By Bethany McHugh
“The Playboy Club” returned with a lot of commotion in “The Scarlet Bunny,” but it is unclear whether the show should put such an emphasis on the heavy drama when it barely advances the plot as it did in “Bunny.” The episode almost felt too jam packed with what took place, and it’s a shame that such emphasis was placed on ancillary material with minimal payoff.
The second episode opens with the bunnies eagerly anticipating Hef’s announcement that one of the Chicago club’s bunnies would become a playmate. Meanwhile, Nick Dalton, still pining over Carol-Lynne, is attempting to gain support for his run as State Attorney while also hoping to forget the murder of Bianchi in the pilot. Both these plans prove difficult, as no one will provide support without Bianchi, whose key to the club is being used, much to the horror of Maureen and Nick, by the two workers from the end of the last episode. His political campaign is also on hold as the Mayor refuses to help without some form of a bribe.
Carol-Lynne, as Bunny Mother, starts running her new bunny-training program during “Bunny,” though it is mostly used to aid in her discovery of Nick and Maureen’s secret. Maureen is shaping up to be a strong character, however, using her ingenuity to throw Carol-Lynne off her scent for the time being. This quick thinking is welcome as the show could easily denigrate the women in their portrayals.
It is ultimately decided that Maureen and Brenda will be finalists, with Janie and two other girls named as fellows. Janie is in shock that she is chosen, as she never submitted pictures, but it appears her boyfriend, the bartender Max, submitted them for her. In the interview with Hef that all the finalists must go to, Janie declares that all the girls are more worthy than her, while Maureen talks about wanting to have a family, and Brenda exudes self-confidence. Janie’s protests are mistaken for humbleness, and, in somewhat predictable fashion, she is chosen to be a playmate. Janie immediately declines, revealing another layer to the character when she admits to Max that she ran away from her “crazy” husband, but knows that he has a subscription to “Playboy.” Maureen is chosen to replace her, after Hef loved her clever idea of wearing a Club Key – Bianchi’s key – as a necklace.
Yet, that’s not the end of the drama: Alice ends up working one night when the father of her gay husband, Sean, obtains a key to the club and is anxious to go. Alice also realizes that she has growing feelings for Maureen, evidenced by her admiration of Maureen as she takes her cover photos.
These various threads were approached in an entertaining way, but I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by everything. Eddie Cibrian is trying awfully hard not to be a “Don Draper” copy, but it is clear that all the writers want him to be is a goody two shoes Don Draper. This paradox does not work, and is a major drawback to Cibrian’s character. The stakes should be higher, things more desperate, but it all seemed rather petty, which is evident as most plots were resolved before the episode’s end. Of course, everything’s not exactly neat and tidy: an investigation has begun to reveal Maureen and Nick’s true connection, which will only translate to more trouble for the pair. Alice and Sean must still navigate their sham marriage, and Carol-Lynne has to come to terms with her feelings about Maureen. Hopefully next week will address these more important stories more directly, and regain the momentum that began in the pilot.
Bethany McHugh is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.