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  • Writer's picturecasey

The Bear episode 1.07 "Review"

This episode is so cool I don’t even know where to start. It’s kind of surprising to me that there aren’t too many back-of-house restaurant shows out there, but I’m so glad there aren’t more to drown this one out. The Bear is so itself- it doesn’t rely on the charm of the restaurant setting do all the work of entertaining us. It’s a beautifully gritty homage to Chicago and its class system that just happens to get every ounce of entertainment possible from the cacophony of “behind!”, “corner!”, and “heard!” that comes from the working-class food joint (and of course, the elevated “yes, chef!” that Carmy brings to the table).

The Bear is really about capturing a sentiment and a vibe more than anything else. Its quirky premise serves mainly as a vehicle for us viewers to sit at The Original Beef and ponder if food is something for the working man to wolf down on his lunch break, or a painstakingly thoughtful art form worthy of time and discourse. The answer is, of course, somewhere in the middle, and nothing raises that question like the structurally offbeat and visually stunning “Review”.

Jeremy Allen White in "Review". Image courtesy of IMDb.

I started to look up this episode before I sat down to write, and Google’s suggested question was “why is episode 7 of The Bear so different?”. Even without putting your finger on what it is about this episode that makes it stand out among the rest of the show, and honestly among television as a whole, you can tell it has that something. For one thing, it’s a mere 20 minutes long next to the following episode’s 48. For another, after a sentimental opening credits tribute to Chicago, the episode consists of one super-charged 18-minute take.

I’ve been thinking a lot about an episode of Mad About You that’s shot all in one take: in “The Conversation”, the leading couple is sitting on the floor outside their baby’s room as they force themselves to let her cry herself to sleep. “The Conversation” is also completely stationary, which serves its slow, reflective purpose, but The Bear takes this technique and ramps the energy all the way up. This single take is a thrilling feat, especially with all the yelling and stabbing and rushing around going on, and the style underscores the temperaments that are boiling over on all sides.

What really makes “Review” stand out to me, though, even next to other single-take episodes, is its narrative structure. “Review” and “The Conversation” both take place in real time, yet “The Conversation” has a clear message and beginning, middle, and end. “Review” is literally just a moment in time without the classic three act structure and thematic takeaway. “Review” is all about the present and how these characters will act right here, right now, in this incredibly manic, high stakes situation.

In the previous episode, Sydney had been working on a new dish- a braised beef risotto- that she nervously presented to Carmy who promptly told her that it was good, but “not there yet”. Frustrated, Sydney gave the dish to a customer for free- who just happened to be a food critic there to write a review for The Original Beef. Tensions are already at their breaking point at the beginning of our episode as the review had just come out, praising the restaurant and, specifically, it’s braised beef risotto that most of the staff has never heard of and is unequivocally not on the menu.

Some of the chefs, namely Richie, find it hard to believe that Sydney didn’t know that the customer she gave her dish to was a reporter. In her defense, she really didn’t, but that’s about the last nice thing I have to say about her in this episode. This prompts an argument between the two of them about Richie’s perception that Sydney is alienating their regular clientele and wants to “push the working man out” of The Original Beef. The usually reasonable Sydney and insulting Richie seem to have swapped personalities in this episode as she furiously and lowkey kind of incoherently claps back at Richie’s point that isn’t without merit. However, their argument is cut short, and emotions stuffed back inside, by the restaurant’s brand new to-go tablet.

Ayo Edebiri and Ebon Moss-Bachrach in "Review". Image courtesy of IMDb.

Today is also the day the restaurant is launching their new to-go feature with a tablet taking Postmates-type orders, and demand is sure to be high on review day. Suddenly, receipts come flooding out of the system. Sydney forgot to disable the preorder feature, so before they even open they’ve got 97 cakes and 70 something sandwiches and a million other things all due up right now. This is when Carmy loses it.

