Couple things before we start: Judging by how excessively long these recaps have been getting to the point where last chapter’s gifs were a bit choppy and low-res, this one and/or the next one may or may not end up being split into two posts. Because it’s not as if staying on-topic or using fewer gifs are viable options. Actually, I was going through my old posts and I noticed that a lot of the gifs in them seem to have taken a dip in quality since I changed my WordPress theme. To be fair, my first four chapter recaps were also pretty long, so hopefully whatever changing the theme did to make my gifs a bit wonky won’t be as much of an issue going forward if I break longer recaps in half.
Also, I forgot to mention this last time, but I must admit that about a year and a half ago I finally caved and got the audiobook version of Freed just so I could see what the hell I’d be getting myself into with that book. Yes, I know, I broke my own personal rule to not put any more money in E.L. James’ pocket, but at least with an Audible credit to spend it didn’t feel like I was shelling out more money than I otherwise would have, and I could at least listen to it while at work or in the car instead of carving out precious extra time to sit down and read it while I was deciding whether or not it would be worth it to continue with these recaps at that point.
The reason for my internal debate at the time? Well, cast your minds back, if you will, to the announcement of Freed’s pending release and my utter dismay and confusion that it would be nearly 200 pages longer than Fifty Shades Freed. And now, having listened to the damn thing I can tell you that approximately all of those extra 200 pages/however many audiobook hours consist of all the bullshit that ELJ had originally blessedly skipped over between the end of book two and the wedding/honeymoon at the start of book three. And If I’m being perfectly honest, I think the realization that Christian’s POV was frontloaded with all that inane fuckery ended up causing me to spiral into a sense of existential dread that heavily contributed to me abandoning these recaps for as long as I did. Because there was no way I could fathom recapping a month-and-a-half’s-worth of this man’s daily bitching and moaning with nothing from the original to break things up and no normal chapters to help pace things better, and realizing that I’d conned myself into buying the audio version and would either have to endure transcribing the text from listening or buy yet another copy to pull quotes from certainly didn’t help.
Now, though… well, I’m still not sure. I’m still at the same impasse regarding how exactly to handle Freed, but the third installment of the trilogy/trilogies is still so far off at this point that I’m sure by that then I’ll have either burned everything to the ground and abandoned civilization to go live in the woods because of how sick I am of Christian Grey’s shit and my own poor life choices that have led me down this path, or I’ll have caved yet again and figured out how to manage a truncated recap of the beginning of Freed before FSF proper begins. Probably the latter.
(Content Warning: emotional manipulation/abuse, discussions of sexual assault/rape, stalking, general creepy behavior. Per usual, quotes from FSOG/Ana’s POV are in purple, quotes from Grey/Christian’s POV are in green.)
When we last left off, Ana and Christian had just had their first kiss in the hotel elevator, which prompted Christian to remark, “You’ve brushed your teeth” (astute and easily-squicked readers such as myself will recall that she USED HIS TOOTHBRUSH to accomplish this). I didn’t mention this at the end of the last chapter, but I’m compelled to bring it up now because at some point in the last 10 years I realized this line is way more gross than I initially thought it was since it means that not only did our urbane Mr. Grey not expect her to brush her teeth, but that he shoved his tongue in her mouth fully expecting it to taste like orange juice and stale vomit. Sorry, ELJ, but there are some things that the “heat of the moment” excuse can’t get me over, like sharing someone else’s tooth germs (which Grey finds hot, btw) or making out with someone who’s had a full breakfast and lukewarm citrus juice after throwing up.
Call this the Kobayashi Maru of romance, except this is a no-win scenario that I don’t think even James T. Kirk could finagle his way out of.
Christian finds it necessary in his POV to mention that he hands the valet an “obscene tip” as they’re getting in the car, because ELJ can never pass up an opportunity to have her hero flaunt his wealth (#alwaysbeflaunting). On the subject of the kiss, he thinks:
But she hasn’t run.
Even though I jumped her in the elevator.
I should say something about what happened in there–but what?
How was that for you?
What the hell are you doing to me?
ELJ seems to have forgotten what paragraphs are by the time she wrote Grey. It does conveniently allow her to pad her page count and add a few more victims to her body count as a notorious tree serial killer, though.
