Fleishman is in Trouble (Episode 5): With every other episode, ‘Fleishman is in Trouble’ brings more to the table about Toby’s acceptance of his new life. The divorced man in his forties is devastated after accepting his reality yet grapples with making peace with it. The latest episode navigates his struggle with loneliness that comes from not being able to confront his wife the way he wanted to. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Lizzy Caplan, Claire Danes, and Adam Brody in the lead roles, this dark comedy miniseries delves deeper into the psyche of its characters and uses clever, sharp writing through the voiceover to illustrate it.
Fleishman is in Trouble Episode 5 ‘Vantablack’ Recap
The fifth episode, titled ‘Vantablack,’ is directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. The episode elaborates on the progression of this very day. Toby (Jesse Eisenberg) accepts the loss of his marriage with Rachel (Claire Danes), and his other struggle is to battle loneliness. He cannot fathom the amount of pain it causes him and tries to look for every possible way to mask the feeling of loneliness. Unlike this gloomy state, he cheers with Seth (Adam Brody) to the fight between two attractive women in what looks like a women’s fight club. But how did he get here from soaking in the pool of sadness in his hospital cabin?
After the breakdown, he returns to his empty home and struggles to go to sleep. More so, he struggles to ignore the looming fear of loneliness over him. He engages in sexual intercourse as a distraction, which does not help alleviate the pain. His life starts getting sadder to the point of being treated like other elderly, single people, and he suddenly gets realization how people treat a person of his age and relationship status. He goes to his museum, aka his favorite place. A Vantablack presentation from their new exhibition reminds him of his void. So, even a thing he eagerly awaits for months does not help him either.
He then tries to ask his juniors for a ritualistic dinner between juniors and seniors. They have other plans, highlighting how planless and humanless his life has become. He then calls Seth, thinking that at least his old friend would offer him company. Like every other time, Seth was down to invite him to his entourage. With him, Toby goes on a series of adventures that excites him and enthralls him to engage in wild activities that he usually would not. However, as the end of the night approaches, so does the impending loneliness. He cannot find a way out of that feeling.
He then thinks of Nahid (Mozhan Marnò), the woman from his sexual escapades who earlier refused to have any romantic entanglement. After having sex with her, he tells her about his painful divorce. Listening to that, she decides to calm and comfort him by rubbing oil on his back which makes him feel relaxed. He cannot think of a single nice thing done to him in such a way when he felt his love being reciprocated. Soon after, she reveals her past, where she married a conservative news anchor just like her parents, who kept imposing their traditional ideas upon her after immigrating to the USA.
Since this news anchor seemed like the person who would maintain the sanctity of marriage by getting intimate only after that, she married him. However, he never lovingly touched her. One day, she finds him having sex with his male secretary. So, the secret behind his staunch beliefs gets revealed to her. Still, she decides to use his money to buy the luxurious life she currently lives while legally being married to him and occasionally showing up at events and gatherings along with him.
After this interaction, while waking back home, he stumbles upon a little dog who is up for adoption. It seems like the perfect opportunity for someone who will always love him, who will be loyal to him and replace what he had lost. Filled with tremendous joy, he meets Seth and Libby (Lizzy Caplan). Seth, who always looks like he always has his shit together, got fired and only acts as if he has his shit together to be perceived as confident by other employers and young brokers. After he and Toby begin with their sexist rant, she leaves to head back to her family for an amusement park trip.
She reaches there quite late, and begrudgingly, the family heads towards their destination. Meanwhile, we get a tour through her past, where she worked at a men’s magazine for a job she always wanted. Despite putting in the work for years, she does not rise up the corporate ladder nearly to the level her male peers do and feels cheated. However, she persists with her work, hoping it is a no-dead-end job. She admires Archer (Christian Slater), an author to whose level she wishes to reach in terms of fame and success.
Even when he comes up with a book with deeply sexist subtext (that showcases only a man’s side after the divorce), she tolerates it in the hopes of interacting with him. However, in the signing ceremony, he treats her like every other fan who came there to get his book signed by him. She feels so little, so inconsequential in this world of literature, and hopeless about getting better pay, recognition, or respect. As a result, she eventually decides to leave her job and work on her novel.
However, until she is on this road trip with her family to the amusement park, she has not worked on it nearly to the level she had dreamed of. Upon reaching the capitalistic mass media conglomerate that is supposed to amuse them with their park, she realizes that she forgot to book the passes, leaving them with no other option but to return home. Meanwhile, Toby gets a call from the camp telling him to come there urgently for an emergency concerning his daughter, Hannah (Meara Mahoney Gross).
Upon reaching, he learns that she sent an objectionable photo of hers to a guy from her class, who shared it with others. But only she got punished for this action, and no action was taken against him, even when he was the perpetrator. While leaving with his kids, Toby also confronts the young boy and traumatizes him for being awful. On their return journey, he opens up to his children about the possibility that their mother will not be present in their lives as she used to be.
He feels so sorry for them and more so for his inability to do anything about it. On their way back, they connect with a pop music track that surprisingly narrates his mental state and gives all three of them a feeling of resilience to resume their lives, different from their past. After returning home, the children are delighted by the surprise of a dog named Bubbles, as Hannah wanted her dog to be named if they ever had one. With Seth and his partner joining them, he has a great time and does not think about his divorce. However, right after the laughs from the dinner settle down, he is reminded of the loneliness enveloping him.
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He thinks of his daughter at that time, who, despite having faced a traumatic incident, can change her mental state oh so quickly and be content with it. She, for being a ‘she,’ will probably continue juggling between innocence and maturity in the coming years in the same way. Upon reaching this understanding, Toby finds his pain insignificant and heads to their old place to meet Rachel. He learns from the doorman that she has returned. So, Toby goes there with a determination to confront her. However, upon reaching her doorstep, he cannot muster the courage to do so.
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What does Vantablack represent for Toby & his children?
Later, Toby takes Hannah & Solly (Maxim Swinton) to the same exhibit he had gone to by himself. They walk up to the same Vantablack space, which is a literal manifestation of a void. While he does not dare to enter the space, he goes in with his two young children. Perhaps the thought of having company would alleviate his pain and make him experience things he wants to, without fear. However, within a few moments of entering it, Solly runs right outside this space in fear, and Toby rushes out with Hannah to catch him.
The thought of entering a void earlier scared Toby since it would make him think about his pain without the relief of any distraction and open up his feelings and desires in a scarily naked manner. Hannah is not scared by it or does not show it at least, which sadly illustrates the lack of innocence due to the external factors that made her mature at such a young age. And like his old man, Solly seems to be scared to face his fears in such a direct manner.