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Powerful Jodi Balfour

I have been suffering under an oppressive, nameless dread for seven days now and I blame Jodi Balfour.

I’d been wanting to watch the new Cinemax crime series called Quarry but missed the first episode when it premiered in September. It took months for my PVR to collect all the episodes so I could binge-watch it once it was complete. I love crime stories. I live and breathe Elmore Leonard. I like returning Vietnam vets becoming hitmen. I knew what I was in for.

Currently, I am an often Amazon Top 50 erotica author dealing primarily with cheating wives and infidelity. I am cold, calculating, sociopathic…or at least try to be. I elicit responses. Responses are not elicited from me. I’m supposed to be inured. There have been a few times I’ve written something that hurt my own heart, splash-back as it were, but nothing has ever got to me like the first two episodes of Quarry. I was not prepared for this hurt. Seven days later, New Year’s morning, I was washing dishes, softly crying at the sink. Still affected. Wondering when I would shake this.

To relieve some of the heartache the show gave me I’ve been trying to break it down and examine how it was so successful at selling me that infidelity. It hasn’t worked and there’s a good chance I’m talking out of my ass here but I will relate my boring analysis to you nonetheless.

The writing is excellent, the structure is perfect. Camouflage and subterfuge drawing me away from returning soldier finding his wife-with-another-man-standard-trope. They address that right up front. Nope, that’s not what this show is about, let’s clear the table right away. It’s the standard storyline of every returning soldier tale but not this time.

Mac comes home, travels the dark foreign halls of his home…where’s Joni, his wife? Not with another man as music and lighting may suggest. Of course not. She’s skimming the swimming pool he built with his own two hands. A powerful symbolic gesture. Joni is unadorned perfection. Their reunion is stirring and his wife’s joy will touch your heart.

This brings me back to Jodi Balfour, the actress who plays Joni, Mac’s (or Quarry’s) wife. She is the success behind the most impactful cuckolding I’ve seen depicted. She didn’t do it alone—the writers are superb, costume and set dressing is top notch, direction on point, etc. Yes, she’s beautiful, I get it. That’s not it. Trust me. You can find a lot of beautiful people.

I’ve seen infidelity depicted before. I’m a grown up. I’ve never cheated, nor been cheated on, to my knowledge. It usually has no effect. And the infidelity wasn’t completely obscured, I did see it coming. This hit harder than I’ve ever felt.

It was this actor’s casting and performance and the application of some finely honed dirty details that ran something through my heart and left me unable to shake an uncomfortable malaise.

Jodi Balfour creates an intangible intimacy, a bond. She becomes something of tremendous value, apparent even to the audience. Something enormous to lose. Anybody can fall off a ladder, Jodi Balfour puts us on a roof. She creates scale. She’s following the well-written script but she conveys more than words through expression and charm. Doing in trembling eyes and carefully held mouth what takes me pages.

She embodies a universal aspiration. She becomes what anyone would want in a significant other. Whether you’re a man or woman, whether you’re in love with the opposite sex or the same sex, she shows us what we all want as human beings from someone we love. We all want someone we love to look at us the way she looks at her husband. Someone who will make love freely, passionately, smoke some weed on the couch with us, be a positive hang, stand naked by a kitchen sink and watch us watch them, and do it with glowing ardor.

She builds a careful, pretty dollhouse we then get to see smashed down by the scuffed boots of truth—the reality she shared all that wonderful charm with a co-worker while she was left alone. White and black, light and dark. One making the other more extreme. And like I write in my books, there is a female-centric balance. In real life no one is usually a villain. We’re human. No one cheats to harm another if they love them, and she loves Mac. She proves it. No matter how hard it hurts sometimes infidelity is only a result of suffering.

I don’t want to comb through this thing too carefully, but I’d like to illustrate some highlights…

A scene where she is confronted by her illicit lover. We can’t hear words very well. We see her over his shoulder. She conveys so much. Fear, a desire for it to be over, knowing it should be over but you can see it in her expression, her posture. It isn’t over. God, then she surrenders, comes to him in a heartbreaking way. Passionate and carefree, clamping herself to him, legs over hips, peeling her top off. True female desire and abandon. Her husband witnesses the whole endeavour. Her union with her lover is painfully similar to the display we saw when Mac returned from Vietnam.

