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The Family recap: Nowhere Man

A medical emergency exposes a lie, and the Pock-Marked Man makes an emotional mistake

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The Family

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Joan Allen, Rupert Graves, Alison Pill, Zach Gilford, Liam James
Drama, Mystery

Atonement is pursued through many methods on The Family, though none of the penitent are currently satisfied with the state of their souls. “I told a lie to fix a lie,” Willa tells her priest. And we’re so deep into the concentric circles of misdirections and cover-ups that surround the Warrens that I’m not even sure which two lies she’s specifically referring to at this moment. The teenager who introduced himself back into the lives of this ten-years-broken family as Adam is actually a boy named Ben. People can study pictures and learn names and fib. Internal organs can’t.

After the show’s standard voiceover opening, “Nowhere Man” picks up right where the last episode left off — with Det. Meyer proposing that Adam help the cops set a trap for his kidnapper. Meyer and her FBI partner, Clements, are banking on one crucial piece of their suspect profile: The Pock-Marked Man misses the boy he lost and won’t be able to resist getting another look at him. They bait the hook with a sound bite from Adam to the press still gathered around his house. There’s a burger joint he’s been craving, and he’ll probably be heading there soon. Doug doesn’t flinch when the news item airs — as practiced as he is in shoving his own interests to the bottom of his metaphorical suitcase, at least in the presence of Jane. But we know that he heard. The gears are quietly turning.

The family reluctantly trusts Danny to be Adam’s second to conspicuously eat fries in the center of a crowded food court. (“Wanna play ‘Spot the G-Man’?”) Dressed in his captor’s favorite shirt, Adam is shiny with sweat as his eyes dart around the cafeteria. He tells Danny to walk away; the man won’t approach unless Adam is alone. Claire watches helplessly from the surveillance van, already regretting being talked into this plan. The cops spring into action when Adam starts to have some kind of episode, and the mission is aborted. Doug watches from above until he can’t anymore, but he looks coldly satisfied by his short and silent communication with the escapee. Clements instructs some uniforms to call the paramedics for the kid while the rest of them fan out to find the 30-year-old brown-haired man in a blue jacket. Doug dumps the garment into a trash can and hooks back up with his human camouflage: a wholesome-looking mother-to-be. No one looks twice at them as they leave the building. But Jane isn’t entirely nondescript to everyone. Clements and Meyer later spot her in the security footage and note her past connection to the case through her job at the oil refinery. Baby steps.

I’m no doctor, but I’m guessing that Adam’s dread over facing his abuser contributed to his intestinal distress. The medical issue is nothing a quick procedure can’t handle, but Claire’s handwringing over the prognosis gives the symbolism of the boy’s aggravated, internal scars plenty of time to land. In the end, it’s the scar that exposes Adam’s real identity and the machinations that brought him to the Warrens. Claire didn’t simply forget which of her children had his appendix removed (but thank you for your thoughts, mansplaining doctor); she knows that the child who was checked into the hospital under her son’s name has one more extraneous organ than he should.

And Claire knows. She knows immediately that only one member of her family could be detached and determined enough to pull off this switcheroo. Danny can barely keep his head above the puddle of cheap whiskey in which he’s chosen to spend his days. John puts his energy into an extramarital affair and a secondary career — anything to escape that home. There’s something about mothers and daughters — no matter how different they are, and Claire and Willa are by no means the same person — an almost psychic connection isn’t abnormal. Was Willa motivated by guilt alone? She feels responsible for Adam’s kidnapping; the flashback scene where she tells her parents that he’s gone is included in this episode for good reason. But that’s not all there is to it. The two lies she references in confession aren’t enough on their own to keep her shaking under her desk for an entire night. Long ago, Willa appointed herself the protector of the Warrens, and I’m certain we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of the horrible things she’s done to “keep everyone together.” It’s consumed her entire life. But the house of cards is swaying, and Willa doesn’t know how to prevent the collapse. “Who asked you to?” Danny asks her. Her actions are so foreign to him. He’d burn the whole thing down, if he could.

NEXT: Liquid courage