Again, this man all like, “She hasn’t yet run straight through a plate-glass window to escape me, she must want my dick so bad!” as if Ana still being there is a sign of anything at all other than her not having 1) another ride home, and 2) the danger instincts God gave a sea slug. He keeps harping on her not running away from him, which I can only assume is ELJ stressing to the audience just how much Ana is really, really into him and has totes implicitly consented to everything he’s done to her so far by not simply getting up and leaving. Problem is, this only works if you’ve also read Ana’s POV in the original book and know for sure that she is into him and was down for being aggressively kissed. When all you have is Grey’s POV, the effect is a bit… off. Every time he thinks something sexual about Ana or engages in some kind of physical intimacy with her, there’s this clash of tones and ideas that ELJ wants to get across about Christian that she can never manage to reconcile.
On the one hand, she’s trying to play him off as your typical cocky, swaggering playboy who knows he’s irresistible to women and delights in the unnerving effect he has on the heroine. But on the other hand, she seems to want him to be just as insecure deep down about whether or not Ana likes him as she is about him, for reasons that I have yet to discern. I think maybe she tried to take complaints about the original FSOG into consideration and show in Grey that Christian totally cares about things like consent and women’s feelings by having him worry that Ana doesn’t want to bone as much as he does. Except that doesn’t work when he acts upon her with no regard for her own feelings or desires. In any other romance with an “alphahole” type hero there wouldn’t be any post-hoc justification or questioning if “jump(ing) her in the elevator” was wrong because he would simply be confident in his assumption that she wanted him. Sure, an alphahole would certainly think “what are you doing to me” because they always do whenever the heroine “makes” them loose control, but the rest of it doesn’t gel with Christian’s alleged arrogant sex god persona. Having him suddenly realize after the fact that Ana might have different feelings about being pinned against a wall and kissed/kidnapped while drunk doesn’t make Christian seem caring or insecure; it just makes him seem like a horny automaton whose machine learning functionality is gathering data on Ana’s responses to various stimuli.
Ana, for her part, is off in her mind palace
gaslighting herself dreaming up the plot of the next Indiana Jones movie:
It hardly seems real—my first proper, no-holds-barred kiss. As time ticks on, I assign it mythical, Arthurian legend, Lost City of Atlantis status. It never happened; it never existed. Perhaps I imagined it all.
She’s such a delicate flower that his kiss has left her lips “swollen,” so she knows it was real. No clue as to how she defines a “proper, no-holds-barred kiss” and how it differs significantly from previous kisses she’s had such that it leaves her “a changed woman,” but I’m gonna guess she’s only ever engaged in closed-mouth kissing of the Bella vs. Edward’s venom spit variety before. Assuming I ever get around to recapping the third book(s) I’m going to have a few words to say on ELJ retconning Ana’s prior heavy petting experience at a later date.
They listen to music and chat about Christian’s taste in music (not Ana’s taste in music, though) in the car and it’s all very dry and skippable. You’re welcome. The music does keep getting interrupted by calls which he answers over the speaker (rude), first from his private investigator, Welch, then from Andrea. From Ana’s POV, it reads like it’s meant to add to his mysterious, important businessman aura; Grey, though, makes this scene 10x more mortifying with the knowledge that Welch is updating him on the background check he’d ordered on José the night before, and Andrea is emailing him the NDA (not sure why he doesn’t just have a copy of that saved to his personal computer at home) that he’ll insist Ana sign later. It does also give us yet another classic ELJ “in spite of X she was also Y” non-sequitur: “For all her maladroitness, she has a beautiful neckline,” because I guess he’s surprised that her neck isn’t covered by a massive brace? After all, girl’s so clumsy that she does break her neck an average of three times per year.
Ana, being none the wiser that Christian is continuing to invade her and her friend’s privacy right next to her, does have this to say about his behavior over the phone:
No goodbye or thanks. I’m so glad that I never seriously entertained the thought of working for him. I shudder at the very idea. He’s just too controlling and cold with his employees.
Let’s just put a big ol’ pin in that considering the things she will seriously entertain as the story goes on. Debatable whether she’d be more likely to be used as a footstool in his playroom or his boardroom, though…
Christian also takes a call from his brother. First words out of Elliot’s mouth? “Hi, Christian, d’you get laid?” Soooo, I think we can safely assume that Elliot Grey is (also) a rapist, right? Like, I’m not trying to be funny here, I legitimately find it revolting how flippantly ELJ treats the subject of intoxicated date rape. Also, while we’re here, is it worth opening the question of just how intoxicated Kate was when she slept with Elliot? I mean, from what we saw previously it didn’t seem like she was nearly as drunk as Ana, but we also barely heard anything about her during the bar scene apart from her hooking up with the other half of the Super Grey Bros, and since he and Christian had just gotten there he almost certainly hadn’t had as much to drink as her, but also we don’t know how long they stayed there for so he could’ve had more to drink and she could’ve sobered up a bit or maybe just not had too much to drink at all…
You know what? I need to move on, for the sake of my own wellbeing if nothing else. But it has to be said that if this is what Elliot has to say about his brother taking a drunk girl back to his hotel room, then it seems highly unlikely that he’d think twice about “getting laid” with an inebriated Kate.
