We pick up almost exactly where we left off, with Sarah visiting Lilith in her veterinary surgery. Lilith describes her first ‘vision’, which she had at the age of seven, while she hid in bed from her parents’ noisy fighting. She talks of seeing a light, while Sarah pulls that petulant, angry face we’ve seen before, the one she wears when she doesn’t love what she is hearing. Lilith talks about how The Light embraced her and made her feel safe and warm for fifteen years, until the ‘message’ was revealed — usually in the form of more visions — which would leave her compelled to write or draw. Sarah asks if the original message was different from Steve’s, and Lilith is surprised her diaries were even kept. Sarah asks bluntly ‘Did Steve steal your visions?’ but even now, Lilith gushes that Steve believed in her, and she felt he helped her hone her visions into something else. Sarah sadly, almost petulantly, says she doesn’t believe in Lilith. Lilith chases her to hand over one diary, hoping it will help, and Sarah takes it but leaves without a word.
Over at the centre, Eddie is just casually as heck announcing to Cal and Hawk that Sarah has ‘left’, except he’s delivering it like a boss to his employees and not, say, taking Hawk — his son — aside to have this conversation more privately. Cal pulls a Vera, offers to sell Sarah’s departure as a personal matter, and dismiss any speculation that it has to do with Eddie — because Cal knows Eddie needs to think it’s all about Eddie … Hawk, though, is less enthused and leaves in silence. Alone, Eddie confesses to Cal that they’re having some issues — the building needs new permits due to the popularity of their childcare facilities, and some ex-Meyerist who quit his 1R training, then apparently ‘slipped and fell down some wet stairs’ the next day … is suing them. Cal is keen to help, but naturally wonders where Vera is.
So, we hop over to find out! In what looks like another room in the building, Vera is doing the introductory interview all newbies take. She speaks of wanting control, and mostly wanting to be ‘good’. Eddie and Cal bust in to her interview, asking for her advice on the lawsuit. Only Vera considers that behaviour something bad from her past, not the person she wants to be any longer. In fact, she wants to take The Ode, the same test Logan, The Baby Nazi took and spectacularly failed a few hours before beating the snot out of Hawk. Of course, NOW Eddie thinks the test is outdated and dumb, but as Vera asserts, she needs to take the test because of ‘who’ she comes from.
Eddie assures her she’s okay but … Eddie … bro.
Meanwhile, back at Haus Lane … the Armstrongs have gone full-blown Cult Crazy at the news of Sarah’s ‘leaving’ the movement. Russell has all sorts of feelings about it (no one, literally no one cares, Russell) and Gabbie has just … moved herself in. I honestly suspect that’s only the tip of the iceberg for how weird shit is about to get.
Speaking of weird, Vincent Kartheiser is portraying a Meyerist Congressman named Buck, who is meeting with Cal and Mary over some of his terrible behaviour. See, Buck creepily speaks of ‘girls’ joining the movement, a word which Cal tersely and tellingly corrects to ‘women’, before reminding Buck he’s been accused of groping women in the bathroom on no less than three occasions. Buck accuses the women of being drunk and needing help to the bathroom, help during which I guess his hand just slips? Cal …heroically swallowing a great dense wave of anger, talks of the harm to the movement and also, the psychic harm the congressman does to himself when he injures these women. He asks Buck to look at Mary, and tell Cal — without thinking — what he wants from a woman like her, from the women he gropes? Buck creepily (feel free to assume every damned thing he does is creepy) mutters he wants the women to know he’s powerful, and a Man.
Cal’s method is … interesting. He makes Buck drop his pants, which Buck turns away from Mary to do, not out of respect but because … you know, he’s a punk-ass cretin. Cal points out the functioning penis the man possesses, and explains that’s all Buck needs to prove he’s a man. So, now they can talk about why he’s so angry all the time. Behind Buck’s back, Mary smiles at her man and his mad skills, and can we all just give thanks to the Light that the scene did not go in the darker direction I briefly worried it might?
At the Lane home, we learn Caleb has cut off most of his contact with Hawk after his jerk dad visited the compound. Summer sweetly suggests Caleb live with them, and Gabbie uses that as a stepping stone to dig at Sarah about how accepting their movement is! Sarah snipes back it wasn’t always that way ,and Gabbie actually demurs there might be some truth to that, but then Hawk jumps in to have some feelings and he’s about the only one I back in this argument, since his own wavering faith was once the reason why his mother tried to throw his 15 year old ass out on the street.
