Welcome to the summer of the scam. The infamous Anna Delvey is taking Snapchat selfies from Rikers Island and uploading them to Instagram. Fyre Festival shyster Billy McFarland was just caught allegedly selling fake tickets to the Met Ball. Even a well-meaning clarinet player’s life is now “derailed” by some high-level scamming. The long con is alive and well in 2018. In fact, the scam is thriving so powerfully this year, it has now come to the beloved shores of Netflix comfort food Queer Eye in the form of season 2 episode “Big Little Lies.”
The installment's hero — aka the individual desperately in need of the Fab Five’s fix-’em-up expertise — is Arian, a 24-year-old under-achiever who might just have a heart of gold underneath all of his scruff. As we find out through “Big Little Lies,” the first episode you should watch of the new season, Arian is also a little bit of a scammer. But, unlike the Anna Delveys and Billy McFarlands of the news, Queer Eye might just save the young man from tumbling down a path that leads to a day in court.
When we meet Ari, both viewers and the Fab Five are aware of the young man's greatest shame, which is that he hasn’t graduated college. After all, every episode starts with a Queer Eye cast member reading an entire dossier about the hero of the week (it's Tan France's job this time around). Apparently, Ari hasn’t heard about the dossier, because he tries to tell Karamo Brown and Jonathan Van Ness he recently “graduated.” When Karamo pushes on the subject, Ari insists again that he “graduated,” but says seconds later his school informed him he did not graduate because he failed a class.
It’s pretty obvious Ari hopes employing this whirlwind of speech will keep people too confused to understand the truth: He simply didn’t graduate, and it’s his own fault for skipping classes. This trick only intensifies later in the group’s initial meet-and-greet when Arian casually tells food expert Antoni Porowski that he recently quit a job… despite the fact Ari claimed to be taking a “summer day” off from work minutes earlier. It takes Antoni and Bobby Berk a bafflingly long time to interrogate Ari enough to know what’s happening, and the story only becomes more contradictory as they go.
That is why so much of “Big Little Lies” is dedicated to recognizing Ari’s concerning habit of lying and nipping it in the bud ASAP. Karamo enlists the help of an actual lie detector test to force Arian into the kind of corner that would make him to tell the truth. Still, when Karamo asks the episode’s hero how he thinks he did, Arian doesn’t say, “Really well.” Confusingly, he says, “Pretty good, hopefully.” As Karamo points out, “hopefully” is a strange word to use in this situation. Arian is in his head. Arian knows if he lied. Arian knows the test knows if he lied. Hopefully, to quote Arian, he simply didn’t lie. Unfortunately, as we see in the episode, it will be forever unclear if Ari truly didn’t lie, thanks to a Karamo-created twist I won’t spoil.
Thanks to that twist, however, it seems Arian is encouraged to finally start letting go of his lying ways… until we see the “Little Lies” epilogue. During Ari’s original cooking tutorial with Antoni, the hero claimed he had never cooked tadig, a traditional Iranian dish, and makes it clear he’s a “bit of a dum-dum” in the kitchen, to quote Antoni. Then, as the Fab Five watches Arian prepare for his end-of-the-journey event, which involves cooking his own tadig dish, everyone slowly realizes Arian is a boss in the kitchen. Mainly, because he starts doing knife tricks. We’ve never even seen pro chef Antoni do a memorable kitchen trick, but there supposedly schlubby Arian is, flipping a massive knife around his fingers.
“I think he was just bullshitting you,” Bobby tells Antoni. Clearly.
The knife trick lie brings up a constant mystery around scamming: Why do some people do it? It makes sense that Arian, who is ashamed of his academic failure, would try to avoid admitting his mistakes at all costs, especially as a son under constant pressure to succeed from his hard-working, immigrant parents. But there is no reason to lie about your kitchen prowess. Was he trying to avoid making something even more difficult? Was he afraid that by hyping himself up he would somehow fall short of Antoni’s expectations? Was it just for the thrill?
These are also the questions we have about people like Anna Delvey, who didn’t exactly make a fortune from her “art space” scam. Instead, she maintained the kinds of appearances she was desperate to conjure, which also seems to be Arian's motivation.
We will never know why Arian did what he did, unless Queer Eye gives us the reunion show we all deserve. But, we do know Ari is forced to reveal his greatest con of all, by telling his mother he never graduated. We won’t go into the details and ruin the entire showdown — this is Queer Eye, so it’s not a surprise that the promised heartfelt confrontation occurred — but, it is clear Arian learns telling the truth isn’t the most painful thing in the world. Rather, it’s a lot like getting a shot; yes, you will feel a small pinch for a moment, but after a second, it’s all smooth sailing and a healthier life.
2018 might be all about the scam, but the Fab Five could be the antidote. If only we could get them to Rikers...
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