After an agonizing buildup, the final scenes of the first episode are the most powerful. Joni is confronted with the enormous consequence of her transgression. Her face tells volumes as she slowly, painfully, becomes aware. She fights everything, wanting it to not be true…she shows shame, horror, fear, worry, pain. Truly an incredible sequence.

This actor brings a consummate, passionate approach to the role. A deliberate desire to commit emotion to the performance, to deliver the subtle, the aphonic; to live the character and teach that character’s secrets in the simplest movements. As a result, merely the mention of the show Quarry now makes my chest tighten.

I can’t rave about this show enough. This is just the attention to detail on the shape of an infidelity. That’s why I am talking about it, it applies to me because of what I write. Everything in the show is treated with the same attention, rendered though in flat, unforgiving, brutal and realistic matter of fact.

Life is suffering, life is ugly. We have to struggle for beauty. Quarry is coolly conscientious of that maxim. When people are shot we’re shockingly aware of the truth that bullets cause tremendous trauma. War is insane. The last episode of the season has a very blunt, flat-faced, Kubrickesque depiction of a disastrous skirmish in a Vietnamese fishing village. Shocking and brutal. This show is about consequences, truths, and the aftermath. When your wife sleeps with another man it won’t be simple tab A into slot B. It will be passionate, dirty; she may record the sound of her lover bringing her to orgasm on compact cassette for his later delectation.

Quarry is not renewed yet for a second season but I imagine it will be. I think it’s safe to say it will. It hits its target audience very well, gives them what they’re looking for. Got to be expensive to make, but it is wholly worth it. If it is not renewed I will legit throw a tantrum. I have prepared a vase of flowers to hurtle against a wall in dramatic flourish if I don’t get my way.

This is beautiful belligerent art about scale and impact, about life, death, ugly human existence, the struggle for breath and beauty, and no useless expiation or whimpering. Hard hitting and merciless.

22 thoughts on “Powerful Jodi Balfour

  1. Well, I must say that your post reminds me of some of my early comments of LHW1. That emotion that cuts all the way to the bone, nerves raw and feeling the actual hurt (and in my case anger at both Tyler and Jess). Sounds about like you describe about the Quarry series, and I feel your pain. I will take a look at the show, but maybe after a few stiff drinks.

  2. Don't ever stop writing KT.

  3. I talked a little about Quarry in the post for Sanctity….but I'll say a little more here. That scene toward the end was not only powerful, but important to the story. Without giving any specifics away, it sets up a lot of what happens the rest of the way. Mac was already headed to a deep dark place anyway, but that revelation about his wife tore away the last piece of innocence he probably still had in his life. It doesn't excuse everything he then chooses to do, both at the end of the first episode then going forward. But I do think he could have pulled himself back from it, if he didn't know the reality that his wife had cheated on him.The Joni/Mac relationship is very central to the show. They do love each other, and that comes through even with this between them. The writers take it to an interesting place the rest of the way, still not entirely sure how I feel about it. But it made me think, so I guess that's all you can ask of a show.

  4. From the female perspective: he was already on the path, and his selfishness set Joni on her path. Mac did the things he did in Vietnam without Joni's infidelity, he returned to Vietnam and left her alone because something burned in him. He needed war. It's bullshit that Joni says she didn't love Cliff (her lover). Yes he got around but you can tell in the aftermath (trying to avoid spoilers) he really fell hard for Joni. And you see it in Joni. Mac brings back the figurine, not flowers, as a gift for his wife. He knows her. But her figurine cabinet is gone. In its stead are a new collection of books; literature and art. The positive influence of her lover. Did she share Mac's Otis Redding record in some sympathetic exchange of two young lovers teaching each other? He was powerful in Mac's absence and mostly for the better. He cared for Joni more. She changed while Mac was gone. She moved up became a reporter and I feel like Cliff was part of that. God, when she gets that dirty tape–his desk is right next to hers. Moving forward I wouldn't be surprised to see another sandbag regarding her relationship with that guy. Seriously, if it comes up again I might bail on the show. It races my heart like crazy. I don't know how you people read my books!

  5. It's crazy how much this show got me! I might have to quit. Geoff and Nia give up on their experimentation today, confess undying love, live happily ever after…God, 10 days now, this show hasn't left my conscious. wtf?

