Do not try to leave.
Do not discuss the past.
Do not discuss your life before.
Always answer the phone if it rings.
Work hard, be happy, and enjoy your life in Wayward Pines!
Such are the rules of Wayward Pines, the most picture-perfect little mountain town this side of a hostile electrified fence. It’s a town where everyone knows everyone, except they actually know nothing about each other, because should you dare to reveal even a morsel of information about yourself from your life before you moved to the Pines—say, the theme of your 16th birthday party or the existence of a daughter you’ve been involuntarily separated from—they’ll string you up on Main Street and spill your blood in front of every man, woman, child, and wooden duck in town.
In episode two of the 10-part mystery mind-f—k that is Wayward Pines, federal agent Ethan Burke has been ordered to stay in his hotel while Sheriff Pope investigates the corpse of Bill Evans, the missing agent whom Ethan found in an abandoned house on the outskirts of town.
Not keen to do as he’s told, Ethan takes it upon himself to revisit the tattered house where he found Evans, which has now been locked—likely as a big middle finger to Ethan. Nevertheless he breaks inside so that he can reexamine the decomposing corpse, finding a small notebook tucked into Evans’ nasty boot. Before he can snag it, Pope quickly arrives and shoos Ethan back to the hotel, even though all reason should suggest that Pope really ought to arrest Ethan instead of merely putting him under hotel house arrest. (What if Pope’s actually powerless? Is he a sheriff who wields no real power behind a vanity title, much like a vice president or a movie star who does a TV show but only if she gets producer credit?)
There’s no chance Ethan would waste his time stuck in the hotel room flipping through the hotel room service menus and magazines from 1988. Wayward Pines is beautiful and he’s got other places to visit! Such as:
1. The Biergarten, where he asks Beverly (his only ally in town) more questions about Bill Evans. Beverly turns up the radio and dances with Ethan so they can whisper into each other’s ears and avoid the microphones placed underneath the barstools. (THEORY: Wayward Pines is the first audition phase for a guerrilla reality singing competition.) Beverly reveals that Bill Evans was killed because he tried to escape, and the notebook Ethan found had been filled with Bill’s notes and plans for a clean getaway. Ethan promises Bev he’ll go back and retrieve the book, but a deliveryman enters the bar and Beverly quickly hands Ethan some money and sends him off to…
2. The coffee shop, where Ethan leaves another voicemail for Theresa and again tries to reach Adam Hassler at the Secret Service. Once again, it’s shady receptionist Marcy, who says Adam’s out. “Are you sitting at the seventh floor reception desk at the Seattle office?” Ethan asks, and Marcy says yes, prompting Ethan to have a major Clue moment when he thinks he’s caught her: “There is no seventh floor reception desk at the Seattle office! Who are you?” But Marcy hangs up, because she has no time for Ethan’s clever nonsense when she has fake administrative documents to fake file at the fake Secret Service office where she fake works to send her fake kids to Wayward Pines State (a safety school for kids who could not get into WPU). After making his phone calls, Ethan asks the friendly barista where he can find Kate
Hewson Ballinger. The barista (while confirming that Kate’s been “coming in here for years”) tells Ethan that Kate works at…
3. The toy store, where Ethan and Kate exchange pleasantries before he presses her for answers about Evans’ body. As volumes get raised, creepy toymaker Harold checks in, partly to keep Ethan in check and partly to make sure that the store still has plenty of wooden ducks in supply (lest the poor children in the village be without their doodads when the king announces he’s giving a ball). Harold leaves Ethan and Kate alone, seemingly only appearing to assert some sort of pseudo concern for Kate’s well-being.
Ethan buys a handful of wooden ducks, paying with one of the bills Beverly gave him, pointing out that every bill says 1988 or earlier. It’s all counterfeit money, and it’s all over town. Again, Kate can’t answer for it, but when she wraps the ducks for him, she seems to slip in an additional object into the package. Suddenly, and seemingly unprompted, Kate brings up Bill Evans’ widow, Patricia. “I don’t think she’s left the house since he died,” she says with that conflicting smile of hers that’s halfway between Meryl in Sophie’s Choice and Meryl in Devil Wears Prada. “I used to see her every morning watering her pink hydrangeas in front of their light brown house,” she continues with all the subtlety of a Vegas residency.
On his way out of the store (without the wooden ducks, by the way), Ethan sees the official notice of Wayward Pines rules conveniently posted on the doorjamb, as they are in every place of business. Kate knows them by heart, and she recites them with gravitas like a theater major in her performance final. As Ethan heads out the door, the telephone rings, and Kate answers it upside-down. Because why wouldn’t she.
