Gypsy has clearly started pulling even more money from her mother’s nest egg ziplock bag because we open episode 5 of Hulu’s The Act with an entirely new look. Gypsy (Joey King) is engaging in cyber sex with her new boyfriend Nick (Calum Worthy), but in a get-up that involves fishnets, a sparkling pink latex mini dress, and a rainbow wig. “Can I please have some of Daddy’s sweetness?” she begs, before licking her hand and striking sexy poses. On the computer, Nick’s eyes are downcast, and Gypsy starts to feel upset and asks him to look at her. This displeases Nick, apparently and he asks if his dark side, Victor, can talk to Gypsy’s dark side, apparently named "Ruby." Gypsy, however, seems to be less inclined to embrace the dark side the way Nick does and she asks if they can try that another time. The scene establishes the misgivings Gypsy is feeling about this boyfriend, as well as the idea that she shakes them off because he’s her only escape from her mother. Little does Nick know, he's going to become the thing that rids Gypsy of her mother altogether very, very soon.
But for now, Nick has thoughts about their arrangement and he says he’s getting tired of only hooking up virtually. It’s been two years and they still haven’t “touched, like, you know, in real life.” He says he’s going to save up so he can come visit her, but Gypsy is sure that they can’t meet because Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette) would never be okay with them meeting behind her back. Then she has an idea: What if Gypsy tells Nick where they will be at a given time, and then they just happen to meet. Nick agrees and Gypsy gets to scheming.
She attempts to convince Dee Dee that they should go on a trip like they used to do, somewhere like the zoo or Disneyland. Dee Dee, however, is suffering from real ailments — Arquette dons prosthetics to show the swelling in Dee Dee’s legs and the actual suffering she was feeling. Dee Dee yells at Gypsy for even bringing it up — she’s in too much pain for any of these suggestions. Even though it’s understandable that Dee Dee is hurting when she calls Gypsy ungrateful and says no one would ever do for her what Dee Dee does, Gypsy’s patience is wearing thin. Very, very thin.
Elsewhere, Nick, who texts Gypsy and calls her his “wife” early in the episode, is attempting to earn enough money to visit Gypsy by working at a pizza place, but it doesn’t go so well. He drops two pizzas immediately and winds up doing the humiliating and thankless job of wearing a sign for the pizza shop out front instead. He takes that frustration straight into another video session with Gypsy, who’s playing as Ruby this time. “Ruby” shows off her bruise, given to her by her “wicked step mother” and “Victor” says she can’t show him things like that because he gets too angry. This quickly escalates their play and “Ruby” holds a pair of scissors to her neck and asks if “Victor” will stab her wicked stepmother. It’s all part of their sexual game until Gypsy wonders if perhaps it’s not and asks Nick if he could really hurt someone. Nick says he couldn’t, but Victor certainly could and that Gypsy should only ask for something like that if it’s what she really wants. She says she was just playing, clearly shocked by Nick’s dark answer.
The next day, Dee Dee seems to feel that she’s gone too far and apologizes, saying that Gypsy deserves to be happy. As a peace offering, Dee Dee offers to take Gypsy to see the live-action Cinderella movie.
Meanwhile, Nick is preparing for his not-so-happenstance meeting with Dee Dee. Gypsy insists that Nick wear a new collared shirt so he can make a good impression and gives him a script so that he grabs Dee Dee’s attention right away. “'No princess should open her own door,' which I believe a thousand percent by the way,” she suggests. Nick has a hard time remembering it, so he writes it down and takes a note with him. He seems somewhat uncomfortable with all the work this is taking, but he boards the bus and heads to the theater.
But he arrives late, causing momentary panic in Gypsy until she sees him burst through the doors, panting. He’s clearly been rushing over, and he sticks to his script, only he’s gotten the set-up all wrong. Because Gypsy and Dee Dee were already in the theater by the time he arrives, Nick finds himself standing next to them in the lobby, with no door in sight, but he still utters the “no princess should open her own door” line. The result, understandably, is that Dee Dee thinks he’s a weirdo.
Nick doesn’t help matters when, in an entirely empty movie theater, Nick comes and sits directly behind Gypsy and Dee Dee. This move would make anyone uneasy, and Dee Dee gets uncomfortable and changes seats, only for Nick to try the exact move again. Even if Dee Dee wasn’t over protective, this incident is understandably irksome because to her eyes, this seeming stranger is borderline stalking her and her daughter.
But he's not, really and Gypsy and Nick start panicking — their scheming clearly isn’t as fool proof as they previously thought. So they try Plan B (hence the title of the episode, although it’s actually more like Plan E at this point): Gypsy leaves to get more popcorn and runs into Nick. She gestures to him to go into a single occupancy bathroom and then joins him there. Dee Dee is starting to get impatient, and eventually comes looking for Gypsy, but eventually decides to wait for Gypsy back in the theater.
In the bathroom, Nick and Gypsy finally have their first alone moment and he declares she’s even more beautiful in real life than she is on Facebook and the he wants to give her her first kiss. She consents and they begin kissing. It’s actually perfect, she says, but cautions that they don’t have much time. They lay on her Cinderella dress, which Gypsy puts on the floor as a barrier, and then begin to have sex (it’s an intimate scene, but one King says she fought to include in the series). When they finish, Gypsy’s first question is heartbreakingly insecure: “Was I good?”
