Why an Orthodox Jewish Boys Choir Is Going Viral

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Speaker 1: Look, I’ve never put you on camera. But what I do, I point out, I point. There you go. Wait. There we go.

Rachel Hampton: Hi, I’m Rachel Hampton.

Daisy Rosario: And I’m Daisy Rosario. And you’re listening to I see. Why am I?

Rachel Hampton: In case you missed it.

Daisy Rosario: Slate’s podcast about Internet culture.

Rachel Hampton: And she’s back. And no, I’m actually not talking about Daisy. Tho. Daisy is back. Welcome back, Daisy.

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Daisy Rosario: Thank you, Rachel. I’m here because, I mean, even if I didn’t know exactly already what we were talking about. I mean, you said it in a way that gave voice to my feelings.

Rachel Hampton: Mm hmm. It’s. It’s a little bit of fear, a little bit of discomfort. And it’s also a little bit of that was inevitable.

Daisy Rosario: Yeah.

Rachel Hampton: Before we get into this story that we’re just teasing, I want to preemptively apologize for the quality of my voice. I had too much fun this weekend, and now I get to suffer for it. So if it starts going into like, squeaky territory, my bad. So back to the important news on Sunday, October 2nd, when Lena Dunham tweeted. She said, When I go, I want my casket to be driven through the New York City Pride parade with a plaque that reads, She wasn’t for everyone, but she was for us. Who can arrange.

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Speaker 4: That?

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Rachel Hampton: I saw this tweet and immediately sent it to one of my group chats with the caption, She’s back.

Daisy Rosario: I saw this tweet and immediately retweeted it, asking if Billy Eichner had asked her to tweet this to pull some of the focus off of him because.

Speaker 4: This is like.

Daisy Rosario: She is one of those people. And it’s a short list. It is a short list. But like I know that schadenfreude is wrong and I use every part of my soul to try to be a decent person. And then I see stuff like this and I just go, I’m just going to I’m going to enjoy this one, because what.

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Speaker 4: She brings it on.

Rachel Hampton: Herself is the thing. It’s not like she ever is unfairly being maligned. This is a wild thing for anyone.

Speaker 4: Did he really Lena Dunham?

Rachel Hampton: I can’t quite remember exactly what happened that made her disappear the most recent time. It was either like the Odell Beckham Jr thing or she, like, defended a writer on her show Girls when he was accused of sexual assault.

Daisy Rosario: Yeah. My God. Right.

Rachel Hampton: But I just remember she disappeared. She went into the great beyond of white women. And I was like, maybe in that great. Beyond. She has managed to gain some self awareness because I hadn’t heard from her in a while. I had been seeing good reviews of her new movie, Kathryn called Birdie.

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Speaker 4: And I was like, Oh, maybe she’s entered a new chapter in her life. And then she tweeted this.

Daisy Rosario: It’s like last week we were reminding people of like the old friends of BuzzFeed, and now I feel like this is the old friend of things you enjoyed watching get pummeled on Twitter. Yeah.

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Rachel Hampton: I mean, the thing is, I crave consistency. I’m a creature of habit.

Speaker 4: So honestly, Lena, thank you.

Rachel Hampton: For your service for just when we thought things were about to change, you said, No, not today. And I’m sure we’ll be discussing one of her ill advised statements at some point. I’m not going to say tweets because she really says it in all the forums. Yeah, but today that that’s all the time we have for her. We’re done talking about Lena Dunham.

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Daisy Rosario: Yeah, we’re done.

Rachel Hampton: After a short break, though, we will be talking about how exactly an Orthodox Jewish boys choir took over Tik-tok. And later in the show we’ll be discussing Twitch Streamer Dreams Review Revealed.

Rachel Hampton: And we’re back in Miami.

Speaker 4: Or.

Rachel Hampton: Brooklyn.

Speaker 4: What could be either? It could be either.

Rachel Hampton: I know. I say like once a week. And if it really is once a week at this point, that this is our most requested episode. But the thing is, you all really do be sliding into teams consistently. And I love to see it. I keep thinking there’s no way we will ever have a more requested episode. And then here you guys come and I love it.

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Speaker 4: Yep.

