We have the intro footage and then we cut to footage of India talking to her therapist. She feels she was robbed because of her years spent in Nxivm. We then cut to India flying out to Albany, New York to check out Nxivm headquarters. It’s closed down and looks a bit neglected now. She peeks in through the glass doors of the entry. We then do a quick cut to archival footage of Keith giving a lecture. He says that a sociopath has no empathy. Such a person just does what feels good. “…raping a person, raping a cat… You know, whatever it is.” This guy is so fucked up.
We cut back to India who says that she is feeling a bit wigged being back here. She peers through a window and sees the lights are still on in some rooms, as if people left in a hurry.
The Stripe Path
India tells us the only way to move up in rank in Nxivm was to recruit people and to take courses yourself. Once again I am loathe to recap something rather uninteresting that I already recapped in “The Vow.” I’ll keep it brief. The stripe path was Nxivm’s ranking system. Colored scarves indicated rank, just like in martial arts. It was called the Stripe Path because you had to earn a certain number of stripes on each scarf before being promoted to a new level. That’s it.
India tells us it felt good to rise in the ranks, because you believed you were working for this great humanitarian organization. But while you had to recruit people to take courses as well as pay for courses yourself to earn your stripes, you couldn’t earn any money until you got to the level of proctor (orange sash.) The dream was to to get high enough in rank so you could turn working for Nxivm into a career.
Dr. Lalich tells us that on the surface it all looked like a merit based system, but in reality, it was up to Keith to decide when people would be promoted. She says that unsurprisingly, the skinny, hot women rose more quickly in the ranks than others. Eventually some of these women would become part of Keith’s “stable of sex slaves.”
In 2013, India tells us she had been in Nxivm for about two years and been training to be a coach for about one. She had put in 100’s of hours of training time, but she was still not earning anything as a coach. To make money she would pick up odd jobs that came her way as long as they fit around her training at Nxivm. Her entire circle of friends and her new boyfriend, Michel Chernitzky, were part of Nxivm too.
Nancy Salzman interjected herself into India’s relationship with Michel, because she did not approve of Nxivm members dating each other who were not of equal rank. Nancy created all these parameters for the two of them. Michel and India had to split everything 50/50 when out to dinner, for example. This was to discourage India from becoming dependent on him because being dependent on people was one of India’s “problems” that she needed to work on.
We cut to Catherine who tells us that as soon as India began training as a coach, she recognized changes in her personality. Catherine didn’t want to fight with her though. Instead she would try to remind India of other interests she had outside of Nxivm, including interest in the entertainment business.
An opportunity for a job came up where India would be working as a personal assistant for Pierce Brosnan on a film being shot in Belgrade. She decided to do it. Sounding bitter, India tells us that Mark Vicente laid a heavy guilt trip on her for “bailing on her ESP team” by leaving the country for this work opportunity. She tells us that he made it impossible for her to feel okay with her decision. He even cried to her about it, she says. “There was so much guilt-tripping about doing anything that Nxivm didn’t want you to do.”
Fucked up for sure. However, Mark said in “The Vow” he was “the enforcer” for Keith. His responsibility was to keep everybody in the fold if it looked like they were straying. I am not saying it was no big deal that India was being emotionally manipulated by people so much older than she was, but so far this is not revealing anything new that Mark hasn’t copped to and expressed regret for. I am just saying, because a lot of criticism directed at him is the result of what India had to say about him in this series. I just want to write my honest reactions as a viewer to stuff like this as the series goes on.
While India was in Belgrade she was getting a lot of feedback that she was “a shitty coach for her lack of commitment.” Eventually she was given an ultimatum. (By who specifically she doesn’t say.) But the deal was she needed to come home and fully commit to Nxivm and achieve her full potential or just give in to her dependency issues with her family.
India stayed on and finished the job in Belgrade anyway, but once home, she was ordered to head to V-week. From there she was to go to Albany for three weeks for intensive training sessions. Catherine tells us that the Belgrade job backfired, because India’s involvement with Nxivm only deepened.