4. Taking Kate’s advice, Ethan heads to Bill Evans’ not-actually-light-brown house, where his widow is completely shattered by Ethan’s third-degree questioning about Bill’s federal past and suspected murder. She quickly boots him, but she does reveal a few things: She and Bill were married for a year (does Ethan’s five-weeks-ago-with-Kate timeline also factor in the last time he saw Bill?); Bill mowed lawns for a living; and Bill wasn’t murdered but, rather, he killed himself—and she watched it.
5. With that heavy info, Ethan goes back to the sheriff’s office, where Pope has already received a call from Mrs. Evans about Ethan’s harassment. Once again, the sheriff reminds Ethan of his head injury and the blood sloshing around in his brain that he refused to drain. If anything, he’s furious at all the extra work Ethan is making him pretend to do.
6. Finally, Ethan returns to his least favorite place of all: the hospital, where he finds the morgue completely empty of bodies, both dead and living, save for Bill Evans’ remarkably intact corpse. Bill’s clothes are laid out in the open, perhaps just a little too easy to find, and Ethan quickly locates and pockets the escape notebook. In a brief moment, we see what’s inside. Here’s what I gleaned:
The notebook contains a list of residents and their occupations, and listed at the top is Beverly Brown; underneath, the words: “RESPONSIVE – YES.” Elsewhere on the list are names of other Pinesians (including Harold Ballinger) with the words “NOT RESPONSIVE.” It sounds like Evans formulated an approach to identifying allies in the town, either with some intricate form of code or simply by gauging normalcy, much like Ethan did. But here’s a question: what separated Evans and Kate when they arrived in Wayward Pines? If Evans, like Ethan, never stopped asking questions, then how soon did Kate drop her federal agent mantle and adapt? Could Evans have been redeemed if he’d lowered a skeptical eyebrow?
Ethan barely has time to read through Evans’ notebook when Nurse Pam strolls in, white Keds and all. Completely out of the blue, Pam asks, “Were you able to reach your wife? I know you really wanted to talk to her. I bet when you two get back together you’re going to bang her brains out, huh?” WTF NURSE PAM! I’ll tell you this much: There may be plenty of water in Wayward Pines, but that doesn’t mean there’s no thirst.
But maybe she brought up Ethan’s wife, Theresa, for a reason, because no sooner does Ethan walk into the hallway than he sees two orderlies wheeling gurneys with what look like Ben and Theresa’s bodies. Hallucination? Reality? Well-crafted dummies à la my worst nightmares? Ethan pursues the gurneys but loses them, and suddenly he’s face to face with Dr. Jenkins, who appears a little too conveniently ready to convince Ethan that he’s crazy for “seeing” his wife and son.
This begs the question: What sort of control could the powers that be in Wayward Pines have over their residents’ minds? Can they incept hallucinations? Is Wayward Pines a discourse in mind control, where residents’ pasts are erased for the sake of establishing a neurological control group for whatever the real experiment is?
Ethan doesn’t linger around the hospital long enough to entertain Jenkins’ suggestion of brain drainage (maybe third time’s the charm!), but though he escapes the hospital once more, irrevocable damage is done: Ethan no longer completely trusts his mind anymore.
NEXT: Into the woods! Into the woods! Into the woods then out of the woods and home before you’re a blood sacrifice![pagebreak]
[Before we continue with Ethan, let’s quickly check in with Theresa. What’s going on back in Seattle? Theresa is frustrated that there’s no news coverage of Ethan’s disappearance, and Adam is completely unhelpful. Amid flashbacks of Theresa and Ben proving they’re fully aware of Ethan’s affair with Kate, Theresa remembers that Kate was transferred to Boise, and when Adam won’t confirm it, Theresa decides to go pursue her husband in Boise. “Either Ethan is dead or he’s abandoned his family…and if it’s the latter, then I’m going to kill him myself,” she tells her sister, and that heartwarming sentiment convinces Ben to escort his mother to Idaho in search of the untrustworthy Burke patriarch.]
But back in Wayward Pines, the town where everything’s made up and the names don’t matter, Ethan has met up with Beverly in the forest so they can formulate an escape plan to get back to Theresa. Ethan shares with Beverly his possible hallucinations and the contents of Bill Evans’ escape notebook, which Beverly knows well—she and Evans were going to escape together until he bailed at the last minute and wound up getting killed. And no, he didn’t kill himself…Sheriff Pope killed him, and the whole town watched. (That’s definitely one little detail that both Pope and Mrs. Evans left out.)
