The Path, ‘New American Religion’: We Are Not a Cult

We open on Professor Jackson on some new talk show, discussing Meyerism, its massive increase in popularity, and the rarity that it didn’t die with its founder. And while I love the rumpled Professor look Jackson works, he has his top button open while he chats which I, just … button your collar for TV, dude!
He talks about Eddie’s taking over and how Eddie seems like an everyman, until you think about the twenty-five page contract he introduced. Eddie and Cal watch on TV, Cal offering to check the membership lists to find out who talked. Hawk watches on his phone and Sarah is watching on her laptop, panicking entirely as Jackson … ooooh dude, talks about the things Sarah shared with him, the notebooks and the ‘other writer’, Lilith. Cal asks Eddie if this is real, while on TV, Jackson calls them a dangerous cult. Dude. Duuuuude. That’s not cool, Jackson. What are you, mad she dumped you? Come on.

At the city centre, the elders and senior members meet to worry and of course, don’t believe the Lilith stuff or any of the worst of it. Along with the TV appearance is an article they want to try and get retracted, but that wont happen. Vera is back in her PR role, and wisely suggests Eddie go on TV to fight Jackson — which of course puts Eddie in the position of defending Steve. But, it’s Cal who tells Eddie to do it. Eddie and Cal head outside and just as Cal said, Eddie can’t defend Steve, won’t, in fact. Cal … offers to do it, instead. He claims it will give him back some of what Steve took from him. Oh, nooo.

And I have to wonder … can’t Sarah just admit the depths of her relationship with Jackson, and make him look like a bitter ex?

At Buck’s campaign office, he and Mary meet to discuss the article which she’s read, and he’s skimmed, and Mary has to lie about the ‘woman behind the man’. Buck lays it on the line, that Mary is actually helping him, not Meyerism, and he offers her a real job as an Executive Assistant and advisor. There’s money, health insurance, travel stipends and he writes down a figure that even as he jokes won’t be great, nearly makes Mary catch on fire. She mentions Cal, and Buck points out how Mary has done all the work Buck called Cal to ask for. Mary asks about status as a Meyerist. Buck doesn’t care about that beyond it going public. Basically he’s saying she can keep being a Meyerist and work for him, which is kind of all Mary wants right now. She beams. (Okay, readers, it’s eerie how well we’ve picked this out).

Eddie goes to get Sarah, who is wracked with guilt and agrees Eddie needs to know everything Jackson does, and that means Lilith. Sarah, Vera and Eddie all head over to visit Lilith. We hear some of their talk over shots of their drive over, all three of them vibrating with tension and anxiety. Lilith wasn’t on the mountain for Steve’s legendary ‘ascent’ of the glowing ladder (the night Felicia burned her hands, and the faith as current members understand it, was born). Lilith gently shades that she doesn’t know if Steve climbed a glowing ladder, but he had a vivid imagination. She points out her dreams come true, unlike Steve’s and she fills them in on the fact Eddie ‘gets’ to die. She shades Sarah, too, about Professor Jackson. Eddie decides Lilith needs to be out of the mental institution, and Vera and Sarah actually agree it’s a terrible idea because Lilith is a dangerous liar, but Eddie at least has the right idea that it’s a Steve thing to have her locked up for what she believes.

And just like that, Lilith is home with Vera, who is trying to rationalise having her mother locked up. Lilith talks about how the man she was raised calling father was not him. Her dad was a guy from her parents’ time at college, his dads best friend who used to visit and give her gifts. One night, the man, Rajish, and her mother were arguing and by her mothers expression, Lilith figured out they must have been lovers. It made sense to her, as her parents were scientists while she was artistic, and she felt like she was never in the right family. Oh, and, Rajish died of of a brain tumour before he was 30. Lilith admits there are things she needs to tell Vera about herself, and Vera wonders why.

