Westside season 1 premiere recap: Ensemble


The first episode of Westside brings plenty of tears, anger, drama and, of course, music.

The episode’s cold open acts as a sort of trailer for Westside as a whole, introducing each character while showing snippets of their future happy/sad/angry moments. The episode really begins with producer Sean discussing his desire to create a live show at a night club.

Westside quickly moves into the first ensemble meeting at Sean’s house. As they all give brief introductions to each other, the episode picks a few people to highlight. The first is a scene in Austin’s apartment to touch on his songwriting and sense of style. There is also a scene following Pia as she goes to, warms up/prepares for, and is introduced for a foundation event.

Each person gives a little statement about who they are and what their goals are while sitting around and drinking on Sean’s porch. This transitions smoothly into the first music video, the previously released “We Are the Ones.”

After showing a little debrief between Sean, James and Caitlin (who were friends before the ensemble came together) about that first get together, we cut to Sean setting up their first performance at The Study in Hollywood.

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Austin brings his whole band to the open mic night and James gets jealous and initially refuses to play because he didn’t know he could bring a band. His petty refusal to perform after (or even before) Austin’s band and then going outside to try to call up a band of his own is juxtaposed against Leo performing his song with only a guitar, unfazed by Austin’s decision.

After Austin finishes his exciting set (which had the whole room dancing…except James who was off drinking alone at the bar), Sean introduces James, who reluctantly had decided to perform despite not finding a last-minute band. He immediately admits that he’s had a few drinks and gets anxious in front of crowds—seemingly doing everything in his power to lower expectations after Austin’s performance. But James performs and it goes well.

Austin and Alexandra review the night as they walk down the street the next day and Austin admits he wanted to show off a bit by bringing the band. The two discuss Hollywood and Alexandra talks about he decision to not move to Nashville instead. (A stranger walking by and calling Austin ugly before walking directly into traffic is the most bizarre moment in the show. She doesn’t get hurt, but there’s plenty of honking.)

Cut to Arika, the former child juice commercial actor, as we follow her and her dad to see Arika’s manager who has sides for a new CW show for Arika. They go back and forth about the material Arika is being given for auditions. Arika wants something darker, not the “teeny bopper” stuff she’s been getting from her manager.

This transitions to a music video for a solo Arika song about her growth as a woman. The lyrics include “no Disney Channel, no Sixteen Candles” as she raps about what she wants her image to be.

Out of the music video comes a sit down with Sean, James, Pia, and Leo where James again expresses his feelings about Austin showing up to their first performance with an entire band. Pia and Leo praised Austin’s unabashed nature. While Sean and Leo try to reason why this should be less of a deal with James, Pia, the American Idol alum that she is, reminds James that they’re not in competition with each other.

A bit of a tense conversation between Sean and Caitlin follows in the next scene as they discuss James’ behavior at the open mic night. Sean, who expected James to be someone he could rely on for no drama, talks about how this group and their final live show is his passion project and last big attempt to make it. He then puts on his producer hat and starts game planning the next steps, including the possibility of bringing in an acting coach.

Susan Batson, an acting coach who has worked with the likes of Nicole Kidman and Oprah, greets the Westside ensemble in an empty loft space one night and works with them to, as she says, take their truth and put it into song. The first exercise she puts them through is a follow the leader style game where one person dances and everyone else tries to follow.

This leads to the third music video of the episode, the previously released “Vibe.” Within the music video, they have added snippets of the acting exercise.

After the music video, Batson continues to take the ensemble through a different acting exercise, one that asks them to identify an emotional need from a moment in their lives.

As James admits that he has a need for forgiveness, the scene cuts to James and Caitlin in a restaurant, discussing James’ breakup with his girlfriend. It’s also revealed in the conversation that Caitlin and James used to date. This quickly goes back to the group in the acting exercise as they go around the circle and say what each of their needs were in one word.

Pia’s word is closure, as the show cuts to her talking with her best friend about Pia trying to find who she really is in the post-Idol world.

Back in the workshop, the exercise transitions to each of them thinking of someone in their lives they couldn’t talk to. The focus shifts to Arika as we’re shown a 4-year-old Arika in her juice commercial. The scene cuts between Arika holding back tears in the workshop and young Arika calling her mom “evil” to a man off screen and explaining that her mom gets angry and gave her the scratch on her eye.

Pulling out of that moment, Batson gives the ensemble a monologue to work on. Using the person they couldn’t talk to, they’re to make a fake phone call, saying the words of the monologue as if to that person. While most of them struggle to connect to the monologue about someone on the verge of suicide, Austin completely breaks down.

Next. Westside season 1, episode 2 recap: Survival. dark

Turns out, he breaks down because he actually called his mom, rather than pretending like everyone else. This, of course, builds to a confrontation between Austin and James. James feels like Austin forced everyone to sit through his therapy and what happened wasn’t the exercise. Austin feels like what he did was better than the exercise.

After James storms out of the space, the episode ends with James’ first solo music video. The song talks about his drinking and anger.

How did you like the first episode of Westside? Will James and Austin be able to get past their differences? Let us know in the comments.