At another meeting the group leader brings a woman named Chloe up to the podium in front of the group. Chloe has cancer and is terminal. She tells the group that she no longer has any fear of death. There is awkward applause supporting her. Chloe continues on saying that despite this she is lonely and fears that no one will have sex with her. She jokes that all she wants is to have sex again before she dies. She leans forward into the microphone and announces that she has pornographic films in her apartment as well as amyl nitrate before the group leader pulls her away. This time, when Jack imagines himself entering his cave to find his power animal, he finds Marla there instead of the penguin. She is smoking a cigarette as she turns and sees him, his expression bewildered. “Slide,” she says, nonchalantly.
Marla is getting some free coffee after the meeting when Jack grabs her and pulls her aside, saying that they need to talk. He tells her that he’s on to her, that he’s seen her at the meetings and knows she doesn’t have any of these diseases. Marla is not intimidated. She tells him that she saw him practicing his speech before confronting her. “Is it going as well you’d hoped...Rupert?” she jests. Jack threatens to expose her. Marla says she’ll expose him if he does. The group leader comes by and announces that it’s time for the “one on one’s.” Marla embraces Jack as other group members embrace each other. Jack is clearly uncomfortable. He tells her that going to the meetings becomes an addiction. Marla asks why he does it. Jack says,”When people think you’re dying they really listen to you instead of...” Marla completes his thought, “Instead of waiting for their turn to speak?” Jack is surprised to hear it out loud, especially from Marla.
Jack leaves the meeting looking for Marla. He chases her down and follows her into a laundromat. He is begging her to stop going to the meetings but soon arrives at a solution: they can split up the week’s meetings. Marla pulls some clothes from a random dryer and leaves the laundromat. She crosses the street, Jack still following, and enters a thrift store where she sells those same clothes, clearly not hers, for some cash. After some haggling they split up the week’s meetings so they won’t have to attend the same ones. Marla agrees and leaves the thrift store. Jack follows her out and asks for her number, saying they may need to contact each other if they want to switch nights. Marla considers this and then gives Jack her phone number and he gives her his. Marla reads the slip of paper Jack has given her. His name is not on it. “This doesn’t have your name. Who are you? Travis? Rupert? Cornelius? Any of the stupid names you give each night?”
The next scene introduces a montage of Jack as he travels around the country. We learn that Jack works for the automobile industry as a recall coordinator. He flies from city to city inspecting crashes and accident reports. His job is to apply “The Formula”. As Jack explains it: “Take the number of vehicles in the field, (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of failure, (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement, (C). A times B times C equals X...” If X is less than the cost of a recall, his company will not initiate one.
While on a flight back home Jack finds himself seated next to Tyler Durden, a somewhat dramatically dressed but charismatic man. Jack asks Tyler what he does for a living. Tyler responds, “Why? So you can pretend like you’re interested?” Jack is a bit taken aback but Tyler tells him that he makes soap for a living and gives Jack his business card. He remarks that many of the same ingredients in soap can be used to make dynamite and other explosives. Jack tells Tyler that he is one of the most interesting people he’s met on his trips, calling Tyler a “single serving friend.” Jack notices that he and Tyler have identical briefcases. Tyler stands up and says goodbye. Jack watches him sneak his way into first class.
After landing at the airport Jack finds that his suitcase has not showed up at baggage claim. He speaks to a security officer at the airport and finds out that his suitcase was vibrating. Because of this, it had to be destroyed. The security officer explains that nine times out of ten when something like this happens it’s because of an electric razor. The other one of out of ten, it’s a vibrator. Jack stresses that he does not own a vibrator but the security officer is not helpful. Jack says he had everything in that bag.
Jack arrives back at his condominium high-rise by taxi to find the building surrounded by police and firemen. He looks up the building to see that one of the units is on fire. It’s his unit. He finds his belongings strewn all around the front of the building. The doorman to the building says he can’t go up to his unit due to police orders. He has nowhere to go. Jack makes his way around the wreckage and finds a charred piece of paper with Marla’s phone number on it. He goes to a payphone and dials her number. She answers but he is unable to say anything and hangs up. He considers his options and then retrieves Tyler’s business card from his pocket. He dials his number but gets no reply. As he steps away from the phone booth, the phone rings. It’s Tyler, who used *69 to call Jack back. Jack reminds Tyler that he sat next to him on the plane. Tyler asks him why he called. Jack stares up at the burning building and says, “You’re not going to believe this.”
