Hulu’s miniseries ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ brings together nine individuals at a highly exclusive wellness retreat that promises to help purge them of their emotional demons. Led by the mysterious Masha (Nicole Kidman), the unsuspecting patrons embark on a highly regimented schedule that seems to push the boundaries of what one would consider “hospitality.”
Comedy and emotions go hand in hand as each character’s eccentricities and internal wounds are slowly revealed. The episode closes with Masha’s own startling history and sets us up for a wild ride ahead. Let’s take a closer look at ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ episode 1 and make sure we picked up all the clues. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 1 Recap
Episode 1 opens with the nine participants heading to the mysterious retreat that they themselves know very little about. We are introduced to the Marconi family, who have seemingly received a hefty discount, allowing them to attend the uber-exclusive 10-day program. Ben and Jessica are a young, wealthy couple, with the former obsessed with his flashy Lamborghini and the latter similarly focussed on her Instagram fame.
We then meet Frances, a successful but stressed-out author who finds out en route that her publisher has rejected her newest book. She parks on the side of the road and screams in frustration, attracting the attention of a passerby, Tony, who is also headed to the retreat. The group is finally rounded out by Lars, who is seen stocking up on chocolate before entering the premises, and the curious and seemingly homely mother named Carmel.
Once at the retreat, each of them has trouble letting go of their phones and other belongings that they are barred from carrying. As they take stock of their surroundings led by the calm yet firm assistants, Yao and Delilah, each guest is given a custom-made smoothie tailored to their specific nutritional needs. They are told not to share and finish them completely, as they are made with precise measurements.
As Frances settles into her opulent room, she is visited by Masha, the leader and founder of the Tranquillum House retreat. She calmly talks to the agitated author and informs her that most people come to the retreat from lives of luxury, only to experience suffering. Frances is confused by the enigmatic statement but says nothing.
Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 1 Ending: What is Tranquillum House? Does it Have Only 9 Guests?
The group finally collects for an evening session in the “Chakra Dome,” where they all collectively meet Masha for the first time. Tony and Lars soon begin to complain about how their rooms have been searched and their “things” are missing, to which the guru calmly replies that all that was confiscated is contraband which they are not allowed to have. She informs her nine patrons that they will embark on a transformative journey, which might be painful at times. To prove her point, Masha then recounts how she herself was a successful and selfish CEO before she was transformed into her present form.
As Masha recounts her story, Heather and her daughter Zoe Marconi begin to get visibly upset. Heather protests that what Masha is saying is inappropriate, and Zoe, who is 20, bursts into tears and runs out. Unperturbed, Masha ends the session, leaving the confused group wondering what they might be in for. Frances brings up her talk with the enigmatic figure and mentions what she said about suffering.
The Tranquillum House retreat remains as enigmatic as its central figure Masha, and so far, the only treatment we have seen is their obsession with custom-made fruit smoothies. However, the treatments also seem vaguely invasive, with guests made to give blood samples upon arrival. We also briefly see an MRI machine at the retreat, which Lars comments on but is politely led away. From how the guests describe it, the program is highly exclusive and doesn’t have any online presence. According to a statement signed by the guests, they are contractually barred from sharing any pictures or information about the venue or disclosing its exact location.
Additionally, we find out that the 9 characters we are introduced to are the only guests at the retreat. Lars later suggests that Masha specifically picks her clients to make a group that fulfills certain dynamics. Essentially, he blames her for picking specific guests whose personalities and personal demons will evoke reactions from the other guests, making the whole affair a custom-made “emotional cocktail.” It is also mentioned that the retreat only accepts about 10% of the people applying for treatment.
What is Masha’s Backstory?
Masha’s backstory is, as expected, shocking. During the group session near the end of the episode, she describes how she was a successful, high-flying CEO that left a trail of destruction in her path. However, she was inexplicably shot (possibly in a mugging) in a parking basement and declared clinically dead before an EMT resuscitated her. The EMT in question is seemingly her assistant Yao.
In her “new life,” Masha has apparently chosen to spread wellness amongst those who are stuck in unending cycles of grappling with their personal demons. However, there seems to be more to the enigmatic figure’s motives that will undoubtedly become clear in upcoming episodes. The threatening message she receives could also be from one of the many people she hurt in her days as CEO.
What Happened to Napoleon’s Family?
Napoleon’s wife Heather and daughter Zoe both struggle to contain their tears as Masha talks about her brush with death. From earlier scenes, it looks like the family is harboring some deep-seated grief, which is most visible in Heather’s constantly distant behavior. There also seems to be something forced about Napoleon’s constantly upbeat demeanor, as though he is trying to hide or forget something sad. Though not yet elaborated on, it seems like the family is in the aftermath of a close family member’s death or some other similarly tragic incident. It is also possible that Napoleon is terminally ill, which would explain the family’s behavior.
Read More: Where is Nine Perfect Strangers Filmed?