After three groundbreaking seasons of Annie Weisman’s dark comedy, Physical, it’s time to say goodbye to Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne), her aerobics empire, and her evolving inner monologue.
Over the course of its 30 episodes, the ambitious Apple TV+ series — set in San Diego in the 1980s — offered an honest depiction of disordered eating, personal growth, and recovery. In addition to another stellar performance from Byrne (who also executive produced the series) Physical‘s third and final season welcomed New Girl star Zooey Deschanel to the cast, saw Sheila and Greta take their business to the next level, and explored more character trauma, romance, and — eventually — healing.
Curious what Physical‘s final cool-down looks like? Wondering how the series finale leaves Sheila, Greta, Danny, Maya, Breem, Bunny, Tyler, and the rest of the Physical fam? Decider’s recap of Physical Season 3, Episode 10, “Like a Prayer,” breaks down the show’s final emotional half-hour.
Physical Ending Explained: Season 3, Episode 10 Recap
The first episode of Physical kicked off with the year 1986 displayed on-screen, then quickly rolled it back to 1981, where our story began. As Sheila stared at herself in a bathroom mirror trying to cover a pesky zit, her toxic inner monologue harshly criticized her self-worth and appearance. The final episode of Physical brings us back to that scene, then leaps forward to 1986, where our story ends.
Season 3, Episode 10 starts with Janet Jackson singing the lyrics, “This is a story about control. Cause it’s all about control. And I’ve got lots of it.” As Jackson’s 1986 hit plays, Physical‘s finale opens on that aforementioned pilot shot, then jumps to 1986, where a confident Sheila is slaying in the Strength In Numbers studio.
”When people try to tell me this is just about bikini bodies, I tell them what I hear from you — women franchise owners from all over the country. About how you’re not afraid to walk to your car at night anymore. About how you don’t need to carry mace, because you carry confidence. About how you stopped abusing your bodies with pills and restrictive dieting. About how you’re caring for them with movement and intuitive eating. About how owning your own business gave you the economic freedom to leave an abusive relationship,” Sheila chants. A camera circles her in the studio, giving viewers glimpses at her journey to professional success. “The principle behind every strength in numbers franchise is female ownership, financial independence, strength. It’s not just about building muscles, it’s about building community. Going from following along to leading the charge. Teaching. Sharing. Growing. Confidence. Courage. Commitment. Becoming your own boss. Taking charge of your own destiny. Control.” She’s talking to the women of the world, but also to herself.
After the motivating speech, she’s escorted into the back of a car, closes the door, and exhales. She asks the driver to turn the music down, exhales again, takes off her earrings, and unbuttons her jacket to decompress from her demanding reality. Next thing we know, she’s in (an older) Maya’s room sharing that you can heal a cut with breast milk. They share a quick giggle, and Sheila thoughtfully adds, “It’s weird but think about it. Your body can make something that’s medicine and food.” She kisses Maya goodnight and heads to the dining room of her fancy beachside house, where one John Breem (looking fine as ever) has dinner waiting. He serves Sheila and welcomes her home, and though she looks indescribably sad, she says it’s nice to be back.
As Sheila recalls her business trip, she says she wants to delegate travel so she can spend more time with Maya and focus on her foundation. Breem challenges her, saying she’s on top of the mountain and it’s her peak earning time, then he takes a jab at Danny, who received a grant from the foundation for his environmental work. Sheila hears a crash outside and investigates despite John’s lack of concern. She finds a broken flower pot, likely blown over by the breeze, and goes back inside. “You were right, there was nobody there,” she says as she continues eating. As the camera pans out, however, we see she’s all alone. No domestic John Breem in sight! Which suggests he’s taken the place of her inner monologue post-Kelly.
While Sheila is clearly going through it, Danny is hosting an environmental podcast and having a baby with Sheila’s former secretary. And Greta is finally an instructor at Strength in Numbers, and sicking legal on anyone who tries to copy the franchise. At one point, she asks Sheila to reveal who she’s been seeing, and Sheila says it’s not serious. After she heads home to an imaginary John Breen, however, we’re starting to think she’s lying about even having a partner.
When Sheila voices concern over legal’s involvement in the company, John tells her people are stealing from her and need to be dealt with. She admits she stole from Bunny early on, and he spins her success, attributing the growth of Strength in Numbers entirely to her. Sheila asks if her success means she has to be alone forever, and John assures her she’s not alone. “I’m talking to no one. I’m filling my home with the ghost of a failed relationship,” she argues. “No,” he says. “Somebody is out there.” Literally.
