With the cat out of the bag, Claire and Eric’s relationship becomes widely known, and both have to grapple with the potential consequences of their actions.
This review of A Teacher season 1, episode 6 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Last week’s episode of A Teacher saw something of a pall being cast over Claire and Eric’s lovey-dovey but deeply unethical relationship when Claire, dopily and drunkenly, confessed to her suitably aghast colleague, Kathryn. This latest half-hour begins with a similar revelation, this one quite intentional but much more considered: “Matt,” Claire says to her husband, “I’m having an affair.” Then she says it again, louder because he’s still asleep, and then again, louder still, eventually, when she knows he’s listening, adding, “I’m sleeping with my student.”
This moment of honesty for Claire is, we quickly learn, probably just as calculated as every other decision she makes, since we promptly see the police arriving at Eric’s home and press him about his relationship with Claire. Kathryn has ratted her out. In telling Matt, Claire was getting ahead of the curve.
A Teacher episode 6 is the first time, I think, that Eric has ever considered his relationship with Claire in its ethical context. It’s the first time he has ever considered the possibility he might have been manipulated, exploited, and abused by someone in a position of considerable power over him. He hears his mother Sandy take sharp intakes of breath as it gradually dawns on her, during the police’s questioning, that her young son is having a sexual relationship with his teacher. Later, when his friends learn of their relationship, they acknowledge that Eric will be considered “legendary” for it, but that Claire sleeping with him means she undoubtedly has issues. However much he wants to believe their relationship is a genuine fairytale romance, that simply isn’t the case.
It takes Eric a while to really reach that conclusion, though. In the meantime, Matt reveals the affair to Claire’s cop brother Nate, and then rather pathetically insists to Claire that they can still make it work. This isn’t Matt being supportive of his wife, at least not to my mind, but him being terrified of living without his wife, who has endured and perhaps even endorsed his infantile excess. He’s such a doormat of a man that he can’t even summons up some legitimate ire for statutory rape. Claire’s relationship with Eric is, to him, just a mistake, the kind of thing all couples go through at one time or another. This kind of attitude is probably part of the reason Claire thought she could get away with it in the first place – it’s also probably why, instead of talking to Matt, she instead talks to Eric.
The two run away to a motel and have weird sex during which Claire insists he stares right into her eyes the whole time. At no point does she mention that their exposure is down to her blabbermouth; at no point, at least not that I caught, does Eric even ask. He’s determined to believe that they’re good together, that they can just run away on a romantic cross-country tour. Claire seems rather compelled by the idea, perhaps to avoid having to accept responsibility for what she’s done.
But in the morning, Eric isn’t there. All the missed calls from his mother and the conversations with the police and his friends the previous day allowed him to realize the truth of the matter, which is that he was being manipulated. “My entire life gone, for you,” Claire tells him, right before they have sex that last time. What is that if not flagrant emotional and sexual abuse? When Eric finally returns to his mother, A Teacher managed to really capture the crushing realization that Eric was feeling; the acceptance, finally, that things were not how he had seen them before. Claire, to her credit, parks up outside the police station, presumably ready to turn herself in.
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