Missing White Woman Syndrome
Photo: JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX
Must we always hear the baby crying? Just an idea, but I think TV shows with babies should just use exposition; have a character walk in and say, “Finally, the baby stopped crying; he’s been screaming for hours.” We’ll get it! Also, why is Joe, supposed literary snob and intellectual, reading To Kill a Mockingbird? Joe, you aren’t in middle school. Please read a novel for adults.
As predicted, the disappearance of Natalie — a wealthy, telegenic white woman with an almighty tech god for a husband — is a major news story. As Love watches the TV vans out the window, Joe narrates, “You are worried” because, when it comes to whether to show or tell, You will always show AND tell because more is more, people! Joe reminds his wife that they did a super-great job with the cops. Love then latches onto the idea of pinning the whole thing on Matthew, which, duh! Joe clings to the moral high ground for dear life and is aghast at his wife’s “Lady Macbeth thing.” Then Love goes back to damsel mode — Joe’s favorite.
Glamma breezes in to say that she’s sure the husband did it, “You have to watch out for husbands. Ray would love to have me killed. If I didn’t kill him first.” What?? Who SAYS that? (Only someone who is foreshadowing what could/will happen to her daughter … right?) Liberated from child care, Love goes to work, where Sherry and her lackeys pop by as “concerned citizens” just doing their Search Party thing of making this disappearance all about them. Later, Sherry goes on the news and says that Love was one of the last people to see Natalie before she died. Helpful!
Meanwhile, Joe is at the library. Now, we know Joe is a sociopath, but why is Marienne such a dick to him? Shouldn’t she want people to want to volunteer at the library? Why would it be a bad thing for a young dad to take his kid there daily? Also, Marienne drops this “missing white woman syndrome” on Joe like it’s a brain-shattering revelation but doesn’t everyone know this already? I mean, I feel like we have been talking about the racist underside of our collective cultural obsession with white female crime victims at least since Gone Girl came out almost ten years ago. Her tone suggests she thinks she’s revealing something so insightful when it’s a pretty surface-level take, imo. And someone as, shall we say, personally invested in white female crime victims — not to mention controlling the narrative of their untimely demise and disposing of their beautiful bodies — Joe would be entirely up to speed on this phenomenon.
The detectives follow up about Joe and Natalie’s little “Hey neighbor, I bought you some condoms” exchange in the grocery store parking lot. Joe and Love’s pretended they barely knew Natalie, but it seems clear they should’ve just been transparent about their (extremely limited but greater than zero) above-board interactions with her from the get-go. Joe pretends that he went to the parking lot to jerk off in his car because there’s just no privacy in his house, which is, in fact, something he would do.
Theo, the suspiciously calm and cool teen who is unmoved by the sudden disappearance of his stepdad’s wife, swings by the bakery to flirt with Love. She draws a VERY hard line about Theo flirting with her, but we know she will cross said line eventually. Just as things are thawing between them, Love gets a call from Glamma: Henry is sick. It turns out he has measles. Joe tells us, via voiceover, that nothing he has ever been through in his whole life has EVER been as scary as this. To which I say: Can we make it through even 20 minutes of this show without a parenting cliché? First, we get the stunning revelation that new parents don’t sleep; then that babies cry a lot. Now the “I never knew fear until I was afraid for my baby” trope. Also, I don’t know about the rest of you, but this theoretically suspenseful twist did nothing for me because this is not the kind of show that’s going to kill off a baby. Especially not in the third episode.
Now the intriguing question becomes: Which unvaccinated person gave Henry the measles? Was Joe’s delinquent mother such an irredeemable villain that she failed to get Joe vaccinated as a child? Did Glamma neglect to inoculate her precious twins? Or — the most likely scenario — was it one of the dopey-earthy-crunchy-no-toxins-allowed Madre Linda parents? I have to say this twist is also a little annoying to me because the show acknowledges that, in this universe, COVID did happen (recall Joe’s wisecrack about Sherry throwing a party in August 2020). So it seems highly unlikely that the clique-y, judgmental parents who DO vaccinate their kids would still be socializing with any anti-vaxxers — at least not at gatherings where children can be.
In other family news, Glamma spent her money on a vineyard, so Love is on her own for the bakery. I realize we are supposed to be mad at Glamma, but Love signed a three-year lease for a space she can’t afford without even consulting whether her mom would indefinitely bankroll her. Love’s response to this is to tell her mom to get the hell out of her life. Good-bye, free child care!
Also, the bakery is in the news as “the last place Natalie was seen.” Love determines that acting normal is NOT working; time for plan B. She and Joe simultaneously decide to frame Matthew — I do think their back and forth about using the word “frame” is very funny — and Joe’s like fun fact, I did save Natalie’s bloody scarf … just as insurance!! Not for weird reasons!!! Love is too relieved to even be mad at this.
But just as Joe is gathering up Natalie’s scarf to plant evidence in Matthew’s trash, his whole body gives out. Because he ALSO has measles. I don’t know that “vivid hallucinations” are a typical side effect of the measles, but I won’t Google it because it’s a fun plot device here, and I’m choosing not to be mad about it. Hallucination Joe tells Measles Joe to throw on a hoodie and jump the fence. Measles Joe goes on a whole fever dream journey to his childhood where he is bullied, and the only person who cares for him is a cute nurse (Oh god, is she dead in a cement foundation somewhere?) and regains consciousness … on Matthew’s couch. To Matthew, asking him, “What were you doing in my backyard?”
Theo and Love bond at the hospital because he locked up the bakery for her and brought her tacos, and gave her a hug when she really needed it. Honestly, I approve of all of that even though I worry for dear Theo and anyone who meets Love and Joe. Theo will not be going back to school until things get sorted out re: Natalie being missing. But he’s having a hard time at home with his stepdad, who allegedly does not communicate. This is interesting because he’s quite the communicator with Joe! (I also laughed out loud when Joe, upon learning Matthew gave him Tylenol, is like omg, is Matthew NICE what have I DONE? I cannot frame this angel of acetaminophen for MURDER, it would be WRONG.) As Joe decides that framing Matthew is a no-go because “I’d be killing a mockingbird,” I say, aloud in my apartment, “barf.”
Joe tells Matthew he needs to talk to the press to help his image. I do not understand how a man of Matthew’s resources doesn’t have a lawyer and a crisis manager. Why are all these people winging it without counsel? There’s no way Matthew, who I take it is supposed to be if not a Bezos-level rich guy still a tech celebrity, wouldn’t have a team of attorneys at his disposal and a PR team to craft statements on his behalf.
Henry’s fever breaks. Joe and Love agree that they actually don’t want to frame their neighbor for murder. They burn the scarf together. Detectives find Natalie’s vitals ring, which Love left on a bathroom sink by the state park. At a vigil on Matthew and Natalie’s front lawn, Matthew comes outside to say he is worried, beg Natalie to come home, and ominously promise that IF somebody hurt her, he will FIND that somebody and PUNISH them. I would have advised putting his arm around Theo for the cameras, but Matthew didn’t ask me, so.
Gale, a neighborhood dad, shows up to Love’s bakery with a heart full of contrition: His twin girls had the measles. But just a very minor case they could ride out at grandma’s house. And he’s soooo sorry and hopes Love won’t hold it against them. “We just don’t believe in subjecting kids to toxic injections,” says the man who is about to take a rolling pin to the brain. I feel like he’s not dead (it would take a lot more upper-body strength plus something stronger than the rolling pin), but it would appear we have our first tenant in the plexiglass prison in the bakery basement! Do you think they’ll make him pay rent? Because Love’s financial situation is a bit dicier than she was expecting it to be.