Image: On Becoming A God In Central Florida (Showtime)
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For a moment in “A Positive Spin!,” Krystal Stubbs is poised to blow the lid off FAM. She uses her quick-thinking to thwart Cody, intent on giving a speech to the masses about how FAM ruined her life. But what would be the fun in that? Instead, Krystal turns heel and goes all-in on the FAM lie. The writing of Krystal’s arc has been smart and careful so far. She has a conscience, to be sure. She hasn’t broken bad in a way that suggests she’s selfish or reckless. Sure, she’s impulsive. But her wavering between exposing FAM and using it to work for her makes her a compelling protagonist. She has a clear point of view, but she’s also hard to predict. She surprises often, and not in a way that suggests the writers are just throwing curveballs. She’s genuinely complex, even if her motivations are quite simple: She wants to make sure she and her baby have someplace to live.

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Most of the time, Krystal is brutally honest with people, especially people like her boss Stan, who cares about little more than the waterpark and has a specific idea of what success for the park looks like (namely, more affluent clients). But she lies when she has to, and she sells a big ol’ lie by putting the titular positive spin on her husband’s death, realizing that she can actually make the horrendous $2/head rate for her water aerobics class work for her if she gets enough FAM folks to come. She’s smart, and she knows how to improvise, and these assets would both make her a brilliant FAM boss and FAM’s biggest enemy.

And the latter could prove very dangerous. We’ve seen the gradual effects FAM has on its families. Krystal keeps uncovering more and more about just how fucked her financial situation is as a direct result of Travis’ involvement in FAM. The affair fakeout works quite well, because the reality is almost tougher to swallow than her dead husband having made personal deliveries to someone he was sleeping with. Really, he was stashing away thousands of dollars worth of product that he couldn’t move, using his sweet old high school teacher to cover up his mistakes. “That’s my house out there,” Krystal remarks. (Another thing she decides to lie about for self-preservation is the fact that her house is in foreclosure, telling her friends that she’s just doing renovations.)

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But “A Positive Spin!” ramps up the evilness of FAM. We’re introduced to a new character who claims the company disappeared his family. And when he threatens to blow the whistle on the operation—not unlike Krystal was planning to do—a faceless barefooted henchman shows up to burn down his houseboat. If Krystal decides to take down FAM, even from the inside, it’s going to get very messy and very dangerous. A lot of the progression in “A Positive Spin!” (an ironic and funny title given the way this episode fleshes out the horrors of FAM) feeds into the Breaking Bad comparison I made last week. Krystal isn’t immersing herself in a drug ring, but she’s still unknowingly heading into some very dark waters where arson and murder certainly aren’t off the table. This community has been taken over by a dark force, one that exploits both dreamers like Travis and also people just trying to survive like Krystal.

“A Positive Spin!” also has the first hints of a backstory for Cody, whose father is in prison but won’t see him. As far as plot goes, that’s about all we know right now. But character-wise, these couple of scenes do a lot to develop Cody. He clearly has a fraught relationship with his father, one that stirs a lot of emotions. Cody is squirrelly most of the time, but he’s also prone to violent outbursts and has had one in just about every episode. Here, his method of calming himself down ends up being listening to one of the Garbeau tapes. We get a little bit of insight into what maybe drew Cody to FAM in the first place, Garbeau becoming a surrogate father figure. The tapes work as an excellent framing device in the episode, with Garbeau literally preaching to his disciples that they should never say no. It’s a message disguised to be inspiring, but in actuality, he’s just tightening the grip on these people. The episode raises the stakes of the pyramid scheme sharply.

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Stray observations

  • The stuff between Ernie and his son is interesting, but I hope we dig deeper.
  • Interested to see where the reporter subplot goes! It definitely adds some tension/stakes to the storyline to have another potential player in the game exposing the secrets of FAM.
  • Other than Ernie (so far), the men on this show are so skeezy.
  • I’m a huge fan of the 90s-specific style choices, particularly Krystal’s hair clips.

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