Quentin's worst fears come to haunt him — and it's thanks to Julia
Unfortunately for Quentin, looking for the key within these scraps of paper will have to wait when he’s forced to attend music therapy, where he again rebels against this world. Assuming that everyone around him stems from his mind, the spell trapping him within his own thoughts, he decides to take the lead in class by breaking out into Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” But Quentin isn’t just trying to have some fun in this miserable world. He’s testing its limits, noticing that this world’s Penny is just as bothered as the real world’s Penny was by Quentin’s rendition of the pop hit. As expected, it sends the janitor Penny running from the class’ take on Swift’s tune, giving Quentin an idea of how to escape — if escape is even possible.
But Quentin’s mention of wanting to reach out to the real Penny for help forces him to come face to face with another of this world’s unexpected twists. Taken back to the doctor’s office, Quentin’s father comes in, an injury on his face puzzling his son.
The doctor and Quentin’s dad show him a video of Quentin chained to a table, shouting about The Beast, which he attempted to kill. But, Quentin is told, he wasn’t attacking The Beast. He had a break during a dinner while his family celebrated his Yale acceptance, and he went after his father with a knife, thinking him to be the moth-covered monstrosity.
This revelation shocks Quentin back into the world around him. He becomes frozen, locked in a familiar position no matter what room he’s in, seemingly having given in to the idea that he did in fact dream up the entire reality of Brakebills. A return visit from Julia, in which she says this will all be over soon has no effect on him, either, and an unexpected sign signals she might be correct. Penny — the real Penny — appears in the world.
Finding Quentin, he shoves him after having come into contact with the racist portrayal of him in the ward. And that push brings Quentin back to life rather than giving in to the illusion around him. No one but Quentin can see Penny, who can’t go to sleep in the real world. Quentin tells him to find him wherever he is and wake him, and Penny does just that.
It’s not Penny who discovers Quentin but Kady…and that’s because she’s been in on the spell causing Quentin’s dream state. Created by Marina and Julia, the spellwork showed Julia how good high-level, cooperative magic could feel, but the reality of it is causing her to feel anything but good. Marina implies that Quentin is stuck in this fugue state for, well, ever, and the reason for doing so is more than just a little payback on Julia’s part.
Marina wants to break into Brakebills, and Quentin’s ailment is just the catalyst she needs. Kady plays her part, helping Penny, Eliot, and the others to find Quentin knocked out in a closet. All the while, Quentin is looking for a way out via Jane’s suggestion, and eventually he puts together the torn up pages to read the story of the Madness Maker, a Fillory character who drives everyone else insane and looks like a cross between a Juggalo and the Mad Hatter. Quentin must do something, but whatever answer the book holds is missing on another page.
And now, Quentin has gotten in trouble for stealing hospital keys, so his search is short lived, as he’s taken to a surgical room where he’s to be given a lobotomy. In the outside world, Dean Fogg has been alerted to Quentin’s condition, and he’s prepared to perform some complicated magic to help him. The spell, a Scarloti Web, can only be broken by the person under its pull, but those outside of the web can do something to help. Fogg employs an enchanted scorpion, which burrows its way into Quentin’s mouth and thus into the illusionary world of his mind.
In doing so, Quentin has to undo all of the wards and enchantments surrounding Brakebills, which opens it up to preying outsiders, like Julia and Marina. While remaining mum on the bigger, better magic she’s hoping to accomplish (though book fans might have an idea of what that includes), Marina does reveal to Julia why they’re breaking in.
NEXT: Is Quentin lost to Marina and Julia’s spell forever?