Netflix's 'Insatiable' Season 1, Episode 9 Recap: 'Bad Kitty'
Since its controversial trailer dropped, “Insatiable,” a Netflix series that addresses mental health topics, has made headlines for accusations of fat-shaming and the promotion of eating disorders. Elizabeth Cassidy, The Mighty’s news reporter, reviews episode 9 of “Insatiable” with the mental health community in mind.
The following is a review of the ninth episode of “Insatiable” and contains spoilers.
Content warning: This episode contains references to disordered eating that may be triggering to people with or in recovery from eating disorders.
Episode nine of “Insatiable” has a bit of a Halloween vibe, but one thing is evident: Patty does not know how to take responsibility for her actions. Everything has an excuse or is blamed on a literal demon.
The episode starts with Patty having a nightmare about Dixie being dead and her teratoma being alive. Patty starts to seriously question if she has evil inside her. When her mom comes to check on her, Patty tells her about the nightmare. Though Angie, her mom, has had some awfully low points as a mother, she parents Patty well here. Angie tells Patty that having a nightmare is normal because Patty’s been traumatized. Angie validates Patty’s fear instead of telling her to not worry about it.
It turns out Patty isn’t the only one to have a nightmare. Bob Armstrong (who will be referred to as Bob from now on) dreams he slept with Bob Barnard, and wakes up alone in a panic. Bob narrates that he feels guilty about their kiss.
Both Bob and Patty are called into Pastor Mike’s office. He informs them he believes Patty has a demon living inside her, and it could be the soul of the twin Patty consumed in utero. Pastor Mike threatens to strip Patty of her crown unless she has an exorcism. Patty is fairly quiet during this exchange, making Bob the voice reason. Bob points out how ridiculous the idea of an exorcism sounds. He threatens to tell the press about Pastor Mike’s exorcism idea if he takes away Patty’s crown. Pastor Mike obliges.
While leaving Pastor Mike’s office, Patty asks Bob about her immortal soul, clearly buying into the idea she has a demon in her. She says a demon would explain a lot of her behavior. Classic Patty trying to put blame anywhere but herself.
Bob provides another explanation for her behavior, borderline personality disorder (BPD). Let’s unpack this. First, Bob is not a mental health professional. He has no business diagnosing her. Second, while Patty may fit some of the criteria for BPD, she’s a teenager who has gone through a major life change. Her behaviors could easily be attributed to trying to find her footing.
Third, and most importantly, mental illness should never be equated to demonic possession, monsters or any other evil being. This is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. People with BPD are already painted as monsters. People with mental illnesses face stigma often, and those with BPD arguably deal with it the most. Mental health professionals refuse to help them as they’re seen as “manipulative.” I don’t know why “Insatiable” thinks it’s OK to equate BPD to being possessed, but I’ll try to give the writers the benefit of the doubt here.
Perhaps they thought Patty feeling like she has evil inside of her is how some people with BPD feel before they receive help. Some Mighty contributors, like Mel Lee-Smith, have described their BPD as being monster-like:
To people who don’t have this disorder, personifying my mental illness probably sounds — for lack of a better word — ‘crazy.’ But it’s the only metaphor I can come up with that accurately describes how this feels. My BPD isn’t really a monster, but it’s so powerful and sometimes so alien that it feels like a separate entity.
I don’t know what “Insatiable” was going for, but it missed the mark. While Bob doesn’t think Patty has a demon, he equates her evilness to BPD. If you live with a condition, it’s OK to say the condition itself feels like a monster. What’s not fine is being told it makes you a monster.
When Patty gets to school, everyone is staring at her. Nonnie shows her a viral video of Dixie biting Patty during the fight and Patty pushing Dixie off the food truck. Patty is worried about her image, but Nonnie tells Patty she was just defending herself. Nonnie also tells Patty Dixie has “all sorts of mental disorders.” Blaming mental illness for people’s outrageous behavior seems to be a common theme throughout this show.
