‘Physical’ follows Sheila’s darkly comedic journey from being a discontent and dutiful housewife to becoming an aerobics celebrity. Her acidic, self-deprecating inner monologues give us hints about the pressures she feels in living her dual life, and a host of colorful characters just coming out of the 1970s era of free love make the show a truly intriguing world.
Season 1 ends with some decisive turns and a stark reminder that despite all her success, life is going to remain as messy and tumultuous for Sheila as ever before. Much like our leading lady would with a bag of junk food, let’s dig into ‘Physical’ season 1 and make sure we’ve picked up all the crumbs from the season finale. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Physical Season 1 Finale Recap
The season opens with Sheila’s husband Danny talking her into helping him seduce one of his young students after a party. Sheila, ever the dutiful wife and wanting to prove that she’s still hip, agrees, but things don’t quite go as planned, and the lecherous husband is left naked and frustrated in his living room. We are soon made privy to Sheila’s own guilty pleasure as she picks up a massive order of fast food, locks herself inside a motel room, and proceeds to eat and then purge it all. Once she has cleaned herself, she sits back in bed and watches television, promising herself that this will be the last time she does it.
Soon, Danny is fired from his job as a professor and decides to run for local office on a coastal conservation platform. He remains as belligerent and vain as ever, making unrealistic plans while his wife eats into their savings with her regular motel-fast-food binges. Sheila finally stumbles upon an aerobics class at the mall and finds that the up-tempo exercise is a great outlet for all her frustrations. An idea begins to form in her head as she realizes there is a fortune to be made selling home videos of the routine. She manages to convince the argumentative trainer of the aerobics class, Bunny, to join her.
Bunny’s boyfriend Tyler then shoots their first workout video with a camera Sheila steals from her wealthy friend Greta’s home. Eventually, after her lies that led to their bankruptcy are discovered by Danny, Sheila finally begins to make money from the sale of her aerobics tapes. Her theft of the video camera is also uncovered by her friend Greta, who eventually forgives her after the incriminating tape Sheila discovered in it rekindles Greta and her husband Ernie’s love life.
In the season finale, our leading lady has a successful demonstration at the mall, and she sells all her exercise tapes and catches the attention of a television producer who offers her a contract. Things don’t go as well for Danny, who loses the election and, as a result, reverts to his insensitive, drug-ingesting ways with his friend Jerry. Sheila, disgusted by her husband and his lackluster supporters, leaves the house and heads to the mall in frustration. Her motivations remain unclear, but she soon encounters John Breem in the darkened shopping center, which has closed for the day.
Physical Season 1 Ending: What is Going On Between Sheila and John Breem?
The two stare at each other from afar and begin to remove their clothes. An intimate exchange occurs, with Breem standing on the ground floor looking up at Sheila and our flustered heroine staring down at him from the first floor of the mall. As she climaxes, Sheila pictures herself in her aerobics video, being seen by everyone.
Sheila and John Breem have had a smoldering dynamic for a long time, which neither has so far acted upon because of how radically different their circles are. John Breem is a religious and wealthy property developer who insists on referring to Danny as a socialist. Sheila, on the other hand, has to keep up appearances of being a supportive wife for her husband’s campaign, which targets builders like Breem and their destruction of the coastline.
The two come from radically different ideologies but are likely attracted to each other because of their similar drive for success. Sheila, at some level, is attracted to the property developer’s business acumen as she struggles to kickstart her own fledgling enterprise. Breem, who is in a stale marriage that lacks passion, seems to be drawn to Shiela’s hungry ambition, which is at odds with Mrs. Breem’s devoted and homely nature.
Their attraction to one another is also largely driven by wanting to have that which is most forbidden. For the god-fearing John Breem, cheating on his pregnant wife is unthinkable. However, as he grapples with his advancing age and goes through depression when he turns the same age his father was when he passed away, the wealthy man possibly gets a thirst for adventure.
For Sheila, who has always done her utmost to present the facade of a dutiful wife to a politically left-leaning husband, a torrid affair with the capitalist John Breem, who is her husband’s biggest competitor, is similarly taboo. Forced to keep up appearances for their partners and society, they both likely feel they are being held back, which draws them to each other and results in the outrageous interaction in the season finale.
Why Are Sheila’s Aerobics Videos So Successful?
Sheila’s aerobics videos have been successful ever since she first hit upon the idea and sold a few tapes out of the trunk of her car at Greta’s party. Despite the unfortunate repercussions from her selling the tapes, which causes a brief break in her friendship with her wealthiest supporter, Shiela gets undeniable proof that her idea is a goldmine. Multiple aspects work in her favor as our self-deprecating leading lady finds herself in the right place at the right time when she first attends the aerobics class and realizes how popular they are. She also begins to understand that this form of upbeat exercise is exactly what the newly empowered generation of women, who are just beginning to experience the health fad, need.
