In this week’s episode of The Following, Trio Loco’s holiday in the country comes to a bloody end, we learn more about Brass Cupcake Debra Parker’s obsession with cults, and Claire finds that she has a new admirer.
We pick up where we left off: Probsgay Paul (Adan Canto) has a gun to Ryan’s (Kevin Bacon) head, and Joey (don’t know, don’t care) is trying to decide how to best avoid being an actual character with independent thought processes rather than a plot device with toys. Paul takes Ryan’s gun and sends Joey to his room (Joey happily obliges. SUCCESS!). Jacob (Nico Tortorello) freaks out, and Ryan tells the trio that the cops, the Feds, the President, Santa Claus and the subscriptions department of the Lillian Vernon catalog all know that they are there, so they’d better f*cking hide.
Jacob is afraid to approach Ryan to tie him up, which Ryan exacerbates by telling him that if he gets within an arm’s reach he’ll snap his neck and break his back. Paul counters by not offering his guest any coffee or tea.
Claire (Natalie Zea), meanwhile, is happily riding shotgun with her new friend, not-Roderick. They pull into a garage of a large industrial building and he leads her through a heavy gate (which he closes and locks behind them) and into to his hovel, which has lots of computers and manila folders. It’s about as exciting as a Social Security office. Claire demands to know where Joey is, and the guy chokes her. Same customer service as the Social Security office too, I see!
She asks her escort how he knows Joe, and we get a flashback to the man – Charlie – visiting Joe (James 100%PureFoy) in prison. They certainly saved budget on locations for this, didn’t they? This flashback visitation booth is getting as much play as the lockers from You Can’t Do That on Television.
Turns out Charlie was a soldier and he has killed nine people, only some of them in the line of duty. He’s also the guy that helped build the servers at the library that helped Joe communicate in secret. Turns out Roderick hooked him up with Joe – and, with his dishonorable discharge, he’s happy to have the opportunity to be of service.
Back in the present, Charlie Girl Claire notices a photo of herself sticking out of a file folder and knocks it on the ground, where bunches more spill out. Charlie tells her that he’s not going to hurt her, and that she has to trust him: “I’m your follower.” Man really knows how to put a gal at ease, doesn’t he?
Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), meanwhile, shows up with the Duchess County cops and tries to keep them focused on the siege. Fortunately the feisty and glamorous Agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse) arrives – via fabucopter – and he briefs her on everything. They know that Trio Loco have emailed someone, and the kind of frumpy local lady cop chirps, “WiFi bounced to satellite!” which I swear is what they blame everything on around here. “Dog ate my WiFi, honest!” And the email’s encrypted? Damn!
Inside the house, Ryan sass-talks the gays and plays Jacob and Paul off of one another. Emma (Valorie Curry) returns, having drugged Joey with “his special milk” (Atta girl!), and at the first sign of lip from Ryan she tases him right in the pacemaker. She tells Ryan that the taser was Joe’s idea. Emma then tries to get Ryan to make a phone call, but he says no, adding that she has no leverage to get him to do anything. She drags Meghan (Li Jun Li) up from the cellar, tases her in front of him, and says, “Leverage THIS!” Ryan stares daggers at Emma.
Joe, meanwhile, gets an update from Olivia (Renee Goldsberry), who demands to know what she’s now a part of and by the way did they happen to keep her fingers? He tells her she doesn’t want to know that she has been instrumental in kicking off the kidnapping of Claire, then tells her anyway, then tells her he didn’t tell her.
Mike gets a call from Ryan, but Parker totally sticks her nose in and starts complimenting Emma on her artwork back at the cult home. She tells her that all the paintings look like Emma’s mother, and she wonders if Emma might regret killing her just a tiniest bit. Emma hangs up on her and goes to check their email.
While alone with the formerly gays, Ryan asks them if they’re actually gay or not. Jacob insists he isn’t.
Parker tells Mike that, aside from stalling until SWAT arrive, she’s trying to pull Emma’s guilt to the surface to remind her that she has feelings. She adds, “Parental influence defines us,” which cues a flashback to somewhere in Iowa in 2004. Debra arrives at a charming little cult compound and asks a man named Dale where her parents are. He asks if she’s coming back and says it’s been 15 years since they saw her. It is worth noting that this cult compound appears outwardly to be about as threatening as a Piggly Wiggly parking lot.
