Previously: Will was in the lights and a body was in the lake.
Marines: HOW DARE ANYTHING BE TITLED THE BODY AND WITH A CHARACTER NAMED JOYCE. I’M ALREADY CRYING.
Samantha: Wow. WOW. Power move there, Stranger Things. Not sure if I’m okay with it.
Dani: I do not accept this.
Mari: Through my tears, I see that we start in the dark at the Byers house. Hopper and his deputies are looking around with flashlights and you can totally see how, in this light, things don’t look very good for Joyce, from the string lights to the alphabet on the wall. Hopper and Powell are in Will’s room. Powell asks, with deep skepticism in his voice, if this is the wall Joyce was talking about. Of course, there’s nothing there.
We flash to moments before (or later?) as Hopper breaks the news of the body they fished out of the quarry. Joyce can do nothing but stare at a wall in shock as Hopper explains that they think Will found his way to the quarry after crashing his bike. “The earth must’ve given way, Joyce,” and hasn’t it just been doing that for Joyce since we met her? Isn’t the earth just giving way for her now? (S: Paaaainfully clever, show.) (D: We see what you did there, show. You can stop now.)
Dani: I am desperately hoping Joyce and her maternal sixth sense is right, but man this does not look good.
Mari: Hopper sits Joyce down and tells her that after he lost his daughter, Sarah, he thought he saw and heard her too. He had to come to terms with the fact that it was all in his head. Joyce tells him he’s talking about grief. This is different. She knows she sounds crazy, but she needs Hopper to just believe her. Hopper doesn’t seem to, and tells her that she’ll have to go down to the morgue the next day to see the body for herself. Tonight, though, he suggests she get some sleep if she can.
Samantha: Tomorrow you might ID your son’s dead body in a morgue. SWEET DREAMS.
Dani: Whichever truth is correct, who the hell could sleep at this point???
Mari: Dude, I had trouble falling asleep after this episode.
Hopper leaves and starts his truck. He then seems to be too overwhelmed to drive (uh, been there man. Being #TeamFeels can be hard) and shuts it off again.
Dani: I like to think Hopper decides to hang out for awhile just in case Joyce isn’t making up the monster-in-the-wall thing. #TeamDelusion
Mari: That makes more sense than being too overwhelmed to drive, I guess.
Jonathan is in his bed, listening to music and crying.
Joyce thinks about going to talk to Jonathan, but instead stomps out to the shed, grabs an axe and comes back inside the house. She sits down on the couch by her alphabet and waits.
Dani: I really like the way Joyce is simultaneously an awful parent but also a totally BAMF parent.
Mari: She contains multitudes.
The Wheeler parents watch the news about the body found in the quarry. Papa Wheeler wonders if he should go downstairs and talk to Mike, but the basement actually exists in another dimension where parents cannot enter. Just kidding! Karen thinks they should give Mike some time. He’ll come to them (upstairs) when he’s ready.
Samantha: Maybe we should just head canon that part of Eleven’s powers is warding parents off. Like Hogwarts.
Mari: In the basement, Mike has at least let Eleven back in the house, so hooray! Mike is emoting over some drawings, while Eleven hangs out in her fort and fiddles with a walkie-talkie. Mike tells her to quit it, and when she doesn’t, he yells that she hurt him. Friends are supposed to tell each other the truth, and instead, she led him to believe that Will was alive. Eleven takes all of this in silence and keeps messing with the walkie-talkie. Suddenly, we hear Will’s voice come through. He’s singing Should I Stay or Should I Go. When Eleven looks up at Mike, we see that her nose is bleeding. Mike rushes over to her, and she hands over the walkie-talkie. Mike tries to talk to Will, but all he gets back is static. He asks Eleven if that was… And she answers with one word: Will.
Mike does not immediately give Eleven the apology that she deserves.
