Monday, May 9, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 16

That thing with Leila ends up fine but then I guess Ray is hurt or something. 

So Leila's return means that this book is in full-on wrap-up mode. So that's something! Makes me feel like the end is near! Cool. V important for my dwindling motivation.

Have we talked about Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans before? Probs. Let's again tho! So the thing with that movie is that it's kind of gleefully hostile to the idea of plotting. Toward the end, there's this scene where Nic Cage is back at police HQ and there's almost a literal line of minor characters just waiting to come up to him and say, "Oh hey remember our subplot from earlier in the film? It's all taken care of so don't worry about it! Thanks!"

After spending several chapters eschewing any dramatic tension, EL now ends two in a row with out-of-left-field cliffhangers involving tertiary characters that are impossible to worry about. I think it's because EL just doesn't succeed in making me feel like many of the characters are real people. More like little puppets that EL moves around as needed. Does that make sense? I mean, I know that everyone in this is a caricature character. But I feel a bit like there's a hierarchy. Some of the characters, like Ana and CG, have some kind of motivations and wants and needs and so on. But that's pretty much just Ana, CG, and Kate to a lesser extent. All the other characters are just so underdeveloped that they don't feel like people. Just devices. So that's not a great sign, obvs. But that's what we've got going on.

Meaning that when Leila--a lady who threatened Ana with a gun!--shows up, I'm quite unconcerned. I know that Ana isn't going to get murdered. And I know that Leila is probably just here to wrap up her little thing and will, in all likelihood, just be on her way in no time.

And when I read this chapter, and got to the next cliffhanger, I just kinda roll my eyes. Because it's another bit of pointlessness with a side character. Looks like EL is just trying to wring one last little bit of business out of everyone in this. Means José will be back soon enough, for instance.

But anyway! Let's catch up with Leila.

So where were we? 

Ana Steele is married to billionaire / kink-enthusiast / child-abuse survivor Christian Grey. He is domineering and they are usually upset with each other except for when they're having sex. 

  1. Ana takes her top off on a beach while reminiscing about the wedding and Christian gets mad.
  2. They ride a jet-ski back to their honeymoon yacht and riding jet-skis cheers up Christian a bit. Then they have sex. 
  3. Ana discovers that Christian gave her a bunch of hickies and she is angry. But then she gets over it and they look at art together and CG learns that there was a fire in his server room. 
  4. Ana buys a camera.
  5. Ana and Christian return to Seattle. After visiting Christian's parents, they become embroiled in a medium-speed chase on the interstate. After eluding their pursuers, they have sex in a parking lot. 
  6. Ana figures out that Jack Hyde was the arsonist.
  7. Christian bullies Ana until she agrees to go by "Ana Grey" in her professional life. 
  8. Ana is extremely jealous of the architect hired to remodel the new home she will share with Christian. Ana cuts Christian's hair.
  9. Ana discovers that Christian keeps an unlicensed gun in his office. While Christian is away on business, Ana has a few drinks with Kate. When Ana returns home, Jack Hyde has been apprehended during an apparent home invasion. 
  10. Christian spends a whole chapter pouting because Ana went out with Kate without telling him. 
  11. Christian pouts some more and reveals that he and Jack Hyde both used to live in Detroit. 
  12. I don't remember. So probably nothing I guess.
  13. Oh I guess in twelve everyone left for Aspen. And then in thirteen, Elliot asks Kate to marry him. 
  14. Kate says yes and someone touches Ana's butt and she slaps him and then CG hits him.
  15. They go home and nothing happens but Leila shows up at the end.

Ana's attitude toward Leila strikes me as pretty unbelievable. Same with the way she reacts to some small revelations from Leila and a newly introduced character who's basically Leila 2. It's like Ana doesn't remember that Leila broke into her apartment and waved a gun at her. But maybe that's part of Ana's charm--she seems to basically forget everything and have to be reminded of the plot at the start of every chapter. So maybe this lack of recall is why Ana is able to shrug off the fact that Leila seemed like she was maybe looking to do a murder earlier. Forgive and forget!

Anyway Ana I guess has a security lady with her named Prescott who slots into that category of "characters I've forgotten about but act as though they've been around so I guess they aren't new."