Rachel Hampton: Our first question about the Miami Boys Choir popped into our inbox on September 29th, and ever since then, at least one of y’all once a day have been begging for an explainer.

Speaker 4: So here it is. Woo hoo!

Rachel Hampton: So, Daisy, as a Brooklyn native, you had some familiarity with the Miami Boys Choir pre TikTok blow up, right?

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Daisy Rosario: Mid would represent.

Speaker 4: It.

Daisy Rosario: Sorry, I just never had a reason to say that and I don’t think I ever will again. So I had to take it.

Speaker 4: Yeah.

Daisy Rosario: Yes, I did have a little bit of awareness when this first came up. One of the things that I pointed out was that their more recent shows have been at Brooklyn College, which is literally a college in Brooklyn. It’s a it’s in the center of Brooklyn. It’s in an area called Midwood. I did not go to Midwood High School, but there’s that school right there. But I did go to high school not terribly far from there in a very like Hasidic neighborhood. Like we often think back to high school, my friends and I, when we like, chat about it, will be like, remember how we used to always have to get lunch on Friday, like real fast after school in the winter because everything was about to close. And just like things that, you know, if you live around that.

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Daisy Rosario: But yeah, in addition, like I went to NYU and I lived on campus and my freshman year, one of my roommates that was like randomly assigned by lottery was a Jewish girl from Connecticut. We’re still really good friends, but it was one of those things where I don’t think I understood how much I knew about Judaism from just like the osmosis of living where I lived until I met her, because she came home on like the second day of orientation and was like. DC There are so many Jewish people in New York. And I was like, Yes, like, Oh, welcome to the party. Like.

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Rachel Hampton: So why are we talking about Brooklyn? Mean the Miami Boys Choir? Important distinction.

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Speaker 4: Yes.

Rachel Hampton: The most important thing to know about the Miami Boys Choir from henceforth known as the NBC, they’re not actually based in Miami, or at least not anymore. The NBC was founded way back in 1977 by your Ahmir, begun in Miami Beach, Florida. And since its founding, they have put out 32 albums and had an estimated 500 alumni made up of preteen and teenage Orthodox Jewish boys. But after the first few albums, the choir moved to Brooklyn, which explains why we were talking about Brooklyn and why all the boys in the choir are from the Tri-State area. What that doesn’t explain is why exactly this blew up on TikTok.

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Daisy Rosario: Exactly. Okay, so the very first NBC video was uploaded to Tik Tok on June 29th of this year. And over this jaunty tune, the. The onscreen caption reads 100 Voice Choir of Unity members from across the NYC Tri-State Coming Together.

Rachel Hampton: All right, here’s where I am. I felt really heavy with a boys choir. Like, I’m not going to lie. My favorite song in name is is Red and Black because of those sweet, sweet male harmonies. Oh, and this should not be surprising based on how much I loved One Direction. But Daisy, as a child of the theater, I’m assuming you also. You also love a four part harmony.

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Daisy Rosario: Oh, my God. Absolutely. Like I will tell people songs that sound incredible, that are harmony songs that they should listen to in headphones and just enjoy the sensation.

Rachel Hampton: So the tick tock for the NBC was actually started by the son of the founder, who, according to an interview with NBC, told his father, Dad, we have to get on tick tock. There’s a chance nobody knows for sure, but there’s a chance something crazy could happen.

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Speaker 4: And boy, would be right.

Rachel Hampton: Incredible. Correct.

Daisy Rosario: So. So. Right. Finger on the pulse, sir.

Rachel Hampton: Truly, Truly. I’m like a visionary. So after the NBC tick tock started in June, they uploaded pretty consistently and they were very quickly rewarded when they struck gold a few months after that very first video. If you are one of the people who is on Miami Boys Choir, Tick Tock, the video we’re about to play is probably the one that you’ve heard. It was uploaded on August 21st and since then has garnered more than 976,000 likes and 8.6 million views. The song has been used in over 9000 videos.

Speaker 4: And show like you. And the Soviet.

Speaker 5: So the VMI battery got nine.

Rachel Hampton: So in this video, it’s showing off these four different soloists from the 2008 through 2012 era of the Miami Boys Choir. And so on screen, you’ll see their different names, where they’re from.

Speaker 4: And what.

Rachel Hampton: You’re seeing is a group.