Joyce is asleep on the couch with her axe. Will calls out for her and she wakes up, but it’s a fake-out-wake-up, and she actually wakes up to poor, ignored Jonathan. He says that it’s almost 8 and they have to go to the morgue.
Mari: Karen goes to see her son in the morning. She asks how he’s doing and he says he doesn’t think he can go to school. Karen, the wonderful mother that she is, says that’s okay. He can bring a book to run her errands with her and then they can stop by the video store. Mike says he just wants to stay home. Karen makes sure he’ll be okay and tells him to call his father at work if he needs anything.
Samantha: I would be such a helicopter mom and take him with me anyway. Good on Karen for understanding space.
Mar: As soon as Karen is gone, Mike radios Lucas. At first, Lucas ignores the call, but Mike is persistent and annoying. Lucas finally answers that he’s not in the mood. Mike tells him this is about Will and he needs to get Dustin and get over to the Wheeler house.
Morgue. Hopper is waiting on the coroner. The receptionist apologizes and says that things are taking much longer without Gary around. This is news to Hopper, who asks where Gary is. The receptionist says that the “guys from State” sent him home and one of the state guys did the autopsy. Bless him, this rings some alarm bells for Hopper.
Samantha: Can we import Hopper, who I am finally coming around on, into other Traumaland TV?
Dani: Hold up. He’s still needed here.
Mari: A competent cop is in high demand around Traumaland.
Joyce and Jonathan are show the body. Jonathan gags and runs off. Joyce the Hero keeps her calm and asks the coroner to show her the birthmark he has on his right arm.
Out in the waiting room, Jonathan is waiting with Hopper now. Hopper asks after Joyce and how long the thing with the lights and the wall has been going on. Jonathan admits that it started with the first phone call. He’s worried because Joyce has had anxiety problems in the past. He starts to say that this is worse, but ends up saying that he and his mom will be all right. She’s tough. Hopper agrees that she is. (D: FEEEEEEELS.)
On cue, Joyce comes storming out, refusing to sign the death certificate. She yells at the coroner that she doesn’t know what he thinks that thing is, but it isn’t her son. Hopper tells her to wait, but Joyce will not.
Hawkin’s High. Nancy is trying to tell Steve about the thing she saw in the woods behind his house—the thing with no face. He’s way more concerned with the fact that the police are going to want to talk to him, Tommy and Carol now, and his parents are going to be pissed. Nancy cannot believe his priorities and stomps away (lots of stomping this episode) when he suggests not mentioning the beers to the cops. At least Nancy seems to be on team #Justice4Barb now, even though it does come now that she’s totally murdered.
Samantha: Is this show planning on making me come around on Steve the way it has on Hopper? Cause he just sucks. And it’s interesting because the stakes of this show are so high, we have legit evil bad guys, so Steve is just a boring lame teenage boy.
Mari: And somehow it’s still the worst.
Joyce is walking. Jonathan is following with the car. He asks her to get in, but she wants to walk and have some time to think. Jonathan parks and runs after her and they get into a shouting match. She says again that she know she sounds crazy because it is crazy. But she heard Will and she’s not going to stop until she brings him home. Jonathan shouts back that while she’s messing with the lights, he’ll be planning Will’s funeral because he won’t leave him in a freezer for another day. Their shouting has attracted a crowd and Jonathan yells that the show is over as he and his mom walk off in opposite directions.
Dani: Oof. Ooof, ooof, ooof. This is some great writing and acting, because I see both their points 100%, and my heart aches for both of them.
Mari: The bit about Jonathan being unwilling to leave his little brother’s body in a freezer for another day especially hit me.
Elsewhere, we have the same kind of argument happening all over again. We hear some vague whining on the radio before it gives way to static. Lucas, ever the skeptic, doesn’t believe that he heard anything and can’t believe Mike is entertaining this idea. Dustin, the more open peacemaker, says that it did kind of sound like Will. Lucas reminds them about the body in the quarry. Mike doesn’t know what that is, but he’s convinced Will is alive and they can find him. They need to get Eleven to a stronger radio. Dustin suggests the Heathkit ham shack at school. Lucas points out the difficulty in getting Eleven into the school unnoticed.