It was suggested to India that she take part in a program called Jness Tracks. Oh no, not this bullshit. Jness was a women’s empowerment group. Jness Tracks was the same idea except men were invited to participate. We see footage of Pam Cafritz saying that even though Jness has been around for awhile it wasn’t until they focused on “understanding the men’s side of things” that the group became “life changing.” Omigod, totally, because what is a woman’s empowerment group for but to understand the male perspective?
India tells us the purpose of Jness Tracks was to understand gender roles and improve relationships between men and women. We see a promo video of Mark saying that he feels more like a man since taking the course. We see footage of Keith hitting on a woman while telling her how great Jness Tracks is in regards to understanding male sexuality. Jesus, this guy.
Former member Kelly tells us that one of the things taught in the course was that men are not naturally monogamous so wives and girlfriends shouldn’t question their partners about fidelity. That line is so tired, honestly. We then see footage of Nancy giving a lecture at a meeting where she says that men are capable of being serious with one woman while having sex with others, whereas a man knows a woman isn’t capable of the same. Nancy is stuck somewhere in the 1950’s, apparently.
India told the group she wasn’t down with that whole open relationship for the man idea and was promptly told she needed to get an EM (Exploration of Meaning) so that she could get over it. As you may recall, EMs are supposed to resolve any issue you may have about pretty much anything. We see a promo video where Michel somewhat arrogantly says that thanks to Jness Tracks, he has learned to “exercise his free will.” I guess he means the free will of his dick? Honestly, I have no idea. I’m just making a joke. He and India didn’t break up or anything, but this course couldn’t have helped male-female discourse.
India tells us that she was only in her early 20’s but she was learning from and hanging with a lot of people in their 30’s who were having open relationships and swapping partners. These concepts about sex and relationships “were repeated constantly in all of the classes.”
Jness Tracks was a money maker for the company, India says. Mark pressured her a lot to take more of the classes. She tells us that he was making commissions off of the trainings she took. So India feels that Mark exploited her for his own profit? I would love to know what he has to say in response to that, but he hasn’t said anything in regards to this doc series as far as I know.
We cut to footage of Keith talking about how the screaming of abuse is abuse in itself. (You may remember that from episode 8 of “The Vow.”) India tells us that one of the Jness Tracks was about rape. It was taught that rape wasn’t actually rape if the victim didn’t choose to see it that way. That idea became normalized, because it was taught over and over. We cut to Keith giving a lecture where he says he knows that being molested or abused isn’t that bad, because everybody sitting in the room who has experienced it is still here.
We cut to more footage of Keith who says, “The person that’s the victim, self-victimizing, is abusing. The person who is complaining is abusing.” Naomi, a former member, tells us that talk about rape and sexual abuse triggered her due to traumatic events from her childhood. She wanted to leave Nxivm as a result. Yet, when you are sitting in a room full of people and you are the only one who has a problem with what is being said, it is very hard to trust your own judgement.
We then cut to some footage of men and women working out in a gym doing martial arts stuff. One weird bit shows a group of men standing in a circle and each man punches the other man hard on the arm as they go round. Former member Ashley says that one of the most “horrifying” programs in Nxivm was SOP (Society of Protectors), because it was so militant.
“Radicalization: The SOP Courses”
We see Nxivm member Nippy tell an audience about how most movements are lead by men grabbing their pitchforks or their muskets. Imagine potentially millions of men “fortifying the principles that we stand for.” India tells us that SOP started off as the male counterpart to Jness. We then hear an audio recording of Keith leading a SOP forum where he is talking about how men are “hungry fuckie beasties.” Men want to “fuck, fuck, fuck” and women want to be conquered.
We cut to Nxivm member Marc Elliot who says no one in his life has ever taught him how to relate to women. SOP is “the Harvard” of being taught how to do that. Oh, Marc. No, honey. We cut to Dr. Steven Hassan who says that radicalization and cult indoctrination fosters obedience as it reprograms one’s beliefs. I say radicalization is scary shit because of how easily it can happen. I mean, look at the Q-Anon movement that has spread online.
