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Quibi’s THE STRANGER Recap: Parts 1-3

April 14, 2020 in Review

Now I don’t know about you but I downloaded new streaming platform Quibi solely so I could watch The Stranger. Quibi is yet another streaming network that you pay monthly for, featuring all original content that you watch on your phone. Each series or movie is presented in bite-size 10 minute chapters.

The Stranger was the only show on the platform that really intrigued me. When the platform released on April 5th, I download it and watched When The Streetlights Go On (it’s pretty bad) until the first three episodes of The Stranger debuted on April 13th.

And peeps, Quibi’s The Stranger IS EVERYTHING TO ME RIGHT NOW.

So I’m just gonna enjoy life and recap this thrill ride of a show for you all.


Part 1: 7 PM

We meet Clare, an unkempt Millennial with greasy blonde hair. She’s a ride-sharing driver for a company called Orbit. Heading to pick up her next passenger, a dude named Carl E., Clare mows down on a burger and gets a bunch of mustard on her lip. She notices it in the mirror before Carl E. comes out of his fancy modern mansion, but DOESN’T WIPE IT ALL OFF.

Carl E. texts her: cleaning up b down in a second

Clare asks him how he got his ringtone play on her phone. The ringtone is this creepy music box jingle THAT I WANT AND NEED FOR MY PHONE, so please somebody record the sound and tell me about it. Clare’s question is never answered though, and this is only the first of many weird technology things to happen, so just you wait.

Carl E. comes out with a bag of luggage, which he puts in the back seat so he can sit in the front with Clare. He’s going to LAX and Clare types it into whatever fictionalized variant of Google Maps exists in The Stranger’s universe.

She’s like, “It takes 52 minutes to get there?!” and he’s like, “You’re not from here, are you?”

Clare’s a brand new Los Angeles resident, who drove in from Kansas just 6 days before so she could fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. A “We’re not in Kansas anymore” reference is made, but Clare corrects Carl E’s misquote.

“AcKsUaLlY, it’s ‘I don’t believe we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.'”

You see, Clare grew up where the Wizard of Oz museum is and she went there a bunch when she was a kid and that’s why she wants to be a writer.

Their conversation is all very meet-cute and I like it. Clare’s shy and delightfully and awkwardly candid. Carl E. is charming and oddly comforting, BUT THEN he notices the mustard on her face and gets all Joe Biden close to wipe it off her lip. He wants to take her out to get a burger. Clare does the vegan thing, mentioning that she’s vegan even though the point isn’t all that relevant to the conversation. Like, I get it, Clare, but you can get vegan burgers in L.A. You were just eating a vegan burger in L.A., were you not?

Carl E. insists that they were supposed to meet. Their names sound the same! They’re anagrams! He insists he’s not trying to be stalker-y and lets her ask him some questions. And then we get to the trailer moment where Carl E. shows his true colours.

His voice changes to take on that weirdly alluring serial killer tone, you know, for effect. Clare grips at the wheel, breathing damsel-y.

The Massacre Backstory

Another Orbit driver dropped him off at the fancy rich house. He walked up to the door and shot the woman who answered it in the face. Then he went inside and shot her husband in the back of the head. And THEN he “went looking for the children”. They’re his words, made to amp up the creepy-factor when he leans in all close to threaten Clare with the knife. He continues, explaining that he found the two little girls crying and blubbering with snot dripping down their noses. He can’t stand the sound of girls crying and he didn’t want to waste his ammo so he used his hunting knife to slit their throats. (But why? A knife gets you closer to the crying and the snot. Why not save your ammo for the screaming crying girls, Carl E.?!)

Then he does the standard psycho-dude “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo” thing to intimidate her more before asking her to guess which of the girls he’s got in the bag in the back seat.

But you know what he really wants? A good old-fashioned story! All she has to do is tell him one and he’ll let her live. SHE’S A WRITER. THIS CAN’T GO WRONG!


Part 2: 8PM

It’s an hour later and Clare still hasn’t told her story. She starts blubbering and Carl E. tells her to pull over so they can “get this throat cutting part over with”, which is hilarious, because for a killer, he’s pretty practical about the whole thing. Clare protests, which only exacerbates the situation. Carl E. explains that he’s a sociopath with no empathy and asks how her crying “fits in with her survival plan”. Like, I can’t. It’s so great.

Then he goes on a tirade about how women can’t have it both ways when they about to get murdered. No crying. No whining and no laboured heavy breathing. Like they just gotta grow a pair and enjoy the ride.

“IT’S 2020, NANCY PELOSI!” he shouts, to my utter delight.

Clare crashes her car into a highway sign, which temporarily knocks Carl E. out. Clare runs out of the car and screams for help, but then Carl E. comes to. He’d had it up to here with her “fucking female noise”. And it’s like, come on dude, if you hate it so much, why’d you use your sociopath skillz for murder? Just go and become a business manager like all the normal sociopaths.

Luckily, he passes out again and collapses all bloody-faced on the side of the road. Clare runs back to the car and calls 911. She’s told to drive to the nearby gas station, where she relays her story to the cops. They go to investigate the bag with the body in it, but SURPRISE, it’s not a body but an inflatable sex doll.