Speaker 4: Of like pre-teen. And he needs boys singing on stage and there’s like shiny little button down shirt and ties, and they’re just all so cute.

Daisy Rosario: And passionate.

Speaker 4: Yes. They’re so into it, like they’re giving out performers. Yes.

Daisy Rosario: But the comments are, as usual, really where it’s at. And this is a side note to say that if you are only watching Tiktoks on other platforms like Instagram and Twitter, you’re missing out on one of the most important parts of Tick Tock, which is the comments section. And I have to say, I do not always recommend a comment section, but I do recommend the tick tock comment sections. And for this specific video they include comments like You guys are sleeping on my King Benyamin telling my kids, this was Backstreet Boys. He’s setting the bar mitzvah. Hi, I love that last one so much. And Benyamin is the name of one of the boys in the video. Just so that that makes sense to you if you have not watched the video yet, which. What are you doing? Get yourself to it.

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Rachel Hampton: Yes, we will link it on our Twitter feed. But yes, all of the boys names are included in the video. So obviously it turned into Stanmore is in the comments section.

Speaker 4: I love it. So I say you say no.

Rachel Hampton: At this point, you might be asking.

Speaker 4: You know what?

Rachel Hampton: That song was catchy, but why did it go viral? And the answer is, as usual.

Speaker 4: I really.

Rachel Hampton: Cannot give you a scientific.

Speaker 4: Answer.

Rachel Hampton: What The tic tac algorithm has seized on a random piece of ephemera and shoved it into our brain.

Speaker 4: Yes.

Rachel Hampton: I will say that looking at it objectively as productively as I can, having listened to it 12 times in the past 2 hours.

Daisy Rosario: Right.

Rachel Hampton: It has all the makings of a piece of ready made viral Internet content because you’ve got you’ve got dance moves and not like, you know. Very good dance moves. But some dance moves.

Speaker 4: Right.

Rachel Hampton: You’ve got costuming choices, the kind you’d expect from a Jewish boys choir. A lot of shiny shirts.

Speaker 4: You’ve got legitimate vocal talent.

Rachel Hampton: And you get, importantly, as you mentioned, individuals. You can choose to root for all the K-Pop bands or the boy bands of the nineties. So you can be like my King Benyamin.

Speaker 4: Or my bro David, like you’re sleeping on him.

Daisy Rosario: If I may posit my own theory, I think I agree that it’s, you know, it’s a bunch of the stuff that is already great. I also think that as much as people are, like, deeply uncomfortable with sincerity, we kind of love it when we see it in a certain ways. And that’s the thing is like these kids are performing so sincerely, they are going so hard. And like the lack of shame, the lack of all of those things are just fantastic.

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Daisy Rosario: I also think people are constantly amazed when they’re reminded of any kind of, I guess, for lack of a better way of saying it, like subculture. Right. And it’s like there are all different kinds of groups all around the country that are either like religiously based or culturally based, do have their own little things. I mean, it is a real it is a very real part of like Orthodox Judaism that they don’t really interact much with like secular pop culture in any meaningful way. Right? So like, this is something that would have been like really special to those people at that time, too. And those audiences that, like, would show up and be so hardcore. And I feel like any time that we’re reminded of like the things that don’t fit the machines that we’re used to right now, we’re just like even more taken with those things.

Speaker 4: Yeah, Yeah.

Rachel Hampton: And it’s also like from a composing perspective, legitimately incredible. Like these are original songs made in this like very, like optimistic style that are so kept so many people in common saying, I don’t understand what anyone’s saying and I still love it. And it’s like, that’s the mark of a good song. Yes, it is. It’s working.

Rachel Hampton: Because now the Miami Boys Choir, Tik Tok, has almost 150,000 followers. The Miami Boys Choir hashtag has over 136 million views. Wow. And that hashtag features people very nicely reviewing the boys performances. Everyone, there’s no no one gets below at 9.5 out of ten. And you see people learning the choreography. You see people uploading videos from the Miami Boys Choir YouTube channel that the Mamma Boys Choir Tik Tok hasn’t uploaded yet. You have both transliteration and translations of the songs so people know what’s being said. I would play some of these tiktoks, but they’re all set to the same song we just played and it’s already stuck in my head.