Christian tells Patty that he can help her with her demon. Desperate, Patty agrees, even though she’s still mad at him. Christian says they should hold a seance.
Bob receives a couple of texts from Patty. First, she tells him the bad news — the viral video. Then, she sends him a follow-up text that says, “Good news… Dixie has mental problems… if that helps my cause?”
Patty clearly needs help with her reputation, but using someone’s mental health conditions against them to further your own agenda is not OK. It is never “good news” that someone is dealing with mental health problems. Patty lacks compassion and is selfish, both of which she’s been told before. Though Patty was wrong to text Bob this information about Dixie, he makes things worse by sharing this news with their town’s local press. Bob could have easily told the newspaper that Dixie was jealous and attacked Patty first. After all, that is the true story. No matter what you think of Dixie, she deserves to decide when to disclose her mental health conditions.
After Bob emails the newspaper regarding Dixie, Bob Barnard enters his office to talk about their kiss. Barnard tells Bob that he has to keep up certain appearances, which is why he’s married to his wife and has a seemingly perfect family. It is sad Barnard thinks he has to hide a part of who he is, though it’s not great that he’s lying to his wife and daughter in the process. While Barnard has accepted his homosexuality to some degree, Bob hasn’t gotten to that point yet.
Bob goes to Coralee’s hotel to have sex to prove he’s a heterosexual man. Coralee, who doesn’t know about the situation, tells Bob that sex is not going to solve their issues. They need counseling, she says. This is probably the most reasonable thing anyone has said in this show so far.
Coralee suggests they talk to a therapist who counsels couples along with her husband, who just so happens to be Pastor Mike. Of course, Bob is not keen on talking to Pastor Mike about his marriage. He tries to seduce Coralee again, to which she says, “Therapy first. Sex later.” She’s not wrong. Communication is key. The therapist suggests Coralee roleplay as Bob to see his point of view. This is a popular strategy used to help people better communicate with each other. This scene is actually funny. Coralee lightheartedly mimicks Bob, and Bob refuses to see that he acts the way she portrays him.
Patty holds a seance in her bedroom with Christian, Nonnie and Dee, Nonnie’s girlfriend. The group uses a Ouija board, and Patty communicates with John — the homeless guy she scolded to death. John tells her she has a demon. Christian tells Patty she can learn to control the demon (her unborn twin), all they have to do is learn the demon’s name.
Patty asks her mom what her twin’s name would have been. Angie tells Patty she had a dream she was having twins, so Patty figures she may have picked out a name. Angie tells her that name was Kitty, though a picture Angie keeps from Patty shows that’s the name on the license plate of a car. The photo is of Angie and a man.
At school, Christian and Patty decide to write Kitty’s name on a Post-It note so Patty can eat it. Apparently eating the demon’s name is a way to control it. This is probably a metaphor for how food is Patty’s “demon” because she struggles with how much she eats. We don’t really see Patty eat after losing weight, so it’s impossible to know if she still struggles with overeating.
After she eats the paper, Patty finds out the newspaper ran with the story of Dixie being “crazy,” so her image problem is fixed. Patty takes this as a sign that her demon is under her control. Thanks to the viral video, Patty becomes a local celebrity with merchandise and everything. Everyone likes Patty after they find out Dixie is “crazy” and a few thank her for “taking her out.” OK, Dixie was kind of the worst, but why are people just now hyping up Patty for throwing her off the food truck? The only thing that has changed is everyone now knows Dixie has mental health issues. If this is a metaphor for how people sometimes abandon you once they learn about your mental illness, it’s a terrible one.
Patty’s redemption is short-lived. Dixie returns to school, but now she’s paralyzed and is using a wheelchair. Everyone looks at Dixie with pity. Dixie admits she attacked Patty and apologizes. Apparently, Dixie’s disability has given her some wisdom. She tells Patty, “I’m not sorry it happened, because I lost the use of my legs, I’ve gained the use of my heart.”
