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'Sharp Objects' Episode 3 Recap: 'Fix'

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“Sharp Objects” is a new HBO limited series that covers topics like trauma, self-harm and addiction. We’ll be reviewing each episode, and analyzing what it means for the mental health community.

Editor's Note

This post is a review of episode three of “Sharp Objects” and contains spoilers. If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

In this episode, a piece of Camille’s past came together for us in a loud and graphic way. The tension is no longer subdued, the self-harm is no longer subtle. If any episode needed a trigger warning so far, it was this one.

The episode begins with Wind Gap teens partying in a field. They chase around pigs and drink. Camille’s half-sister, Amma, is there, and the police chief eventually breaks it up. (Is he the only police officer in this town? I have literally seen no one else perform a police-duty.)

On her way home, Amma crashes her golf cart into her mother’s bed of roses. Camille sees her from her bedroom window and helps her inside. “She loves her roses sooo much,” Amma says as she stumbles into the house. Amma then drunkenly tells Camille about how much her friends love her, and how they’d do anything for her. “I just ask, and they’re my besties,” she slurs.

This is the first of a few times Amma acts strangely in this episode. She tells Camille, “Adora [her mom] doesn’t know about you, but I do. I can tell. You hate this place like me, but you love dead girls. Didn’t stay away.” She’s super affectionate with Camille, which isn’t so strange considering she’s drunk, but it seems stranger paired with what she says. Camille returns this affection. Considering how cold she is to most people, she’s comfortable in this big sister role and clearly has a soft spot for Amma.

Looking out at the rain as she hugs Amma, Camille has a flashback. This part got a little confusing for me. She’s driving through the rain, pulls up in front of a rehabilitation center, takes a gulp of vodka and holds out a razor blade. She then enters the center with a fresh cut. A nurse at the front desk calls someone to patch her up, and we see the young woman who’s appeared in flashbacks before. She’s a patient at the center.

The nurse shows Camille to her room, and the young girl, Alice, is her roommate. Alice groans at Camille’s arrival, so Camille lifts up her shirt to reveal scars that say, “Fuck u.”

This whole sequence of events left me with more than a few questions. How was Camille able to walk into a psychiatric center with a fresh cut and get a bed right away? Alice hangs out at the front desk, also happens to be her roommate, and there are no other workers or patients to be seen in the whole center? The nurse locks them into their own room, and they also have their own bathroom? To my knowledge, this is not how psychiatric intake works, and there’s no way you’re able to get to the front desk — where other patients can see you — while your self-harm is still fresh.

It seemed to me someone took bits and pieces from what they knew a psychiatric hospital was like and set up the bare minimum in order to tell this part of the story. A more generous interpretation is they’re only showing what’s necessary because we’re seeing this flashback through Camille’s eyes… but something about the hospital set up seems lazy. I’ve only been a visitor in a psychiatric hospital, so I’d love to get opinions about this from people who’ve been there.

Back in Wind Gap, Camille wakes up to a call from her boss. Her first story was published, but he wants her to stay there and get another one. Detective Richard meets with the police chief, who now is claiming some random Mexican truckers might have murdered the girls. He doesn’t want to believe someone from his town did it, but Richard disagrees. He thinks someone has a problem with those particular girls.

Camille tries to talk to Natalie’s mom (Natalie is the second girl who was murdered), but she gets a door slammed in her face. She does get an interview with Natalie’s brother, John, but only because his controlling girlfriend, Ashley, sets it up. They plan to meet at Ashley’s house later.

As Camille drives, she enters another flashback. Back at the psychiatric center, she becomes more friendly with her roommate, Alice. We see her once again enter an “older sister” role. She helps Alice put on lipstick, and they show each other their scars. Alice tells Camille she thought cutting was something you grew out of. Camille says she was never good at the adult thing. Alice laughs and calls Camille “the Peter Pan of cutting.”

As the flashback happens, present Camille mouthes along. These flashes of the past are connected to the present as they’re happening, and we see Camille is really re-living what we’re shown. As Alice shows Camille a song, Camille’s listening to the song in the car. Camille’s past is still very connected to her present.

Camille pulls over when she sees Richard’s car at a local coffee shop. She starts questioning him, but he’s not willing to engage with her. (I’m reminded of how Camille’s boss told her she wasn’t supposed to be solving the case… even though it appears this is exactly what Camille is doing.) Richard reveals he doesn’t want to talk to her because he read her “sob story” in the newspaper. When he leaves, he tells her to stay out of his way.

