Chances are, you’ve already devoured the first three episodes of Hulu’s new series, Nine Perfect Strangers, and are eager to know what happens next. After a pretty major cliffhanger, it’s looking like something not so chill is going down. As the director of a swanky wellness retreat, Masha's (Nicole Kidman) main goal is to “heal” her clients, but the end of Episode 3 hinted toward something a little less “wellness” and a little more WTF. If you’re thirsting for answers, you might want to grab the book to get to the bottom of the plot twists. But be warned, there are quite a few differences between the Nine Perfect Strangers novel and Hulu series.
Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers from Nine Perfect Strangers Episodes 1 through 3. The show, which premiered on Hulu with its first three episodes on Aug. 18, is based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty (who also wrote Big Little Lies, BTW). Both versions follow the same general premise: A group of strangers visit a luxury retreat hosted by Masha in an attempt to better themselves and heal their personal traumas.
It all seems pretty standard until the end of Episode 3, when it occurs to one of the guests, Heather (Asher Keddie), that some weird ish might be going down at Tranquillum House. While you’ll have to wait to see what happens onscreen, the book version will give you a pretty good insight as to where the plot is going. That said, read with a grain of salt, because as of the first three episodes, there are already some major differences between the pages and the screen.
1. Lars’ Backstory
In the show, Lars (Luke Evans) is actually pretty different from his novel counterpart. The book version of Lars is a serial wellness retreat-goer who’s actually a family lawyer, not an undercover journalist. Also, while he’s going through a breakup in the show, he’s actually still in a long-term relationship with a man named Ray in the book. He decided to go to the retreat to get a break from his partner after the couple kept disagreeing on whether or not to have children.
2. Lars & Carmel’s Introduction
In both the book and the series, Lars stops off at a wine store on his way to Tranquillum House, and this is where he learns the retreat is a little bit unusual. In addition to purchasing some vino (which gets confiscated in both versions), this is where Lars meets Carmel (Regina Hall) onscreen. The introduction is rude and awkward and if you hated it, you’re in luck, because it doesn’t happen in the novel. The two don’t meet until they get to the retreat and they don’t have all of that weird tension in the book.
3. Carmel’s Personality
Speaking of Carmel, her character is also a bit different in the book versus the show. In both versions, she’s a recently divorced mother who’s experiencing a lack of self-esteem. In the series, however, it’s starting to seem like there might be more to her than just low confidence. She continuously gets tense and even has violent outbursts, which aren’t a thing in the book.
4. The Resort’s Location
Another major change from the book to the show is where the guests go to get healed. In the novel, Tranquillum House is in Australia, but in the series, it’s located in northern California (even though it was actually filmed in Australia). While the reason for this switch has yet to be explained, considering how California is where many television and film productions take place — and is the perfect locale for a wellness resort — it was probably an easy shift that saved some cash.
5. The House Itself
The Tranquillum House in the books is an old Victorian mansion complete with a princess tower and a grand staircase reminiscent of The Titanic. Hulu’s adaption shows a much more modern-looking health spa, which is probably a little more in line with what the general population thinks of when they envision a plush, overpriced wellness retreat.
6. The Meals & Smoothies
Upon arriving at Tranquillum House in the book, the guests are given smoothies to drink and told their stay would include individually curated diets tailored to their needs. Their meals — which vary wildly depending on the character — are a much bigger focal point in the book, as are the delicious, tropical smoothies the guests drink multiple times per day. In the book, depending on the guests’ perceived health (judged by Masha), they received different meals from salads to steaks to designated fasting periods. So far in the show, the smoothies and fasting exist, but they’re not as big of a deal.
7. The Noble Silence
One of the most noticeable changes between page and screen is the lack of silence in the retreat. Upon arriving at Tranquillum House in the book, the guests had to partake in five days of silence, during which they weren’t allowed to talk to one another, were encouraged not to read or interact with each other, and had to avoid eye contact. During that time, the readers got to know the characters through their internal monologues, actions, and regard — or disregard — for the rules. While it makes sense the silence would be nixed for the onscreen variation, it was one of the more interesting components in the novel, so it’s a bummer to see it eliminated.
8. The Book Review
While Frances (Melissa McCarthy) is a romance writer in both the show and the book, there’s a slight difference in her character’s response to her recent career flop. In the book, she reads a scathing review of her work prior to arriving at Tranquillum House that sends her on a spiral of self-doubt. In the show, she hears about it secondhand from Tony (Bobby Cannavale) when she’s already at the resort.
9. Jessica’s Body Image
Both versions of Jessica are highly concerned by her appearance, but in the book, Jessica’s constant search for validation via social media and surgical procedures causes even more strife between her and her husband. The novel spends more time diving into the complexities of their relationship and how the media — and her self-image — has diminished their bond. However, that may come up in the show later on.
10. The Discounted Rate
Napoleon (Michael Shannon) and his family make a big deal out of the large discount Masha offered them in the show since, apparently, Tranquillum is very expensive. While the resort is still pricey in the book, the family isn’t offered a lower rate. Instead, they can afford the retreat thanks to years of skipped vacations and an inheritance from Napoleon's grandfather. In fact, Masha doesn’t know about the family’s loss until they share the information in the group, whereas, in the series, the death of their son is the reason she gave the Marconi family a reduced rate.
11. The Text Threats
Threatening texts? Don’t know her. The creepy messages Masha receives from an unknown sender aren’t a plot point in the book. It’s unclear who could be threatening the wellness leader, but it’s pretty obvious Masha has an enemy or two lurking from her past.
12. The Group Activities
As previously mentioned, there are a long few days of silence and limited interactions between guests in the book, which means a lot of the bonding exercises — like the potato-sack race and Earth day— were added to the curriculum for the screen. Since the purpose of the space is to heal yourself, the group activities on the show don’t make *as* much sense as seclusion and silence, but they do make for good television, so I’ll let it slide.
13. Masha’s Near-Death Experience
In both the book and the series, Masha’s brush with death is the driving factor behind her lifestyle change. In fact, in both versions, that’s why she teamed up with Yao (Manny Jacinto) to start Tranquillum. How Masha almost died, however, is very different in the book. In the show, she’s a high-level executive who’s shot in the chest. In the book, she’s also an exec, but instead of getting shot, she has a heart attack. She’s saved by Yao in both versions, but the onscreen almost-death is a little more sinister (and perhaps points to who is threatening her via text).
14. The Strange Goat Feast
Episode 3 left viewers grappling with a major cliffhanger and trying to get over the images of the Tranquillum House guests eating Masha’s pet goat. If the vision of the animal’s flesh is still making your skin crawl, you’ll be happy to know that’s not a thing in the book. There’s no goat. There’s no feast. There’s no dancing or wine and or fantastic outdoor tablescape. But there is a major breakthrough by Napoleon surrounding his son’s death and Heather does confront Masha about the potential of the guests being medicated. So, if you can’t wait until the next episodes are released, grab the book and get to reading. Just be prepared for the story to continue changing as the series progresses...
The first three episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers are streaming now on Hulu. The remaining five episodes will drop weekly on Wednesdays.