  6. I've probably deflated the impact of the infidelity with my gushing but please watch it any way. Warning: it is as callous as I said, very violent and graphic.The performances are stellar, not just Jodi Balfour. And her abilities are more than what I describe in her infidelity. Her character is challenged in many ways in subsequent episodes and her abilities are stunning. But Skip Sudduth is great, Logan Marshall-Green brings crazy depth (with the re-writing done over max Alan Collins) to this Quarry. Makes him seem so complete. Another wildly notable character and performance is Damon Herriman as a homosexual, ultra-violent hitman. There's more and more, I can blab for hours but I have to make my word count today!

  7. All very excellent points, as always. I think after what Mac does at the end of the first and into the second episodes, it's hard to argue it would be a good idea for Joni to stay with him. He's too unstable, too dangerous…not the guy she fell in love with back before the war. I don't think I fully share your thoughts on Cliff…in the end, I still view him as using Joni, taking advantage of her. Maybe he did come to love her in a way, but I don't suspect they would have had a happily ever after.Not sure where you are yet in the story, I have some real thoughts on where they take it but trying no to spoil too much.

  8. On Quarry? Binge watched it to the end. Couldn't stop.You might be right about Cliff, I've tried to stop thinking about the show though. It's made the muscles in my head sore from frowning.

  9. Hahaha, Nia had uncomfortable bottoms at the end of Sanctity, maybe the ending is Dino has the clap, gives it to Nia, ruins her desire for promiscuity for life … the end!The only shows to remain on my consciousness for days at a time were True Detective (the only season that mattered of course), Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad. I don't have Cinemax anymore, but I really wish I had it right now!

  10. By the way, I was saying “Don't stop writing” because I enjoyed reading this blog post. I hope you do more of these.

  11. OK, without giving too much away for others who want to watch (they should stop reading this post now…last warning!)I thought the show kind of dropped that angle mostly in the 2nd half, and it disappointed me. The Joni character gets pretty marginalized after the 4th episode or so. It just felt like they needed her affair to be the final straw for Quarry to take over Mac, but then needed her to be the one piece that still kept Mac from completely disappearing. I thought they could have done so much more with it and it didn't appear they wanted to. I get it was never meant to be a relationship drama, but I felt they missed something. I read up a little after you brought the show up, and I guess a second season seems 50/50 at best; the ratings were really bad apparently. Too bad if so, there were a lot of parts I liked about it.You asked how we could read your stories, and I realize your feelings are close to how I felt after reading the next to last chapter of the first LHW, when Jess tells Pete its over. I needed a while to collect myself from that. So why do we read them (or watch them)? I guess for me I enjoy feeling things when reading, even if that feeling is overwhelming sadness. I'll take that any day of the week over a story that doesn't make me feel something. I still root for the happy ending every time, but sometimes not every story should have that ending; life doesn't after all.

  12. Yes, after her scenes in the motel and the culmination of the Suggs storyline (One leg guy) she becomes more device oriented. Used to drive plot points or illustrate Mac's character (ie. his PTSD).Her character and her relationship to Quarry are the most interesting parts of the show to me. I'd like to see so much more of that. That to me was this show's power.What I worry about, moving forward to another season, is the show pivoting away from Mac and Joni and becoming political and taking us on a tour of the Sixties/Seventies, like we're sitting in a Disney Dark Ride watching audio-animatronic dolls recreating the political horror of that time period. Yawn. Like what happened to the show Aquarius. (Side rant: Aquarius was developed on the success of a parallel Manson project developing on HBO by some mega-talent, then once Fox greenlit Aquarius to ride on HBOs potential wake, HBO bailed on the original Manson project depriving us all of something that would have been absolutely legendary, in my opinion. That mega-talent was a combined effort by Bret Easton Ellis and Rob Zombie. Together on a Manson project.)An ongoing Mac and Joni storyline could prove difficult. they've made her a realistic character, not some cartoonish Girl Friday. At some point the conflict could become too great between her and what Quarry does. She can't stand by him if he's an ongoing contract killer. If she stays believably in the story I think she'd have to be kept in constant threat of danger. I can't watch that. This Jodi Balfour got me so wrapped up in Joni that I honestly had my finger on the button ready to turn the show off when Suggs came to the door. The show led me to believe that she could be killed. Could have been possible, right? Her character served her point, put the Male character on his path, her death would solidify his resolve, remove her as a barrier. When she made that quivering face at the door-knock, I aimed the remote at the TV and alerted others watching that were she to die the show would be turned off.So, in subsequent seasons, were she to be in constant peril, I wouldn't like it. But how else is a realistic character going to rationalize what her husband does to make money? And, thinking about Cliff again–you're right it's possible that she didn't love him, but she was lit up by that electric courtship. Feelings of love were there, hormonal blips without the commitment. And no HEA with her and Cliff, I imagine too. Bad relationship start, he knew she was married. And to woo a soldier's wife when he was away. Fucking low. Hoping her hot blown up in Nam too, you know that. Thinking about his fling at night, staring at the ceiling hoping this woman's husband was killed in action. A low human being.