After meeting with Richard, Camille’s drives over to Bob Nash’s house, father of the first young girl who was murdered. People in the town still seem suspicious of him, and Camille’s asks him more questions about his daughter. (Interestingly, we still haven’t met his wife…)

Randomly, Camille’s mom is there, and she’s horrified Camille is there interviewing Bob. She says she’s there on a social visit, and that Camille’s presence is “inappropriate.” She actually kicks her out of her own interview. Why is Camille’s mom so involved in all of this?

In the car, Camille screams and hits the steering wheel, rightfully expressing frustration at her mother. She won’t even let her do her job and is clearly trying to control the narrative about what’s happening to these girls. Later we find out the police chief actually told Adora that Camille was visiting Bob, which makes the whole thing even more suspicious. 

While she’s driving, Camille sees Amma rollerblading, and follows her. She goes to a farm — Preaker Farms — the farm owned by Camille’s family. 

Camille follows Amma through the farm until one of the workers gives Amma a young pig. Amma totally sees Camille following her and smirks directly at her. No idea why this happened… but Amma is becoming more and more suspicious to me, and of course, her mother isn’t helping. When the police chief tells Adora that Amma was out past curfew, she ends up telling Amma that Camille isn’t safe, twisting it to make Amma’s behavior about Camille.

Camille goes to Ashley’s house to interview Natalie’s brother, where we learn more about the tension between the two girls who died. The brother, John, even implies that if his sister hadn’t met the first girl who was murdered, maybe she’d still be alive. While Camille is onto something, she’s not that great at asking the right questions. John immediately gets defensive, gets emotional talking about his sister and says how much he hates living in Wind Gap. They have to stop the interview, and Camille leaves her number.

Camille returns to her childhood home and, I’m finally going to say it, her mother is utterly awful! Camille actually goes to apologize to her mom, and here are some highlights from Adora in this charming conversation.

I suppose you spent your day chatting it up with anyone who would talk to you.

How dare you question me in my own home? How dare your take advantage of Bob?

You never mean to do anything, and yet you cause so much hurt.

She’s a little girl, Camille [referring to Amma], she doesn’t understand what you are.

And, my personal favorite, when she pokes her hand on her roses:

Look what you’ve done!

She’s the worst! You only have to wonder if she was like this before Camille’s sister died, or if her daughter’s death made her heartless towards Camille.

As we could have predicted, Camille ends up heading out to the bar. She brings Detective Richard a shot as a peace offering. The bar closes, and they end up drinking in a parking lot.

Amma and her friends pull up in the parking lot, and here things get weird with Amma (again). They tease Camille and Richard for hanging out together. Amma starts telling Richard that he should ask Camille about the boys in her past. She sticks her lollypop in Camille’s hair. And when Camille fights back, Amma says, “Be dangerous like mamma said.” I know she’s drunk again, but Amma is cruel to her sister here. I wonder if this is truly who Amma is, or is there’s another reason she’s acting out.

Camille drives home, drunk. She’s always drunk, but this time we see it. She drives fast and recklessly as flashbacks from what just happened and flashbacks from the psychiatric hospital combine.

This is where things get devastating, and for the first time, graphic. This is a scene you can skip if seeing blood and cutting triggers you. Here’s what happens:

Back at the psychiatric hospital, Camille enters her room to find her roommate, Alice, dead on the floor. She appears to have ingested a bottle of Clorox, and there’s blood. She left a rose on Camille’s bed from the bunch of roses Camille’s mother brought her. Camille throws up in the toilet and uses a screw from the toilet to cut herself, frantically. There is blood, and two hospital workers take her away.

Back in the present, we see a few things happen at once. Camille, who’s speeding, sees a young girl in the middle of the road and stops short. The girl isn’t really there. Alan, Adora’s husband, steps outside and bites his hand. We see Camille cut “Fix” on her arm. Camille throws her phone out her car window, and the episode ends.

Our rating: 

I know this part of the story was important to tell, but I was pretty unimpressed by the scenes in the psychiatric ward. Compared to what we see in Wind Gap, which is a setting I believe in, the psychiatric hospital felt flat and thrown together, despite the impact of what happened there. I didn’t like how graphic the last scene was, but that’s mostly because of how it affected me personally. I would hate for one scene to make someone unsafe when the series has so far done a great job talking about self-harm. If you’re watching, I hope you’re also taking care of yourself.

Discussion Question:

If you have experience in a psychiatric hospital, how did you feel about the flashbacks in this episode? Do you feel “Sharp Objects” does the experience justice? If you were to make a TV show featuring a psychiatric hospital, what would you make sure to include? 

Originally published: July 23, 2018
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