We cut to that circle of men in the gym again and this time they are taking turns slapping each other in the face. Cult expert Rick Ross wonders what Keith’s ultimate goal was with all of it, because it looked like he was weaponizing his most devoted followers. We cut to footage of Keith saying that “people bond through pain.”
India tells us that next, Keith developed the SOP Complete program which invited women to take the curriculum with men. Former member Ashley tells us it was a six-day intensive where women would see what it was like to be raised like little boys. India tells us that she took the course and found it be “one of the more disturbing programs offered through Nxivm.”
We see illustrated footage as Ashley tells us that the women were required to wear the baggiest clothing possible so as to not to draw attention to their bodies. India tells us the women were not allowed to eat, drink or go to the bathroom without permission. Frankly, that sounds like every little boy and girl in grammar school. How the fuck is that unique to little boys? I know, I know. I am looking for logic in something created by a woman-hating sociopath.
India tells us that the women had to hear “100% feedback” from the men. The leader of India’s group told her that when she wore her pink converse sneakers it made him think about fucking her. India felt “humiliated and embarrassed, like I had done something wrong.” Ashley tells us the women were mocked and demeaned. There were punishments for talking back such as having to wear a crown or a mask. Or in one case, Clare Bronfman had to wear a jock strap. The women were given nicknames and mantras. India’s mantra was, “I am nothing and I have no real emotions.” Ashley did her best to comply because it was the safest thing to do to avoid humiliation. India tells us that the freakiest part was that at the end of the intensive you would feel such love and gratitude towards your male mentors. She doesn’t get why that is. No doctor or cult expert offers us an explanation, which is too bad, because I would love to know why that is, too.
Ashley tells us that for $50 a month you could also choose to take part in what were called readiness drills. Covered in “The Vow”, readiness drills were literally just being texted “ready?” at any time of the day or night and you would have one minute to respond. If you failed to respond in time you and your teammates would have to do some form of penance, like take a cold shower and stupid shit like that. Ashley said the readiness drills kept you on edge constantly since you never knew when they were coming. I can imagine! I would be tense all the time. Not because I feared penance, but because it would be the kind of thing that I would hate to “fail” at when it’s something I signed up for and was so simple. Add the element of your entire team being given a fail for your own mistake would really add to that pressure. The fact that you had to shell out $50 for this mental stress maker is really the kicker. Anyway, the point of it all was to “build character.” Rick Ross says it was about, “Don’t think. Just react.” Obedience.
Journalist Dennis Yusko says that in 2003, Forbes magazine published an article on Keith. In it, Edgar Bronfman, father of Clare and Sara, said that Nxivm was a cult. As a result of the article, Keith successfully turned the two sisters against their father. The article changed nothing for Keith and Nxivm, says Yusko. Dr. Lalich said that his devoted followers did internal damage control in response to the article blaming any critics of Keith as jealous of his success.
The Bronfman sisters spent a great deal of money going after critics of Keith through the courts. Rick Ross had a $10 million defamation case brought against him when he publicly criticized Keith on his website. They also harassed him and put him under surveillance among other things. Nancy told India that Rick Ross was a suppressive person. He was like the devil.
We cut to India meeting with Rick Ross. She tells him she is embarrassed for having believed all the negative shit said about him. She tells him about SOP and that she was very depressed after training. She says that Mark Vicente told her it was normal. In “The Vow” we had heard a recording of Mark talking with Keith about many of the participants in SOP becoming sad and upset. Keith had admonished him for being weak. I think India’s passive aggressive intention was to make Mark look insensitive, but in full context it’s just consistent with Mark’s deference to whatever Keith taught. Anyway, India also recalls experiments where brain activity and emotional reactions were measured while doing certain things like taking an intensive or doing an EM.