Gypsy comes back, finishes the film, and bursts out of the theater in excitement — she’s looking for Nick and the chance to re-do the first few bungled meet-cutes. He attempts to open the door and reuse his “no princess” line again, only this time Dee Dee has had it. She yells at him, demanding to know his name and why he’s harassing an old woman and her “sick daughter." And while it’s devastating to see Gypsy’s sad look, to any bystander, the situation would look like Nick was a creepy stranger being extremely inappropriate.
That said, Dee Dee seems to have her own suspicions about how this all came to be and asks Gypsy if she knows their pal from the movie theater. Gypsy promises she doesn’t and goes to her room to find a few texts from Nick, including one that says “Now she’s on my bad list and my bad list isn’t a place you want to be.” He calls Dee Dee, without Gypsy’s permission, and tells Dee Dee that he loves her daughter, that he has for several years, and that he and Gypsy don’t have any secrets from each other (meaning he knows that Dee Dee has been making Gypsy pretend to be sick). He doesn’t really think about how this could all blow back on Gypsy, and doubles down with “Also I’m the father of her future children, probably, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” He leaves the call on what sounds like a threat before hanging up.
In the moments following the call, it seems as though Dee Dee is giving up, wearied by all of this, but when Gypsy responds to her call and goes to the back of the house, Dee Dee is holding the blue silk restraints she used on her in the last episode. Gypsy angrily complies and grimaces with tears in her eyes and Dee Dee ties her to the bedpost. It’s never explicitly spoken, but the real Gypsy has alleged that her mother hit her and denied her food, so it’s possible that the ease with which the fictionalized Gypsy complies (and the bruise on her neck earlier in the episode) is eluding to that.
When Dee Dee later unties Gypsy for dinner, Gypsy gets her hands on her phone again and simply texts: “I need Victor.” The next sequence is an stylized imagining of their text conversation, with Gypsy in her Ruby outfit, promising to go with Nick and “live our dream” and that she’s “ready, truly.” They agree that Dee Dee’s refusal to let them be together is her choice, essentially saying that what’s about to happen to her is her own fault. Gypsy offers that it would be a kindness to kill the quite ill Dee Dee, betraying her lingering care for her mother, despite their history. Nick then tells Gypsy to officially ask Victor and she responds: “Victor, will you please kill my mother for me, because I can’t do it myself."
Later, at the mall, Gypsy gives her mother the slip and visits a hunting store, where she starts asking lots of pointed questions about which knives are best for bigger animals. She picks out a knife, promising it’s yet another gift for a relative. And seconds later, she purchases a future murder weapon while Dee Dee wanders around the mall breathlessly looking for her.
That night, Gypsy and Nick plan the murder and declare that this will be the last night that they sleep alone. They continue planning via text, which betrays just how unprepared they were for this kind of scheming, and Nick hops a bus to visit the Blanchards.
With the weight of Nick's future acts weighing on her, Gypsy gets out of her wheelchair and assumes the role of caregiver to her mother, whose illness is making her swollen and causing her even more pain. Gypsy gives her mother a pedicure and suggests they take a trip to the doctor to replace her feeding tube. When Gypsy reaches out for Dee Dee’s hand at the doctor, it's clear she’s starting to get sentimental about the fact that her mother is soon be gone. Dee Dee offers an apology for the other day at the movies — not for turning away Nick, but for not letting Gypsy get a Dr. Pepper. Gypsy seems resigned to the plan at this point, since her mother doesn’t seem to get that the Dr. Pepper wasn’t the issue at all.
They climb into bed as usual, and Gypsy looks longingly at her mother one last time. Once she’s asleep, Gypsy gets to packing and the fateful text arrives from Nick: “I’m here.”
The act itself is apparently a story for another day.
This episode, while hinting at the way other ways Dee Dee allegedly abused Gypsy, also takes pains to offer a human side to the late woman. One such moment finds Dee Dee scooping up one of Gypsy's guinea pigs and gently cooing, "Where’s your momma? I’m your mama now," as she cuddles the small creature.
Dee Dee appears to know something is up at every point during this sudden trip to the movies, but she goes along with it as long as she's got control. Step 1 seems to be the moment in which she sees Gypsy in her regular teenage girl wardrobe (jeans and a t-shirt) and suggests that Gypsy wears her Cinderella cosplay instead.
Gypsy gets more and more wiley as the episode goes on, first giving her mom the slip at the movies, then again at the mall, and finally, preemptively planning an excuse for running away from Dee Dee: She grabs a kangaroo stuffed animal, throws it in a gift bag, and says she ran away so she could buy it for Dee Dee.
Of course, for all the moments in which Gypsy finds some sweetness with her mother, we're constantly reminded that a murder is on the horizon. One detail was pretty unsubtle about it: The red paint tripping as workers painted a "Sale" sign moments after Gypsy lied to Dee Dee about buying a future murder weapon.