We pick up right where we ended last episode. Quentin and Alice have just returned to the Cottage from Brakebills South (Antarctica), and of course they’re still wearing their dopey white long john outfits. Eliot and Mike are outside barbequeing and as introductions are made, Eliot picks up on the body language between Quentin and Alice and deduces they had sex. Alice is understandably upset and embarrassed about people knowing her business. She excuses herself to go take a nap.
Quentin follows her to her room, wrongly interpreting “nap” as code for “sex,” because Quentin is a creepy stalker-type dork. Alice tells him to back off. She’s convinced the whole sex-overload thing that happened in Antarctica was brought on by stress and extraordinary circumstances (such as having to morph into foxes to survive the cold), rather than real emotions. (Thank you, Alice, for showing some sense!) She wants a break from Quentin in order “to know what’s real and what’s fox.”
In this conversation, she tells him she can still smell fox on him. In defending himself, he mentions they haven’t bathed “in weeks.” EEEEWW! Why wouldn’t they have bathed in Antarctica? That place seemed to have both plumbing (steam radiators) and electricity. I don’t see any obvious reason they couldn’t maintain proper hygiene there. This seems like it must be a line that was in the book, which made it into the script of this show even though it no longer makes sense in the context of the TV series. Any book readers out there, who can confirm/debunk this?
Anyway, she kicks Quentin out, and he slinks out the door all mopey (as usual).
In astronomy class, Professor Sunderland (Anne Dudek) is in the middle of a lecture when Penny teleports in. The prof has a sit-down with him and scolds him for not focusing on astral projection, as opposed to actually physically transporting himself place to place. Penny tells her he wants to master traveling in this world, so he can build up to traveling between worlds. She asks if there’s something bothering him, and mentions Kady. Then things start to get very, very weird. Penny starts coming on to her, suggesting that she travel with him, and in exchange, he would “teach her a few things.”
Why does this show have to sexualize Every. Single. Scene?!? It’s like the producers are looking over their scripts and saying, “Wait, we’ve gone THREE WHOLE PAGES without any awkward sexual overtones! Unacceptable! Rewrite that shit!”
Anyway, I digress. Prof. Sunderland turns down Penny’s icky proposition and sends him off to his next class, which has Dean Fogg (Yay! Rick Worthy’s in this episode!) telling everyone that their next semester is going to be even harder than their first. We’ve only got about eleven first-years left. Will we lose even more?
They are assigned mandatory study groups. Quentin trades spots with a poor extra (who got no lines) in order to be in Alice’s group, even though Alice made it clear she wanted a break from Quentin. He really is a stalker! Note to young men watching this show: This is NOT OKAY. If a woman tells you to back off, BACK THE FUCK OFF!
Penny is the third member of the group. He walks in and remarks on the choking cloud of Axe Body Spray surrounding Quentin, who is trying to cover up his “fox smell.”
Back in NYC at Mike’s apartment, he and Eliot are asleep, when the evil blue moth flies in and lands on Mike’s shoulder. He wakes up with glowy blue eyes and goes to open the door to his apartment. At the end of the hallway outside, he spies a cute little bunny rabbit. The rabbit hops the length of the hallway and stops in front of Mike, who picks up the bunny and stares it in the face just long enough for us to know that Hoppy McFurrypants is not long for this world.
*EXTREMELY GRAPHIC ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE OMITTED FROM THIS RECAP*
The bunny “gives” Mike a dagger.
Next we see Julia, in the addiction rehab place her sister arranged for her. She’s writing a letter to Quentin to tell him that she’s given up magic (and that he should go fuck himself – a sentiment I heartily agree with). Marina walks in. There’s an odd conversation where Marina first criticizes Julia’s decision to give up magic, then apologizes for treating her poorly, then paradoxically tells Julia that if she stays out of Marina’s business, there’ll be “no blood feud necessary,” If Julia interferes with Marina’s operation, however, Marina will kill Julia and everyone Julia cares about.
