The Outsider recap: Don't go into the woods
The search for Gibney is on.
“Into The Pines, Into The Pines” begins with a bug writhing in the dirt, completely helpless. It’s a tease. We’re left to wonder, is this the fate of Holly Gibney? Will she be the one left writhing in pain now that she’s stuck with the demonically possessed Jack?
The episode does a pretty good job of balancing the building tension with necessary plot development for most of its runtime. I say “most” of its runtime because things start to fall apart in the final third, as the plot points are rushed to get to the conclusion and move on to the next stage of the story. After last week’s episode, the only question on our minds is this: will Gibney manage to escape from Jack? That’s it.
“Into The Pines, Into The Pines” leaves that question unanswered for some time, and the episode is better for it. This is an episode that’s structured like a crime film; there’s a kidnapping, a plan, an escape, and an eventual reckoning. We spend a lot of time in the car with Gibney and Jack, and it works to the episode’s advantage. The tension is palpable. What’s fascinating is that Jack is fully aware of what’s happening to him. He’s not doing anything to hide it. Instead, he’s confiding in Gibney, asking her what could be haunting him and why it chose him, of all people. She tells him that this demonic being clearly focuses on people who are in pain, and that means Jack, with a life of pain behind him, is ripe for the taking. Now, he’s struggling to work against the being that’s controlling him and telling him to kill Gibney and derail this investigation. “But now I believe,” he says as he talks about the idea of there being some sort of supernatural evil in the world.
The episode isn’t exactly stuffed with plot developments, but it is a step up from the sluggish installments from the last two weeks. This is propulsive, engaging stuff. Everything with Glory is rather underwhelming —she goes back to work but loses it on her first clients of the day, clearly unable to handle being back in public just three weeks after the events that flipped her life upside down — but the rest is rather engaging, largely because the episode gets boiled down to the search for Gibney.
Ralph and Pelley are on the case, going to Jack’s motel room and seeing all the blood. They don’t know it’s from a brawl with his dead mother, courtesy of last week’s truly silly scene, so they assume the worst: that Jack has kidnapped Gibney and maybe plans to kill her, or has already killed her. They manage to ping their phones and trace their locations to a gas station. That’s where Gibney managed to escape from Jack, but they don’t know that. They simply see tire tracks and Gibney’s smashed cellphone. They’re still assuming the worst.
After all the contemplation and hesitation, this feels like The Outsider getting back to business. The narrative is shifting because Ralph is starting to question his logical approach to the case, an approach that may well suit the character, but has also managed to kill some of the show’s narrative momentum. So, after Pelley tells Ralph about a strange encounter he had in the woods as a child, the typically rational detective starts to question his view of the world. When Gibney shows up at the Anderson house having escaped from Jack — the abruptness of that moment is one of the episode’s only flaws, as it simply relieves the tension with little fanfare — and joins with Jeannie in chastising Ralph for not doing more to believe the unbelievable, Ralph really starts to wonder if his stubbornness is holding the case back. He visits with his therapist, and while he’s vague about the details, he’s clearly grappling with the idea that this case is going against everything he understands as a logical, rational cop. Now, he must step back into this world with a new perspective, and see if he can find the answers he’s looking for.
“Into The Pines, Into The Pines” works best when it’s ramping up the tension regarding Gibney’s fate, and when it’s contemplating how we, as rational humans who need structure and explanations, grapple with the inexplicable. This isn’t the best episode of the season, but it does snatch back the momentum from a couple weeks of dull, plodding episodes.