Our next chapter opens — with no real transition or attempt at scene-setting — with Christian picking up his sister from the airport. His sister Mia has just returned from PARIS, FRANCE — IN EUROPE — which is apparently filled with French people, who are the WORST — honk honk honk.
“So how was Paris? You appear to have brought most of it home with you.”
“C’est incroyable!” she exclaims. “Floubert, on the other hand, was a bastard. Jesus. He was a horrible man. A crap teacher but a good chef.”
I really didn’t think this dialog could get worse. Not only has EL James refused to explain what Mia was doing in Paris, or who the fuck Floubert is, but we’re also treated to further proof of James’s inability to write any form of American dialect — or indeed any words that could conceivably come out of the mouth of a human being.
“Does that mean you’re cooking this evening?”
“Oh, I was hoping Mom would cook.”
I can’t really pick on this too much. While on the one hand, she just got back from a cooking school, it’s a bit of the “shoemaker’s kids go barefoot” conundrum where probably the last thing she wants to do in her off time is cook. So fine. But don’t worry, because Christian still manages to get in a condescending dig about his sister who is a woman and therefore flighty and dumb:
Mia proceeds to talk nonstop about Paris: her tiny room, the plumbing, Sacre-Coeur, Montmartre, Parisians, coffee, red wine, cheese, fashion, shopping. But mainly about fashion and shopping. And I thought she went to Paris to learn to cook.
Oh, come on, EL James. You could’ve crammed a few more cliches in there: bikes with baguettes in wicker baskets, the Louvre, small dogs, casual sex, vengeful police inspectors obsessed with bread theft, Guillotines — you know, the essentials.
But excuse you, because actually Christian loves his sister, even though he’s just spent the last two paragraphs snidely evaluating her trip as little more than a “shopping excursion”:
I’ve missed her chatter; it’s soothing and welcome. She is the only person i know who doesn’t make me feel...different?
When has this book established that everyone makes him feel... different? That hasn’t been a thing up to this point, has it? Most of the time it’s just a long list of the way he delights in fucking with people he considers to be inferior — ie. everyone.
Anyway, the texts needlessly flashes back to when Christian was introduced to Mia who was adopted by the Greys shortly after they adopted Christian. Ostensibly this moment helps to establish that this was how RoboBabyChristian learned to love or something but I’m not going to type it out. I don’t have the strength.
Another jump cut sees Christian and Mia pulling up to the old family mansion in Bellevue, where Christian must deal with even more insatiable female lust:
“Where is everyone?” Mia is in full pout. The only person around is my parents’ housekeeper—she’s an exchange student, and I can’t remember her name. “Welcome home,” she says to Mia in her stilted English, though she’s looking at me with big cow eyes.
Oh, God. It’s just a pretty face, sweetheart.
Quick question: if Helga the Foreign Exchange Milkmaid is staring at Christian, why does he assume that the ‘welcome home’ is directed at Mia? Unless, you know, she briefly glanced at him as well to avoid being rude, and he then interpreted this as her gaping at him with desperate longing.
You also have to love the throw-away shittiness of “I can’t remember her name,” which is somewhat undermined by him knowing her whole backstory of employment with his family. “You know — her. The one who came here from Sweden two and a half years ago and is enrolled at the local university, studying Anthropology. Ol’ whatsherface.”
Anyway, Mia got Christian a small present from Paris — even though he could buy the moon if he wanted to, and presents are mere frivolities reserved for the poor who can’t purchase things for themselves. So strap in for more condescension:
She hands me a heavy square box. “Open it,” she urges, beaming at me. She is an unstoppable force.
Of what — present-buying?
Warily I open the box, and inside I find a snow globe containing a black grand piano covered in glitter.
Well holy shit. To be fair, if he does react to this with anything other than horror and second-hand embarrassment, he’s a better person than I.
It’s the kitschiest thing I’ve ever seen.
It pains me to agree with Christian Grey. Mia helpfully explains it’s a music box — which... obviously — and then shakes it for him and winds it up because apparently he literally has never seen a snow globe before:
A twinkly version of “La Marseillaise” starts to play in a cloud of colored glitter.
Of course it’s a “twinkly” version — this is a fucking snow globe. Wait — HAS Christian Grey literally never seen a snow globe before? I’m now picturing him shaking it suspiciously and then shouting inside its bottom, demanding the small pianist to reveal himself or face the consequences for witchcraft.
What am I going to do with this? I laugh, because it’s so Mia.
“That’s great, Mia. Thank you.” I give her a hug and she hugs me back.
“I knew it would make you laugh.”
She’s right. She knows me so well.
But the afterglow of Christian Grey’s first decent act toward a woman is dashed almost instantly as his Mother — another WOMAN, so you know this won’t end well — swans into the room and apologizes for not being able to pick up Mia because she had “a call,” which doesn’t make any sense. A call she booked like a week in advance? Anyway. She then — brace yourselves — asks Christian to take his sister’s luggage upstairs so she can talk to her daughter who’s been away for months. What a monster.
“Christian, can you take Mia’s bags upstairs? Gretchen will give you a hand.”
Really? I’m a porter now?
Uggghhhhh. Yeah, how dare the woman who adopted you, cared for you, and paid for your education ask you to carry some bags. Why can’t she respect the moneydick like everyone else?
“Yes, Mom.” I roll my eyes. I don’t need Gretchen mooning over me.
Oh, but of course. The real problem is Helga the Foreign Exchange Milkmaid’s insatiable lust for billionaire bellboys.