The only way Marina’s character makes logical sense is if she’s just batshit crazy. But that’s a cop-out on the part of the writers. I kind of feel for Kacey Rohl, the actor playing Marina, because it would be hard to embody a role where you can’t find the internal consistency of the character. Villains aren’t villains to themselves; what they do comes from motivation to get what they want. But what does Marina want? Why did she screw over Julia? What was the objective there? Why is she now apologizing to Julia while simultaneously threatening to kill her and her loved ones?
Back at Brakebills, Dean Fogg’s mechanical hands are coming off. His hands are now healed, but he’s going to have to learn how to do magic with them again. His first few attempts at spell-casting are a bust.
At the rehab facility, Richard, a chaplain (Mackenzie Astin, who’s gotten a lot less cute since his days on The Facts of Life with George Clooney), comes in to lead a group therapy session. Julia challenges him, saying that reliance on a higher power is just swapping out one addiction for another. He says the higher power doesn’t have to be God, just something bigger than you. He asks her, “What DO you believe in?” On her non-answer, we cut to…
Brakebills: The Quentin/Alice/Penny study group is trying to figure out an assignment. Penny’s getting fed up with Quentin giving Alice googly eyes all the time. (Aren’t we all?) Quentin tries to play dumb, but Penny informs them both that everyone saw their fox sexcapade through the windows of Brakebills South. Alice is embarrassed and abandons the group. Penny calls out Quentin for acting like a stalker. (YES!!!) But then he tells him to “grow a pair,” which is exactly the wrong advice to give a stalker. Alice wants space, Penny. Get with the program.
Eliot’s prepared an elegant romantic dinner for Mike, who’s feeling a bit overwhelmed. He’s a simple guy from Texas (he prefers beer to Eliot’s fiddly cocktails) and worries for the day when he’ll inevitably bore Eliot. Eliot assures him that won’t happen. Backstory time! While Eliot pretends to be from Kennedy Country, he’s really from a farm in Indiana. His parents are still farmers there. He confesses that his current self was “the greatest creative project of my life.” Up until now, no one at Brakebills has ever known this about him except Margo. (We learn they were Secrets partners during the Trials. I wonder what Margo’s secret was!) Mike makes it clear that he appreciates the real Eliot. It’s a really sweet moment between the two of them.
Outside, Penny and Quentin are still working on their assignment. Quentin asks about Kady. Penny acts like he doesn’t care where she disappeared to. Mike walks up and asks how to get back to the Cottage. Quentin starts to give directions when Mike runs at him with the dagger that cute little bunny gave him.
Penny comes to Quentin’s rescue and overpowers Mike, giving Quentin enough time to cast a repelling spell that he unleashes on Mike. Mike gets up with glowy eyes and runs away. Penny has been stabbed, however, and it’s serious.
In the hospital wing (still at Brakebills), Alice comes in to see how Penny is. She tells Quentin and Eliot that Mike was caught trying to open a portal elsewhere on campus.
Mike is brought to a “clean room” – a room that prevents spell-casting – with hands and legs chained. Dean Fogg is interrogating him. Mike is imploring the Dean to believe him, that he couldn’t have done this horrible thing, that the Dean knows him, knew him as a student for three years. Fogg asks where the weapon is. Mike claims not to know; he says he was in Brooklyn, and then he was at Brakebills. It sounds to me like Mike was Imperioused or else a victim of possession.
Penny wakes up from surgery in the ICU. His nurse is inexplicably wearing Birkenstock-style platform sandals, and his hospital room is open to the whole campus via ground-floor sliding glass doors in a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. In other words, not a lot of thought went into either the costuming or the location scouting for this episode. C’mon, people. It’s really not this hard.
Penny gets out of bed, all hot to find the guy who stabbed him, and then collapses on the floor. Black tendrils spread out from his wound. This can’t be good!
The doctor (Keegan Connor Tracy) confirms that the wound is cursed, spreading necrotizing tendrils that could kill Penny if they hit any vital organs. They need to know what kind of weapon it was to know how to treat it.
Later, Quentin sits with Penny, pondering “Why us?” Penny’s not that surprised: “I think about stabbing you all the time,” he tells Quentin. They wonder if it could be The Beast, but Penny dismisses that idea, because Mike’s not from Fillory.