Eddie … rather unwisely all things considered, goes to a pizza place to visit the dude, Rufus, who wants to sue them. He offers Rufus a place back within the group, to restart his progress on the rungs, but Rufus just wants the money. Eddie reminds him that their money is for their good causes; it pays for the outreach, the homeless families, and addicts the group does actually do some good work for. When that fails, Eddie starts rattling off Rufus’ personal issues, of abandonment — his anger at being abandoned by his wealthy father who then refused to pay any support to his basically homeless wife and kid. Eddie gets it, he claims, understands Rufus’ anger even now … and leaves on a promise that Rufus can always come back if he just drops his suit. Reasonably confident Vera would have suggested doing things differently there, Eddie.
As if to remind us how much better that could have gone, we hop over to Cal giving Vera the ode. They work through a lot of questions, and he asks about her first ‘moment of bliss’. She remembers being five or six and running towards a beautiful old tree in the middle of a field, speaks of seeing the sun through the clouds. She’s laughing and carefree, though she knows it can’t last. Vera describes a sandy-haired boy chasing her, playing with her. Cal has one of his … moments; it’s clear he was the boy and she’s describing them playing together as children. Holy shit. She remembers the boy carving a heart on the tree before her father calls her inside. Cal says the test is over and has to rush outside, and looks, honestly, seconds from having a fucking heart attack before he manages to calm himself.
At her home, Sarah reads Lilith’s diary, and then hears voices downstairs. She finds Gabbie talking to a bird she believes is Hank reincarnated, and seems so amazingly at peace with it. I have nothing bad to say here, because my great auntie and grandmother used to come to visit us as birds after they left us. Gabbie leaves Sarah to speak with her father. Aaaw, Gabbie.
Over in the centre, Vera joins Eddie to pray and they talk about how hard it is to pray and do anything, with the way things are. Vera reveals the real reason for her visit, to ask if Cal gave him her results but apparently, he has not. Then they’re both interrupted by Some Guy, who is there to serve Eddie the restraining order he clearly, obviously earned himself by harassing Rufus, the guy who is suing them. I mean … duh, Eddie. Duh. DuuuuUUUuuuuh!
The next day, Mary catches up with Cal to ask about their ‘steal the rich clients and run away!’ plan, but Cal is clearly distracted. He suggests Mary meet with the congressman, and even says that Congressman Baby Trump needs to learn to ‘deal with’ women like Mary if he is to get better. It’s not entirely clear how Mary takes his meaning, but I’m reasonably sure it wasn’t how Cal meant. He’s called away, into Eddie’s office where Eddie is, holy fucking shit, talking about internal spying, and dealing with ‘defectors’. Oh my actual god, Eddie. You’ve been in charge for about five seconds! Hawk takes this new news, and leaves to go meet Caleb.
The news Cal has dealt with the building reclassification seems a little empty, now we know Eddie is definitely still being sued and has gone fucking crazy with power. Eddie asks about Vera’s test, and Cal tries to draw attention to her Bliss answer. In general, Vera has failed the test, though they both agree now that the test, you know, sucks. Eddie makes a decision, a big one, and tells Cal to get rid of the test and let Vera stay, anyway. Mmmkay.
Hawk goes to meet Caleb who … holy shit, guys, his dad is trying to send him to a conversion camp. Fuck that. Caleb, poor Caleb, tries to make excuses and has the horrible position of having to defend his father and religion, even while both are at their absolute worst. Hawk offers a safe home at his house, and Caleb explains that for him, a gay black man in America, things are not just that simple. He’s … I guess he’s going to go. Oh, no, nooo baby, please no. I never thought I’d say this, but get your ass to the compound and hide.
Sarah revisits Lilith, who offers to show Sarah her own visions of what happens after death (I guess Sarah was not comforted talking to the bird). Sarah still wears that petulant face, though I guess she agrees.
Vera goes to see Eddie, who is a lying liar who lies about her Ode score . Even more troublingly, this clearly brings her great peace and relief. Oh, this is not good. And to finally crank up the ‘Oh crap’, they kiss.
The next morning, they wake together and despite the many disturbing levels to what is happening (her being an emotionally vulnerable woman seeking guidance, and getting from the guy who just fired her, accepted her into his cult and then lied to her about her mental health, before sleeping with her), are genuinely affectionate about seeing each other again, later in the day. They talk about the lawsuit a bit, and Vera is finally a little back on board with helping, and offers better counsel than the current Meyer lawyer — but she warns Eddie to be careful with the people whose names she gave over.