Hannah closes the door, leaving Prescott and me alone. 
“Mrs. Grey, Leila Williams is on your proscribed list of visitors.” 
“What?” I have a proscribed list? 
“On our watch list, ma’am. Taylor and Welch have been quite specific about not letting her come into contact with you.” 
I frown, not understanding. “Is she dangerous?” 
“I can’t say, ma’am.”
This mutterflushing book. Ok so first? Shout-out to EL for using a good American word like "proscribed" which is just the sort of word that Americans use in America.

Next, "Is she dangerous?" Holy shit Ana. Are you serious? Is this a real question that you're asking right now? I mean maybe she isn't dangerous but like, um, do you remember when she seemed like maybe she was going to shoot you with a gun and end your life? This is the kind of shit that keeps me from being able to view Ana as a sympathetic character. She just always does and says shit that makes absolutely no sense.

And I can tell you who's on the proscribed list: Leila and Jack Hyde. And CG's other exes and probably his mom. But his mom is probably on a different list where it's like, "Ok, security goons. If my mom comes over, don't exactly keep her from talking to Ana. Just like, try to stall until I can get there." But seriously, Ana? How why are you such a goddamn failure? You know why you have security goons around all the time--it's because certain people have threatened your life in the relatively recent past. It only makes sense that your goons would have a list of those people who have threatened your life.

But instead of being like, "Ooh maybe I should try to do the things that will be most likely to help me not be dead," Ana is all, "Ok send her in!"

Prescott stifles her sigh. “I’d like to search them both before you do.” 
“Okay. Can you do that?” 
“I’m here to protect you, Mrs. Grey, so yes, I can. I’d also like to stay with you while you talk.” 
Do you like Prescott's answer to the search question? Because I do. It's great! Her answer has nothing to do with anything. I mean I expect that what Ana's asking is, "Damn girl is that legal?" And I suppose that the answer may well be yes, since Leila is at a private place of business and has no particular right to be there nor any particular right to see Ana. Meaning that if Leila is told that she can either consent to a search or be escorted away, I suppose that may indeed be legal. But still. Prescott's non-answer answer is just more of the silliness that I associate with this book. Very convenient that Ana has one lady bodyguard. Otherwise it'd be like at the airport and her guard would be all, "Female assist to the lobby of Fake Seattle Publishing Inc plz," to like, bodyguard HQ or whatever.

“Okay.” I’ll grant her this concession. Besides, last time I met Leila, she was armed. “Go ahead.” 
Well. I mean I guess that answers one thing--Ana does indeed remember earlier events in her life. I kind of thought maybe she didn't? But that's good I guess.

Ana sends a quick email to CG telling him not to be mad in advance which totally seems like the kind of thing a person in a healthy relationship might feel the need to do. Like if you consistently find yourself at odds with your partner in this kind of way? Probs not a very good match for each other. Just sayin.

Ana prepares to meet Leila:

Hurriedly, I hide my BlackBerry in my desk drawer. I stand, smoothing my gray pencil skirt over my hips, pinch my cheeks to give them some color, and undo the next button on my gray silk blouse. Okay, I’m ready.  

Um. Do any of you want to help me on this one? Because I got nothing. Ana wants to look hot for Leila because. . . she wants to inspire further jealousy? Taunt her?  OR this book is going to take a delightfully weird turn! FYI I'm writing some 50 Shades AU fanfic. It's exactly like the regular series, except for the surprise turn at Chapter 16:

