Ichabod and Abbie are trapped in a mysterious mansion, which holds ghosts, monsters -- and one giant secret
Welcome to Thanksgiving, Sleepy Hollow-style: An evening of ghost fraternizing and demented Ent battling, followed by a calming nightcap of room-temperature rum drunk straight from a mug. Just like Grandma used to make!
This week’s episode follows the claustrophobic blueprint of “Necromancer,” stranding the Witnesses inside a spooky crumbling mansion filled with restless spirits, homicidal bark monsters, and surprisingly flimsy walls — or, as Abbie (awesomely) puts it, “a damn haunted house.” It’s an hour that’s fairly straightforward and relatively understuffed, especially for Sleepy Hollow; on the whole, it hews closer to the monster-of-the-week format that Sleepy seemed to be leaving in its dust a few weeks ago.
That said, “Sanctuary” did drop one giant bombshell that’s sure to have repercussions far down the line — and I’m not talking about Ichabod’s deconstruction of 21st century America’s erroneous First Thanksgiving myths. (For the record: “The pilgrims didn’t have any sugar to make a [cranberry] sauce, let alone a pie! And venison, not turkey, was served! It would have been a miracle for a single, half-starved pheasant to trot past in these harsh winters…”)
But we’ll get to that later. First, let’s check in on the damn haunted house — the onetime residence of fictional revolutionary and dapper white warlock Lachlan Fredericks, who made his Sleepy Hollow estate into a safe haven for freed slaves and fugitives from supernatural phenomena alike. Abbie and Ichabod have come there, on the eve of Turkey Day, to investigate the strange disappearance of Fredericks’s descendent Lena Gilbert — a comely teenage vampire from Mystic Falls, Virginia. Wait, no; she’s actually just a run-of-the-mill heiress with an expensive blowout and zero actual magic powers. Come on, Sleepy — if you’re going to lift a name from one of TV’s most popular supernatural shows, at least give that character precognition or fire breath or telepathy with marine life, or something.
Crane, of course, has been to the property before. He and Katrina visited this same house during the Revolutionary War, back when it was a sanctuary for all of the Colonies’ silliest hairdos. After he and Abbie go inside to search for Lena — blatantly disregarding the advice of any viewer who’s watched, like, even a single horror movie — Ichabod discovers that his connection to Lachlan’s manor runs deeper than he ever knew. See, there’s a book inside that Crane recognizes: A copy of Katrina’s beloved Gulliver’s Travels, which itself contains a letter that our hero wrote to his wife the morning that he first faced the Horseman. Meaning that sometime after the Cranes’ first visit, Katrina returned to Casa Fredericks on her own. Maybe she needed to hide from the hordes demanding to know whether she’s a humble Quaker or American landed gentry?
NEXT: Barking up the wrong tree
We’ll have to wait to learn the truth behind Katrina’s motives, because it’s officially monster-fightin’ time. Hooray! Ichabbie follow a trail of blood — so much grimmer than breadcrumbs — to a dark basement room, where poor Lena is being held captive by a tangle of branches that would put Maleficent’s work to shame. Let’s take this opportunity to imagine a new variation on Chekhov’s gun: If you see a scary tree monster in Act I, then your hero had better attack that scary tree monster with an ax by Act III. Preferably in a sexy, colonial lumberjack sort of way.
In the meantime, the Witnesses manage to free the heiress from the roots — which, as if you needed more nightmare fodder, bleed demon blood when you cut into them. Whatever; still not nearly as grotesque as Sleepy‘s eventual timeslot replacement The Following.
The trio sets off in search of an exit from the house; because we’re in a horror movie riff, Abbie of course gets separated from the group. But because this is also Sleepy Hollow, there’s a reason for Abbie’s isolation: She keeps catching glimpses of a strangely familiar-looking woman in colonial garb, who beckons the cop to follow her. Thanks to flashbacks, we already know the apparition’s identity: She’s Grace Dixon, who served as matron of the manor when it still belonged to Lachlan. (That title, by the way, means that Grace was the estate’s head nurse, rather than the Sally Hemmings to Lachlan’s Jefferson. Though hey, anything’s possible on this show.)
Our Leftenant, naturally, isn’t immediately keen on this idea — “That’s good, Mills, talk to the ghost” — but she trails the spirit anyway. And that’s when Grace shows Abbie a vision of what happened to the house shortly before it was invaded by Audrey 2‘s surlier cousin: Katrina Crane came to this supernatural sanctuary to give birth. To Ichabod’s child! Congratulations, Crane; you’re officially a DILF. (Look it up on the innanet.) Shortly after, the place was beset by a mysterious evil force — one that took the form of a tree-devil and impaled poor Lachlan in cold… sap.