Jack and Tyler meet at Lou’s Tavern for a drink. Jack complains to Tyler about all the things he lost in the apartment explosion. Tyler is less than sympathetic, stressing that it was all just material “stuff.” Tyler tells Jack that guys like them shouldn’t worry so much about being perfect and what advertising tells them they should pursue. Jack perks up a bit at hearing this.
They exit the bar into a large parking lot area. Jack looks at his watch, remarking that it’s late and that he should find a hotel. Tyler is surprised. He tells Jack that he contacted him because he needed a place to stay. Jack indicates that he doesn’t want to impose. Tyler tells him to “just ask.” Jack finally asks meekly if he can stay with Tyler. Tyler says yes but that he needs Jack to do him a favor. Jack agrees, congenially. Tyler asks Jack to hit him as hard as he can.
Jack’s voice-over takes over: “Let me tell you a little something about Tyler Durden.” A montage sequence begins giving us Tyler’s backstory. Tyler spends his nights working a series of crummy night jobs. In one job as a movie theater projectionist Tyler enjoys splicing single frames of pornographic films into family films. He spends his time as a banquet waiter befouling the food of rich patrons before serving it to them.
Back in front of Lou’s Tavern, Jack is confused by Tyler’s request. Tyler insists and Jack winds up and hits him in the ear. Tyler howls in pain before turning around and punching Jack in the gut. Jack collapses against a parked car, hunched over. “Hit me again,” Jack says. The two men engage in a sloppy but spirited fight.
In the next scene, Jack and Tyler are seated on a dimly lit street curb, sharing a beer. They are both covered in bruises and cuts from their fight and emitting a certain satisfied glow. “We should do this again some time,” says Jack.
After finishing the beer Jack and Tyler make their way down an empty street to Tyler’s dilapidated house. It is huge but falling apart. Jack comments that he’s not sure if Tyler owns it or is just squatting, adding that neither would surprise him. Tyler shows him to a spare bedroom with a dirty old mattress. Jack finds that very little works in the house. The pipes spew dirty water and whenever it rains the basement floods and the power has to be turned off.
Jack and Tyler are back outside Lou’s Tavern again fighting when a group of men exiting the bar spot them. The men approach cautiously. Jack and Tyler stop fighting briefly. As Jack recovers, Tyler clubs him in the face.
Jack’s voice-over indicates that he is enjoying living with Tyler. Standing at the urinal in the men’s bathroom at his place of work, Jack is sporting an impressive black eye. His boss enters the bathroom and does a quick double-take when he sees Jack’s face. Jack mentions that after a month of living with Tyler he no longer misses television.
In this section of the film Jack finds a savior in Tyler Durden. While the support groups have sustained him thus far, they are presented in the film as darkly comic. Jack enters "his cave" to find his "power animal" only to find that it is a penguin and not an animal symbolic of strength. The next time he enters the cave he finds Marla Singer instead as if she is ruining his therapy. Her presence there may also indicate that his feelings toward her are not truly of repulsion or disgust.
When Jack finally works up the nerve to confront Marla she can see him coming. She is not intimidated by him whatsoever. She asks him why he goes to these meetings. When Jack answers, Marla completes his thought. Jack can see that they are not so different but Marla also reflects his own weakness, which is what truly repulses him. When they part ways Marla asks him what his name really is. We never learn Jack's true name, giving him a sort of "everyman" status. He could be anyone, and he is no one at the same time. He lives a life of anonymity not out of choice but out of cowardice. This "everyman" status also allows us as viewers to see ourselves in him.
Jack's job as a recall coordinator is deeply depressing. In a particularly grisly scene, Jack examines the burnt-out chassis of one of his company's cars. While the other coordinators resort to gallows humor while examining where a family died, Jack is silent and numb. He knows that his company's cars sometimes are directly responsible for the deaths of innocent people. Yet, he says or does nothing. He has simply accepted this as his life. While on one of these business trips he even prays the plane will crash or be involved in a mid-air collision. It is a depressing thought, but also a pathetic one.