A man named Dr. Brandon Porter joined Nxivm and was responsible for creating these crazy ass pseudo-scientific experiments. One involved having women watch scenes of violence while measuring and filming their brain waves and reactions. These scenes involved actual footage of extremely violent murder. Former member Elena tells us watching it was traumatic. Dr. Lalich says that what Dr. Porter was doing was unconscionable. Rick Ross tells us because there were no boundaries as to what could be done to you in Nxivm, the impact on some people was severe. Actual psychotic breaks had occurred and were quickly hushed up.
We meet Ana Cecilia. In 2002, she took the 5-day ESP intro with her mom in Mexico City. At one point during the course she joked to her mother, “I feel like we are being hypnotized.” Six months later Ana took an advanced course in Albany lead by Nancy. On a gut level Ana felt like what she was doing was not good for her. She decided it was best to leave. Nancy came after her to talk and Ana explained that she felt like if she continued on she would lose everything that was important to her, including friends and family. Nancy responded that Ana would “see them on the other side.” That is the last thing she remembered Nancy saying to her, because her mind went blank and she had a psychotic break.
We then cut to Dr. Hassan who explains that those in the psychiatric profession must take an oath to do no harm, but people like Nancy and Keith had no ethical obligation. They freely used things like hypnosis and NLP to manipulate and fuck with people’s heads. Ana tells us she was eventually taken away from her hotel in an ambulance later that evening. She says she knew she should keep her mouth shut about what had happened for fear of legal retaliation against her and her family. And Ana was not the only person who had had a psychotic break while in Nxivm.
We cut to Journalist Dennis Yusko. He wrote an article in 2003 about the mind fucking that was going on in Nxivm and the negative impact it was having on some individuals. This included a woman by the name of Kristin Snyder who ended up killing herself. In her suicide note she said that Nxivm had fucked with her head irreparably. Yusko said that there were no investigations into the group as a result of the article he wrote. Public officials did not want to go up against the Bronfman sisters and all their money. Keith told his followers the whole thing was a hoax.
“Ultimate Devotion: The Ethicist Course”
In 2015, India moved in with her boyfriend Michel. She had continued her training to be a coach, but advancing to the next level on the Stripe Path was feeling increasingly out of reach. Michel pressured her to take an ethicist course being taught by Keith. Oh, the irony! It seemed to center around watching movies of people sacrificing themselves for a greater cause, like in “Passion of the Christ and “Gandhi.” In some cultures, we see Keith tell a group, people want nothing more than to die for their cause. Look at the Mayans and the World Trade Center terrorists, he says. India says that at one point during the course she was beginning to feel like she would die for Keith. She saw him as godly.
Rick says destructive cults are always about worshipping and serving a leader who is seen as God-like. Followers are told to never worry about what is legal, ethical or moral because the goal is to improve the world. “And as long as that’s the stated goal whatever [the cult leader] asks you to do is justified.” Rick uses examples such as Waco and Jonestown to illustrate just how tragic and horrifying cults have the potential to be. He says that it is “very scary” to think where Nxivm could have ended up, because year after year it was escalating.
We cut to a woman named Rosa Laura Junco on stage talking to an audience during Tribute Night in 2015. She makes a promise to Keith that construction on a multi-million dollar science lab for him, with all the “progressive technology,” will begin before the end of the year. She then goes on to tell the audience about all of Keith’s accomplishments. RPI’s first triple major graduate. He actually did have three majors with two minors, which is just idiocy. He graduated by the hair on his chinny-chin-chin with a 2.26 GPA. I mean, let’s be real, he is no dummy, but he is no genius with a 240 IQ either. Rosa tells the audience that he is known as the man with the highest IQ in recorded human history. Journalist Jaclyn Cangro tells us that as a child, Keith was labeled as “gifted” and his childhood friends say he developed a superiority complex as a result. But highest IQ known to man? Naw.
We cut to Catherine who tells us that in 2015, she invited India to join her and her mother Elizabeth in Tulum for Catherine’s birthday. She had recently separated from her husband Casper van Dien. While in Mexico, Casper filed for divorce and Catherine feels she was too distracted as a result to fully take in what was going on with India. India tells us that she still had a shit ton of work she had to do while on vaca and her mind was never off of Nxivm. She was working hard so that she would advance to the next level of her training. Elizabeth tells us that India seemed absent minded, distracted and stuck. Catherine says that it was then things with Keith took a very dark turn.