As Abbie is learning about Ichabod’s secret progeny, the man himself and Lena are battling another tree creature — this time, one with legs. Ichabod gets away, but the creature takes Lena once more. (Vampire Elena never would have let that happen.) Before he can save her, Ichabod reunites with Abbie… and is immediately thrown off his game when she tells him of his child’s existence. Sigh — just imagine how fun that kid would have been if he were transported to a 21st century kindergarten. (“That cat certainly is an impertinent fellow! Schoolmarm, can’t we peruse the immortal Pilgrim’s Progress instead?”)
NEXT: Ahh, there’s Chekhov’s ax
Ichabod doesn’t have much time to indulge in shock: There’s life saving to be done! He and Abbie head toward the root monster, and the scene’s editing is so scary-movie-manic that it’s a little hard to tell what exactly happens next. (Gotta keep the violence to network-acceptable levels somehow, I suppose.)
The important part: The Witnesses save Lena from the beast, spiriting her away through a hidden exit that Abbie spies thanks to Grace’s ghost. (Katrina, too, once escaped through this very same passageway.) Once they’re out, though, Crane is so charged up that he decides to go back inside and face the tree demon — the thing that tried to kill his newborn son — all on his own. This, by the way, is where Chekhov’s ax ends up coming in handy.
After a few minutes of melodramatic chopping — all capped with a snarled “give Moloch my regards” — Ichabod re-emerges, finally ready to go home. Maybe a talk with his OnStar pal Yolanda would soothe his wounded soul?
Or, failing that, a meal of burnt turkey and gluten-free pumpkin pie, which Jenny somehow thought sounded like a good idea. Can you tell she’s spent years in the nuthouse? Anyhow, Abbie brings both dishes to a melancholy Ichabod shortly after their haunted house encounter. He’s understandably moody, though perhaps he still has a glimmer of hope — after all, Abbie doesn’t know where Baby Crane ended up, meaning he might have survived even after Katrina was stuck in purgatory.
So Ichabod and Abbie drink together, both toasting to the new family they’ve begun to create… and despite everything, it seems as though their ersatz Thanksgiving may be just what both of them needed. Instead of a heart-stopping cliffhanger, we end on a note of warmth and friendship — just the thing for an episode that airs right before a weeklong break, not to mention a warm and fuzzy secular holiday. Merry Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good night!
NEXT: Doughnut Holes, tastier than a Scottish meal
– Destiny alert: At the end of the episode, Abbie learns that she and Jenny are descendants of Grace Dixon on their mother’s side. Abbie’s family, then, helped to bring Baby Crane into the world.
– Whatever happened to Baby Crane? Let’s start speculating! Could one of the show’s current cast members possibly be Ichabod and Katrina’s descendent? It’d certainly complicate Abbie and Ichabod’s relationship if the Mills ladies had some Crane in their bloodline…
– Tonight’s subplot, flimsy enough that it didn’t seem worth a full recap section: Captain Irving has an adorable, wheelchair-bound daughter named Macy (played by the incredibly cute Amandla Stenberg, a.k.a. Rue!!), and he’s been neglecting her on account of Sleepy Hollow’s supernatural phenomena. His ex-wife Cynthia is going to ask for full custody if Irving doesn’t step up his paternal game. Meh; wake me when one of them turns out to be a werewolf.
– Also, while Ichabod and Abbie are stuck in the haunted house, adorable Macy mistakes Jenny for Irving’s girlfriend. Jenny, in response: “I’m not dating your dad. I don’t even really like your dad.” What’s the over/under on Jenny/Irving’s coupling, would you say?
– “French fries,” according to Ichabod, actually originated in the “Austrian Netherlands,” a.k.a. Belgium (from 1714-1790). The more you know!
– Crane’s true best line came when Abbie mentioned that Lena Gilbert used to date George Clooney. Ichabod, in response: “An Irishman?”
– So many scenes of people dramatically bursting through walls! At least Lena’s getting a head start on her big home renovation plan.
– Can we assume that those final shots of Ichabod wildly swinging his ax are Sleepy‘s take on American folk hero Paul Bunyan? (Note: This is a joke.)
– In two weeks, we get an episode titled “The Golem” — just a hair too late for Haunkkah! — and the return of John Noble. Eee!