Eliot visits Mike in the holding cell. Mike assures him he doesn’t have any memory of the horrible things he did; he blacked out. Eliot asks if he was blacked out when they met. Mike’s non-answer is telling.
Poor Eliot! Poor Mike! (the actual guy, not The Beast who’s been possessing him) Despite the whirlwind nature of their relationship (it took them ¼ of an episode to sleep together), there were some real, tender moments between these guys, and because of Mike, we finally got to see the human side of Eliot. Unlike the Quentin/Alice smashed-together non-relationship, here were two people who actually connected on an emotional level, and now we’re going to lose that from the show. The Beast is a real fuck-wad.
At Julia’s rehab facility, Richard has a one-on-one convo with her. He asks her which safe house she was in. He’s a magician too! He himself was “classically trained,” as he puts it, at Brakebills. She tells him she’s giving up magic. He tells her magic’s not a vice, like heroin, that she needs rehab to “recover” from. It’s a tool of the gods, left for people to discover and use. He gives her a piece of paper and says “See for yourself.”
Back in Penny’s hospital room, Penny’s hearing the voice again of the tortured dungeon woman in Fillory. Alice comes to visit. He asks her to get his stash of pills in his dorm room, so he can self-medicate to shut out the voice. He feels a stab of pain in the area of his wound. When he lifts his shirt, they see something like a plant tendril sprout through his skin. Alice sends for Quentin.
When Quentin arrives, Alice shows him the plant thing growing out of Penny and says it’s from the fourth Fillory book. Quentin says that in the book, the main character, Jane Chatwin, experienced the same symptoms after she was stabbed by a “Virgo blade”. The cure was to burn Jane’s doll (which looked just like her) as a sacrifice. Quentin suggests doing the same thing for Penny. He makes a crude sort of voodoo doll of Penny, and they burn it, but the vines growing out of Penny are unaffected.
Dean Fogg meets with Eliza (Esmé Bianco), the paramedic who, way back in Episode 1, was on the scene of Quentin and Julia’s grad school interview when they found the interviewer dead. This is when Quentin was given the unpublished manuscript for the sixth Fillory book. Fogg tells her the blade that injured Penny came from Fillory. She’s tells him “this is a first” and that Quentin is most at risk. Dean Fogg tells her this is her mess and warns her to clean it up and then get as far away as possible from his university.
Outside, Quentin comes across Eliza, who tells him that Fillory is real; that’s why Quentin is at Brakebills. She explains that what The Beast wants is control of Fillory and all the doors that lead there. She guesses that maybe The Beast thinks Quentin will find one of the doors, and it’s for that reason that he went after Quentin via Mike.
Quentin asks Eliza how to help Penny. She tells him to read between the lines of the book. Jane Chatwin’s doll wasn’t a suitable sacrifice because it looked like her, but rather because it was given to her by her mother before she died. It was the only thing Jane took with her to Fillory, so it represented home and her mother’s love. To help Penny, they need to find the thing he cherishes most and sacrifice that. In telling this story, Eliza gets a little choked up, as if she’s a lot closer to Jane Chatwin than just a mere observer. She promises Quentin more answers after he saves Penny.
Trouble is, Penny has lapsed into unconsciousness. Quentin and Alice will have to guess what Penny holds most dear. They go to his dorm room and start searching. During the search, they bicker. Alice is being aggressively idiotic. For example, she suggests Penny’s stash of pills is what he cares most about. When Quentin points out that that’s a stupid idea, as pills are fungible, her oh-so-snappy comeback is “You’re fungible!” Jesus, I hate these two characters SO MUCH!!!
They tell each other what their own most prized possessions are. Quentin’s is – surprise, surprise – a Fillory first edition. Alice’s is a quilt her grandmother made her, with cats all over it. Quentin finds a Russian chocolate bar wrapper. Hey! Remember that scene last episode when Kady left that chocolate bar for Penny during the nail-in-board task? Well here’s the explanation for that scene. Quentin surmises that the wrapper represents Brakebills South, the last place Penny saw Kady.