At Congressman Satan’s apartment, Mary is anxiously trying to get him to work with her. But, Congressman Satan is even creepier than he looks (which, it’s Vincent Kartheiser so that’s saying something. Sorry Vincent, you’re great, but we all know why you get cast, and god bless you for making a career of leaning into it), and calls Mary Cal’s ‘prop’ and points out Cal sent Mary alone to the hotel room of an accused sex offender. In response to his wild misreading of their relationship, Mary goes cold and points out how afraid Buck is to even put down his glass of whiskey. She goes on to add ten entire years to my life by figuring out Buck likes the smell of whiskey because his mostly absent mother drank it. Buck tells her that sometimes his mother would come to his room and kiss his face, tell him she loved him. Mary says this is why he’s angry, sips whiskey and leans in to let Buck smell it on her breath while talking about his mother doing the same, and it being the only time she showed love. She figures Buck makes himself repulsive so that no one can get close enough to hurt him. Buck, teary eyed, nods. Mary throws the rest of her drink away and says the work will begin, and DEAR GOOD GOD, I LOVE HER.
On the plantation, Vera nods hello to a passing Cal, and the simple interaction completely throws him. He walks into the woods and comes out in a clearing, the one Vera described and that we saw in flashback, while she described it. In Cal’s memory, he remembers the moment, and it’s … incredibly emotional. He pictures himself and Vera as children, running, carefree in beautiful, dappled sunlight. I am a mess right now. I mean, just sobbing. The children run and they laugh, and adult Cal walks to the tree and finds the same carved heart she described. The music is sad, the children’s musical laughter drifts around in the background. Then Steve comes and calls ‘Vera’ by name, clearly a memory Cal had locked away. The children stop and share a horribly heavy, weighted look and Vera runs to join her father. Little Cal stays behind, alone, with a knowing look on his face, his eyes about a thousand years too old, in that youthful face.
Adult Cal walks back towards the compound.
I need … several minutes.
At Lilith’s home, she is giving Sarah a dose of toad slime, the kind packed full of hallucinogenics. She burns a circle into Sarah’s back with the party goo, and Sarah, obviously, gets crazy high in no time at all. There’s some horrible violent vomiting which Lilith is prepared for, and then Sarah has the same kind of negative, world-ending visions Lilith has seen. Curiously, I spot a glimpse of what Cal and Eddie saw in at least one second of her vision. Sarah looks to the ceiling, which to her mind cracks open. She’s showered in black rain, a fascinating callback to Sarah being splattered with the toxic blood of the poisoned cow from last year. Sarah is then in an open space. The sky is burning and there are bodies all around. Sarah screams us into the credits.
That was … curious. We’re into the tail end of the season, and it sure does feel like there’s a lot that needs to happen in the remaining time. With that in mind, this was sort of an odd episode. Introducing Buck this late is a curious choice, and also one I’m worried about. Sure, Mary got the upper hand in the end, but I can’t help but be terrified for her. Obviously Cal didn’t send her for the reason Buck suggests, but that doesn’t make what Buck said less true — she is, and may be again, alone in the room with an accused sexual predator. Please, show. Don’t. I am begging.
In other stories, Eddie and Vera makes for a … you know what, unsettling combination. There are so many reasons it’s leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, he was her boss, and then he fired her, and her response was to beg to join his cult — one which provides jobs and so, certain levels of financial and social security. Then, he lied to her about her test. He told a woman, so damaged that Meyerism might be actively bad for her, that Meyerism is going to make her better. And then, he slept with her. She’s primed to be a true believer. And, Eddie is turning into a bad guy in other ways.
It’s a brilliant stroke narratively, but I am genuinely terrified. Especially with Sarah’s vision being a more extreme, but otherwise identical version of what Eddie and Cal saw during their own vision, a few episodes back. Something bad is coming.
Which brings me to the children — Save Caleb. Please, let Caleb turn up at Hawk’s house next week having fled before ever going to that terrible, terrible place? We need something good.Particularly after the heartbreaking memory Cal and Vera share. That brief scene was stunning and powerful, and shattered me for a good, long while.
Looking at the season as a whole, I have a theory as to how things may play out. Somehow Eddie and the world will learn Steve abused Cal. Eddie will deny it, but the photo Cal has will come out, so Eddie will be left looking as bad as he can. Meyerists will split, with many leaving in droves to share their own stories of the worst behaviour the cult engaged in, already shady, but now entirely shadier when we know the guy behind it was a pederast. The true believers who remain will come under powerful scrutiny, and even though we know they don’t abuse their children, the outside world and the law may think otherwise.
From there … things could go in two directions; the law mistakenly believes Eddie is a paedophile cult leader ,and a raid on the remaining Meyerists in the compounds ends in tragedy. Or, Eddie and possibly, Vera lead the true believers in a mass suicide.
I hope I’m wrong on both of them.