  13. 'Hoping her hot blown up' is French for 'hoping her husband got blown up.'

  14. And Fox is French for NBC. Just showing off my knowledge of foreign languages.

  15. KT,I have to take a minute to tell you that I have almost finished reading Sanctity (I'll get back to explain why it's “almost” in a minute). Without a doubt, this has one of THE hottest cuckold/hotwife scenes I have EVER read. EVER. Like in the history of EVER! And I've read a lot of these type of stories. What separated this for me was not just Geoff being there to witness it (which was super hot), but his involvement with the DIALOGUE! I'm trying not to give spoilers here, but how you described having Geoff witnessing Nia with her lover was just phenomenal. And the dialogue between the alpha male and the cuckold simply captured all of the emotions that are there; the humiliation, the embarrassment, Geoff's extreme arousal, the visual, the comments he had to absorb from Nia's lover, it just really resonated. All of that combined impacted me, much like Quarry impacted you! I was so aroused that I couldn't help myself from “finishing” but didn't quite finish reading this book yet 😉 I'm looking forward to finishing the book tonight and can't wait for the next installment. You are absolutely one of the best writers of this genre. Max Sebastian has had some great books/scenes, as has Kenny Wright. If you haven't read David McManus's two books, I also consider those two of the best books end to end in this genre for many of the same reasons your work is so good; it's not just the sex, you simply know how to capture the emotion behind it. The needs of the hotwife and the angst of the cuckold have just been brilliantly captured here. Kudos once again KT. VERY well done!

  16. Yeah, the second half of the show made me think they really only see her as a plot device, so maybe its best it doesn't get a second season. I think it would be all about her constantly in danger, or trying to pull him back from the ledge.I see your point with Joni, I'm sure she developed feelings for Cliff. I still think it was more about feeling alone, and about her fears Mac wouldn't come back, but I can also see more there.But you hit on the point that angered me about Cliff, it was low to take advantage of a soldier's wife like that. Whether he developed feelings for her later or not, that's still what he was doing at the beginning. Well, he picked the wrong soldier to do that with and paid the price.

  17. Thanks for the suggestion, KT! Really enjoyed watching this, Mac and Joni's relationship was really emotional. The conversations in the motel were gripping! I thought the one right before Sully's ambush settled what happened with Cliff. The underlying problem is still lingering of course, but Mac is more present in the relationship.Joni Balfour might have been the heart of the show, Pete Mullan the brains, I really liked Damon Herriman, he was the showstopper in every scene he was in! His interactions with his mother were awesome.Mac's stepmom is a biiitch!

  18. I may have needed to wait to the very end to say that part about Mac being more present.

  19. So glad you liked it, I thought it was very well done. I wasn't prepared for a show that was going to dig that deep…

  20. Thank you very much for the kind words. That scene only took 170, 000 words to build to, ha ha, so I'm glad you made it!And thank you for considering me along with those great writers. I wish I could read their books but every time I try my heart starts racing! Leaves me stuck telling my own…

  21. Good! All of your fans are on pins and needles waiting for the next installment! Please don't take any more time away from writing. ;)Anybody else have any guesses what happens next? I can't wait to see if Dino further involves Geoff. Does he get to watch/listen/participate any further? Does Dino continue to increase his influence over Nia and his dominance over Geoff? Geoff seems to have accepted his role. Is that enough for Nia? Or does she push him too far (away)? Does Geoff buy that cottage? Does Nia come with him? Or is she left behind to sell the current house, leaving her at a crossroads of where to go next? I have to assume Geoff will eventually find out O may not be his. Does it change his relationship with her? Do they tell O? Now that Dino knows that Geoff knows his role, does he tell his brother? Does Geoff's sister become aware? What about NIa's friends? So many possibilities…. What does everyone else think? I would love to continue to discuss everyones thoughts on the next installment!

  22. Hey Lancer, did you glance over the Sanctity post? LOTS of musings on what could happen next from people there!

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