On one such trip Jack finds himself seated next to Tyler Durden. Tyler is unusual. Instead of being dressed in the gray/black/beige career separates everyone (and everything) in Jack's world seems to prefer, Tyler wears loud, bright colors. The wardrobe and production design in the film work hand-in-hand to create a distinct visual palette for Tyler's appearance. He seems to be free in ways Jack isn't. He is odd but charismatic, and most of all he doesn't seem to care what anyone else thinks about him, including Jack. He exudes confidence. Tyler doesn't try to impress Jack with his credentials or what he does for a living. He is the opposite of everyone Jack meets. Jack notices that he and Tyler have the same briefcase, another clue as to Tyler's true origins. As Tyler sneaks his way into first class, Jack watches him go. The scene between them only lasts a few minutes, but in that time we are presented with a sharp contrast to Jack's character. Tyler is the character we now want to know more about. As it stands, so does Jack.
When Jack arrives at the airport to claim his bag, he finds that it was destroyed by airport security. "I had everything in that bag," he says. Upon reaching his condominium he finds that too has been destroyed. He now has no possessions except the clothes on his back. These remnants of his personality have been shed away. Jack's first action is to call Marla, after finding her number in the wreckage. However, he is uncomfortable opening himself up to her, particularly at this time of need. With all of his possessions gone and destroyed Jack is also presented with a new freedom. He stands at a crossroads where he could try to salvage his life and put it back together just the way it was, or he could make something new. Jack is presented with two choices, manifested in two characters: Tyler and Marla. Each present a path to him that he will be forced to choose between as the film progresses. But Jack is not ready to commit to Marla. He calls Tyler and they meet at a bar.
Jack laments that he had almost everything he needed and now it's all gone. Tyler listens along but is not too sympathetic. He reminds Jack that these are just material objects, not life itself. Jack, after all, is still alive and intact, something he seems to have forgotten, or perhaps never realized in the first place. Tyler's advice is to stop the constant pursuit of some pre-conceived idea of perfection, implying that it is pointless and unachievable. Once again, Tyler's view on life is charismatic and inviting. The ease with which he lives his life and his zero tolerance policy for triviality present a picture of a truly unique man who lives by his own code. As opposed to Jack, who looks for comfort and ease wherever he goes, Tyler seems confident that his way is not only better, but that it is right.
When Tyler asks Jack if he's ever been in a fight, Jack replies that he has not and that that is a good thing. Tyler disagrees, asserting that one cannot really know themselves if they have not. "I don't want to die without any scars," he says. Tyler craves experiences that remind him that he is alive, not a life that is constantly being measured by success. When he and Jack engage in their first fight, Jack immediately asks Tyler to hit him again. Their fight is not about who wins. The pain of the fight reminds each of them that they are living, breathing human beings. As they share a beer following the brawl, Jack says they should do it again some time.
Jack moves in with Tyler in his dilapidated home and fighting becomes a larger and larger part of his life. He has found some of the redemption he was seeking in the group therapy meetings. He begins going to work sporting bruises and cuts, much to his boss's dismay. Jack uses these bruises as a sort of visual protest. He is clearly engaging in violent activity outside of work but is much happier as a result of it. He is channeling his anger into something that is changing who he is. We begin to see that Jack is finally looking for a solution to his problems. However, what that solution will be is unclear. Jack seems to be becoming more comfortable with himself, or perhaps he is just happy to have a friend like Tyler. The sustainability of this behavior, however, is limited.
Some scholars have also taken particular interest in the passage in which Tyler Durden splices pornography into family films. Krister Friday, for example, asserts that Tyler's subliminal insertion of an erection into family films is itself an assertion of masculine prowess in an otherwise emasculated world or medium. This use of the image of an erection as a means of protest can be seen as a strike against the concept of a weakening masculine identity in contemporary society. That this image is meant to shock or disturb also suggests that Tyler Durden's view is that masculinity itself has become something to be marginalized and forgotten, replaced with a dynamic that some scholars see more akin to the feminine. This view also suggests that Tyler's philosophy has misogynistic tendencies, blaming a "generation of women" for raising their sons to be less than men.