As hard as you try, sometimes you can't escape your past.
This adage was at the forefront of A Teacher Season 1 Episode 7, for no matter how hard Eric tried to move on, the events of his senior year of high school continue to haunt him.
He may say everything that happened with Claire is behind him, but it doesn't take a psychology degree to see through that thinly veiled claim.
Part of the show's biggest problem has been its inconsistent pacing and heavy reliance on exposition, but after spending over half the season struggling to find its footing, A Teacher finally gets things right this installment.
It was somewhat of a relief, having had to sit through six episodes, ranging from mediocre to downright insufferable, to finally see some payoff.
By solely focusing on Eric, the writers can better explore his emotional state at this juncture.
Had a 25-minute episode split focus on checking in on Claire while still in jail, the writers would not have been as successful in detailing the myriad of ways that the affair and its subsequent fallout has affected Eric.
The series would have tried to cram too much into too little time, as it's done in the past.
This way, the scenes and characters were given the needed room to breathe, instead of battling for attention with whatever's happening with Claire.
Cody: That’s fucked up how hard they came down on her. It’s not like she… I don’t know, it’s not like she took advantage of you or some shit.
Eric: That’s what I said. That’s what I’ve been saying.
Cody: Hey, plus I met her. She was cool, you know. So what? She’s a little older than you. You liked her. She liked you. It’s not a fucking crime. They got her sitting in some federal prison or some shit?
Eric: County jail.
Cody: Oh dude, that’s fucked.
Eric: Dude, you don’t even know. She had to take a plea deal. She might not have even gone in at all if we hadn’t… if I hadn’t convinced her to skip town, just us. But, I don’t know. It was messed up, dude. So stupid, you know, like, the prosecutor came down pretty hard.
Cody: Oh, you know man, you can’t control that kind of thing, man, you know. Like people just want to worry about shit they shouldn’t be worried about, you know. It’s like worry about fucking Syria or dogmeat in China or puppy meat in China. Fuck.
Eric: Yeah, honestly, man, I try not to even think about it.
Additionally, the series was also largely successful in weaving in bits of exposition without being heavy-handed.
The details surrounding what happened to Claire after she turned herself into the police were slowly revealed in a way that felt more natural.
The series also makes the smart decision in skipping ahead to Eric's first year of college, where the fallout from his affair with Claire still weighs heavily on him.
All the partying, bone-headed decisions, and random hookups can't hide the pain and guilt Eric feels for his role in how things played out for Claire.
Throughout the episode, we learn Claire is serving time in county jail, having had to take a plea deal due to her and Eric's impromptu and ill-advised decision to run away together.
That choice continues to haunt Eric, who unfairly blames himself for everything that followed.
What makes it all the worse is that Eric is constantly being reminded of the past year's events wherever he looks.
College was supposed to be a fresh start but going to UT -- at one point, his dream school -- has become his prison.
Chris: You’re not gonna sit here man and fucking smoke my weed and drink my booze without telling me about banging your teacher, man.
Cody: You didn’t think I wasn’t gonna tell them that a fucking legend was pledging?
Chris: Let me get this straight, you nailed a hot…
Cody: The hottest.
Chris: The fucking hottest teacher while you were her student?
Ryan: You hooked up with your teacher?
Chris: Yes, bro, like multiple times and then sent her ass to jail like a fucking savage.
Ryan: Holy shit.
His classmates, especially those who hail from Texas, are aware of the scandal, and for those who aren't, well, Cody has made sure that his fraternity brothers and the other pledges aren't left out of the loop.
Even the stripper hired to "entertain" the pledges knew about Eric and Claire.
There's literally nowhere for Eric to escape, so he does the very mature thing and tries to drown out his pain with increasingly stupid ideas.
Excessive partying and one-night stands aren't the healthiest behaviors, but they're not exactly unheard of for incoming freshmen.
However, standing atop a moving car being driven by someone inebriated, whether sober or not, is not normal, going way past stupid into the 'something is clearly and dangerously wrong' territory.
You'd think being thrown from the moving car would have been enough of a wake-up call, and maybe it would have been if Eric ended up in a wheelchair rather than walking away with just a few scrapes and bruises.
Compounding the problem is that Eric's cut off from those closest to him.
He hasn't spoken much with Logan and Josh since college started, and his infrequent dinners with his family are tense, as Eric finds himself having the same arguments with his mother time and time again.
Sandra: Did you start going to counseling? Eric…
Eric: Mom, can you not?
Sandra: Come on. We talked about it. You were gonna go when school started. Look, they have a great counseling program there, and it’s free. I just think this isn’t something…
Eric: I don’t know how many times I have to ask you to please, please don’t bring this up anymore, please.
Sandra: Sweetheart, what happened to you is not something that you can just…
Eric: I didn’t go through anything.
Sandra: I’m just gonna say one thing.
Eric: OK, mom, look.
Sandra: OK, just listen to me…
Eric: I’m really OK…
Sandra: I just need you to know that I am here.
Eric: I’m having a great time, OK.
Sandra: Hun, when she gets out, you’re gonna need someone to talk to.
Sandra rightfully thinks Eric would benefit from counseling, but the stigma surrounding therapy, coupled with the unprocessed trauma of what happened to him, makes Eric resistant.
Eric still can't see that what happened with Claire was not OK.
At the very least, it was an abuse of power on her part, and at the worst, it was statutory rape.
However, Eric's still viewing the whole experience through rose-colored glasses, believing what he and Claire had was real and loving.
Even if he did get some perspective and started questioning things, he wouldn't get very far, not when his classmates and fraternity brothers view him as a god of sorts for sleeping with his teacher.
There's just a whole clusterfuck of feelings and emotions and hurt to sort through and process, but Eric can't do any of that because he refuses to acknowledge their relationship was problematic.
Until he can do that, he's not going to be able to move on with his life.
At this point, though, he doesn't have any real reason for further self-reflection or examination, for while he may be suppressing his feelings, he has yet to hit rock bottom.
He's obviously in a lot of pain, but he hasn't reached that breaking point yet, that point where he looks around and realizes that his life is in shambles and he needs to start dealing with his emotions.
Micah: We are deep inside and fully implicated in every single thing. One being in relation to a myriad of beings and to the whole. You are the sky. You are the moon, the stars. So am I.
Eric: So is Claire. I miss her. I miss her so much.
That point will come later, and there's no telling how bad things will get before then.
Let's hope he's able to re-establish some semblance of normalcy when all is said and done.
Some stray thoughts:
I get that this is a TV show, but did anyone else think the stripper was a little too much? Having never been a part of Greek life, I'm not sure how factual the whole thing was, but it just was way over the top and not in a good way, especially after the drunken car escapades.
Though Claire wasn't the focus of the episode, did that make anyone want to know that much more about what her life's been like since last we saw her? The next episode is supposed to be Claire-centric, so let's hope we get the same treatment from the writers and see how her life's been affected beyond the obvious.
So what did you think, TV Fanatics?
What are your thoughts on the Eric-centric episode?
When will Eric finally be forced to confront his demons?
What do you want to see happen in the Claire-centric episode next week?
Don't forget to hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you missed the latest episode, remember you can watch A Teacher online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.