She tries to show the police Carl E.’s messages, but the messages have suddenly vanished from her phone. His profile’s missing too. The cops also checked out the fancy rich-person house. There were only two totally alive old people living there.

The police peace out and the guy working in the gas station asks Clare what’s going on. She pulls the suitcase and the sex doll out of her car and throws them into the dumpster. Gas station dude’s like, “My mob manager named Vlad is gonna be really pissed if he finds this in the garbage!”. He’s desperate and scared of losing his job and Clare finally gives in, because she’s just a broke Millennial with a shitty job too. Solidarity and all.

She apologizes and explains the situation, and then Gas Station dude tells her to forget Carl and that she can encrypt her Orbit profile. He knows how to do that because he’s a programmer. For future reference.

He also tells her, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!” It’s not because he’s in on it, no. She’s got a Kansas license plate!

Still, one’s gotta wonder the way that Clare watches him walk back into the gas station. She thumbs over her mother’s contact card on her phone, but instead puts on a remix of Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and drives home.

Then the creepy music box ringtone goes off again:

SHOULDA RUN ME OVER WHEN U HAD THE CHANCE NANCY PELOSI! #DumbShitScaryMovieBitchesDo

Then:

BUT GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN!

He even uses a flamenco dancer emoji. Like, I LIKE this guy. He’s fun. This is fun. For me, though. Not for Clare. She rolls up her window and spots a car following her.


Part 3: 9PM

The car follows Clare for another hour. She takes a detor to escape it and heads back to the apartment. The parking garage gate doesn’t close all the way behind her, but this is dramatic irony, so she heads back to her RIDICULOUSLY MASSIVE APARTMENT to feed her tiny pink sequin-sweatered dog, Pebbles.

Pebbles, however, isn’t hungry. (For some reason…) We do, however, get a nice look at Clare’s EXPANSIVE KITCHEN with its table that could seat 12 people EASILY and its magnetic knife holder full of cool knives with handles that look like corn. Because Kansas, right?

Clare changes into sweatpants and calls Orbit to complain about Carl E. BUT WAIT, it turns out Carl E. already made a complaint about Clare, saying that she was the one who threatened to kill him and “bury him in her field of sunflowers”.

The camera pans out, revealing Clare’s bed full of cool sunflower pillows. (More Kansas, right?) The dog starts barking and the bathroom light flickers. Clare takes Pebbles, but not before the camera pans to reveal that one of the cool corn-handled knives is gone.

It’s the biggest knife too, because of course. But Carl E. already has a cool hunting knife. Why ruin the corn knife with murder too?

Clare leaves the apartment without shoes, and there’s a fun realistic moment where she notices this and is just like, FUCK!, but she heads for the elevator and notices Carl E. approaching down the hallway.

“I want my story, Clare!” he says.

Cool tension music builds.

Carl E. walks a little faster, but maintains a Jason-style approach so the music can reach peak levels when the elevator doors finally open.

“No fair!” Carl E. screams, and then breaks into a run.

The doors close just in time and Clare puts Pebbles down on the floor to gather herself. But then the doors open again and a hand grabs her neck and pulls her forward.

Theories

Now, did the elevator move and somebody’s grabbing her from the bottom floor, or did the doors just open again? It’s not clear, but what I’d like to be clear about is that I don’t think Carl E. is human and maybe this is all a Secret Window-style tale about another writer who can’t tell a story right.

Because why else are their names so similar? The reason why I keep calling him “Carl E.” is because he’s referred to this way in the show and in the credits. He even referred to himself as “Carl E.” in Part 1, which sounded a lot like “Carly” in the trailer. But yeah. I think it means something.

Also, when Carl E. appears in the hallway, his face is clean and there appears to be no evidence of the head wound his sustained in the crash in Part 2.

And the technology stuff is odd, too, which will probably lead us to more interaction with the fun Gas Station dude later down the line.

So yeah, I’m having a ton of fun with this show.

It’s some fun intimate suspense that also provides a few good laughs. The writing’s pretty sharp and the characters are fun and realistic.

Are you watching anything on Quibi?

The mom in me actually appreciates the small episode format. I can guilelessly watch a portion while pretending to take a dump with the door locked. Episodes of The Stranger fit the chapter format, but the other show I tried, When The Streetlights Go Out, really struggled to keep its plot contained within ten minute chapters. So it’s pretty hit or miss. Netflix already has a couple of short-format shows in their catalogue. (Check out Bonding, if you’re interested in a great feminist LGBTQ+ BDSM heartfelt buddy comedy.)

Anyway, I only subscribed to Quibi to watch The Stranger, so once I’m done with that I’ll be done with Quibi. At $6.99 a month WITH ADS ($10.99 without ads) that’s a lot of money to throw away for such minimal content.

What do you think so far? Have you checked out The Stranger yet?

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Rebecca

Rebecca is a neo-noir author from Kamloops, British Columbia. Her first collection of gritty short fiction, Vile Men was published by Dark House Press in 2015. She also writes about her writer lifestyle on her blog at rebeccajoneshowe.com.

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I'm Rebecca Jones-Howe, a neo-noir writer and author of the short story collection, VILE MEN. My work has been featured in [PANK], Pulp Modern and Punchnel's, among other magazines. This site houses my writing profile and my blog, which features posts on writing, fashion, lifestyle + more. Want more?

- RJH

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