Devilishly funny and incredibly unique, Nathan Fielder takes ideas from Nathan for You and pushes them to their limits with an unforgettable social experiment.
This recap of the HBO Max series The Rehearsal season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers. You can check out all of our coverage of this show by clicking these words.
Nathan Fielder, the comedian and all-around creative talent behind the highly acclaimed Nathan for You, is back with his latest blend of docu-reality comedy stylings, bringing us the exceptional The Rehearsal.
The Rehearsal season 1, episode 1 recap
Nathan for You ended in 2017 with “Finding Frances”, which the New York Times called one of the most memorable TV episodes of the year. In that feature length finale, Nathan Fielder helped an aging man track down his lost love from over half a lifetime ago. The episode mixed genuine human emotions with staged scenes, blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Interestingly, the episode involved well-rehearsed acting workshops where they tested out possible scenarios for the old man if he ever did find his lost lover. This has to be the inspiration for Nathan Fielder’s latest offering, where people from the public get the chance to rehearse life-changing events in the minutest detail.
The premiere focuses on Kor, a teacher in his fifties, who is obsessed with TV trivia. Ironically, he’s never heard of Nathan for You though! Kor was chosen from a Craigslist ad, where Nathan Fielder searched for people who believed they were living a lie. Kor has been lying to his trivia team mates for years now about having an advanced degree in maths, which he does not have. He desperately wants to confess, but fears that long-term friend Tricia will respond aggressively to the betrayal. In comes Nathan Fielder and his psychotically deranged social experiment, mirroring the worlds of The Truman Show and Synecdoche, New York.
Nathan Fielder has an entire bar recreated in meticulous detail so that Kor can rehearse his confession endlessly and authentically. The aim is to execute the perfect conversation, whilst planning for every eventuality. Nathan Fielder tested this out on himself when preparing to ask Kor to be involved in the process. He had Kor’s apartment digitally mapped and reconstructed, then hired an actor to play Kor in their rehearsals. It’s a devilishly funny concept that brings out some truly magical, micro moments.
Once Kor has agreed to the process, they start to research Tricia’s personality and mannerisms. This involves another elaborate setup, where Tricia ends up interviewing the actress that will be playing her. Kor and the Tricia doppelganger are then placed in this surreal warehouse that homes the reconstructed bar and start to practice Kor’s confession. Nathan Fielder uses flowcharts and endless simulations to hone Kor’s response, whilst also throwing in new variables and then an army of stand-in actors to really authenticate the scene. It’s a dazzling experiment, going to great lengths for a small event, but it works on so many levels. A digression into how Nathan Fielder acquired the trivia night answers and then planted them in Kor’s memory via a montage sequence is a hilarious highlight.
When it comes to the actual confession, I was about as nervous as Kor to see how the experiment would conclude. He hesitates for an excruciating amount of time, but finally confesses to Tricia. She takes the news well and the friends actually find themselves opening up more and divulging further personal stories throughout the night. It’s a cute ending, but Nathan Fielder has one more trick up his sleeve.
In the final scenes, Nathan Fielder reflects on the entire process with Kor. The trivia fanatic seems more pleased to have won the quiz than with Tricia’s reaction. Although, Nathan has his own confession to make and reveals to Kor that he subliminally planted the quiz answers in Kor’s memory so that he would win the game and have more confidence with his overall confession. There’s a twist though, Nathan Fielder is in fact confessing all this to an actor playing Kor, not the real person. Does he cowardly avoid completing his own confession? We’ll never truly know, but the way it is edited leaves the ending ambiguous enough for you to make your own decision. A truly masterful end to an insanely original premiere.