleads with Adam to not make the identical errors she did when she was a youngster. The entire dialog goes so badly that later, Fielder visits her room and asks if she could be snug resetting the train, bringing Adam again to age six so he will be current for his childhood this time. Her guarded, inscrutable tone when she says he ought to do “no matter [he] suppose[s] is required for the present” recollects her settlement to let Fielder be a part of her entire rehearsal within the first place.

The ultimate sequence of the episode is unsettling and scary and unusual, then humorous, then melancholy, then humorous once more. Fielder and Josh act out a dramatic scene the place Adam overdoses on opioids in his room. In an Oscar-bait efficiency, Fielder breaks down the door and holds Adam’s head, screaming for Angela. “I don’t know what’s occurring, I don’t know what’s occurring to him,” he wails as she appears to be like on in shock. We do not know how a lot warning Angela was given for this scene; we don’t know whether or not the look on her face is real or how all of this feels for her, given her private historical past.

The primary time I watched this scene, I felt queasy and disturbed, my consideration clouded by these questions till the tip credit. The second time, I felt that approach till the paramedics got here, when my discomfort was interrupted by the conclusion that the paramedics have been being performed by Thomas and one other of the scholars from Fielder’s class (!). By the point Adam jumped up from the stretcher and fled the scene, I didn’t really feel disturbed, simply disoriented.

The episode’s last scene takes us, once more, via a spread of emotional textures in jarringly speedy succession: the dramatic melancholy of Nathan gazing up at his wayward son, the tacky but someway impactful second the place Adam comes down the slide as his six-year-old self, after which the genuinely hilarious picture of Josh clambering again out of the slide as soon as the trick’s been achieved. It’s a head-spinning ending whose layers of seemingly conflicting emotion refuse to resolve right into a single which means. Is that this present a comedy anymore? Or is it one thing else solely? By refusing to scale back its many worlds to only one factor, Fielder resists handing us a simple conclusion. For all its refracted realities, the present is someway changing into extra like actual life in a minimum of one important respect: nothing is ever only one approach.

• Keep in mind “People who smoke Allowed”? It’s my favourite episode of Nathan For You, but additionally possibly of all TV. For those who haven’t seen it or don’t keep in mind it very properly, I extremely suggest a rewatch; it’s this episode’s non secular and structural blueprint.

• The character of this episode’s content material makes you further grateful for its goofiest throwaway jokes, like Fielder’s black-and-white rest room or the shot of the Elevating Cane’s cashier thoughtfully typing gibberish into her POS. Even the extra darkly humorous moments like Fielder whipping Thomas’s nunchucks round his condo or the transient glimpse of Angela absentmindedly dancing earlier than she runs downstairs are elegantly distributed.

• It’s humorous and deeply sympathetic to observe Josh, who’s clearly been directed by no means to interrupt character, battle to reply the straightforward query of what his title is. If you’re so deep within the simulation, it’s arduous to know!

• Appearing examine! I believed the man taking part in Nathan within the faux lessons did an awesome job with an extremely tough position. All the opposite faux college students have been actually bringing their A-game, and the real-life class’s last showcase was genuinely spectacular to me. Additionally, Josh appeared dedicated to his position as a troubled teen, and I cherished his guitar work. Nice hustle throughout, IMO.

• There’s an entire different essay to be written about Fielder’s foray into Thomas’s condo — the horror-movie music as he approaches the bed room, the nest of stuffed animals, the poster — however I actually really feel bizarre commenting on this man’s place given the way in which Fielder gained entry to it. I actually, actually hope that watching this episode wasn’t the primary time he came upon about Fielder sporting his garments and moving into his mattress.

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• Nevertheless, Nathan in all probability didn’t truly “reside” in Thomas’s condo. Proper? Proper???

The Rehearsal Recap: I Don’t Wish to Mendacity to Folks