Have you ever wanted to see Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman as a modern-day psychedelic shaman of sorts? Now you can with Hulu’s latest hit miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers, based on the eponymous 2018 novel by Liane Moriarty. In the show, nine strangers meet at a 10-day wellness retreat at the fictional Tranquillum House in California. The resort’s host, Masha Dmitrichenko (played by Kidman) promises to heal her guests through total transformation via death and rebirth — in more ways than one.
Will Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers attract mainstream viewers to the burgeoning microdose lifestyle? How does the show depict the use of psilocybin for psychological healing? Which microdosing facts did they get wrong? And which ones did they get deliciously right?
Read on to find out!
*Warning: This blog contains spoilers for the entire season of Nine Perfect Strangers, which aired its final episode on September 22, 2021.
Welcome to Tranquillum
The guests arrive at Tranquillum House, an exclusive wellness resort situated in the (fictional) town of Cabrillo, California. In the show, as in the original book, Masha reigns supreme as the Russian-American guru who guides you through meditation. All while mixing microdoses (or one-tenth of a full recreational dose) of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, into her guests’ smoothies. Talk about enjoying a trippy tipple!
There’s just one teeny-tiny problem. All nine guests have no idea they’re even microdosing… One moment, Napoleon Marconi (played by Michael Shannon) is goofing around half-naked in his room, and the next he’s breaking down in tears at the dinner table. My teenage son killed himself, and I’ve been blaming myself all this time. It’s hard to admit but maybe it’s time to let him go.
What incredible psychological insight! How on earth did he get to that point? Napoleon’s walls were so high up. Masha smiles knowingly. Meanwhile the dude’s smoothie is lying somewhere, half-slurped…
From Pages to Streaming
There’s a few key differences between the show and the novel’s original story. For starters, Tranquillum was set in Australia in the book, but they changed it to California for Hulu. Also in the book, Masha made “microdose smoothies” for her guests using LSD. Unlike in the show where psilocybin is the psychedelic of choice.
Finally — and perhaps most importantly — Nicole Kidman’s version of Masha is more aware of psychedelics’ true power beyond the act of tripping. She knows that raising your consciousness via ego death is the ultimate goal.
This is a far cry from Moriarty’s novel, which focuses too much on the “trippy” aspect of psychedelics. Like, you’ll be reading scenes of the guests’ hallucinations for pages on end. The book also refers to psychedelics as “illegal drugs” for the most part — a loaded phrase that advocates have been trying to avoid in the fight for widespread decriminalisation. Luckily, it’s a fight that is on track to be won in the near future.
Psychedelics to the Rescue
Thanks to the show’s screenwriter David E. Kelley, the story of Nine Perfect Strangers now focuses more on the real-world benefits of microdosing — and the power of psilocybin to help change your life for the better. Kelley’s version of Tranquillum is microdosing mecca. Scenes of soul-searching and shedding tears of joy while on shrooms are shot beautifully… As if you’re experiencing ego death right there with the person.
Also, Masha’s mistake of handing out secret microdoses (which evolve quickly into macro-doses, hence the ego death) is not motivated by “tricking” the guests into exposing their traumas to her more easily, as is the case in the novel. This time around, her character just wants to take a dose heroic enough for her to see her dead daughter once again. Misguided actions, as opposed to outright villainy.
Masha still gets arrested in the finale, but she ends the show with a bang as she scores a cover on The New Yorker. Her face looks upwards, with rays around her head like that of a psychedelic messiah. The words “Psychedelics to the Rescue” are printed out, front and center. Is it a Hollywood hint at psilocybin finally going mainstream?
The Rise of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy
In the show, microdosing psilocybin is key to treating a wide range of conditions. Such as a football player’s addiction to opioids, for example, or a mother’s severe depression that almost led her to commit suicide. Sadly, these stories are hitting too close to home… Even as Big Pharma companies are raking in billions for record-high sales of prescription drugs. If that’s the case, then why aren’t people getting better?