Lilith mentions that the end is in Bali, and Vera asks who told Lilith about it. Of course according to Lilith, nobody did, and she claims it was her vision. Vera can’t believe it at all, fearing her mother set it up somehow, and she asks what Lilith saw. Lilith describes Eddie leading Meyerists during a Hunters Moon, and Vera reels. See, I’ve wondered before about the visions. Eddie, I think, could have actual visions, or a form of hyper-perception, influenced by his beliefs that is leading him to Sherlock Holmes-like insights, which he thinks are mystical visions. Lilith seems to suggest that both she and Eddie have actual powers, which is huge.

Before we delve deeper into that, back over at the centre, Hawk’s session with a group of novices descends into anxious discussion about the Meyer article. Hawk says Jackson is just trying to sell a book, but the members want answers. Hawk throws out our long lost, beloved claim ‘We are NOT a Cult!’

Oh … baby. Honey. Ya kinda are.

At their apartment, Mary and Cal practice for his news appearance, and he’s not convincing her with his performance. She voices her real concern, that Cal is defending someone who abused Cal. It’s the very first time they’ve openly discussed it. She, utterly correctly thinks it’s a bad idea to defend the man, but Cal shoots back that Steve didn’t destroy him, and this appearance will be Cal reclaiming all the power. Mary mentions her job offer, and Cal thinks it’s selling her soul to defend a pervert, and Mary is like ‘uuuuh, dude?’ because of course, that’s what he’s doing. She admits the offer was just for her, though she wants Cal to come with her, since it’s exactly what they’ve worked for. Cal begs her not to take the job, and she begs him not to go on the show. And, we’ve discussed how screwed up their entire relationship is, but I really like them as a couple and when they are good for each other, they are so good and show, don’t break them up (though, if Mary does go with Buck please, please let it be legit. If it touches her, I will have to fight Vincent Kartheiser and I don’t want to do that).

Eddie and Sarah are at her house, going full Red Thread crime-solving, trying to trace the timeline of Steve, Lilith and Vera. Sarah is rather delighted Eddie is there, even as she steps out to let him take a call from Vera. Vera is frantic about cancelling the Bali trip because of her mother’s visions, but Eddie won’t live in fear of her. He ends the call to get back to work, then has to go and find Sarah sitting out in their amazingly pretty garden. She’s being mature about not wanting to get between Eddie and Sarah, and is worried if anyone knows she was Jackson’s (first) source (she definitely didn’t tell him about the contract).

Eddie breaks the news that Cal will defend Steve and of course, Sarah thinks it’s a terrible idea too. Not least of all because Jackson’s book won’t hurt them, not really. Eddie discusses Lilith’s Bali fears, and Sarah thinks he shouldn’t go. Not out of fear of the prophecy but because maybe after their work is finished, Eddie won’t believe it anymore. Eddie gets intense about how once they figure it all out, it will be clearer, and Sarah will believe again. Uuh that’s not … usually how it works, Eddie? That’s not good, right?

Hawk is in a bar and hilariously, adorably manages to talk the barman into a little on the sly, underage whisky. A very pretty girl makes an excuse to talk to him. Hawk is … really, insanely charming as he admits he’s in leadership in a cult, and his dad is in charge, and she is charmed all to hell because Hawk is a delight, even in his doldrums. He claims his cult is one of the nice ones, and they do tequila shots together, and will apparently do more. Hawk, bb, slow down there.

Vera meets with the man from last week about not only cancelling the Bali trip, but also his never contacting them again. She’s back up to her old PR tricks, and points out his ringing phone will be his lover, due to some supposed shady shit he does in hotel rooms. He sputters in shock, denying whatever claim is made, and Vera runs out before the guilt makes her sick all over her beautiful dress.

In the … wait … one of the records rooms that really shouldn’t exist after Richard blew everything up, but OKAY, SHOW, Sarah and Eddie dig through more of Steve’s records. She finds a book with her and Eddie’s wedding vows and while he initially jokes it’s corny, they can both recite their vows from memory. Sarah wishes she was still the same person Eddie married, and he very sweetly tells her she still is, just in a different way. It seems to me he’s being mature about their still being close friends and being there for each other but of course, he says it standing close and holding her hands, so Vera walks in and it looks all sorts of wrong. She’s furious, and can’t believe Eddie is ignoring everything else to read Steve’s notes with Sarah, who, in Vera’s words ‘Sold us out to a Safety School college professor’ . Which, HAAAAAAA! Oh, Vera. Can you go on the show with Cal and just be this vicious? She rants about how hard she’s fighting for Meyerism while he hides with Sarah, and leaves him with nothing to say.

