Jack and Tyler are back outside of Lou’s Tavern. A small crowd of men has gathered around watching Tyler fight a random stranger. Tyler dispatches this man quickly. Another man in a suit steps forward, raises his hand and asks if he can be next. Tyler and Jack share a quick glance at each other, as if to ask if it’s alright to add more people to their social experiment. The glance also suggests that they see something larger in it, something larger than the two of them. They are realizing that they are not alone in how they feel.
The next sequence covers Jack and Tyler’s home life. Jack and Tyler are outside Tyler’s dilapidated house at night, swatting golf balls into the darkness. Jack explains that at night he and Tyler are alone for a mile in every direction, free to do whatever they want. The scene cuts to Jack and Tyler inside the home while it rains. Tyler is circling through rooms of the house on a bicycle. Jack has found a stack of journals, presumably left by the previous occupant. All of the journal entries are written by an organ of the human body in the first person. “I am Jack’s medulla oblangata,” reads Jack. “Without me Jack cannot regulate his breathing or heart rate.” Tyler finds this amusing before he loses control of the bike and crashes.
The following scene finds Jack at work. He is seated at his desk somewhat spaced out. Jack’s boss enters and addresses Jack from about twelve feet away. The audio in this scene is very low except for Jack’s voice-over. His boss is barely audible. Jack explains to us that with fighting in his life, everything else has gotten the volume turned down. Jack’s appearance is highly disheveled. His shirt is dirty and he has bruises and cuts all over his face. He notices his boss for the first time who has to move closer to ensure he has Jack’s attention but is clearly uncomfortable doing so. Jack fishes out some reports he is asking for and drops them on his desk instead of handing them directly to his boss.
Jack and Tyler are at home in the bathroom. Tyler is in the bathtub, scrubbing with a washcloth. Jack is seated on the floor cleaning dirt from beneath his fingernails. They are discussing people they wish they could fight. Jack answers that he’d fight his boss. Tyler says he’d fight his father. They both share anecdotes about their fathers, figures in their lives that they hardly knew and who had little influence in their lives. Tyler confesses that he and his father hardly spoke except when Tyler needed advice. When he graduated high school, he says, he asked his father what he should do. Tyler’s father tells him to go to college. After he graduated his father advised Tyler to get a job and finally to get married. Jack says this all sounds familiar to him, adding that he can’t get married because he’s a “thirty year old boy.” Tyler muses that they are members of “a generation of men raised by women” and questions whether another woman is really the answer they need.
Jack is back at work in the next scene, attending a meeting that clearly does not have his attention. A consultant is making a presentation to Jack’s boss about a software platform to improve efficiency. Jack’s boss is impressed. The consultant tries to involve Jack in the meeting. “I showed this already to my man here,” he says, “You liked it, didn’t you?”
Jack smiles at the consultant, showing that his teeth are stained red with blood. “You can swallow a pint of blood before you get sick,” Jacks says in his voice-over. The other meeting attendants are noticeably uncomfortable with Jack’s behavior.
Outside Lou’s Tavern several cars pull up and young men, Tyler and Jack included, exit them to enter the bar. Inside the men lean up against a wall and wait. Irvine, the bartender, announces to the patrons in the bar that it is closing time and that they have to go home. He flicks the lights on and off. The patrons slowly get up, pay, and stumble out. Irvine motions for the young men to follow him. He takes them to the tavern’s basement, a spacious concrete bunker lit with a single bulb. Tyler stands in the center of the men and explains the rules of Fight Club:
1. You do not talk about Fight Club.
2. You DO NOT talk about Fight Club.
3. If someone yells stop or goes limp, the fight is over.
4. Fights will go on as long as they need to.
5. Only two guys to a fight.
6. No shirts, no shoes.
7. One fight at a time.
8. If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.
The fighting begins, a brutal blur of sweat and blood. Two men, Ricky and a goateed man, are fighting each other. Jack explains that Ricky is a kid from his work who works as an office stockroom attendant and can’t remember “if you ordered pens with blue ink or black.” Despite this Ricky was a “god for ten minutes when he trounced the maitre’d of a local restaurant.”
Later, Jack is seated outside eating lunch at a restaurant when the goateed man, sporting bruises and a black eye, comes by and fills his water glass. The two men make eye contact but say nothing. Jack says in his voice-over that “who you were in Fight Club is not who you were in the rest of the world.” Even if he could congratulate someone for a fight he “wouldn’t be talking to the same man.”
