New Person, Same Old Mistakes


Surface

New Person, Same Old Mistakes

Season 1

Episode 3

Editor’s Rating

3 stars

Photo: Apple TV

Cue up that “aw shit, here we go again” meme because Sophie and Baden are headed down a familiar path for a second time. Seeing as how their first attempt at an affair ended with Sophie in a coma and Baden sending frantic texts to her burner phone, it doesn’t seem like this will end well.

Despite the fact that Surface seems to be shying away from entering true erotic noir territory (the camera keeps abruptly cutting whenever there’s even a hint of sex on screen), there’s something quite compelling about Baden and Sophie’s connection. Actors Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Stephan James have an on-screen chemistry that entices and excites. While the dialogue between the characters is (thus far) somewhat lacking in depth and urgency, there’s a magnetic connection between the two that can’t be denied. So, it’s no surprise that the two soon fall back into old habits and start hooking up, even though it puts them both in very real danger.

The crux of this episode turns on the relationship between Baden and Sophie. As Sophie digs for more information, we get a short flashback of the moment they met outside the Lennox House. Sophie is dressed in a frilly pink dress that James most definitely selected, and Baden is lingering under an awning in his typical all-black ensemble.

Sophie can’t remember the encounter, so the flashback is driven by Baden’s memory of the moment. He recalls that she seemed agitated, and then she invited him for a drink at her favorite bar of hers. Baden’s recollection doesn’t feel like it totally hangs together as a cohesive story — Sophie’s invitation to a total stranger (no matter how hot) in full view of her husband and his work colleagues is incredibly impulsive — and it somehow feels like he’s leaving out something crucial.

There are a few snags in their meeting, though. When Sophie goes to look for Baden at an SFPD precinct, she’s told he doesn’t work there. But then Baden immediately clears this up by telling her he’s an undercover narcotics officer. Um, okay. Later, Baden’s superior tells him that he’ll have to pull him from his post if he does n’t end his relationship with Sophie because it’s putting him — and his work from him — at risk, but Baden does n’t seem too concerned.

The Baden misunderstanding is just one of a few red herrings in the narrative thus far. This episode also sees Caroline finding Sophie to explain her shady phone call from the previous episode. Apparently, before Sophie’s accident, Caroline and James hooked up at some point, and Sophie stopped speaking to her friend for months. However, on the day of the accident, Sophie reached out and left a message for Caroline. The message reveals that James was at the pier with Sophie that day and not in Portland, as he claimed. Baden also revealed that he has information from James’s GPS showing that his car was a half mile away from the pier that day, so James’s alibi is completely shattered at this point.

In her message, Sophie also says that she feels like she’s going crazy and that she needs Caroline’s help. These are very vague statements, but it feels important that she was in a state of confusion and distress even before she got on the boat. Also, why was she getting on a ferry at all? Where was it even going? TBD, I guess.

Thus far, Sophie has been defined by the three significant relationships in her life: Baden, Caroline, and James. James continues to be the worst when it comes to her controlling attitude and her boundary crossing. He brings Sophie a glass of wine in the bath when she clearly tells him not to, and then he picks up her phone from her when she tells him not to. He’s also been hiding the particulars of the big investigation at his workplace de ella from her de ella. It seems fully like the show is setting up James for a big embezzlement plotline, but I don’t think he stole the money. Instead, I have a theory.

What if Sophie stole the money?

It’s way too early in the season for a simple embezzlement plot to be the culprit for all this madness. Facts. In addition, the portrait that’s being painted of pre-accident Sophie is colored with ruthlessness and impulsivity. So…what if she’s responsible? And someone tried to snuff her out of her so they could nab the cash and run?

Or maybe not. This show is starting to get very fun to theorize about because literally anything is possible.

It does appear as if James is about to be in big trouble for something. Throughout the episode, he becomes more and more frazzled about the investigation at work, and we find out that he’s financially stretched thin in his personal life. James fields a call from someone at a bank turning him down for a loan because he’s already got second mortgages on both of his houses. And his friend Harrison (François Arnaud) is starting to get suspicious.

Let’s take a brief detour to talk about Harrison. He’s been on the periphery since the beginning, and he’s got a slimy frat bro air about him. The guy wears a double hoodie to an important meeting about potential embezzlement at his firm, so he’s clearly not a dude who cares much about maintaining professionalism. He’s also consistently trash-talking Sophie, which leads me to believe that he knows a lot more than we know at this point. I mean, all of the characters do — except Sophie — but Harrison seems to have information that James might not even be private to. Maybe I pushed Sophie off the boat? Everyone’s a suspect!

Harrison gamely tries to keep James together as he begins to rely more and more on booze to get him through his days. James may not have stolen the money from his firm, but he’s in deep financial trouble due to some sort of scheme or overreach.

Despite being on the brink of total financial collapse, James gamely heads out to a mixer at the Lennox Club, thanks to Sophie’s urging. Once they get in the door, Sophie reconnects with Elliot (Markian Tarasiuk), an energetic guy who seems to be very excited to see his old friend of him. Naturally, Sophie doesn’t remember him, but she does realize that Elliot might be the type of guy who will dish some dirt with her. Thinking that Sophie knows about the investigation, Elliot starts chatting with her about it, and Sophie shrewdly plays along, learning that the culprit could go to jail for a very long time.

Sophie doesn’t really get an opportunity to learn any more information because Baden barges in and demands that Sophie hand over the voicemail recording from the day of the accident. She’s horrified that Baden would be so careless, and she also wants to learn more on her own from her, so she says no. She’s trying to get him the hell out of the club when James sidles up to the bar. Gasp!

But it turns out that James either has no idea who Baden is, or he’s too drunk to notice. Baden passes himself off as a guy named John Carillo from a firm called Cyprus, and James buys it.

The conclusion of the episode sees Sophie visiting Baden after hours and demanding answers. Baden throws down a gauntlet, asking whether she trusts him or her husband de ella. Sophie launches herself into her arms de ella because, of course, she does, but we know that this love triangle is doomed to fail on all sides. It’s becoming clear that Sophie is not the damsel in distress that either of these men might want her to be her and that she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

• I love that pre-accident, Sophie hid both her burner phone and the charger in the same place. Smart and practical. I can barely find the charger for my actual cell phone at the end of the day, so I give her many props for her foresight and organizational skills from her.

• It’s also interesting to note that once Sophie unearths the burner from a fringed, velveteen yellow purse, she starts to carry it around everywhere like some sort of talisman. It’s not the cutest bag (sorry, not sorry), so it’s got to feel like an important link to her past somehow. What else might she have hidden in her cavernous closet?

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