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Daisy Rosario: Oh my God. Completely. And no one’s more surprised by the virality than the boys themselves. In an NBC interview, Benyamin Abramowitz said, We never got recognition like this before. It’s fascinating the fact that everyone in the world is loving this, even though they don’t understand the language. I’m trying to wrap my head around it. And then another of the now grown boys, David Hershkowitz, said, I hadn’t seen that video of myself in probably ten years. So it was really funny seeing it, which is just amazing. I love it. There’s just easy saying I love it.

Rachel Hampton: I love it, too, Even though I’m actively cringing out of my skin. At the thought of a video of myself from between the ages of 1914 going viral in 2022, though I will say these boys are no strangers to fame. Herskovitz told The Times of Israel that he definitely remembers that the Israel shows that there would always be scenes of people waiting when we got out for an autograph or a picture. And in that same time, Ethiopia’s other Miami Boys Choir alumni spoke about being mobbed by girls, which must have been exciting for pre-teen boy.

Speaker 4: And one.

Rachel Hampton: Even described his.

Speaker 4: Fax number spread around. Oh, just a fucking blast from the past. I love it. See me. Your number is being leaked. I just. I love that.

Daisy Rosario: All of this. I have to point this out, Rachel. Like, all of this is happening during the Jewish high holy days of 2022. Like they’re, you know, they’re online trending. The this episode that we’re putting out. I mean, if you don’t know who the Miami Boys Choir is, I’m not really worried about you being upset that you can’t listen first thing on Yom Kippur. But like, it’s it’s the whole thing’s amazing. It’s just amazing effects. Amazing.

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Rachel Hampton: And what else is? Amazing is that one person in particular is really taking advantage of their moment in the spotlight. Soon after the Miami Boys Choir started going viral, David Herskovitz started his own TED Talk, starting with this one.

Speaker 5: We told him it’s Hershkowitz.

Rachel Hampton: He’s also done updated covers of his childhood work.

Speaker 4: So I’m.

Speaker 6: Lying. Boring Subject Lawrence Oliver. If I sense of insulting the merits of the.

Speaker 4: Item you are. How was that?

Rachel Hampton: That video has 4.3 million views and he seems to be planning to release new music, which I’m glad he’s seizing on that moment in the sun. One thing I didn’t really ever think about with boys choirs is like you age out of them.

Daisy Rosario: Yes, you really do.

Rachel Hampton: I didn’t think about that. I was just.

Speaker 4: Like you could just keep doing.

Rachel Hampton: Why’d they all leave at 14? And then I’m like, puberty.

Speaker 4: Yes.

Rachel Hampton: You just can’t hit those notes anymore.

Speaker 4: No.

Daisy Rosario: There are actually some really great details about those things in a couple of the articles that we cited. So definitely go check those out. But yeah, speaking of moments in the Sun and Hershkowitz making the most of his, it’s time to talk about somebody else’s that is not nearly as heartwarming. After a short break, we’re going to talk all about the face reveal of a famous Twitch streamer.

Rachel Hampton: And we’re back on YouTube. Dream is a YouTuber and Twitch streamer who primarily makes Minecraft content. He has over 30 million subscribers on YouTube, which is so huge. He blew up around 2019 2020, which makes sense. A lot of people, including me, actually got into games during the pandemic and also got into watching like video game streaming content. Yeah, I don’t think any of his videos in the past two years have under 14 million views. Yeah, which means in the words of the great Quinta Brunson, he got money. Here’s an example of one of his videos.

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Speaker 1: This video, three of my friends try and hunt me down and kill me in Minecraft for $20,000. If I survive for 100 minutes, I win. If they kill me, they win. And every time.

Daisy Rosario: So up until this weekend, most of his millions of fans had no idea what he looked like. He was most well known as this really simple little smiley face and obviously his voice.

Rachel Hampton: I really didn’t know about this phenomenon of anonymous streamers until like 2020 and 2021 when I came across people on tip top lip syncing to Corpse Husband videos of Corpse husband.

Daisy Rosario: Uh huh, yes.

Rachel Hampton: Mm hmm. So he’s another anonymous YouTuber. He’s mostly known for his among us content, which is an online multiplayer game. He’s also a musician. His song Eggrolls Are Ruining My Life had a real Tik Tok moment last year.