Carmy is the CEO of burying his feelings and yelling at people instead, and he is in rare form today. There’s clearly unresolved tension between Sydney and Carmy about the risotto situation, but when Sydney asks if they’re good he brusquely says they are. When the to-go’s blow up, all that squashed residual anger comes out in a fiery parade of “GET THE FUCK OFF MY EXPO!” “MARCUS IF YOU’RE STILL FUCKING WITH THOSE CAKES I’M GONNA FUCK YOUR DAY UP!!” “SOMEBODY GET ME FUCKING SHARPIE THAT WORKS!!!” I’ve never been more relieved to not work somewhere.

Sydney is adamant throughout this episode that nothing about this situation is her fault, but I think that defensiveness comes from the fact that she knows that it is. She left the preorder feature on, and she gave that risotto to the critic, even if she didn’t mean to. Sydney handles so many things well, but her own mistakes aren’t one of them. Everyone other than Carmy is actually being super nice to her, Tina singing her praises and wanting her to be a role model for her suspended son (granted, today is not the day for that), and Richie trying to help her with her prep. But I think sympathy or even just positive treatment from others is feeding the guilt that she herself is burying.

Sydney’s tough as nails, but right now there really is something to be said for the working man. Richie isn’t batting an eye at the chaos around him, he’s keeping his cool and jumping in wherever he can. When he bumps into Sydney, who spills what she’s holding, she’s the one who didn’t say “corner”. When Sydney gets sidelined from expo to giardiniera, Richie pulls up next to her to help. Sydney quickly tells him she doesn’t need any help, but, as he’s been trained to do by the likes of Carmy, Richie calmly tells her she’s being “mean and ugly” and carries on- we’re past anybody “needing” help, this is an all hands on deck situation. Now it’s Sydney’s turn to lose it and spout out some of the meanest shit I’ve ever heard in a speech that gives Carmy a run for his money.

“You’re a conceited and condescending ribbon of brine. You can’t peel fucking vegetables. You can’t fucking do shit. You waste space here. You are a fucking loser. And that’s why you hate that I’m here, right? Because I see you for the loser that you fucking are. And everybody knows it. I know it. Carmy knows it. And your daughter probably knows it, poor fucking girl”. I’m sure there have been days where Richie deserved this, but this wasn’t one. She’s still brandishing her knife, which makes Richie ask if she’s gonna stab him, to which she replies “yeah, maybe I fucking will”. Jesus.

Ayo Edebiri and Ebon Moss-Bachrach in "Review". Image courtesy of IMDb.

And then, in the chaos of this kitchen from hell, she actually does. Not on purpose, but I don’t hear an apology. Richie hurries out of the kitchen to patch himself up, and when he tell Carmy he was stabbed, Carmy replies “probably fuckin deserved it”. He somehow still keeps his cool and, like Marcus, Tina, and her son, Richie is part of the collateral damage of both Carmy and Sydney’s complex pent-up emotions.

Meanwhile, Sydney has now transcended beyond trying to make this work. She slowly takes off her apron and shoes, saying nothing to Carmy increasingly frantic calls of “Chef, are we good??” Finally, Sydney gathers her things and says, “No, we are not ‘good’. I quit.” I feel like I can actually see Carmy’s head explode, but Sydney just says, “This is not on me” and walks out.

And that’s it! That’s the episode. It’s not about how they get through this day or if they actually pull off making all these to go orders or if Tina’s son is going to fit in with the group. It’s just about how everyone behaved in this moment in time when tensions couldn’t be higher. And it was honestly such an anxiety inducing whirlwind that I don’t think I would have been able to take the episode being much longer.

Depending on what Sydney meant by “this”, maybe she’s right that it’s not on her. She’s definitely not responsible for the overall state of The Original Beef; Carmy and his frequent tirades and emotional unavailability can account for that. But in this instance, Sydney’s actions catalyzed every bit of this chaos and Carmy is just trying to get through the day- a courtesy she can’t even return. This episode is a breaking point, nothing more, but what breaks these characters and how tells you everything you need to know about them.

I actually do love Sydney though, her behavior in this episode caught my eye because of how on board I am with her all the other times. So all that to say I’m so stoked for season 2, and I’d love to talk everything The Bear in the comments!

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