Back in 1989, we see a very young Parker being served up to Dale in a white nightgown in a tiny room containing about twice as many candles as the “Total Eclipse of the Heart” video. She freaks out and runs from the room, into the arms of her – hey hold on is that Joyce Summers?!
In 2004 we confirm that yes, Mrs. Parker is indeed played by Kristine Sutherland, who was of course Buffy’s mom on the late, great Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While it’s great to see her not dead, it’s a shame she’s fallen in with such a bad crowd.
Charlie – who looks more and more like an undercooked Josh Brolin by the minute – tells Claire that the plan is for her and Joey to be reunited, and that he doesn’t know what the holdup is. She asks him what it means that he is her “follower” and he shows her a pile of notebooks containing two years of extremely boring notes on her every move. He also shows her video of her sleeping. Claire gets very angry and demands to know if Emma knew the whole time – he says that while he knew about Emma, she did not know about him. He is gentleman enough not to mention if she ever farted in her sleep.
Speaking of Emma, she gets an email from the mysterious Roderick telling them that online communication is no longer safe, and to “Be ready.” For what, they aren’t sure. Emma notices that the cops are backing off, and Paul – never the best with appropriateness, mind you – asks Emma if things are okay between the two of them. She points out that it’s not exactly the time or place, and Ryan picks up on the fact that they’re also fooling around. He seems impressed.
It’s apparently a slippery slope from Scooby Gang to full-blown cult…
Emma calls Parker and starts babbling about her mother in order to stall them. She says her mom was a slut and deserved what she got, and now nobody tells her what to do. Parker points out that actually Joe tells her what to do, and she just swapped one parent for another. Emma says that she chose Joe and hangs up. Parker notes to no one in particular, “We can not choose our parents, but we can break free of them.”
As we all know, a fortune cookie truism is cue for another flashback, so we rejoin Debra and Buffy’s mom in 2004, when she visited her parents at pastoral Pepperidge Cults. They wanted to bring her back into the cult, but she wasn’t feeling their mint Milanos.
In the present, Parker can tell that Emma is stalling as she awaits orders.
Ryan lays out Paul and Jacob’s romantic conundrum for them, and Jacob finally snaps, threatening to kill Meghan. (Finally!! Oh – sorry, Meghan.) Ryan jumps up and Paul points the gun at him and makes him sit back down. We and Meghan both see that he’s managed to grab a knife during the outburst.
Yes, this image is from a previous episode. Not that we’d notice.
Mike unscrambles the email, which gives them intel on Claire. SWAT shows up and Parker briefs them.
Charlie calls Roderick and asks what he’s supposed to do now – while he’s on the phone, Claire steals his keys and runs for it. He spots her fumbling with the keys to the gate – and instead of running to stop her, he walks like a slasher villain at an infuriatingly measured pace. Why isn’t he running? Claire gets through and hides in a dark part of the garage – actually, she’s hiding directly under a leaky pipe and is getting soaked. Why doesn’t she move a foot in any direction to someplace dry?! Too late – Charlie pops up to tell her that it wasn’t very nice to take his things.
She apologizes to him for running and asks what he plans to do and who Roderick is. She picks up that the name is a reference to The Fall of the House of Usher. Charlie just says that “he is a friend of Joe’s.” She asks why he is doing this, and Charlie says that Joe “is teaching me to feel my life.” In another flashback, we see Charlie report to Joe on Claire’s every movement – including an ill-advised Celine Dion concert – and Joe picks up on the fact that Charlie has fallen for her.
Back in the present, Charlie kisses Claire, then apologizes, then makes it up to her by beating his own face against a wooden post a half dozen times. What, there was no piano handy?
“Charlie will never get it right – never, never, NEVER!”
Back at the ranch, Emma takes a call and tells the maybegays that all is good. Paul wants more details, but she hisses, “Have a little faith, Paul.” Ryan chimes in enough to merit a punch in the jaw from Paul, and Emma goes to get Joey. Moments later, Jacob goes to get Emma and she and Joey are gone. DAMN! Ryan stabs Paul several times in the gut, and he frees Meghan – she runs out to safety with the Feds. Let’s hope for her sake and the sake of her agent that she’s on to better things.
Ryan calls Mike to warn her that Emma is trying to pull an “Irish goodbye” out the back door. He spots Emma and when he tells her to freeze, the local lady cop he’s with turns and shoots him in the chest. She tells Emma, “I’m with Roderick. Let’s go.”
