‘The Idol’ Season 1, Episode 3 Recap: Tedros Has Notes

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In her 2022 memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” the actress Jennette McCurdy wrote candidly about her troubled relationship with her nightmare of a stage mother, who wielded power over every aspect of her life and career. Talking to The New York Times, McCurdy explained the somewhat shocking title she chose for her book, saying, “I feel like I’ve done the processing and put in the work to earn a title or a thought that feels provocative.”

“The Idol” may not have taken inspiration directly from McCurdy’s story, but the parallels are evident as we are offered more details about Jocelyn’s past in the most recent installment. Like McCurdy, Jocelyn was a child star whose mother abused her. Like McCurdy, Jocelyn also lost that mom to cancer.

But instead of offering a nuanced look at an upsetting and complicated parental relationship, where love intermingled with pain, this week’s episode of “The Idol” uses the revelation of what happened to Jocelyn in her childhood to push her deeper into a new abusive relationship: The one she is entangled in with Tedros. It goes for provocation, yes, but it hasn’t done the work to earn it.

Tedros has now fully taken hold of Jocelyn. He has moved in and is micromanaging every aspect of her life. He wakes her up and demands they go shopping, telling her she doesn’t have any taste as they try on clothes in a Beverly Hills Valentino store. He threatens to “curb stomp” an employee there whom he perceives to be looking at Jocelyn. Back at home, Tedros makes Jocelyn fire her personal chef, who flirts with her after asking how her probiotic diet is working.

His entire entourage has also taken up residence in Jocelyn’s mansion. So it’s not only Tedros who is pushing his ideology onto Jocelyn but also his followers, who preach his ideas that good art comes out of pain. They espouse the idea that one is not allowed to say “no” to anything because every experience, even a bad one, could yield a great song. This results in an insipid discussion in which Chloe and Izaak argue that the death of Robert Plant’s son was necessary because it led him to write Led Zeppelin’s “All My Love.”

No one can deny that wonderful art has come out of terrible events, but Tedros’s group believes in an extreme version of that where the art is worth any suffering. They argue that the death of one person may have saved the lives of many more because of the beauty of the song that came from it. The exploitation they are engaging in is obvious. Even the sweet-seeming Chloe pushes Jocelyn to evoke her mother in her music — and this is before Chloe learns the full extent of what Jocelyn’s mom did.

Those details emerge during a dinner party, which opens with Jocelyn sweetly thanking those gathered for being there, but devolves into an awkward scene in which Tedros, whom she thanks for teaching her “how to have fun again,” pressures her into divulging her secrets. And that’s after he pushes Xander to share his idea for using the semen-face selfie as an album cover — an image that prompted internet discussions she found humiliating, as she ultimately admits.

After berating her that “you make superficial music because you think about superficial things,” Tedros pushes Jocelyn to tell everyone just how her mother hurt her. Jocelyn solemnly describes how her mom used to beat her with a hairbrush, careful to hit her only in places where the camera wouldn’t see. It was a tool of motivation — Jocelyn’s mother used the hairbrush to keep her awake, or to make her learn her lines or dance moves. It was also a tool for control, emerging when Jocelyn was caught smiling to herself. Her mother sometimes hit her hard enough to break skin.

Tedros feigns sympathy but also immediately identifies another way to control Jocelyn. He asks her if she misses the “motivation” being hit gave her. She replies, “Sometimes.” He has a retort at the ready: “If you loved the music you were making, would you have felt like it was worth it?” With tears streaming down her face she says, “yes.” He commands her to go get the hair brush.

The episode ends with Jocelyn, on all fours, being beaten by Tedros as his followers watch. The shots of her face as he brutally hits her with the hairbrush are interspersed with images of him bathing her. During what appears to be a scene set the next morning, she looks up at him and says, “Thank you for taking care of me.” Then the credits roll.

What we are witnessing is obviously the start of an abusive relationship, and yet this show can’t resist titillation. In this finale sequence, Jocelyn is clothed in a see-through lace dress where her thong is visible. The bits in the bathtub are peppered with the nudity that is de rigueur by now. “The Idol” is itself a little bit like Tedros. It is sympathetic to Jocelyn up until a point.

Mostly, however, it just wants to use whatever pathos it occasionally generates in service of what it considers entertainment. Jocelyn’s lingering need for her mom, despite the long history of abuse, is worth exploring. It’s not explored here. Instead, Tedros takes over and uses it for his benefit.

Liner notes:

  • It’s so distracting to have The Weeknd singing over various scenes. I get that Tesfaye wants to make music for the show, but it is odd to hear his voice in that context when he’s also playing Tedros.

  • Is there some kind of award we can give Rachel Sennott for Leia’s disgusted face?

  • We see a glimpse of Jennie as Dyanne performing in the music video that was supposed to be Jocelyn’s. Is “World Class Sinner” her song now?

  • I feel like there is a real misread of present day pop music dynamics going on here. The genre is more confessional than ever, and the reigning queens of the industry, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, have both used personal experiences in their music to great effect. It’s hard to imagine that record execs would be opposed to letting Jocelyn mine her sadness for her songs, or that Jocelyn would assume that fans wouldn’t find anything relatable about her life.

  • If you want a show that (hilariously) addresses how the pop industry actually sees a star’s mental health crisis as a marketing tool, may I recommend “The Other Two” on Max?

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