India tells us that in 2015, she was traveling to Albany constantly to take more classes. She would stay at Mark and Bonnie’s house or with actress Allison Mack. India describes Allison as expressive, outgoing and fearless. All things India felt she lacked to a degree. Allison taught a series of advanced classes that India took. Allison was also progressing up the Stripe Path really fast and had been promoted to proctor. India looked up to her for that and was honest with her when Allison asked how she was doing. India felt scared and frustrated because she had invested so much time, energy and money yet she wasn’t advancing. She felt desperate, in fact. Allison reassured India that she knew what she should do next that would help.
Cult expert Dr. Bernstein says that the method of stalling your sense of advancement/growth is designed to break you down. That way the organization can offer a helping hand to pull you back up. Allison told India she would need some collateral –something important to India–before Allison could tell her about anything else.
“Blackmail: The DOS Collateral”
Dr. Lalich tells us the collateral was always something severe like compromising photos, personal secrets or even the deed to your house. Giving such collateral was always couched in language that made it seem like it was about making a commitment and being ethical when in fact it was just blackmail. India decided her collateral would be some family secrets and was told to write it in letter format addressing a news organization of some kind (like NBC or CNN) then to get it notarized. She complied.
Once India handed over the collateral, Allison began telling her about a group called DOS. It was a secret women’s empowerment group that was like nothing else in Nxivm. Keith had nothing to do with it. That’s a selling point right there. No Keith? Thank the Lord! Anyway, it was women mentoring women in a specialized deep way. India said it felt heavy, like she was privileged to be hearing about it.
Once back in LA, Allison starting calling India a lot so they could talk about DOS. Allison wanted India to make a vow of obedience to her. What does that mean? India asked. It meant that India would need to ask Allison for permission to do anything in her life she wanted to do. Further their relationship would be master/slave. India says she had a literal physical reaction to that and Allison told her that was normal. She suggested that India reframe it for herself as mentor/student.
India expressed fear that Allison might use the collateral to hurt her. Allison chided her for thinking that way. After all, India knew what Allison stood for and what her values were. She had taken many intensives that Allison had taught and even stayed at her house. India felt guilty and told Allison she was in and committed. India tells us that in that moment she chose to override her gut instinct that was warning her.
Allison started giving India small tasks to do. One task required her to read articles written by Keith and then journal how they had impacted her. Every day India was required to share something personal. Allison was especially interested in anything that pertained to sex or intimacy. India was also told to lose weight and if she failed she would have to go to Albany for 30 days. India failed and off to Albany she went. She was told that she was too dependent on her family and needed to work on separating herself from them. Further, India needed to end her relationship with Michel as Allison felt it was holding her back. India did as she was instructed with a promise she would continue to be celibate. She tells us that seemed to be very important to Allison.
Yeccchh. We cut to a weird segment where Keith is talking to Mark in his office. Keith: (flipping through someone’s wedding album) Look Mark. Did you notice one of the women wasn’t wearing panties? Mark: How do you notice these things? Keith: And all these weddings that say it’s official. You know, you can say a woman’s official to… to tease a woman about her odor, saying that she’s… about fish. She’s “a fish hole.” Mark: Hmm. (Then he gets the joke.) Oh, hahaha. Keith: She’s official. Mark: Yeah, I like the way you led me there. *ominous music plays* It kind of amuses me that the doc wants this moment to be very dark and reflective of Keith’s (and presumably Mark’s) pathology when to me it’s just more proof that Keith is a giant fucking dweeb (albeit a dangerous dweeb) and Mark is his brainwashed sidekick.
We cut back to India who tells us that Allison gave her a new assignment. It was to seduce Keith. End.
Next episode: “Enslaved” India, now in DOS, is assigned the task of “seducing” Keith. She starts to disintegrate and Catherine is warned that her daughter is in danger.