And so Beverly removes the microchip from Ethan’s leg WITH A BUTTER KNIFE as the two come up with their plan for escape. While they’re strolling down Main Street, Ethan realizes that the cameras only follow the microchips, so he factors those into the plan, which now involves going over to Kate and Harold Ballinger’s home for dinner after they run into each other on the street and mistake Bev and Ethan for a couple.
The next morning at the hotel, Ethan examines Evans’ map—it’s crude, but there are several X’s marked around the outskirts of the electric fence. Evans has littered the paper with moderately helpful things like “too steep” or “promising” or “do u like me yes no maybe circle one.” The camera zooms in to a corner of the map, where Evans has scrawled the word “pack.” Is it a pack of wolves? Raptors? Millennials? No, it’s a literal pack—as in backpack—which Ethan finds hidden high up in a spidery tree in the furthest corner of town.
But while he’s up in the branches getting his Katniss on, Ethan’s shocked by a loud gunshot. He turns to sees a man standing on a cliff shooting something up in the trees. So…should we revisit my raptors theory?
As Beverly and Ethan head toward the Ballinger house for dinner, it’s clear that neither of them trust Kate, but they’ve got to go through with the plan anyway, which involves keeping their cool, ditching their microchips in Kate’s bathroom, and then grabbing Evans’ pack (now stashed in the cemetery) and bolting.
But dinner goes horribly wrong. Ethan successfully performs his ditch-the-chip part of the plan, but when it’s Beverly’s turn to go to the bathroom, she clams up after accidentally slipping a huge detail about her past life.
Kate: Harold’s specialty is rocking horses.
Beverly: Back in Portland, my daughter has a rocking horse.
Woah! Harold’s specialty is rocking horses!? (No, I’m just kidding, that’s definitely not the important part of this exchange.)
Beverly broke the cardinal rule of Wayward Pines: You don’t talk about your life before. Yet here’s what’s even juicier: Even though Beverly immediately stops talking and Ethan tries to change the subject, Kate deviously tries twice to ask for more information. She knows the rules! She knows what Beverly’s done! And yet she purposely makes a big show of Beverly’s slip-up, almost as if she’s making sure that the powers/microphones/cameras that be pick it up? It certainly seems that way, because Beverly quickly excuses herself and flees the apartment, with Ethan closely behind. They’re barely out the door when Harold and Kate ask each other, “You think they’re going to run?” “Absolutely.”
As Ethan and Beverly head toward the cemetery, telephones start ringing and houses begin lighting up, and soon enough, the entire town is descending on Beverly like age truthers on Rebel Wilson. They split up and sprint, with Ethan insisting that Beverly go to the cemetery while he lures the neighborhood away.
It’s a full Truman Show finale as everyone in town wields flashlights and baseball bats in search of the pair. But when one neighbor sees Ethan, he makes it clear that only Beverly is the one they’re looking for. Sure enough, she’s too panicked to think straight and quickly winds up getting captured by the Stepford mob.
And here’s where you decide whether you’re watching the next eight episodes of Wayward Pines or if you’re going to spend a sad summer watching America’s Got Talent instead.
An assembly has crowded the town square, with all of your favorites: Jenkins and Pam, Arlene the police receptionist, and even the Ballingers, who have quickly made their way from dinner just in time for the execution. Beverly is DRAGGED through the street, heels scraping the asphalt, until she’s strung up like a blood sacrifice on a raised stage in the middle of the street.
Sheriff Pope (in his pajamas, even though it couldn’t be any later than, like, 9 p.m.) holds court over the townspeople. He thanks the Ballingers for “doing their civic duty” and makes a stirring speech as Beverly is bound and tied up: “Beverly Brown tried to leave. She discussed the past. As I’ve said many times before, it is not just my job to keep this town safe. It’s everybody’s!”
And suddenly, just as Ethan has fought his way into an empty building, Pope slits Beverly’s throat just as Ethan makes it up to a window to watch. People in the crowd applaud and cheer, “She deserves it!” Some are visibly shaken. Kate does that Sophie–Prada thing again. “We cannot tolerate people who don’t play by the rules,” says Pope. And scene.
What is Wayward Pines!? Is someone’s former life such a threat to the safety of the town that a mere mention of it can get a person KILLED!? Does the law of the U.S. government extend inside that electrical fence? To the point of hallucinations and mind control, how many residents have been fully brainwashed into this murderous crowdthink, and how many are still, as Evans might say, responsive? And will Nurse Pam and Dr. Jenkins ever hook up!?
Clearly I’ve got more questions than theories this week. If you’ve got one to share, drop it in the comments or let me know on Twitter!