Elsewhere along the perimeter, the worst SWAT guys ever let themselves get ambushed and killed by two new Followingers of the generic yokel variety.
Charlie promises Claire he’ll take her to Joey, and just then an alarm sounds and SWAT guys appear to whisk Claire away and gas the joint. Charlie runs away in the fracas.
Parker tells the SWAT guys to raze the house, with Paul and Jacob in it. Two SWAT guys blow through the wall and find Paul and Jacob surrendering, but then two other SWAT guys come from the other direction, kill the first two SWAT guys, and tell Jacob and Paul to beat it. (It’s clearly the yokels who killed the other SWATs and are now wearing their gear.)
Ryan catches up with Emma and Joey, who is reluctant to get into the car with them. Ryan shoots the lady cop and stupid Joey gets into the SUV with Emma. I haven’t wanted a kid to die this bad since those 22 times in The Hunger Games.
Paul and Jacob ambush a guy in a pickup truck, beat him up, and hit the road in his wheels.
Weston asks how Joe managed to get all of this organized and convince all these people to do this and manage to kill 4 SWAT guys, and Ryan takes a moment to walk off into a nearby nightclub and cry:
Debra answers Mike’s question: “We all wanna belong.”
Back in 2004, Buffy’s mom says that Debra isn’t there out of love, she’s there out of guilt: she wants their forgiveness. Debra’s all, “Uh, don’t think so, Joyce – I’m here to forgive YOU for being such a lousy mother and dating that John Ritter robot.” Turns out her mom turned young Debra around and made her march right back into that firetrap to have sex with icky Dale or whatever. Debra says she forgives them and she loves them, and that they should never forget that. Then did she rain fire down upon the compound? Not yet, but here’s hoping.
Olivia updates Joe on everything – he tells her it’s time for the next part of the story to begin. She has another press conference, at which she announces that Joe is filing claims of abuse in prison.
Ryan returns, and Claire hits him a bunch of times before she lets him hold her.
Back in her office, Parker opens her massive purse and takes out the cult necklace that she was wearing the night she was raped by Dale.
And somewhere in Upstate New York, Jacob and Paul call Emma, begging for her to tell them why she abandoned them. She doesn’t say anything and hangs up. Paul – who is clearly bleeding out – thanks Jacob for not leaving him, and Jacob clasps Paul’s bloody hand. Awwwww!
Notably Dead: Local lady cop, a few SWAT guys
Notably Gay: Paul, maybe? Eh – who cares.
Notably Following: Charlie, Emma, Jacob, Paul (what’s left of him), the two yokel/SWATs, whoever the hell Roderick is
What We Know:
- There’s no way in hell Emma’s getting the security deposit back on that house rental.
- Emma and Joey were saved by the Followingers who got called in by Roderick – but they then stuck around to save Jacob and Paul as well. So they’re somewhat essential, but not essential enough to get snuck out with Emma?
- That lady cop deliberately shot Mike in the chest despite the fact that she must have known he was wearing a vest. Didn’t she?
What We Don’t Know:
- Who Roderick is, or what the hell the episode titled “The Fall” has to do with the House of Usher. Hey – maybe that was Usher’s house!! Usher, I bet you’ll never trust AirBnB again.
- Whether Parker is really a cult survivor bent on justice or she’s been damaged so much by her experience that she’s now a full-blown cult cultist.
- Who in the hell is actually PAYING for all of this over-the-top cloak-and-dagger ridiculousness.
Okay, first I should get this out of the way: Did anyone else check out the CW’s fever-dream new cult thriller Cult last week? You know, the one that looks like Feardotcom had babies with every Dimension horror movie from the ’90s and they formed a band? I did – and last week I was marveling at the fact that The Following is basically the show within Cult’s show-within-a-show premise. Even more so this week, with Debra Parker flashbacking to the EXACT SAME STORYLINE from Cult’s hilariously bad fake cop thriller.
At this point we’re totally through the looking glass and I very well may start to confuse the two shows the same way I confuse the criminally adorable Ashmore brothers. But for now I can say with some confidence that this episode was action-packed but not exactly the game-changer that some of us were expecting. At this point having a 2-episode background character and two completely new faces be revealed to be Followingers is pretty much a nonevent – they’re going to have to kick it up a notch and either have Ellen Degeneres and Dame Judi Dench be revealed as cultists, or literally just start dropping them out of the sky like so many WKRP Thanksgiving turkeys – because that’s the only thing that’s going to shock us, at this point.