After Christian suffers through a grueling 5 minutes of manual labor, he then rushes across the city to attend his personal training session with Bastille so he can be in peak physical condition to do fuck all:
“You’ve gone soft in Portland, boy.” He sneers after I’m toppled onto the mat from his roundhouse kick. Bastille is from the hard-knocks school of physical training, which suits me fine.
Oh, wow. Does he sometimes make you carry luggage upstairs — or is that a step too far?
I scramble to my feet. I want to take him down. But he’s right—he’s all over my shit today, and I get nowhere.
Literally any moment of supposed character development is handled so ham-fistedly that you just want EL James to say, “Ana’s changing him! He’s competitive — but maybe he’s learning to let go!” and just move on. Because his endless, self-indulgent “training” sessions are incredibly dull, and the more I have to sit through EL James’s dialog, the more I want to stab myself in the face.
When we finish he asks, “What gives? You’re distracted, man.”
“Life. You know,” I answer with an air of indifference.
“Sure. You’re back in Seattle this week?”
“Good. We’ll straighten you out.”
I’m surprised EL James held back from adding “but I don’t give a fuuuuuck.”
Christian jogs back to his apartment and texts Elliot for Ana’s address, rather than, you know, Ana. Because why not always err on the side of stalking? He gets the address, texts it to Andrea — one of his many tragic work slaves — who then quickly confirms that she’s sent the champagne and helicopter balloon. Then Christian gets a special delivery of his own ;)
Taylor hands me a package when I arrive back at the apartment. “This came for you, Mr. Grey.”
Oh, yes. I recognize the anonymous wrapping: it’s the riding crop.
If he recognizes the wrapping, I guarantee you that Taylor does, too. So at what point is Christian going to admit to himself that basically everyone knows what he’s up to, and that they don’t care because it’s not that wild?
Christian gets a call from Elena who wants to have dinner and wants to give him a new sub, but he declines because he has a family dinner — like you do. Then he has a shower because nothing in this book matters and EL James refuses to add anything to an already non-existent plot:
As I shower I wonder if having to chase Ana has made her more interesting...or is it Ana herself?
1) How is Ana making him chase her? Did I miss something?
2) What could be more romantic than your male lead admitting that he might just be into a woman because she’s a virgin playing hard-to-get, and not because she is inherently likable in and of herself?
We flash-forward to the family dinner, which — like every other DVD extra in this book — adds nothing new:
Dinner has been fun. My sister is back, the princess she’s always been, the rest of the family merely her minions, wrapped around her little finger.
This from the guy with the psychotic coffee order.
With all her children home, Grace is in her element; she’s cooked Mia’s favorite meal—buttermilk fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.
I have to say, it’s one of my favorites, too.
Putting aside the weird sexism of the first part of that passage, does anyone else feel weird about fried chicken and gravy being presented as Christian and Mia’s “favorite meal”? I can’t tell whether this is some telephone game issue where EL James just thinks that that’s the kind of food that all Americans everywhere eat regularly and is unaware of the potential racial — or at least geographical — connotations of such a meal, or whether this is a deliberate attempt to go, “Look at them being just folks!” in a rather patronizing and confusing way.
Regardless of which it is, I’m having such a hard time picturing a bunch of rich WASPS sitting around eating fried chicken on the “good” china as a way of welcoming back their daughter who just flew off to Paris to go to culinary school. Especially given that in the first book Christian makes such a big deal about being some kind of gourmet. I’m not saying fried chicken isn’t delicious, but Christian is SUCH a snob about food that this feels off to me. Or am I off-base here?
Anyway, dinner involves a series of boring conversations — most of which surround various family members trying to get Christian to talk about his new girlfriend like a normal human being. At one point, Christian gets furious that Elliot mentions he’ll be bringing Kate to the next family dinner because he assumes Elliot is only doing this to force him to bring Ana, rather than because Elliot isn’t a sociopath and actually enjoys the company of his girlfriend.
“Elena was asking after you, darling,” Grace says.
“She was?” I affect an uninterested air, developed over years of practice.
Ah, yes — there’s nothing like that patented attitude you adopt to throw your mother off the scent of her rapist friend. What larks.
Christian goes to leave, and we get more implausible menu items:
“But you’ve not had dessert. And it’s apple cobbler.”
Fine. Whatever. I guess that’s the world EL James is constructing. At least can she say that Mrs. Grey is from the South or something? This is not really rich white Pacific North West food. But again, maybe I’m just being super picky.
Hmm...tempting. But if I stay they’ll quiz me about Ana. “I have to go. I have work to do.”
Good thinking — unseat those fucks. I mean, how dare they have the gall to ask him polite, semi-interested questions about the girl he’s dating?
“Darling, you work too hard,” Grace says, as she starts from her chair.
“Don’t get up, Mom. I’m sure Elliot will help with the dishes after dinner.”
“What?” Elliot scowls. I wink at him, say my good-byes, and turn to leave.
The guy who just left in the middle of dinner and won’t let his mom get up to say goodbye to him thinks it’s hilarious to force his brother into staying late to help clean up? What the fuck is wrong with him? And... not to be Christian about this, but don’t they have staff? Like round-the-clock staff that he mentioned earlier?
Whatever. I mean, this has to be the least stressful chapter so far, so I should just be grateful that no one’s huddled in a corner crying by the end.
“But we’ll see you tomorrow?” Grace asks, too much hope in her voice.
Good — keep her guessing. So she won’t know how much food to make. It’s genius.
Shit. It looks like Anastasia Steele is going to meet my family.
I don’t know how I feel about this.
Ooh, yeah — what a fucking challenge. Your pleasant girlfriend might meant your pleasant family. What a nightmare for you.
Don’t worry, Christian — I know how to feel: bored and annoyed. Like I do at the end of every chapter.