‘The Curse’ Plays a Game of Chicken With a Pile of Chicken

Finally, The Curse has answered my important question from last week: “Is the show called Flipanthropy or Fliplanthropy?! In a preview of Asher (Nathan Fielder) and Whitney’s (Emma Stone) HGTV show, the title card rolls: Fliplanthropy. Let this serve as a correction for all of our previous mentions of Flipanthropy. The press notes provided to

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Finally, The Curse has answered my important question from last week: “Is the show called Flipanthropy or Fliplanthropy?! In a preview of Asher (Nathan Fielder) and Whitney’s (Emma Stone) HGTV show, the title card rolls: Fliplanthropy. Let this serve as a correction for all of our previous mentions of Flipanthropy. The press notes provided to reporters called the fictional series Flipanthropy, so one would see how we’d get mixed up. But it doesn’t matter—Fliplanthropy might not be Fliplanthropy all that much longer, anyways.

The rough cut follows Janice (Aliyah Lee) and Pascal (Alexander Adrian Gibson), two normal people hired as actors pretending to be purchasing one of Whitney’s passive homes. They get the keys to the house, and then begin “integrating themselves” into the local community. Look how happy they are, removing graffiti and chatting about the weather with neighbors!

As Whitney and Dougie (Benny Safdie) sit watching the rough cut of this bland episode, Whitney offers some criticism. “Something feels off. It’s edited well, but…” She trails off, before continuing: “It just feels lifeless, or something. Is this really the best version of what we shot?” Dougie admits to her that the show doesn’t work because it’s frictionless, and offers a new angle he’s been trying to shoot this entire time: What if the show is actually about how much Whitney hates Asher?

Dougie scrolls through the footage to find a scene where Whitney rolls her eyes at Asher, when he picks up a piece of art to quip about to the couple. He poses Whitney a question—why did she do that? She complains that Asher was holding his cellphone in his hand while passing a piece of art to Pascal. Dougie whips out his phone and tells Whitney to say exactly that again to the camera as he records her. “You can’t put that thing down while you’re giving someone a gift?” she says, recounting the story again. Dougie stops recording and edits the new footage alongside the original clip. With one edit, he shows her that this doesn’t have to be a simple house-flipping show. Fliplanthopy could be a character study of a woman with something to hide—be it disdain towards her husband or her parents’ secret wealth.

Whitney is unsure about this big edit. She doesn’t want to hear all the nasty things Asher might have to say about her in his own confessionals. But Dougie says that the audience will only want to see the relationship through her eyes. Okay, Whitney is liking the sound of this. Feeling empowered, she asks about changing the title of the show, since it’s not really about flipping houses anyways. (They do complete teardowns, duh!) How about Green Queen?

Dougie grins. “If you’re the queen, what does that make Asher?” he asks.

“The king?” Whitney says.

“No,” Dougie replies with a laugh. “The village idiot.”

Emma Stone as Whitney and Benny Safdie as Dougie

Anna Kooris/A24/Paramount+

Cut to: Asher being the village idiot. Asher notices his old casino buddy Bill (David DeLao) at the hardware store, then tries to get his attention. Bill ignores his every call, even as Asher stalks him through every aisle. But Asher finally confronts Bill at the front of the store, saying hello and asking if Bill had headphones in. Nope, Bill says—then, after a brief exchange, he darts off.

Then it’s off to film another segment of Fliplanthropy, which will take place at the Española fire department. Dougie directs Whitney to be super smiley around the hunky firemen, and he’ll keep the camera angled at whatever disgruntled face Asher makes in response. Immediately, Asher starts getting awkward, as Whitney talks about how hot it is and jokes about checking out the hoses. Dougie is overjoyed by this new dynamic—finally, Fliplanthropy is getting spicy.

In between shooting, Whitney confronts Dougie about his constant texting with Cara (Nizhonniya Austin), something she’s been fixated on ever since she spied them chatting on set during their last shoot. He enjoys her presence, he says, but she’s “too ugly” for him—she’s a smoker, and you know what happens to smokers, he says. Whitney begs Dougie to read their texts. He obliges, admitting that he’s called Whit a “bitch” at least once. She doesn’t care; she just needs to know what they talk about. Whit is fascinated by their conversation by a racist statue of a Native American at a mini golf course, but she’s quickly distracted when she remembers Cara hasn’t signed the artist release form for the show yet. She refreshes her email. Nothing—but someone is charging her credit card for purchases over at the jeans store in downtown Española. I wonder why?!

Brace yourself: Next, we have to see that damn micropenis again, when we cut to Asher peeing at the station. After, while he’s washing his hands, Asher sees something incredibly suspicious. Why is there a bunch of cooked chicken sitting on the sink?

Asher confronts Dougie, thinking his old friend is teasing him about the curse that Asher believes Nala (Hikmah Warsame) put on him. Dougie knows that the chicken was missing from his pasta. But Dougie swears it wasn’t him. At first, that seems like a lie—but then Whit and Dougie sidebar and Dougie promises he didn’t do it. He wishes he’d have had that great of an idea.

Okay, so who did leave the chicken there? Asher pokes around the fire station, asking everyone for answers. Eventually, he’s led to the “Guy Fieri” of the establishment, who reads Asher off the menu for the week. Lasagna. Beef tacos. No chicken. What the hell? Asher forces the chief to rewatch the security camera tapes for the day to see who might have walked in with the chicken. No such luck, even when they go frame by frame.

The answer, Asher believes, has to be Nala—meaning he really is cursed. Somewhere across town, Abshir (Barkhad Abdi) is getting treated by the chiropractor Whitney hired. He’s not very pleased about it, yelping anytime the man cracks his neck. At the end of the session, Abshir looks defeated, or almost…deceased? It’s frightening.

Benny Safdie as Dougie and Zachary Enriquez as Handsome Firefighter

Anna Kooris/A24/Paramount+

Then, we greet our nightmare duo: Nala and Asher, who is fixing up the house. Nala tells Asher that she’s not doing tiny curses anymore. When Asher asks her about the chicken, all she can say is that her dad was washing chicken in the sink yesterday, and it was gross. I wish there was something I could do to get Asher to leave this poor girl alone, but the opposite happens—he tries to play a game with her to secretly test her telepathy.

Asher asks Nala to guess how many nails are under a bucket. She guesses correctly every time. Then, Asher tries hiding nails in his hand. Again, she’s able to get the right number. Every. Single. Time. Infuriated, Asher tries one more time, squeezing a giant fistful of nails—only to stab himself in the hand.

“I’m sorry,” Nala says, crying at the sight of blood.

“For what?” Asher questions, as he plucks the nails out of his skin and hoses off his wound.

“I don’t know.” Neither do I. Is there a curse? Is Asher losing it? I’d say we need answers, but I’m starting to get used to living in the chaotic limbo of Española.

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