Sinister Six Thirty

Sinister Six Thirty

Victoria Davis | Culture

Column about Lessons In Chemistry Apple TV+ series: Season 1 Episode 2: Her and Him

(Content warning: sexual violence)

To remind readers where we left off in the previous episode, Elizabeth Zott — female chemist in the 1950s who mastered out of her UCLA Ph.D. program and became a lab technician at Hastings — is now working in Dr. Calvin Evans laboratory. The two became friendly while he stole her lunches, but an instance where Evans entered the lab where Zott was working and closed the door behind him (something she asked him never to do) triggered her and sent her into fight-or-flight mode. She ran out of the room and left Evans befuddled.

In the second episode, Her and Him, we find out why Elizabeth Zott did not continue in her Ph.D. program and why being locked in a room alone with a man triggers her. The episode opens with a scene in the past at UCLA, Zott is standing in front of her committee members during her Ph.D. qualifying exam. She details her Ph.D. work and thoroughly answers probing questions about her research. Later she is alone in the lab, awaiting the decision. Her advisor walks in, tells her she passed, and while she reacts to the news with excitement, her advisor sexually assaults her. She tries to fend off his advances, but then he closes the lab door, locks it, and rapes her. She stabs him with a pencil and is able to get away. To her horror, however, the university sides with her advisor and she must formally apologize to him if she is to continue in the program.

Fast forward to the present: Zott works as a lab technician at Hastings with Evans. She has divided the lab in half to create distance and professional boundaries between her and Evans. The episode jumps to scenes of Zott cooking in the dark at night, where she finds a dog in her garbage cans and decides to keep him. Then we pan to Harriet Slone, Evans’s neighbor, protesting at a city council meeting on the new development of a freeway through her predominantly black neighborhood. She had asked Evans to attend the meeting to help protest, but he forgets and does not attend. Jumping again, Evans fails to attend a meeting for the Remsen Fellowship at Hastings. This prompts a Hastings Remsen committee member to threaten Evans’s boss’s job, which sends his boss into a snowball of threatening to fire all of the female support staff under Evans, including Zott.

Zott takes her dog and goes to Evans’s house to motivate him to work. They then enter a montage of working in the lab, falling in love with the dog, and falling in love with each other. They work, eat dinner, work, take the dog for a run, work, celebrate Christmas, and work some more. All while falling madly in love. They work in the lab while drunk, while the dog lays on the lab floor, and then they take something that looks like a Geiger counter to a test tube, and it magically makes the needle move. Supposedly this means they discovered something amazing. I honestly have no idea what that device was, or why a test tube of liquid would make a needle move rapidly. Perhaps the solution is magnetic? Perhaps the solution is radioactive? Either way, I have no idea why this proves you can synthesize the organic building blocks of life.

Fast forward again to Zott and Evans presenting their work at a make-up Remsen Fellowship meeting. Zott begins presenting, but is quickly interrupted by the panel. They don’t want to hear from a lady. They only want Evans to be responsible and credited for this work. Zott proposes to take her name off the paper, but Evans won’t hear it. The two lovebirds leave the meeting and they decide to submit for the Remsen without Hastings’ approval.

The final scene of Episode 2 follows Evans on a run with their new dog. (Zott named the dog Six Thirty, by the way. Weird AF.) As Evans tries to cross the street, Six Thirty refuses to step off of the sidewalk. This keeps Evans in the middle of the street. Evans tugs and tugs at Six Thirty’s leash, but he won’t budge. Suddenly, Evans is hit dead-on by a speeding bus. Six Thirty remains seated comfortably on the sidewalk, seemingly unphased by what just happened in front of him.

This left me with the following thoughts: “Why did this happen so suddenly? It’s only Episode 2! They just met this dog! Six Thirty weaseled his way into Zott’s life, and has now offed her partner? In a single episode no less! Hella sus.”

Apart from the murderous dog, I noticed Zott using a separatory funnel in this episode. Typically this is used to separate two immiscible liquids as part of a workup after a synthesis reaction to extract your organic product from an aqueous reaction mixture. Zott, however, was just shaking the sep funnel and placing it on a ring stand with no beaker or flask below it. There appeared to only be a single liquid in the sep funnel. For me, this shattered the illusion that Zott is a chemist.

Just kidding! There have been a myriad of things making me cringe and scream at the TV. The sep funnel was just one of many in this episode. Fun fact: The separatory funnel—a.k.a. Scheidetrichter—was first mentioned in German chemistry textbooks in 1831.

This concludes my critique of Lessons In Chemistry for now, as not much chemistry was actually portrayed in this episode. Until next time!