In a pivotal scene, a journalist named Lars (played by Luke Evans) talks to a fellow guest whose brother had killed himself. All because his asthma medication had a lethal side effect: suicidal ideation.
“People are mis-dosed, misdiagnosed all the time. The argument could be made that it’s the real doctors that are killing us.”
When done right, psychedelic-assisted therapy can offer tremendous mental health benefits… without the side effects of prescription drugs. Sure, the resort in Nine Perfect Strangers may have spiced up the human drama a bit for the plot. I mean, it’s still TV, after all. But the show does reflect a real-world rise in the use of psychedelics paired with talk therapy.
Like a flush of shrooms after the rain, studies are popping up on how taking mere microdoses of psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, or ketamine can greatly help those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
And lawmakers are paying attention — for real this time. Just take a look at Oregon, Washington D.C., Denver, and Oakland, which have decriminalised magic mushrooms and magic truffles (and other natural psychedelics). All based on countless studies that have backed psilocybin’s real potential as medicine.
How to Microdose Properly
Nicole Kidman’s Masha is quite a character: both an homage to, and a caricature of, modern-day wellness gurus. And maybe the guests’ psychedelic breakthroughs do occur way too fast (and too exaggerated at times, we might add!). Even so, Nine Perfect Strangers does give a strong case for the many benefits of microdosing — particularly psilocybin from magic mushrooms and magic truffles.
Did the show portray microdosing accurately? Mm…not quite! Though Masha did give her guests one-tenth of a psilocybin dose via her special smoothies, she did so three times a day! That is way more than the standard protocol by Dr. James Fadiman, who suggested taking a microdose only once every three days for best results. Thus, your brain has enough time to “absorb” the psychedelic compound and work its magic.
Take mystery novelist Ayelet Waldman for example, who turned to microdosing LSD to help calm her violent mood swings. In an interview with The New Yorker, she revealed that her “peak calmness” didn’t come right away; it came shining through the day after the microdose.
“I feel happy. Not giddy or out of control, just at ease with myself and the world. When I think about my husband and my children, I feel a gentle sense of love and security. I am not anxious for them or annoyed with them. When I think of my work, I feel optimistic, brimming with ideas, yet not spilling over.”
Another thing is that microdosing is not the same as taking a full-on psychedelic trip. If you take one-tenth of a proper dose, then you should only expect to feel a warm, tingly buzz. Not an actual “trip” by any means. The real magic of microdosing works below your level of perception.
See, the way Masha’s guests had such vivid hallucinations all the freakin’ time? You’d think they got a full-on heroic dose of psilocybin per smoothie!
How Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Works in Real Life
There’s a scene where Masha holds a session with a grieving family. She says the right words, of course, and gives them microdoses of psilocybin while “therapising”. Problem is, Masha is dosing herself alongside her patients — which is a big professional no-no in real-world psychedelic-assisted therapy.
A proper therapist serves as a “trip sitter” or someone who remains sober while you trip out. They would also pay attention to your mindset before tripping, and make sure that your tripping area is safe and comfortable — aka “Set and Setting”. Are you lying on a cosy couch? With a serene view of nature outside? Do you hear calming music playing in the background? These are questions you need to ask if you want a truly effective psychedelic-based therapy session.
*Still craving the smoothies from the show? No problem! We’ve got an easy-to-follow recipe for a delicious psychedelic milkshake right here…
Microdosing Goes Mainstream
Microdosing helps people heal.
That’s the crux of Hulu’s modern twist to the original Nine Perfect Strangers novel, which had focused on psychedelics mainly for their trip-inducing properties. That, and exposing the guests’ trauma for the heck of it. Luckily, the TV version works so much better in favor of the psychedelic renaissance…
Hulu says that Nine Perfect Strangers is its most watched original drama ever. It’s a huge coup in advertising psychedelics, especially for those yet unsure of the life-changing benefits of microdosing. And the fact that the show chose psilocybin as the psychedelic of choice? Brilliant. Further proof that magic mushrooms and magic truffles are the safest recreational drug you can get in the market right now.
Why not experience it for yourself?