The Vow season 1, episode 7 recap – “The Dossier”

October 5, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO, TV Recaps
4

Summary

“The Dossier” reveals Keith’s history of scheming and abuse as Catherine Oxenberg emerges as the hands-on hero, assembling the case that’ll help to sink NXIVM.

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4

Summary

“The Dossier” reveals Keith’s history of scheming and abuse as Catherine Oxenberg emerges as the hands-on hero, assembling the case that’ll help to sink NXIVM.

This recap of The Vow season 1, episode 7, “The Dossier”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.


Keith Raniere was obviously at the centre of the NXIVM case, but throughout The Vow he has been a peripheral figure, someone mostly spoken about by others. We’ve seen plenty of clips of him, sure, and in most of them, he has been reeling off his pseudo-intellectual buzz phrases like someone put a penny in him. But the depths of his crookedness, the history of his performative self-help guru character, and his long-running schemes are finally, properly unpacked in “The Dossier”, and it’s a delight to see.

I haven’t been shy about mocking Raniere since he’s so easy to make fun of, and frankly, he deserves it. The question that has always hung over this show is to what extent those who bought into his pyramid schemes deserve their share of the scorn as well since all his multilevel marketing schemes are so flagrantly designed to line his pockets and rip off investors. It should be obvious what he’s up to – what he has, apparently, always been up to.

As “The Dossier” explains, the way around this is to ensure that profit is only made by suckering in someone else to exploit beneath you. It creates a nice chain of people who don’t necessarily believe in the model but believe unequivocally in their right to benefit from someone else’s naiveté. That persists until the scam becomes too obvious to ignore, at which point, at least if you’re Keith Raniere, you refuse to admit anything and cut and run with the dough. Then you just start again, using the lessons learned in the previous failure to ensure the next endeavor is a bit more watertight.

This could, conceivably, go on forever, or at least long enough for Keith’s dried-up little conman heart to give in. But Keith has a problem – he can’t help abusing and controlling women. Thus, his appetites not only draw further attention to him and his general weirdness, but they help to create a very specific pattern in his behaviour and business endeavours. It’s probably a symptom of his incredible narcissism that he doesn’t even vary his tactics particularly. He hides behind fancy titles – “Vanguard”, incredibly – and suckers women in with some kind of small-scale new age magic, then before they know it he has them trapped in a highly dependent relationship with obvious blackmail on hand to ruin them if they get out of line. The great trick he pulls is convincing them to hand over that blackmail material themselves.

“The Dossier” introduces us to Toni, who falls into this pattern. Earlier, I was trying to explain all this to my business partner here at RSC, and having never heard of NXIVM, he Googled it. The first thing that struck him was that a woman – Nancy Salzman – was so high-up in the organization and had helped Keith to wreak havoc on the lives of so many other women. It’s Toni who informs us that Nancy was her therapist, which is a striking thing given how she has been talked up throughout the series as this shifty master of neurolinguistic programming and hypnotherapy. Imagine that woman being your therapist. It’s enough to make you shudder. There’s really no wonder Keith was able to get away with so much for so long given how deeply and completely he could infiltrate your life through a trusted third-party.

The Vow episode 7 posits this tag-team as the genesis of NXIVM, with Keith as a kind of charismatic (wo)man-trap and Nancy as the spider that webs you up good and proper. They make for a good team, and that’s without the resources – financial and otherwise – that come from having such high-profile clientele. But even that begins to backfire here in “The Dossier”, as former Dynasty star and literal princess’s daughter Catherine Oxenberg has had quite enough of her daughter India being so deeply embroiled in Keith’s cult. Thus, she sets out on a crusade to compile a laundry list of crimes committed by NXIVM higher-ups and work with The Frank Report’s Frank Parlato, who for the record has several criminal charges pending against him, to arrange all of them into a comprehensive account for the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who, fun fact, resigned from his office after being accused of abusing four women. This isn’t exactly a watertight team of do-gooders, is it?

But never mind all that. Catherine is really the star of this episode, and she’s presented as the best of both worlds if one world is the relatable mother whose daughter is in a serious plight and the other is a ridiculously connected heroine who can call her princess mother to get Prince Charles to tell the Dalai Lama that her daughter’s in a spot of bother. (This is a real conversation that actually happens in “The Dossier”, and I was there for it.) It’s Catherine’s nitty-gritty crusade that actually yields some tangible results against NXIVM, and she really worked for that result. It’s nice to see, finally, someone see through Keith’s horseshit.


Thanks for reading our recap of The Vow season 1, episode 7, “The Dossier”. For more recaps, reviews, and original features covering the world of entertainment, why not follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page?

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