Well, it took almost the entire series, but Claire has finally started making smart decisions.
However, there's still some ambiguity about what's driving those decisions on A Teacher Season 1 Episode 8.
Has she realized that her actions have consequences, or does she simply not want to go back to jail?
As with life, it's probably not just one thing that has finally made Claire see reason but a culmination of everything that's happened since being released from jail.
If Claire at first thought she could just pick up where she left off and scrape together some semblance of normalcy, she was sadly mistaken.
Yvette: OK, so you just fill out one of these, do an interview, our target customer’s everyone, blah, blah, blah, and after a quick background check we’ll be good.
Claire: OK, so about the background check, there may be this small misdemeanor that comes up but…
Victoria: Claire Wilson? It really is you.
Claire: Just excuse me for one minute.
Victoria: You’re out already?
Claire: I served my time, Victoria.
Victoria: Oh come on, you got to be kidding me. OK, no, no, no. This woman cannot work here. Google her. Claire Wilson, you’ll see, she’s a sexual predator.
Even something as simple as grabbing coffee and a scone from a food truck has become infinitely more challenging, as a cash-strapped Claire struggles to cover the cost.
Then, of course, there are the more difficult elements of readjusting to society, such as getting a job.
Part of the job application process is a background check, and a misdemeanor of any sort isn't too enticing to any sort of potential employer.
Worst of all, Claire has to contend with not being able to escape her past.
Like Eric, people have a hard time letting Claire forget what happened, but it's somewhat warranted in this instance.
Having Victoria loudly proclaim that Claire is a sexual predator may have been overkill, but it did drive home the point that just because Claire has served her time doesn't mean she has paid for the wake of destruction she's caused.
Matt is a wreck, Nate could have lost his job, and Eric, well, Eric's still beating himself up over Claire going to jail.
That's certainly a lot of damage caused by Claire simply wanting to be "free," something which she finally starts to get an idea of by the end of the installment.
While in prison, Claire may have been able to convince herself that what she and Eric did was OK, but upon getting out and seeing firsthand the consequences of her actions, she realizes that maybe, what they did was wrong.
To her, it's not wrong in the sense that it was an abuse of power or some form of sexual assault, but rather their affair was wrong because it hurt the people closest to her.
Claire: You do know it was consensual, right? If the roles were reversed, you would be high fiving me right now.
Nate: Are you listening to yourself? He was your student.
Claire: I know, but he pursued me. He kissed me.
Nate: And you didn’t say no.
Claire: I wish I could have been the perfect little wife and popped up a bunch of babies like I was supposed to, but I wanted… I wanted to feel free. I wanted to do what I wanted for the first time in my life. Look, I get that you and dad are cool now, but you have no idea what it was like for me in that house with him. For you guys to just show up like that…
Nate: Don’t blame your fucked up childhood, all right. Take responsibility.
Claire: How have I not? I just spent six months in jail. I’m about to have five years’ probation, and I’m immortalized as a teacher slut. Is that not enough?
Nate: So, your life was boring. Who gives a shit? People kill to live boring lives, Claire. That doesn’t give you a license to do whatever you want. Do you even realize the damage that you’ve done? How much shit I get from Lisa for having you here? You jeopardized my career, and don’t even get me started on Matt; he’s barely functioning. And that kid.
That's an important distinction because Claire has yet to realize the screwed up power structures at play here.
Even if the affair was consensual, as Claire claims, Claire was still Eric's teacher.
She should have been cognizant from the beginning that regardless of their age, Claire was in a position of authority, so any sort of dalliance would never be OK, even if no laws were technically broken.
It's something we can hope Claire will come to realize in time.
Like Eric, she'd also benefit from speaking with a therapist, and there, maybe she'd also be able to dig into her motivation for having an illicit affair with her student.
Her bullshit claim to Nate about wanting to do whatever she wanted for the first time in her life still rings false, for there are many other ways she could have gained that freedom that didn't involve sleeping with her student.
So, she found Eric attractive, and he pursued her. So what?
We all have wants and desires, but we also have enough common sense to not always act on our baser urges, especially when it's a moral gray area.
Eric: I’m sorry, Claire. I am so sorry.
Eric: This is all my fault. I convinced you to run away, and then I left like a fucking idiot.
Claire: It’s not your fault.
Eric: I mean if I hadn’t… if I hadn’t told the cops, none of this would have happened.
Claire: It’s not your fault.
Eric: All I can think about is just you being in jail because of me.
Claire: No, I’m the one who… I just wanted someone else to know how happy we were. We were happy, right?
Eric: Yeah. Yeah, Claire, are you kidding me? Last year with you was… being with you… it was… it was everything. I can’t do anything without you. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can’t go to class. I’m… without you, I’m alone. I need you.
Claire: What we had was an escape. It wasn’t love. Look at what it’s doing to us. I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s OK, but it’s not.
Claire: You need to leave.
Eric: No, you can’t. Come on.
Claire: This is violating my probation. You need to go.
Eric: Claire, please.
Naturally, Claire was aware of this but still made bad decisions after bad decisions, trying to blame her poor decision-making on her messed up childhood.
Growing up with an alcoholic father couldn't have been easy, but plenty of other people come from difficult upbringings, and they don't go around having sex with 17-year-olds.
Nate was completely right when he told Claire to take responsibility for her actions, and while she still hasn't done that exactly, it seems something finally got through to her.
The old Claire would have jumped when a heartbroken Eric showed up at her door; consequences be damned.
But this post-jail Claire, the one who has been called a sexual predator, forever immortalized as one on the internet, and made to feel less than human during a standard drug test, has enough common sense to walk away at this point.
And it's that decision that makes it possible for rehabilitation.
That's not to say all her sins will be magically tossed aside, but taking the first step and realizing how toxic their relationship meant that Claire could have some future when all is said and done.
It may not be the future she imagined, but it's better than the path she was heading down.
Some stray thoughts:
I'm not sure about the rules of parole, but wouldn't it have been easier for Claire to make a fresh start if she moved and changed her name? At least then, it would be less likely that people would automatically know about her past indiscretions.
Sure, there's a chance someone could find out, but getting out of town with a new name seems like a decent start to trying to get her life back on track.
Poor Eric. He's the real victim here, but he can't see that yet. He's still ravaged by guilt over what happened and hurt even more after Claire rejected him. He's about to hit rock bottom, and it's not going to be pretty.
Kudos to Nate for telling Claire off. Someone had to take her down a peg and get to her to see reality.
So what did you think, TV Fanatics?
What factors went into Claire's decision to start making better choices?
What person did she hurt the most?
Is Claire capable of rehabilitation?
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 was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.