On some gorgeous part of the waterfront in New York, Cal and Mary are having a date. Cal stops them in front of a beautiful view and tells Mary firmly that he loves her, and brought her into the city, away from Meyer things to … oh, my heart, drop to his knee and give her a real ring. He wants to give her everything, and will try his best, and asks her to properly, formally, legally marry him. She says yes and realises she can accept the job, they can both still be Meyerists and he won’t do the show, right? But he wants her to do it with him. Mary draws back and says that with everything Cal has been through, he won’t get better if he’s inside Meyerism. And she can’t love him if he won’t get better. The lighting on them both in this scene is just stunning. Mary realises Cal will never leave ‘him’, or Meyerism, and Cal tries to make his argument that he doesn’t have to leave because he’s taking Meyerism back, and the conviction with which he believes that is so sad. Mary tells him she’s taking the job and leaves him bathed in more stunning sunlight, clutching the ring. And, excuse me while I weep.

Hawk is leading his group of Meyerists in a class about whether or not they are a cult — he’s listed the definitions of cults and goes through each one, asking them to give empirical evidence to questions on the definitions. He is walking charisma and charm as he crosses out each question — they are allowed to ask questions, critical thinking is encouraged, they don’t drag down other faiths, and by the end he stands triumphant, as the class cheers. That was awesome and Hawk is awesome.

At a TV studio, Cal prepares to go on air, but gets a last minute call from Sarah. She admits she’s Jackson’s mole, took Jackson’s classes and she slept with him, and Cal is like ‘…. what?’ but Sarah … rather awesomely, is giving him the information to arm him against Jackson. I’m so conflicted. I don’t want Cal to defend Steve, but at the same time, Jackson is coming off like a bitter ex right now, attacking a cult/group whose increase in popularity is a direct result of Eddie trying to make it less cult-like. Plus, it’s funny to me how badly Jackson has understood Sarah as a person. You do not cross this woman.

The interview starts, with Mary watching at home, Eddie, Sarah and Gabbie (and Summer, which, uh, okay?) watching in the Lane house — having brought in a TV just for this purpose. Cal is handsome and cool, even as Jackson drops the fact Eddie turned up and threatened him. Cal is ready for this, and suggests Jackson must have done something to piss off the ordinary, regular old guy, Eddie. Huh. I’d have gone for the throat right there, but clearly Cal is building to something. Jackson mentions the binding practices, and Cal spiels on about Meyer seeing the light. Mary is watching at home and sickened, closes her laptop and starts packing a bag. On the show Cal is all over Jackson’s claim that ‘some guy from Brooklyn’ is not exactly Jesus Christ, but Cal gets in a zinger, ‘If having different beliefs from you makes a group a cult, I guess we’re a cult!’

Gab and the Lanes cheer as they go to commercials and Hawk arrives home, getting hugs off both parents, and it’s a lovely family scene. The show comes back and the host gives Cal the to floor to discuss Meyerism’s relevance. Cal discusses the various ‘cults’ we’re all in, jobs, Soul Cycle (HEEE!), a class … Jackson tries to argue his class is not a cult, so Cal whips out his cell phone and pulls up student reviews of Jackson’s class. In context, Cal easily makes the comments on Jackson’s class look like cult followers, some of them even using the words ‘cult following’. Cal reads comments about students wanting to sleep with Jackson and over Jackson’s blowhard dismissals, goes right for the jugular and states that Jackson did sleep with a student, right? Jackson freezes, and it’s to Raúl Esparza’s eternal credit that he nearly matches Hugh Dancy with how many muscles in his face have their own reactions to the line. He weakly laughs as Cal, all charm, states again that Jackson slept with a student he used as a source for the article — which is what cult leaders do, picking on vulnerable people, right? Jackson seethes through his smiles but at the house, Eddie has to go outside.