Speaker 4: To.

Speaker 5: Choke me in the pursuit of me, though he wanted me.

Rachel Hampton: Literally, no one besides his real actual friends knows what he looks like if there are so incredibly horny for him. It is wild and I’m a keep it a book. I get it. He has a nice voice. It’s a good voice.

Daisy Rosario: It’s a good voice. It is.

Rachel Hampton: And I feel like. And maybe you feel this way, too. My early Internet experiences were defined by anonymity. Yeah. So people thirsting after only a voice. Is it really all that surprising to me? There are Tumblr bloggers whose content formed, I think 5% of my personality, like conservatively, who I would not be able to pick out of a lineup.

Daisy Rosario: Yeah.

Rachel Hampton: But with the advent of social media like Facebook and MySpace and Instagram and with the influx of money and social media, I feel like anonymity kind of went out of vogue. At least if you wanted to make money.

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Daisy Rosario: Oh, definitely. Yeah. But it is coming back, isn’t it? At least that’s what it seems like with the popularity of Corpse and Dream. And it makes sense, right? I mean, we’re in the middle of this backlash against a glossy, inauthentic aesthetic that was popular in the 20 tens. I mean, look at the success of B-real or the recent Mikayla Nogueira drama, where she was partially lambasted for her use of filters with completely anonymous creators. There’s nothing else to grab on to but their personality, so it comes across as more genuine.

Rachel Hampton: Yeah, and I think it also makes it a lot easier to project on to an anonymous creator.

Daisy Rosario: Oh yeah.

Rachel Hampton: You get to imagine what they look like, how they move there. There’s even more of a void to peer socially created than normal. Yes. Which brings us to Dream’s phase reveal. And yikes, perhaps the downfall of a nun.

Speaker 4: It’s creative. It’s brutal.

Rachel Hampton: It is. On Sunday night, Dream finally showed his face for the first time. His stream where he did it had over 1.2 million views by the end of it. That video that is now on YouTube got more than 21 million views in less than 20 hours.

Daisy Rosario: Wow.

Rachel Hampton: At the time of recording is the number one trending video on YouTube. And in that video, he explains why he chose now to reveal his face after about seven years of being faceless. And one of those reasons is that he’s meeting one of his online friends in person for the first time, which I thought was really sweet. If Dream is actually canceled for some reason, I couldn’t find. Please don’t tell me.

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Speaker 1: Hi, my name is Clay, otherwise known as Dream. Online. May have heard of me. May have not. Maybe you clicked on this video just out of pure curiosity. And you don’t care who I am. But now you’ve seen my face, and so obviously you know who I am.

Speaker 4: He just looks like a normal guy. Normal face.

Rachel Hampton: He’s a dude. It’s really funny to me watching somebody who is probably made conservatively thousands of dollars off of YouTube, figuring out how to film for the first time, what you can point.

Daisy Rosario: How.

Speaker 4: You can tell.

Rachel Hampton: That he’s trying to figure out like how to move, what angle he wants his face to be.

Daisy Rosario: Yes.

Rachel Hampton: There’s a point where he tries to point at a sign behind him and he’s doing the thing that I think we all do where we know that we have a good side and we’re trying to cater towards that good side. And. Yes. But when you’re filming a video, you have to move naturally or else it comes off like really kind of jarring. And so you can if it was endearing for me to watch because like, he’s clearly so used to talking, but like, not moving.

Daisy Rosario: Yes. It’s some of the reaction is like really over the top. This guy has a really I don’t even want to say average face because, like, what does that even mean? He’s not unattractive enough to describe it in a particularly interesting way. And he’s not just some dude. Yeah, he’s just a dude. He’s just a dude that you like legit. Just like, wouldn’t even notice in most situations. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean there’s not like, hugely compelling things about his look to describe.

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Rachel Hampton: It’s nothing to write home about. No. In either direction? No. But unfortunately, the rest of the Internet did not take nearly so middle of the road. Yes. Remember what I said about Piers socially projecting.

Speaker 4: Wolf.

