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'Sharp Objects' Episode 5 Recap: 'Closer'

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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 five 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.

Amma is OK. It’s the morning of Calhoun Day, an annual event Adora holds on her grounds. The day is for celebrating southern pride and remembering the town’s history (although they don’t say the “c” word —confederate — Camille tells Detective Richard later in the episode).

Back in St. Louis, Camille’s editor tells her the second article she wrote about the murders is blowing up. He wants her to write the next installment. Throughout the day, we see practically everyone in town has read Camille’s article. Everyone, that is, but her mom, Adora.

On her way out of the house, Camille drops her “water” bottle (the one she fills with vodka) into her mom’s room — a room she never goes into. In a flashback, a photographer sets up his equipment as Adora tells him the history of the room. She says her family are decedents of the Calhoun’s, the founders of the town, and that she married into the Preakers — who own the pig farm. Young Camille sneaks in and grabs the photographer’s camera, jokingly taking pictures of her younger sister. Her mom scolds her — both for messing with the photographer’s camera and for getting mud on the floor, reacting as if she’s broken something irreplaceable. The photographer says it’s no big deal and cleans up the mess.

Adult Camille looks at the wall — we see the picture the photographer ended up taking. Only Adora and Camille’s sister are in the photo, which makes me wonder why Camille was always shunned by her mom, even before her sister died. If Camille is Adora’s daughter, why isn’t she in the photo?

Back in the present, Adora takes Camille and Amma to the store to find Camille something appropriate to wear. She’s wearing what she always wears (dark colors, long sleeves) and Adora won’t have it — not appropriate attire for Calhoun Day.

Before they leave, Camille asks Amma about her friendship with Ann and Natalie — the two young girls who were murdered. Amma dismisses how close they were, and said they hung out a million years ago, “like seventh grade,” which Camille points out was actually one year ago.

“Do you feel like you can talk to me about them?” Camille asks Amma. She says yes, but also says she doesn’t like to think about them. It scares her.

“I feel bad because we weren’t friends anymore when it happened. They still wanted to play in the woods, build forts and shit. Kid stuff,” she says.

During their conversation, someone sends Amma the article Camille wrote. She reads it out loud and gets upset. I honestly can’t tell if she’s mad about the content, or mad because her friends saw it before she did. Most likely the latter.

During the shopping trip, we hear Adora say the first thing we’ve ever heard about Camille’s father. Adora tells the woman who’s working in the clothing store about Camille, “She takes after her father, her coloring and temperament.” This isn’t the last time Adora disses Camille’s father in this episode, although we still don’t know what happened to him.

“I’m not sure of your taste Camille, but I think you’d look lovely in these,” the woman at the store says, holding up strappy dresses Camille obviously can’t wear. Her mom, who must know about Camille’s self-harm scars, sends Camille to the dressing room. On the way, Camille tries to grab a dress with long sleeves, but no one listens to her.

She gets undressed in the dressing room and asks for the long-sleeved dress she picked out. Her mom actually takes her clothes away, asking about the dresses, “Which one fits better?” Awful. Camille is stuck, and Adora keeping asking her to come out of the dressing room.

Desperate, Camille tells Amma to wait in the car. She doesn’t want her to see her scars. But her mom keeps insisting. Camille marches out in her bra and underwear and throws one of the dresses at her mom.

“Happy?” she whispers.

Amma stares at the words written across Camille’s body. She looks shocked and then goes to wait in the car.

“This is what you wanted, right?” Camille asks, staring at her mom.

“It’s worse than I remembered,” she replies. (Bullshit)

Camille then says, “You weren’t there at the end.”

Adora asks Camille if she’d stopped cutting, and when Camille says yes, she responds, “Hardly matters. You’re ruined.”

At this moment, my heart broke. She even continued:

All out of spite. You want to know who your father was? That’s who he was. All spite. I’m glad Amma saw.

Camille gets her clothes, goes back into the dressing room, and screams into one of the dresses. This is the most emotion we’ve seen come out of Camille, a scream that seemed to have been waiting a long time.