Jack stands at a copy machine and sees Ricky who nods his head in recognition as he passes by. “You weren't alive anywhere like you were there. But fight club only exists in the hours between when fight club starts and when fight club ends.”
Jack and Tyler are walking down a city street. They are discussing famous people they would want to fight. Tyler says he’d fight Hemingway. Jack answers that he’d like to fight William Shatner. Tyler is impressed with his answer. They board a city bus and spot an underwear ad featuring a male model. “Is that what a man looks like?”, asks Jack. Tyler laughs. “Self-improvement is masturbation,” he says. “Self-destruction...now there’s something.”
Fight Club is in session in Lou’s Tavern’s basement. Jack is in the middle of a fight with a much larger man. The man pins him to the ground and begins bashing his head against the ground. Jack yells “Stop!” Tyler points out a bloodstain on the concrete floor.
Jack is now in the Emergency Room of a hospital getting stitches for his injuries. “Sometimes Tyler spoke for me,” says Jack. Tyler is seated in the background. He says that Jack fell down some stairs. Jack tells the nurse giving him the stitches that he fell down some stairs.
Jack is at home with Tyler. Tyler is in the bathroom cleaning his fingernails. “Any historical figure,” asks Tyler. “Gandhi,” answers Jack. “Good answer,” says Tyler. “Abraham Lincoln.” Jack pulls a loose tooth from his mouth and drops it in the sink. “Hey, even the Mona Lisa’s falling apart,” remarks Tyler.
In the following scene the phone in the house rings. Jack answers it to find that it is Marla calling. She says she hasn’t seen him at any meetings. Jack reminds her that they split them up for that very reason. Marla admits that she’s been cheating and going to his meetings anyway. Jack says he has found a new club, for men only. Marla sounds spacey. She tells Jack that she just ingested a full bottle of Xanax. Jack frowns. He has no time for this. Marla continues to talk in a stream of consciousness manner. “This isn’t a for real suicide thing,” she says. “This is probably one of those cry for help kinda things.” Jack quietly lays the receiver down on top of the phone and walks away from the phone. Marla is still babbling on when he does.
The next sequence features snippets of a dream sequence. Marla is naked, having ravenous sex with an unknown man in multiple positions. She is drenched in sweat and clearly satisfied. Jack wakes up from his dream, startled. He opens his door to see that Tyler’s bedroom door is closed. He remarks that in the two months he’d been living there, Tyler’s door had never been closed. Jack enters the bathroom to find several used condoms in the toilet.
Jack is seated at the dining table eating cereal out of a plastic container. He hears footsteps on the stairs behind him. “You’re not going to believe this dream I had last night,” he says. “I can hardly believe anything about last night,” comes the reply, a woman’s voice. Jack turns to see that it’s Marla. She smiles at him slyly and makes her way to the sink where she gargles some water. Jack asks her what she’s doing in his house, incredulously. Marla stares at him for a second. “Fuck you,” she says and storms off angrily. As soon as she’s gone, Jack turns around to see that Tyler has appeared, a big grin on his face. “Man, you got some fucked-up friends!” he says. Tyler explains that picked up the phone after Jack left and heard Marla on the other end. Jack puts two and two together.
In a flashback, we are shown the string of events detailing the previous night. Tyler makes his way to Marla’s apartment and bangs on her door. She opens it and pulls him inside quickly. It’s a tiny, miserable apartment. “You got here fast,” she says. After looking at Tyler she does a double take. “Did I call you?” Police sirens can be heard outside. Marla thinks someone has called the police because of her. Tyler grabs her and they exit the apartment as the paramedics and police race by looking for Marla’s apartment. Marla directs them to the end of the hall. As Tyler drags her away Marla continues to yell to the paramedics that the girl who lives in that apartment used to be nice but is now “infectious human waste.”
Tyler brings Marla back to the house with him. He is making soap in the kitchen. Marla tells him that if she falls asleep she will not wake up because of the pills she’s taken. “You’re going to have to keep me up all night.”