At the end of the interview, Jackson quietly says to Cal he did care for Sarah and misses her, hopes she’s okay. Cal’s like ‘Sure, pal’ and as his mic is taken off his face falls into that eerie, blank mask we’re all so used to. In the house, Eddie goes to his and Sarah’s Wall of Theories, and tears the whole thing to pieces. Sarah rushes in as Eddie bellows ‘FUCK HIM!’ of Steve, and breathlessly declares they need to cleanse and purge the movement of darkness, and of Steve. Sarah asks how, and Eddie raggedly says ‘We tell everyone’.

In the morning, Cal wakes alone on the pull-out couch he and Mary still use in lieu of a real bed, and stares sadly at Forrest’s empty crib and the packed-up boxes. Aaaw, Cal. He has no calls from Mary, so folds the bed away (with his shirt off. I’m just saying), but he puts his Meyer necklace back on, because Cal is a broken, broken man. Sad and alone, he starts to make breakfast, when Sarah and Eddie arrive and it’s so unhappy and awkward. He tells them Mary is gone with Forrest, and they’re genuinely sad. They congratulate his performance, and break the news they want to go public about Steve. Eddie will write his own book that comes clean. Cal stutters about appearing on TV, and they say that was for the outsiders, but for those who need the faith, this book is important. He realises they mean to talk about his abuse and starts to freak out, even as they explain they’re worried he wasn’t the only one Steve hurt — which I have wondered myself, to be truthful. Eddie won’t use Cal’s name; Cal won’t let them. He starts to hyperventilate that Meyerism will be destroyed, and Eddie has the gall to tell the abuse survivor who he’s about to out against his will, ‘You don’t understand’.

Cal is frantic, panicked about everything he’s given Meyerism, what he wants and needs, even allowing Forrest to be Embraced. Eddie offers to let Cal tell him how to do it, to help out with it, or Eddie will do it his way. This isn’t a request in any way. I’m … not entirely comfortable with this. Steve has to be outed, but it has to be on Cal’s terms, and certainly not after he begs begs for it not to happen.

Vera goes home to her mother, admits she cancelled Bali and that she left Eddie. Lilith reassures her that her visions will still come true and the future will be beautiful, as Vera falls, sobbing, into her arms.

To the always emotive sounds of Alt-J (Adeline taken from Relaxer) , Cal buys a gun. Oh no. Oh nooo.

 

So … who is the gun for? The easy and obvious possibility is Cal, himself. His family has left him, he’s being pulled in so many directions and after his most triumphant moment to date, all his power is being ripped away from him, just like that. I’m trying to make myself believe he would go after … literally, anyone, even Eddie or maybe Lilith, as the start of all of this but I just can’t get there in my head. I’m really, really worried Cal might hurt himself. One other possibility is the gun may serve a more spiritual purpose. Would Cal start to get better if he can go to the cave with painted flowers and kill the ‘ghost’ of Steve, the same way choking himself seemed to hurt Cal’s vision of the old man? I hope so, as cheesy as that might sound. I don’t want Cal to get hurt.

Jackson … duude. His claims to care for Sarah sound very hollow when he just … you know did every single thing he did. It’s hard to enjoy his takedown when it was Cal doing the defending and the position was, ‘Steve was great!’. And as for the fallout … I have very mixed feelings about what Eddie and Steve want to do. Steve doesn’t deserve to be protected, and their believe he had other victims who deserve to be heard is incredibly important. But doing it without Cal’s blessing just feels … wrong.

We’ll see how that goes for everyone next week! The Path returns next week on Hulu and shortly after on Oohlo.

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan is really terrible at the ‘About You’ part of life. Nadine developed her reviewer skills writing epic facebook rants about the details script supervisors forget and trying to explain why Carol on The Walking Dead broke Lizzie by accident. Nadine loves TV, film and books but she wishes someone would pay her to be the continuity editor. She can be found on Facebook and in her forest garden and if she’s not yelling at her TV she’s trying to convince a cat to be an Instagram model and refusing to let 90's fashion die.

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