Sheila runs outside screaming, looking for the intruder who knocked over her planter, and instead she finds it’s replaced. At a meeting the next day, she tells Harriet — who’s celebrating one year of recovery — about the mysterious planter and leaves inspired to get a Louisville Slugger for protection. That night, she sits outside with bat in hand and catches her stalker: Tyler. He (gently) tells her he’s mad at her for his breakup with Bunny, which happened after Sheila’s lawyers shut down her aerobics teaching. Tyler says Bunny wanted to get revenge, so she went to Mexico — home of the real, non-mentally conjured John Breem. So what does Sheila do? She drops Maya off with Danny, heads to Mexico with Greta under the guise of a girl’s trip, then comes clean. “I also came here to see him…John,” she said, explaining that Bunny came down here to seduce him. “I just have to see for myself to know for sure. I have an address not far from here…of his church.”
Greta, a true friend, offers her support but understandably questions Sheila’s “new” Breem-brain. “The truth is, there’s what I say and what I feel. I think about him so much. He’s in my head,” Sheila admits. “I’m not even seeing anyone, Greta. I’m just talking to him alone in my house like I used to with myself. With Kelly. I just, I need to see what is happening with my own eyes so I know and then I can move on.”
Next thing we know, they’re at the church and Sheila is standing face-to-face with Breemy-Baby, who was expecting her — just not so soon. “I don’t think I knew how much pressure I felt until I wasn’t feeling it anymore, after we left,” he explains. “I’d be happy to show you around. What we’ve build — it’s humble, but it’s special.” First stop? The fitness class, taught by — yep, you guessed it — BUNNY! She’s leading a dozen women, including John’s wife, in aerobics exercises. And when the Strength in Numbers duo walks in, the church gals run to set the record straight. “If you came to shut me down again you can fucking forget it,” Bunny says. “It’s a community class. We’re not even charging any money, honey. I mean, I get paid by her,” she continues, gesturing to Breen’s wife. “Well don’t look so surprised!” Maria adds. “You’re the one who preached the gospel of exercise to me — its empowering benefits. We needed a teacher and Bunny was available.”
Sheila tells Bunny she’s not looking to shut her down; that Tyler visited and misses her. Greta chimes in and offers Bunny a grant from the Strength in Numbers Foundation for the work she’s been doing for the community, and when Bunny swiftly shuts it down, Sheila gets vulnerable. “I came here because I suspected that you were trying to punish me by taking something away from me that wasn’t really mine in the first place, which I deserve, by the way, because I took credit for what you taught me. You introduced me to aerobics when I was at my lowest, and it saved me. You saved me,” Sheila says tearfully. “I’m not asking you to [forgive me], I just want to give you credit. For being the first. And for teaching me.”
Bunny tells Sheila that she wasn’t the first; that someone taught her aerobics, so Greta suggests it belongs to all of them. Sheila asks Bunny if she can join her class to clear her head, and Bunny asks the ladies to make room in the back. Sheila kicks her heels off, removes her earrings, and joins the ladies as Olivia Newton-John’s “Xandu” plays.
We see her, presumably in the future, back at home wearing a red dress, looking refreshed, and examining herself in the bathroom mirror. She sees a pimple and — unlike the pilot — makes peace with it, then walks outside to look at her gorgeous ocean view. “I am not making this up. This is fact, proven by scientists,” Sheila says in a voiceover. “When human beings engage in synchronized physical activity, when we move together, especially to music, our brains release a chemical — stay with me — that makes us feel connected to the strangers around us. And we’ve all felt this intuitively, whether we’re signing in a choir, or cheering at a football game or taking an aerobics class.”
We return to the class in Mexico, where Sheila’s letting loose as Tyler, Greta, Danny, and John dance in a circle around her. She flashes back to her and Bunny teaching in the mall, and the time she took Bunny’s class in the pilot. “But here’s the coolest part,” the voiceover continues. “That same chemical, it also makes us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.” Flashbacks to Vinnie Green’s class, mall teaching, and aerobics with Danny transport us. And we see a young Maya, Bunny, and Tyler dancing around Sheila in Mexico. “We can call it a higher power, or God, or just the infinite,” Sheila’s voice says as the screen fades to black. “But I think that’s kind of miraculous, don’t you?”
The series easily could have ended there, but we get one more glimpse of Sheila standing in that class in Mexico alone, healing, releasing the pressure, remembering her journey, and working towards inner peace. “To think I started this whole thing looking for control,” her voiceover says. “When all I had to do touch the infinite was let go of it.” The last shot of the series shows a smiling Sheila waving her arms as Japanese Breakfast’s “Dreams” plays us out and the end credits roll.
Physical is now streaming on Apple TV+.