“I’m going to have to ask you to leave if these conditions don’t improve,” Alan tells Camille in tonight’s Sharp Objects, accusing her—in a classic bit of Crellin gaslighting—of making her mother ill. The immediate, glaring question here is why on earth Camille doesn’t take the cue and get herself out of this house. Instead, she calmly says she’ll be leaving “as soon as she can,” as though she doesn’t have the ability to go and stay in a motel, or with Richard, or with Jackie, or with literally anybody who isn’t hellbent on destroying her.
Alan is subtly using Camille’s mental illness against her in this nasty little scene, telling her that she’s jealous of other people’s “wellbeing” and reflecting on how much Camille is like her grandmother, who pinched Adora in her sleep because she “just liked to hurt people.” Conflating Camille’s lack of wellbeing with a desire to hurt people is ignorant; as a psychiatrist from the hospital where Camille was treated tells Richard, most patients with mental illness are a danger to themselves, not others. Yet Adora and Alan try to convince Camille that she’s the one hurting people, that she’s the one who’s bad, that she’s the poison.
Camille may have stopped cutting herself, with the exception of that needle at the end of Episode 2, but she’s throwing herself deliberately into harm’s way by refusing to leave her mother’s house. By the time a hallucinated Marian whispers “It’s not safe for you here,” in the chilling final second of this episode, you’re likely to have been screaming the same sentence at your TV for some time.
So why does Camille stay? Maybe because this house is so saturated with memories of her unresolved past. Walking around, she sees glimpses of her adolescent self as though a part of her is trapped in this place. By steeping herself in the settings of her past trauma, maybe she hopes to finally find some closure, except that closure doesn’t seem like a thing people find in Wind Gap.
A reluctant part of Camille’s personal nostalgia tour in this episode: attending that “Pity Party”at Katie Lacey’s house, wherein the former cheerleading squad all gets together to watch Beaches and performatively weep first over the movie, and then over their pampered domestic lives. It’s pure hell with a cheeseboard. Only Eileen (Barbara Eve Harris) throws Camille a lifeline, drily telling her “this shit happens every week” and acting as silent support while the rest of the women take it upon themselves to tell Camille how empty her life is because she doesn’t have children. And that’s all before Camille runs into Katie’s husband, who turns out to be one of the football players who was there “that day in the woods” when it was Camille’s turn in the End Zone. He’s been feeling bad about what they did to her, he says, clearly wanting absolution—he has daughters now, see, and so he has suddenly developed the ability to see women as human. Camille brushes him off, just as she brushed off Richard when he called this incident a rape. “Just forget about it, all right? I have.”
“It’s closing in on you, huh?” Curry’s extremely insightful wife asks Camille, and that line becomes more and more resonant later in the episode when Camille ends up at her second party of the night. Amma finally gets her wish to party with Camille, passing her first an Oxy and later a tablet of ecstasy, mouth to mouth, creating a fuzzy warm glow of sisterly intimacy. They don’t stay at the party long. Instead, they rollerskate together through the empty streets of Wind Gap, the party music, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” interweaving with another track, “Ghost” by The Acid, the band which has featured most heavily in the show so far. It’s blissful, exhilarating, until it’s not.
Jump scares abound in the final act of “Cherry,” from Amma and her friend slamming suddenly into the gas station window to Camille glimpsing a bloodied Marian in place of Amma as they spin together on the lawn. It’s truly scary, creating a creeping sense that something is deeply wrong in the Crellin house, something even worse than the rampant emotional abuse—maybe something that’s hinted at when Alan tells Adora she’s “always been better at handling the girls.” And suddenly Amma’s clinginess with Camille, her wild swings in mood and emotional outbursts, take on a different tone. Is this a girl who knows that she’s in danger? When Amma asks Camille to take her back to St. Louis, is she asking to be rescued? Adora would not allow an autopsy to be performed on Marian, Richard learns, and hours later Amma asks Camille, “Do you ever feel like bad things are gonna happen to you? Can’t do anything… you just have to wait.” Camille and Amma should have rollerskated all the way out of town when they had the chance.
If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm or substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
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