Ana is happy to be called Ana by Elliot over the phone, which Grey is less happy about for whatever reason since he emphasizes a moment later that her full name is Anastasia, excuse you. She asks why he always calls her that when she prefers Ana, to which:
“Ana” is too everyday and ordinary for her. And too familiar. Those three letters have the power to wound…
And in that moment I know that her rejection, when it comes, will be hard to take. It’s happened before, but I’ve never felt this… invested. I don’t even know this girl, but I want to know her, all of her. Maybe it’s because I’ve never chased a woman.
Grey, get control of yourself and follow the rules, otherwise this will all go to shit.
“Anastasia,” I say, ignoring her disapproving look. “What happened in the elevator–it won’t happen again–well, not unless it’s premeditated.”
Yes, God forbid her preferred nickname isn’t pretentious enough for you, jagoff. And how much of a dramatic, self-obsessed weirdo do you have to be to refuse to call someone a diminutive form of their given name upon request because doing so means that you’re getting too emotionally involved and opening yourself up to inevitable heartbreak?
Oh, right. Silly me, I forgot who I was talking about for a moment…
I, too, remain utterly mystified by this guy’s obsessive “investment” in Ana, though.
Ana says that she “liked what happened in the elevator,” which elicits a stunned gasp from Grey. “You did?” he thinks. “Her confession halts me in my tracks.” Yeah, generally not a great look, reacting with surprise that someone enjoyed being kissed by you. Just more fuel for my theory that Christian is actually a quasi-sentient alien sex robot gathering data on what makes Ana horny, but who hasn’t quite grasped yet what the appropriate human response is to being told that his sexual advances were indeed welcomed. That’s the real threat of AI right there: an army of Greybots marching toward us, armed with buttplugs and terrible dialogue.
They get back to Ana’s apartment, where Kate and Elliot are sitting at the table. Ana’s grateful that the first editions Christian sent are out of sight because “I have plans for them.” If this were any other character, I would’ve assumed she’d meant she was going to masturbate with them somehow, but this is Ana Steele we’re talking about, who is as pure as the driven snow.
The version of Kate that I sort of like must be driving the host body right now, because she immediately starts acting suspicious toward Christian as soon as she sees him. Grey has the audacity to get all offended, thinking “What did she think I was going to do to the girl?” He must have gotten hit in the head pretty hard when I wasn’t looking and is now experiencing short-term memory loss, because I imagine Kate was thinking something along the same lines as all the assumptions (i.e. rape) he made about José a couple hours ago at most. The hostility between them is palpable, but unlike with Ana he does at least deign to call her Kate as opposed to “Miss Kavanaugh” at Elliot’s request. I guess if you’re a woman he’ll only stoop so low as to call you your preferred name either if another man asks him to or if he finds you sufficiently detestable/unfuckable. No comment on this from Ana, btw.
We get another example of that weirdly common “instant BFFs” romance trope I mentioned back in chapter two when Elliot hugs Ana and smiles at her once and she decides she “like(s) him immediately.” She also quite randomly adds, “He’s obviously nothing like Christian, but then they’re adopted brothers.” I fail to understand what she means here. She’s only just met him, so how does she know anything about his personality
other than the fact that he’s a sex pest? And if she means that they look nothing alike because they’re adopted, then ELJ should specify that.
Even Christian’s own brother who has just spent the night plowing his not-girlfriend’s best friend and is by all accounts quite besotted with her can’t escape his jealous ire, though:
Elliot hugs Ana, holding her a for moment too long.
Okay, this is becoming unbearable. “Elliot, we’d better go.” And take your hands off her.
Elliot does that thing that no one ever actually does where he kisses Kate and dips her down backwards in a way that gives me a back spasm just thinking about it. Are we absolutely certain ELJ didn’t intend these books as satire? Because she’s been hitting all the romantic cliches so far. He delivers the now infamous “Laters, baby” to her which I’m obligated to flag up here because I can’t resist the opportunity to emphasize that the “iconic” and “suave” Christian Grey line that all the fans put on t-shirts and coffee mugs and baby onesies? Yeah, he stole it from his brother. Alas, this is no satire, as “Kate just melts” at Elliot’s seductive turn of phrase, leading Ana to think:
[…] the word compliant comes to mind. Compliant Kate. Boy, Elliot must be good.