Rachel Hampton: Because dream just looks like some dude. Like you’re not going to stop if you see him on the street. He also wouldn’t stop if he saw me on the street. Most of us just look like people. But there’s an expectation, I think, that famous people are beautiful. And that was extremely on display in the aftermath of Dream’s Vegas reveal.

Daisy Rosario: Yeah, the hashtag dream face reveal very quickly trended along with put the mask back on, which is just.

Speaker 4: Rude is what I saw that hashtag. I thought it was like a pandemic related thing. Me too.

Daisy Rosario: I thought we were finally going to do something for disabled people. But we’re still not, apparently.

Speaker 4: No. And then I clicked on and I was like, Oh, no, no. Like, my man has been compared to everything.

Rachel Hampton: Was Shrek character from Rumplestiltskin.

Speaker 4: Who are not quite so Humpty Dumpty. Like, Oh my God.

Rachel Hampton: But hashtag is wild to me in that it’s actually really easy to get a hashtag trending just through literally any stand of a K-Pop group. Yeah. But the real mark of a viral Twitter trend is how viral the individual tweets are in the hashtag. I had to scroll for a solid few minutes to find any tweets that had under like 5000 likes. Like the average tweet in that hashtag is garnering like a 100,000 likes.

Speaker 4: So many sites on.

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Rachel Hampton: Twitter are coming.

Speaker 4: Together to.

Rachel Hampton: Roast this man. Part of the reason why it got so much noticed is that he’s been teasing his face debut for like two weeks.

Daisy Rosario: Oh, geez. Yeah, that’s a lot of buildup for that face.

Speaker 4: And it’s just a face like, I understand because he has so many followers, But it’s going to be a big deal when he reveals his face.

Daisy Rosario: Right.

Speaker 4: But he also made it a bigger deal than it needed to be.

Daisy Rosario: Exactly.

Rachel Hampton: He had other creators post. I don’t know if he had them posted. Maybe they just decided to post it themselves. I don’t know. But other creators were revealing their reactions to his face before his face reveal like. And so I understand why it got so much traction. But my God, was it scrolling through that hashtag?

Daisy Rosario: Oh, my God. Well, I mean, look, here’s here’s the thing. Like, Dream has other powerful fans. The responses to his tweeted face reveal is a murderer’s row of YouTubers and Twitch streamers, including Mr. Beast, Rhett and Link the actual official Twitch Twitter account. You know, so I think in the end, Dream is going to be fine, but I don’t think you could do that much buildup without it kind of backfiring a little bit on you. I mean, you know what? It really reminds me.

Rachel Hampton: Of why.

Daisy Rosario: I’m being legit when I say this. The incredibly annoying marketing campaign for the movie Bros. Like you made an annoying campaign about it. The situation that came together was not great. So now you’re going to get some extra heat because of it?

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Speaker 4: Yes.

Rachel Hampton: That’s a perfect analogy.

Speaker 4: No.

Rachel Hampton: Wait a minute. Just needs to stop, I think is the general vibe of what’s going on. Except for the Orthodox Jewish Boys Choir. They can keep going.

Daisy Rosario: Absolutely. NBC Forever.

Rachel Hampton: Oh, right. But is the show will be back in your feed on Saturdays, so please subscribe. It is the best way to never miss an episode, to never miss a viral banger, to never miss a face review. Maybe all of you might face one day. Please leave a rating and review an Apple or Spotify. Tell your friends about us. Tell your boys choir about us. You can follow us on Twitter. I feel my mind is Score Pod, which is also written in time as your questions like what’s going on with the Miami Boys Choir? And you can also always drop us a note. I see. Why am I at Slate.com?

Daisy Rosario: I see. Why am I is produced by Daniel Schrader and Rachel Hampton. I’m Daisy Rosario, the senior supervising producer, and Alicia montgomery is Slate’s VP of Audio. See you online.

Rachel Hampton: Or in Miami.

Daisy Rosario: But Brooklyn.

Speaker 4: You’re Lena done.

Daisy Rosario: I like it when you say the ones that make me wonder if Rachel has frozen. Because, like her, Dexter, is that thorough? That it’s like, Nope, she’s. Is she frozen? No.

Rachel Hampton: That’s me wishing for death. That’s what’s happening in my head. I’m just like, What if I just disappeared into the ether? I know I’m going into the West looking to go through. I must diminish in to the West.