"I suppose you're wondering why I'm here," Leila asks, relaxing on the couch. She looks much better than last time I saw her. That time, she was all breaking-and-entering, gun-waving, and crazy-being. Now she's all sexy clothes, coy smiles, and non-violence. She's very Sexy Person A meets Sexy In a Different Way Person B. 
"That's exactly what I'm wondering," I say. My inner goddess and subconscious exchange a knowing look.  
"Your skirt looks very smooth," Leila mutters. "Your cheeks look very colored. And your blouse looks just a little more unbuttoned than I expected." 
"I'm glad you noticed," I reply. Good thing I did those things earlier.  
"Indeed, Mrs. Grey," Leila says. "That's why I'm here. Just wanted to learn a little more about exactly how you managed to out-sexy me and win over Christian. And now I know." 
"You don't know the half of it," I say softly. Too softly. My face becomes a hard line. I flush. "But you see, you're in my playroom now." 
"You mean for your Xbox and whatever?" 
My inner goddess and subconscious slide closer to each other on the couch and quit playing Halo. "Not quite." I lock the door. I press a button on my iPod and it's somehow also a remote control that opens up a secret closet of filled with I dunno--I guess the same type of sex stuff as Christian has in his room. There's also a fridge.  
"Care for some ice cream?" I ask. 
"You know it," Leila says. 
"Which flavor do you like?" I ask. 
"I don't care. So long as it isn't vanilla," Leila replies. And then some music starts playing and my inner goddess and subconscious start making out.  
"Good answer," I say. I Grab a carton of Haagen-Dasz and a single silver spoon that's the kind of spoon rich people probably have, like me, who's a rich person.

Anyway so that's how that goes. Still a work in progress, obvs. I think the main problem is that it starts so late. I should probably start it earlier. Really don't want everyone to have to read the regular book for quite so long before being able to switch over to mine. Ugh now I guess I should tell you what really happens but I don't wanna because of how boring it is. But seriously--that's weird, right? All the stuff Ana does to get ready to meet Leila? Good I'm glad you agree. Of course, Ana is deeply insecure, which doesn't explain everything but also it kind of does a little bit. Oh and what's the deal with  her all-gray outfit? I get it. You're married to Christian Grey. You took his name so your legal name is Grey. And now you wear gray clothes all the time. I get it! I get it! So stahhhhhp already.

Anyway. Ana meets Leila.

Leila looks much better. More than better—she’s very attractive. There’s a rosy bloom to her cheeks, and her brown eyes are bright, her hair clean and shiny. 
Oh cool Leila probs also pinched her cheeks. Guess there's a lot of that going around for some reason. Oh and I love that her hair is clean and shiny. This is like a ten year old boy trying to compliment his first crush's appearance but he doesn't know very many words so that's as good as he can manage. Also the other lady that's with Leila looks kinda like Leila so obvs she must be one of CG's ex lovers, too. Oh man. That's gotta be a real nightmare, right bro? Your exes getting together and comparing notes about what an uberdick you are? Sorry bro.

"We call ourselves the sub club," is a thing that the other one says. Her name is Susi. [Editor's note: Subway sandwich joke omitted.]

Yo that is pretty scary tho right? Like you learn that your husband has left such a trail of broken lives that his exes are self-organizing a CG-survivors support group? That's got to be a real bummer, right? Yeah that's pretty much the absolute worst.

CG is trying to get Ana to talk with him and so on but Ana is on some mission now. Not that she's let any of us in on the secret--her present motivations are, as always, quite opaque. And then we soon learn that Leila has come to Ana only to get to CG. Not for nefarious purposes, tho. At least that's her claim. He has helped her financially after her breakdown, but I kinda think that's only fair, since CG seems to be one of the primary causes of Leila's breakdown. Oh and he's super rich so why shouldn't he help her out? Exactly. He should.

CG ends up on the phone with Ana and he's super pissed because he is a hammer and every emotion he experiences is just more angry nails. So he's on the way, obvs.

“You’ll get your chance to see Christian.” 
“I thought I would. I know how protective he can be.” She smiles. 
So this is her scheme. She’s very shrewd. Or manipulative, whispers my subconscious. “This is why you’re here to see me?” 
“I see.” And Christian is playing right into her hands. Reluctantly, I have to acknowledge that she knows him well. 
Really not that impressive. CG surrounds himself with private security, but when shit goes down, he pretty much wants to be right where the action is. So considering that Leila once threatened Ana quite explicitly, it is not impressive at all that Leila has surmised that loitering around Ana's place of work is probably a good way to get CG to show up. #Genius

Anyway CG shows up. His first act of bidness is to fire Prescott so I guess I won't have to remember who she is anymore so that's fine. And then there really isn't much to it. I see no reason to go into much detail. I'm sure that's how these always go--I end up picking apart the first paragraph of these chapters and then by paragraph two I'm just like, "Ugh more? This is so boring and forever-taking!" But the truth is that nothing is happening. CG has arrived to put all the ladies in their place and, considering that this chapter seemed like it had some dramatic potential, EL really didn't do anything with it. All indications are that Leila was more or less telling the truth and all indications are that I'm very bored now.