Sure enough, when they burn it, the thorns growing out of Penny disintegrate.
Julia’s in her bedroom at the rehab center, drawing a chalk circle on the floor. She opens up the paper that Richard gave her and says the words written there. Just when she thinks it’s a worthless spell, she is lifted in the air (in a gentle, graceful sort of way).
Later, she goes in Richard’s office and demands to know what that spell was. He tells her it wasn’t a spell; it was a prayer – to a local harvest deity. Julia says it was a little scary – like touching live wires, “more energy than I’ve ever felt.” Richard opens her eyes to the greater potential that magic holds. Magic isn’t all people like Marina and Hannah, he says. Julia’s only seen the drug-dealer persona of magicians, never the good, normal persona. She can choose whichever path she desires. Pondering this, she asks him if he could get something into Brakebills for her.
We’re back in Mike’s holding cell. Eliza comes in, and immediately it’s The Beast talking through Mike. Eliza congratulates him for his cleverness in choosing whom to possess: Mike, an attractive graduate with an alumni key to Brakebills. She tells him it won’t work next time. He replies there won’t be a next time. She says he can’t hide in Fillory forever, and even if he locks all the doors “there will always be a door into Fillory when you need one.” Then he mocks her for always being the same “Little Jane Chatwin.”
Whuuuuuut??? Eliza is Jane Chatwin, the main character of the Fillory books? Well why is she going by the name Eliza? And when we’ve seen Jane Chatwin talking to Quentin in the past, why was it the girl Jane and not the woman Eliza? This is all very confusing.
Anyway, Eliza/Jane tells The Beast that his scheming was all for naught; Penny is going to survive and Mike the “meat puppet” is going to prison in the morning. The Beast assures her he can walk out of his cell anytime. She challenges him on this: “Well, what are you waiting for?”
“I was waiting for you,” he replies.
And he picks up the stool he’s sitting on and smashes it over her head. Then he strangles her in a scene that recalls the climax of the duel between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane.
As he’s leaving his cell, he’s confronted by Dean Fogg, who has learned to use his hands again. But not well enough, as his spell fails to hold The Beast. Dean Fogg is knocked out. As The Beast approaches him to deliver the death blow, Eliot comes around the corner and saves the Dean by casting a spell that snaps Mike’s neck. But of course, it’s really just Mike’s neck that was broken, not The Beast’s. Eliot is devastated.
In Dean Fogg’s office later, Quentin demands to know what they’re going to do. Eliza was the only one with answers, and now she’s dead. Dean Fogg is a right ray of sunshine. His prediction for what’s going to happen? “You die, your friends die, we all die. Very bloody. And all of this,” he indicates the campus, “will have been for nothing.”
Go team! So inspirational!
Quentin returns to the Cottage, where Alice is waiting for him. They kiss as the camera spins around and around and around them, making me a little barfy – partly from the camera and partly from the fact that I have to watch Quentin and Alice kissing yet again. They retire to her bedroom, and thank goodness they leave us viewers out in the hallway.
The Bottom Line:
This was definitely one of the better episodes, despite the gratuitously violent and unnecessary animal cruelty scene. Finally I feel something for Eliot. Finally I sense something hopeful for Julia’s future. Finally this Fillory stuff is starting to go somewhere. I still hate Quentin and Alice, but at least Quentin served a useful purpose in this episode, despite his creepy stalker routine early on.
But I’m left wondering why Jane Chatwin was masquerading as this “Eliza” person and why The Beast needed her out of the way. And if The Beast wants control of Fillory, as Jane said, why exactly should we care? Let him lock all the doors to Fillory and rot there forever, I say. So long as he’s not interfering in our world, what’s the problem? I need some reason to care about Fillory other than that it’s Quentin’s favorite book series.
Also, does anyone remember how Quentin lost the sixth Fillory manuscript? I don’t remember seeing it after Episode 1.
And dear God, why would they have an ICU nurse wearing platform Birkenstock sandals?