The music during the scene and Dixie’s new found wisdom all play a role in presenting Dixie as an angel. This is a common stereotype people with disabilities face. People with disabilities are often infantilized and seen as “fragile” or “innocent.” Hollywood is obsessed with this idea that having a disability gives you a new lease on life. That’s not to say that it can’t, but disability doesn’t exist to teach able-bodied people how to lead a good life. “Insatiable” acts as if Dixie’s wheelchair has the power to right her wrongs.
Back at Bob’s house, Pastor Mike and his wife decide to show them how role-playing works in therapy, but end up making out in front of them. They excuse themselves to continue making out in the kitchen where Brick finds them. Brick asks Pastor Mike what Jesus would say about his son, Christian, practicing black magic. Uh-oh, someone’s in trouble.
Pastor Mike shows up at Patty’s house to confront her and Christian. Apparently Christian has done black magic before because Pastor Mike says he can’t believe he’s doing this again. Angie tells Patty magic isn’t real, and the only demons are the ones from our past. This prompts her to look at the photo from earlier and text Gordy, who is presumably the guy in the picture.
An anti-bullying assembly is set up to smooth things over between Dixie and Patty. During the assembly, Dixie and Patty are supposed to apologize to each other in front of the entire school. The principal introduces Dixie as “amazing,” furthering the angel stereotype of disabled people. Dixie calls herself a “victim,” which sets Patty off. Dixie bullied Patty when she was fat and lied about being molested.
“She was always a lying bitch,” Patty narrates. “Now she was a lying bitch on wheels.” The show is at least attempting to show what’s wrong with treating people like angels just because they have a disability. Patty loses her cool and convinces herself Dixie is lying about being paralyzed. She grabs the microphone from Dixie and goes off on a rant about how no one apologized to her when she was bullied for being fat. She says people only care about bullying when it’s someone pretty, rich or special. “If you’re fat, ugly or uncool, you just let them suffer,” she tells everyone. This is one of the few moments “Insatiable” becomes real. Patty was bullied for years, yet no one cared. A popular girl gets into a fight, and suddenly bullying is a huge issue.
Patty throws the microphone down, steps off her soapbox and pushes Dixie out of her wheelchair to show everyone she is lying… Except Dixie wasn’t lying about being paralyzed. After the assembly, Patty blames her awful behavior on Kitty the demon. Yet again blaming everyone but herself. Patty tells Bob she needs an exorcism. Bob replies that she doesn’t need an exorcism, she needs therapy. True, Bob, so true.
Because Patty refuses to listen to logic, Bob decides to go through with the exorcism. They, along with Nonnie and Donald Choi, set up the exorcism in a classroom. Because Pastor Mike was in a car accident, and the priest who specializes in exorcisms can’t make it, Bob does the exorcism. This scene is a parody of “The Exorcist,” and it feels like a ridiculous “Saturday Night Live” skit. If you like that sort of comedy, you might like this scene. The priest finally arrives and declares that Patty does not have a demon.
The priest tells Patty no one is to blame for her behavior but herself. Finally, this gets through to Patty and she realizes she’s to blame. Maybe now she can accept responsibility for her actions and grow.
The priest also says people who believe they’re possessed are often fighting a part of themselves. This inspires Bob, and he begins to accept that he’s bisexual. The episode ends with Bob going to Barnard’s house to rendezvous.
This episode, like much of the series, does a terrible job of talking about mental health responsibly. The worst parts of the episode were the poor characterization of BPD and Dixie being infantilized because of her disability. There were a couple of moments I did find funny, but these moments were overshadowed by blatant ignorance throughout the show.
Stray Observations and Future Questions
- What happened in Brazil with Christian? Are teens these days really into black magic?
- I’m glad Bob is learning more about his sexuality.
- Why do you think people assume a person with a disability is “nicer” or “angelic” compared to everyone else?
Episode 8 Review: ‘Insatiable’ Uses Mental Illness, Autism and a Tumor for Cheap Laughs
Header image via Netflix.