Anyway. Now that this non-crisis has been averted, they go home to have sex. Things are kinda dirty for about a page and a half. I can't help but wonder if maybe EL is phoning it in as much as I am at this point because the scene is pretty perfunctory. Yeah, yeah, there are leather cuffs and different positions and orgasms and everything but I'm kinda like so? Also once they're done Ana does that thing again where she feels the need to pick at some scab right after coitus. This time? She wants CG to admit that he cares about Leila, even though earlier he said he didn't. Now he admits he does. Ok neat. This is important to Ana because she sees herself in Leila, despite everything. And I get that, I suppose. It makes a certain amount of sense. She wants to believe that CG isn't capable of completely rejecting her, and I don't blame her. He treats her like an object. A cherished and valuable object, perhaps. But still an object. And tastes can change. Ana's sympathy for Leila at once humanizes Ana and reminds us that she still feels insecure in her marriage, and I don't blame her. I mean. The dude's a real asshole.

This chapter also suggests to me that some final reckoning between CG and his first lover is coming somewhere between now and the end of this trilogy. I forget her name, but Ana calls her Mrs. Robinson. I think her name is something like Ilana or Anatolya or Frederica or something kind of European sounding because Ana--given name Anastasia--was all like, "Ooh that lady has such an exotic name! Not a regular name like Anastasia." Whatever. I can only hope it'll be wrapped up as easily and with as little intrigue as this Leila subplot seems to have concluded.

So here's the end of this chapter: a hastily-introduced eye-roll-inducing cliffhanger!

My BlackBerry buzzes and I answer, expecting Christian. 
“Ana, honey. It’s José Senior.” 
“Mr. Rodriguez! Hi!” My scalp prickles. What does José’s dad want with me? 
“Honey, I’m sorry to call you at work. It’s Ray.” His voice falters. 
“What is it? What’s happened?” My heart leaps into my throat. 
“Ray’s been in an accident.” 
Oh, no. Daddy. I stop breathing. 
“He’s in the hospital. You’d better get here quick.”

Notes: Ana has one of those weird BlackBerrys where you can't tell who's calling you, so you just guess about who's calling, since you don't know. I have angry thoughts about José Senior. Here's one: is it maybe that EL could only figure out one Latino-sounding name and was just like, "Fuck it. I'll just use it again." Yes. It could be that. Sure why not. It's super weird to me that José Senior refers to himself as José Senior, and that he has her number. But I guess he's differentiating himself from his son, so maybe he doesn't call himself that all the time. Sure maybe.

But anyway. This whole device is just annoying as hell. I mean really. Why? It's even more obnoxious when you try to think of this as a trilogy reaching its conclusion. This is Jedi! But instead we just have this bootleg soap-opera shit. We have just shit happening. Just shit happening that doesn't have anything really to do with the journey of our central characters. Such as it is. It's just this left-field random-ass bullshit that has nothing to do with anything. 

This is less a trilogy and more a tv show in its final season and it's just mutterflushing flailing around, hoping to do something that entertains a dwindling fanbase. 

Plus I've looked ahead, right? We've got 25 chapters and an epilogue. The next chapter is exclusively shit about Ray and a car crash. The chapter after is substantially car-crash shit and I'm just like, seriously? This is what we're doing? This is the endgame. This should be EL positioning all her pieces for the big finish but instead we're just off on some bullshit tangent about nothing. 

I think this might be the thing that I'd most like to ask EL about. Like at a book signing or whatever. "Hey with that whole car crash thing? What the fuck was the point of that?" Because I really am curious. I would genuinely like to know what prompted this sequence. How it got into the book. Why it stayed in the book. 

Kinda looking forward to when the movie happens and they cut this part and super-fans complain about the change just on principle, even though it'll make the movie way better than this awful, awful book. 

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