Lastly, she hits upon the idea of making recordings of the exercise routine when her friend Greta (and many other women) complain that they cannot leave the house to attend classes due to their domestic duties. Her timing for getting into the videocassette market is also perfectly timed as home VCRs are just beginning to become a fashionable consumer product, and the exercise tape fits in perfectly with the concept that the VCR champions— to bring home an experience that one would otherwise have to go out for. It comes as no surprise that in the season finale, after her successful demonstration at the mall, all her tapes, as well as all the VCRs in the electronics store, are sold out. Much to John Breem’s satisfaction and Sheila’s frustration, she has become a model for capitalism and consumerism.
Does Danny Win the Election?
Despite the last-minute boost his campaign gets from Sheila’s meteoric fame, Danny loses the local election. His efforts are largely seen as inconsequential and are noted in a single sentence hidden within the front-page article about his wife. As expected, the deeply insecure Danny vents his frustration at his wife and promptly turns to drugs with his sleazy friend and former campaign “advisor” Jerry. His wife’s success also drives his feelings of emasculation, and he admits to being scared that she will leave him once she becomes more successful.
In keeping with the show’s darkly ironic tone, Sheila does begin to see her husband and his followers as “losers” despite telling her husband otherwise. She had envisioned a future in which she built a successful business while her husband went into a career as a successful politician. With Danny’s loss, those dreams are now shattered, and once again, the Rubins’ marriage is on the rocks, but for completely different reasons as before.
What Happens to Tyler and Bunny?
Bunny, who has had a tough life and is perpetually suspicious of being cheated on, realizes that all the success of the aerobics videos is being attributed to Sheila. The Times article lauding the home workout tapes doesn’t even mention Bunny, who originally introduced Sheila to aerobics. To add to her woes, her boyfriend Tyler gets a severe ear infection that requires surgery, leaving them heavily indebted and homeless because of the medical bills.
When Bunny goes to Sheila for help, she and Tyler are quickly turned away by a flustered Sheila dealing with her own marital issues and vicious thoughts. Therefore, Bunny and Tyler are left without anywhere to go, with the latter still recovering from his invasive surgery. The situation is potentially explosive as Bunny is vengeful and will likely try to take on Sheila if she doesn’t get her dues.
Has Sheila Recovered from Her Eating Disorder?
Sheila’s eating disorder is driven by the pressures she feels to keep up appearances while hiding her true feelings, for which she constantly reprimands herself through a caustic inner monologue. Initially, her pressures were largely driven by her inconsiderate husband and then by her financial troubles. With the success of her tapes, it looks like her financial troubles are long gone, and she seems to have finally acknowledged Danny for the self-important chauvinist he is.
However, new pressures lay on the horizon as Sheila now blames herself for being a selfish and money-hungry woman who leaves her friends and family behind. She also begins to feel claustrophobic amidst Danny’s rag-tag crew of supporters, who she begins to refer to as “losers.” Finally, her intimate encounter with John Breem is going to no doubt weigh on her mind. With all these thoughts in her head, Sheila’s eating disorder will likely come back with a vengeance. Being flush with money will also worsen the situation, as she was partly held back earlier because of her financial pressures.
Will Danny and Sheila Stay Together?
Danny and Sheila’s marriage is tumultuous, to say the least. We are introduced to their relationship with Danny talking his wife into helping him seduce one of his young students, Simone. Things don’t get much better as the insensitive husband refuses to acknowledge the mental pressures plaguing his wife and constantly bemoans his own failures.
As dictated by social norms of the time, Sheila continues to support her husband despite his appalling ways but finds her own self-destructive outlet for her frustrations. Her junk food binges, where she takes multiple orders to a motel room and gorges on them, have depleted the couple’s savings $50 at a time till there’s almost nothing left.
Through all their misery, Danny and Sheila stick together, and since neither pays much attention to their young daughter Maya, their reasons for not leaving lie elsewhere. Along with most of their friends, the two were deeply entrenched in the left-leaning political movement in their younger days. From how Danny’s friends enviously describe Sheila from those days, it is clear she was much sought after and, in the end, picked Danny. Therefore, even though he rarely shows or acknowledges it, Danny knows he got very lucky when Sheila “chose” him.
This also adds to his fear and insecurity of her leaving him when he realizes that he might end up never amounting to much. Sheila initially fell in love with Danny because of his fiery political speeches and acute knowledge, which made him a professor. Over time, however, his knowledge has faded and what is left are mainly cynical opinions, though he still shows sparks of brilliance at a political debate during his campaign.
The biggest reason Sheila remains with Danny is that she doesn’t have any other family to call her own. As we see in season 1, she is completely estranged from her parents and shares a hateful relationship with them. Danny is her sole refuge and likely supported her immensely when she broke ties with her family. It almost seems like her husband helped her finally escape from them. Therefore, as unlikely as it seems, Danny and Maya are anchors for Sheila, who isn’t really close to anyone at all.
It seems that Sheila and Danny are so codependent that they might invariably be drawn to one another despite their toxic relationship. Their history, the child they have together, and the reigning social norms will likely force them to keep up the semblance of marriage, at least in the near future. However, with Sheila embarking on a sexual encounter with John Breem, it seems like her and Danny’s relationship is as superficial as ever. The only difference now is that instead of being the long-suffering and dutiful wife, she will allow herself the freedom to explore avenues of financial success and romance while pretending to be happily married.
Read More: Is Physical Based on a True Story?