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!