Back at home, Camille is packing up her things. Amma comes to apologize. Although she doesn’t know exactly what to say, she does appear to at least try.

I know a girl, like you. Not… like you, but she says it doesn’t hurt because the cuts are already there, under the skin, the knife just lets it out.

— Amma

Amma takes Camille to her room and shows her a dress with long sleeves she can wear and asks her to stay. Considering how rocky their relationship has been, it’s a sweet gesture. I do think she wants to be good to her sister.

Before Camille commits to staying, she calls her editor. I love this moment because we get to see her vulnerable. It hits me that Camille likely didn’t grow up with a father, and her boss really cares about her. Although Camille is not an easy person to mentor, here she gives in and starts to cry.

“I thought that sending you home would help,” her editor says, “But I forgot how sometimes parents aren’t always good for their kids.”

Camille answers, “Whenever I’m here, I feel like a  bad person.” Her editor tries to convince her she is a good person, even joking, “Why do you think I keep you around? It’s not because you’re a good reporter.” It’s a sweet moment. Camille decides to stay to finish what she started.

Throughout Calhoun Day, things go on as normal — but there are moments of tension. Bob Nash confronts Detective Richard, convinced it was Natalie’s brother John who killed his daughter. John’s girlfriend, Ashley, confronts Camille about how she didn’t include the information she provided in her article. “You don’t want to burn this bridge,” she tells her. “I know things, Camille.”

Adora approaches Detective Richard, and with her most charming southern lady act, invites him to tour her home.

Meanwhile, Camille goes backstage looking for Amma (something Adora seemed to orchestrate to get some alone time with Richard) and she runs into Kirk Lacey, the man who plays the piano for the performance Amma and her friends were preparing for. In a quick flashback, we see that Kirk is one of the boys who would “have their way” with Camille in that spot in the woods. He says, “I’m glad you’re back,” and, “I’ve thought a lot about you,” which is creepy considering the context. Kirk’s wife looks on, clearly unhappy that he’s talking to Camille.

Back at the house, Adora talks to Richard about the ivory floors in her bedroom, and about how people in her town have known loss. She wants him to know that there is good in Wind Gap. She also talks to him about Camille. “She lost a sister, you know,” she tells him. “Camille’s strength went with her. People avoid the topic, but I can speak on it. Camille can’t. Even now, she’s recovering from a recent episode. She’s delicate. A rare rose, but not without thorns.”

Says the woman who has been complaining about a scratch on her hand for a week… but sure, Camille is the fragile one.

The production starts, and Amma and her friends (who have taken drugs) put on the show. Towards the end of the performance, though, Bob Nash tackles John and starts to beat him up. Scared, Amma runs away. In true Wind Gap fashion, Kirk tells the kids to keep singing despite the fighting, but soon it’s clear that Amma is actually missing. Adora is inconsolable, and the men (and Camille) run into the woods to look for her.

While looking for her step-sister, Camille seeings a vision of her younger sister, and follows her. She leads her to the shed, where Amma is curled up in a ball, freaking out.

When Amma is home safe and sound, Adora asks Camille to have a drink with her. Sitting on the porch, Adora apologizes. They talk about how Camille never can get close to someone because of her self-harm scars, and that’s what Adora said she wanted to apologize about.

“You can’t get close,” she says. “That’s your father. And it’s why, I think, I never loved him. You were born to it. That cold nature. I hope that’s some comfort to you.”

In Wind Gap, words hurt. Like the words written all over Camille’s body, words are the daggers. Words cut. And Adora won’t stop hurting her daughter.

Camille drives to Richard’s motel room, and they have sex. Camille shuts off the light and keeps her shirt on, but we can see the words “Closer” etched on her body.

Our Rating: 

I love how Camille gets more vulnerable in this episode. We can see how Adora’s abusive words might have directly impacted the words Camille sketched on her skin. We can also see how Camille was never taught to express herself, and how suppression — only realized through gossip — is how women in Wind Gap are taught to function.

Discussion Question:

If you live with self-harm scars, how do people typically react when they see them? For people who react without compassion, what would you want them to know about your experience? 

Originally published: August 6, 2018
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