Kelly Connolly
December 28, 2015 AT 12:15 AM EST

Maybe Flesh and Bone has warped me, or maybe I’m just feeling warmly toward its particular brand of decadent madness, but Claire ate her own blood again tonight, and I was all for it. Her story has been a twisted one. She’s taken steps toward independence and relapsed; she’s told off Paul only to call her brother crying. But even Toni’s grand ballet about one girl’s journey into womanhood is a spiraling one. Change doesn’t tend to happen in a straight line. It took Claire a long time to get here, and it hasn’t always been a pleasant trip, but every setback and every weird smear of blood on her lips eventually propelled her toward her own emancipation.

She’s had some help along the way. Even after Paul decided that he wanted Claire as the lead, they both needed a push in the form of Kiira’s resignation, and Claire needs one final push from her brother — though not the one she thinks. She still believes that none of this will feel real unless Bryan sees her dance, but as soon as he turns up at her apartment, he realizes that he’s made a mistake. “I’m not doing this,” he declares. “I’m done, and you should be, too. That’s what you wanted. That’s why you’re here. And you were right.” Is he just figuring that out now? And why now? After going to such inappropriate lengths for this relationship, it’s not clear what snaps in Bryan that leaves him ready for a clean break. But he’s making the right call here, finally.

Bryan is a cipher. The treatment that he gets from their father is unacceptable, but that doesn’t excuse what he’s done — which is why I’m glad he doesn’t get the last word. Before he goes, he tells his sister that he hopes they made something good together. He wants their daughter to be happy out there somewhere. Claire responds by shouting him out the door. Bryan doesn’t get to decide that her pregnancy was a good thing; that’s Claire’s call to make, and she spent the whole term wanting what grew in her to die. “It was a monster,” she yells, “because you’re a monster, Bryan.”

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Claire needs to stand on her own, but she can’t control the circumstances that push her to center stage any more than Mia can control her disease. They can only control how they respond. Mia takes a while to get back on her feet, but a pep talk from Pasha does the trick. (“You were never going to be prima. But always you will be smart and funny and world-class piece of ass.”) She dances her part in Rubies in her hospital room while the company does the same onstage, with Daphne in Kiira’s spot. Daphne nails it, nerves and all. Meanwhile, Claire stares into space in her dressing room, numb to the buzz of the people around her.

It takes pain to pull Claire back to reality — which Kiira’s drug guy Jasper would find fitting, if he weren’t off throwing parties with leopards. Someone in the company put broken glass in Claire’s shoe; it digs into her toes as soon as she goes en pointe backstage. Unfazed, Claire wipes the blood from her feet and licks it, staring down her fellow dancers as the blood drips down her lip. If she’s going to be full-tilt crazy, this is exactly how I want her to be full-tilt crazy. Claire knows a thing or two about dancing through pain. Her head is in the game now.

NEXT: Places, everybody

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