‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Episode 2 Recap: Sitting on a Powder Keg

The premiere of Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers introduced the show’s large cast of characters and the resort that will serve as the backdrop to their story, but episode 2, “The Critical Path,” dives deeper into the ensemble’s reasons for attending a 10-day retreat at Tranquillum House. While Masha (Nicole Kidman) receives death threats from an anonymous source, the show outlines the characters’ grief — which it turns out has layers.

With so many issues to sort through, the episode juggles whether they’re a team or, as Delilah (Tiffany Boone) puts it, a “powder keg.” From this installment alone, all signs point to the latter.

[Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 2.]

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ unravels the Marconi family’s grief

Heather (Asher Keddie) and Napoleon (Michael Shannon) digging with shovels in Hulu's 'Nine Perfect Strangers.' The image shows their side profiles, and they're looking at something off-screen to the left.
Asher Keddie and Michael Shannon in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ | Vince Valitutti/Hulu

The premiere of Nine Perfect Strangers ended with Zoe Marconi (Grace Van Patten) storming out of Masha’s orientation in tears. It’s only fitting, then, that episode 2 explores the Marconi family’s grief. Following Zoe’s outburst, Frances (Melissa McCarthy) follows her out of the orientation. During their conversation, Zoe reveals her twin brother “stopped living” three years ago.

That explains Heather’s (Asher Keddie) emotions during the first episode, though maybe not Napoleon’s. While Heather and Zoe both seem to be reeling from their loss, Napoleon remains an upbeat, active member of the family — something he could be using as a shield to protect himself from feeling his true emotions.

That’s a point of contention between him and his wife, who accuses him of leaving her alone with her suffering. Her outburst early on in the episode highlights how much she resents his way of coping with their son’s death. “I’m here because I miss liking you,” she tells him.

Of course, Heather’s problems go deeper than that, something that becomes evident at the very end of the episode. While the group goes on their hike and plays games, Heather finds herself drawn to the edge of a cliff. The explosive moment sees her husband and Delilah talking her down, but it’s clear she was considering jumping.

Naturally, Zoe reacts to the scene with horror and anger, running off once again. When Napoleon tracks her down, she lets it all out. Not only does she accuse her parents of trying to “shield” her from everything, but she insists they’re the ones who are actually “f—– up.”

Episode 2 of the Hulu series explores Frances and Tony’s characters

The Marconis aren’t the only ones in the spotlight during Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 2. The second installment spends a lot of time with Frances and Tony (Bobby Cannavale), both of whom argue and bond throughout its 50-minute run. Although they didn’t get off on the best foot during the premiere, the pair has a lot of chemistry. It’s clear the show wants to capitalize on that fact.

Through their interactions with Masha and each other, Nine Perfect Strangers peels the layers back on both of these characters. When Tony confronts Masha about taking his prescription medication, she reveals he’s a drug addict. He appears to have developed an addiction while healing from a serious injury, though the show doesn’t offer much more detail on that front.

Meanwhile, Frances remembers a man she fell in love with online — someone who essentially catfished her and stole her money. Between flashbacks of her interactions with Paul (Ben Falcone) and her recollection of events to Tony, it’s hard not to feel for her. While the group digs ditches early in the episode, Frances also proclaims that no one would care if she died. Her scenes in this episode underscore her loneliness, and McCarthy plays that well.

Frances and Tony spar with words throughout Nine Perfect Strangers, but after Frances nearly chokes on a grape Tony threw in her mouth, the two develop a dynamic that’s somewhat more civil.

That doesn’t stop Frances from trying to leave Tranquillum, resulting in a touching scene between her and Masha. Masha convinces her to stay for one more day, highlighting that Masha does seem to genuinely care about her guests — even if she plans to “f— with” them.

Samara Weaving gives a compelling performance in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Episode 2

Nicole Kidman and Samara Weaving in 'Nine Perfect Strangers' on Hulu. Kidman and Weaving are sitting on the floor across from one another. Kidman is holding Weaving's chin.
Nicole Kidman and Samara Weaving in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ | Vince Valitutti/Hulu

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Although Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 2 focuses mostly on the Marconi family, Frances, and Tony, the other characters do get some time to shine. And the standout performance from this installment has to be from Samara Weaving.

Weaving’s character Jessica gets a one-on-one meeting with Masha, during which she shares her insecurities — some of which she tries to hide harder than others. Following the group’s digging exercise, Jessica admits that she didn’t think about her loved ones when she reflected on her death. Instead, she imagined herself receiving social-media comments full of love and praise.

It’s a disturbing admission and one that speaks to influencer culture. However, Masha chalks it up to Jessica wanting to live a meaningful life.

Masha also gets to the true reason Jessica came to Tranquillum House: to fix her marriage. Although Ben and Jessica seem fine when they’re together, she exudes insecurity about their relationship. Masha pulls that to the surface, asking bluntly, “Why doesn’t he love you anymore?” Jessica’s broken answer — that she doesn’t know — is a testament to Weaving’s acting skills. Hopefully, viewers will see more moments of vulnerability from her as the show continues.

Who’s sending Masha threats on ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’?

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The guests at Tranquillum House may have plenty of drama to deal with, but it seems Kidman’s character has unexpected baggage on her plate as well. Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 2 shows Masha getting death threats from an anonymous source. She receives a text that promises this will be her “last week on Earth.”

She confides in Yao (Manny Jacinto) about this, but she doesn’t seem as concerned as he is. When asked if they should seek out help, Masha asks what the police would even do about it. The scene suggests she doesn’t have a deep appreciation for law enforcement, but it doesn’t dive into why.

Her conversation with Yao also reveals there’s some sort of love triangle happening behind the scenes at Tranquillum House. Masha and Yao are clearly intimate, but he tells her Delilah’s feeling jealous over it. All signs point to them having an open relationship, but all parties don’t seem thrilled about it.

Delilah’s concerns don’t stop at jealousy over Yao though. The episode ends with Masha telling her staff to start “the protocol” early, something Boone’s character is clearly worried about. Could Masha’s hastiness be a result of the threats she’s receiving or her guests attempts to leave? Fans will have to wait until episode 3 to find out what she’s planning, but it’s likely to shake things up significantly.

The first three episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers are currently streaming on Hulu.