Quite a telling word choice, wouldn’t you say? Particularly coming from Ana, who allegedly will find the idea of sexual submission unsavory in the very near future. And this has never happened to Kate before as Ana notes, so her being putty in Elliot’s hands is a sure sign that this is true love in the making. That’s the power of romance in the Shadesverse; the ability to make women compliant to their menfolk.
Anyway, Christian repeats the line to Ana as he and Elliot leave, and I prepare to disembowel myself. Truly, “Laters, baby” walked so that “Are you lost, baby, girl?” could run. Straight off a fucking cliff.
Once the Super Grey Bros are out of earshot, Kate instantly forgets that she doesn’t trust Christian because her other personality has taken over the meat puppet again to ask Ana, “So, did you?” This version of Kate (I really need to come up with some better nomenclature to differentiate them) has apparently also forgotten that Ana was too drunk to consent to anything, so no, she couldn’t have “done” anything with Grey… he could’ve done plenty of things to her, though, which you should really consult your other personality on because that’s something she was seemingly worried about just a minute ago.
She’s talking about fucking, by the way, in case that wasn’t clear. They (Kate and Ana, not the two different Kates) proceed to have an entire conversation about sex without saying the word, because ELJ thinks it’s all cute and girly and feminine for two 21st century women in their early twenties to be all coy about it. Not helping matters is her once again chiming in with some infantilizing imagery around sex, with Kate “clap(ping) her hands and jump(ing) up and down like a small child.” No, I’m not going to stop bringing this up whenever it happens because I just need to know why? Why does ELJ keep doing this?
Both of them are excited to have dates that night with their hot new men, and Kate insists that she help Ana prepare. Yay, makeover time! We aren’t forced to endure this makeover in real time, though, thanks be to the old gods and the new, as we jump straight to the end of Ana’s shift at the hardware store after a section break.
Meanwhile, Christian and Elliot are driving back to The Heathman and the book threatens to get very interesting when Elliot casually brings up Kate’s vore fetish. Hang on. *checks Grey* Ah, my bad, he just calls her “voracious.” A common mistake, I’m sure. To be fair, I was off in my own mind palace there for a minute imagining a badass Fifty Shades/Jennifer’s Body crossover starring a literal maneating Kate working her way through all of my most hated billionaire romance MMC’s starting with Elliot and Christian Grey. Then she and Ana consummate their repressed desire for each other and ride off into the sunset, feasting upon the flesh of alphaholes together and living happily ever after.
I’m sorry, what were we talking about? Oh, right. Christian is a dick to his brother and turns up the music to keep him from sleeping again, because Elliot joked about him being “an uptight son of a bitch” when it comes to sex and our pet weirdo (of the dramatic, self-obsessed variety) took it literally since he obviously had a horrible, awful bitch of a birth mother. Once back at the hotel, Christian reads José’s background report and ELJ has some fun with racial profiling:
José Luis Rodriguez’s background check reveals a ticket for possession of marijuana. There is nothing in his police records for sexual harassment. Maybe last night would have been a first if I hadn’t intervened. And the little prick smokes weed? I hope he doesn’t smoke around Ana–and I hope she doesn’t smoke, period.
It’s not enough that our romantic hero must continue to remind himself (and us) that he almost certainly saved her from being raped by the one-and-only Latino character (and one of very few POC at all), oh no. It’s much worse than that; the delicate and vulnerable white woman could have succumbed to a case of *gasp*… reefer madness! *faints from shock* Perish the thought!
Christian goes hiking with Elliot, having remembered that was supposed to be his excuse for camping out in Ana’s backyard for the weekend. Elliot’s yammering away, but Christian is too busy making himself hard thinking of Ana in the same way one might describe a baby bunny to pay attention: “I picture her sleeping beside me, soft and small… and my cock twitches with expectation.” Ew. The scene draws to a close with what is probably the most serial killer line from him to date:
I’ll fuck her in time.
I’ll fuck her bound and with her smart mouth gagged.
Aaaand I think that’s a good spot to take a break. Join me again soon when our protagonists meet again for the helicopter ride of desssssstiny!!!!!!! Part two of this recap might be a bit shorter, but we’re heading into the real meat of the chapter now so I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say. Ana’s bought herself a one-way ticket to pound town and the train is leaving the station, so the next few recaps are bound to be some of the most unhinged yet.