Back to the kitchen in the morning with Jack and Tyler. “Un-fucking-believable,” says Tyler while grabbing his crotch. Jack is both disgusted and emasculated. Clearly, Tyler was up to the task. Tyler asks Jack if he’s interested in Marla. Jack says that he is most definitely not. Tyler tells Jack that Marla is a mess and that he should stay away from her. Jack tells him not to worry. He gets up to leave but Tyler asks him to sit down again. Tyler asks him to promise that he will not speak to Marla about Tyler or about Fight Club. Jack says yes. Tyler asks him again to promise two times. Jack gets annoyed. “I said ‘I promise’!”
“That’s three times you promised,” says Tyler before walking away. Jack is left smoldering. “If only I’d wasted a couple of minutes and gone to see Marla Singer die, none of this would have happened.”
These scenes introduce the formal founding of Fight Club. Jack and Tyler see that their fighting has drawn a crowd of men. When one man asks if he can be the next to fight, Jack and Tyler realize that they are not alone in how they feel. They are on the verge of something larger. We can see that fighting has become the priority in Jack's life as well. In the scene with his boss, Jack can barely even hear him speaking. He is a mere blip on his radar. He hands over the reports his boss asks him for with a scowl that demonstrates his contempt. His clothes are dirty and his appearance is highly unprofessional. Jack has ceased to care about the values of his society.
The bathroom scene between he and Tyler also introduces another major theme: the absence of father figures in Jack and Tyler's lives. Both men recount how they barely knew their fathers and felt like they were not wanted children. Constantly vying for his affection but no receiving any, they were raised by their mothers. Tyler is resentful, wishing he could fight his father now. Neither man had a strong male role-model in their lives and each have been raised largely by a consumer culture that now dictates its own version of masculinity to them. "Being a man" in today's society means making money and owning nice, shiny objects. It is about projecting power entirely through ownership of desirable objects and spending hours in a gym to look like an underwear model.
The first night of Fight Club juxtaposes the patrons of the bar, Lou's Tavern, with the men of Fight Club. Irvine the bartender tells the drunk crowd that the bar is closing and they have to go home. The patrons reluctantly leave, having drowned their sorrows in alcohol. The men of Fight Club could just as easily be any of these patrons but they have instead decided to channel this negativity into something meaningful to them.
Tyler lists the rules of Fight Club and the brutal fighting begins. Fincher doesn't shy away from the violence involved but instead captures it as it happens. The fights have consequences. The men sustain injuries. Instead of glorifying the violence with a series of slow-motion shots or a soundtrack that would turn the scene into a music video, Fincher captures their visceral and literal impact for what they are. In the scene in which Jack is beaten by a much larger man his head is slammed on the concrete floor before he gives up. This results in a trip to the Emergency Room and not just a slap on the back as if nothing happened. Later, Jack pulls a loose tooth from his mouth.
When Marla contacts Jack it is really to say goodbye. She has taken a bottle of Xanax in an attempt at suicide. Jack doesn't seem to care. He instead puts down the receiver and walks away from the phone. It is an unsympathetic act which tests just how much we like Jack. Tyler steps in to pick up the phone and goes to Marla's house to save her. Jack is surprised by Tyler's sudden concern for someone he doesn't even know. Given that Tyler and Jack are actually the same person, it is possible that Jack's deep-seated feelings for Marla are acted upon by Tyler.
Jack's sex dream featuring Marla embarrasses him. He wakes up a bit shaken by it. When he encounters Marla in the kitchen he is even more disturbed. Her relationship with Tyler threatens his relationship with Tyler, setting up an awkward love triangle. Suddenly, Jack feels left out. As Tyler recounts the story of the previous night we see that Marla has serious issues regarding how she views herself, indicating that her attempt at suicide has at least as much to do with her self-esteem as it does with how she sees the world. As the paramedics race to her door she calls the girl who used to live there, meaning herself, "infectious human waste." Tyler's story about his sexual escapades with Marla further humiliate Jack. When Tyler says Jack knows what he means, assuming Jack had sex with Marla too, Jack sheepishly admits that he didn't. When Tyler presses him on how he feels about Marla, Jack dramatically states that he has no interest in her. We get the sense that Tyler doesn't believe him. Tyler makes Jack promise that he will never speak to Marla about him, further irritating him. Tyler leaves Jack fuming. Suddenly the one relationship he was counting on is being jeopardized by Marla. Tyler's request to Jack also indicates that Tyler is aware that Marla represents a threat to him. If she is able to decipher Jack's relationship with Tyler, she may replace Tyler and give Jack the peace he's really looking for.