And then, something I never expected: a makeover montage. Mike applies a little makeup while Dustin and Lucas find a wig and a dress.
Laboratory, UCASE floor. A man in a yellow suit gets strapped into the machine we saw being brought in last episode. He checks in with the people behind the observation window, one of them being Dr. Brennar, who wishes him good luck. And the machine is an anchor/lift of sorts because in the man goes into the gooey alien portal.
I’m officially convinced it isn’t an alien, like outer space alien, but those alien sound effects are going strong. Plus, I like UCASE.
Dani: This is a Snark Squad-approved moniker. Too late to change it now.
Mari: It’s definitely too good for the Nickname Graveyard.
Hawkins High. Nancy is not listening in class as her teacher gives a plot appropriate lesson, or at least a plot appropriate quote from the plot appropriately named Heart of Darkness. Class is interrupted by the principal calling Nancy out of class.
In the cafeteria, Deputies Callahan and Powell question Nancy in the presence of her mother. Nancy tells a PG version of the events: Barb wanted to go home, Nancy didn’t want to, Nancy told Barb to just go home, and Nancy went upstairs to get into some dry clothes. The deputies asks about the “bear” she saw in the woods the next day, but Nancy says she wasn’t sure it was a bear. It was something else, and she thinks it took Barb. She asks them to check back there, but the deputies dismiss her and say they already looked. (S: Good on her for going the Joyce Bravery route and telling the truth.) Not only did they find nothing in the woods, but Barb’s car is missing. They ask if maybe Barb ran off or if maybe she was mad about Nancy spending time with Steve Harrington, or maybe she was jealous when Nancy went up to Steve’s room. Nancy says that it isn’t like that. She’s just friends with Steve. Callahan condescendingly asks if this is before or after she changed out of her clothes. I want to punch him in the slut shaming mouth. I expected excellent mama Wheeler to speak up, Mama Hastings style, but she just looks on in silence.
DEFEND YOUR DAUGHTER.
Also, people not believing other people telling the truth is an absolutely frustrating and infuriating device and this episode is rife with it. I’m tired like I’m running a marathon.
Samantha: I’m so glad you got mad about Karen. C’MON KAREN. You’ve been doing so well. And yeah, it was one thing when it happened once an episode with Joyce, for effect, but I really hope some people start being convinced soon.
Dani: Same, same.
Mari: At the police department, Gary the coroner is talking to Hopper. He explains that there were 6 State Troopers who kicked him out and claimed jurisdiction. Gary thought it was a little much, considering this was “just” the death of a local boy. Hopper sighs, thanks Gary and turns his attention to the TV, where a State Trooper is saying people should feel safe because the Will thing was an isolated incident.
Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven bike to school. Mike tells the gang not to forget to look sad if anyone catches them. They arrive at the unfortunate time when everyone is gathering at the gym for an assembly in Will’s honor. They find the door to the AV Closet locked, and even worse, Mr. Clarke just around the corner. The boys adlib about being really sad and upset and needing alone time to cry. Mr. Clarke gets it, but suggests being there for Will now. He tosses them the keys, though, and says the AV Closet is theirs for the rest of the day. Mr. Clarke finally notices Eleven and asks who she is. The boys adlib that this is Mike’s cousin, in town for the funeral. Mr. Clarke asks what her name is and she starts to say Eleven, but Mike yells Eleanor! He asks where she’s from and she says, “bad place,” which the boys offer is actually Sweden, which is very badly cold. Subzero, even. (D: I giggled. This could have come off as silly, but it was actually pretty cute.) Mr. Clarke asks if they should head to the assembly and off the go.
They walk into the middle of assembly, loudly.
Samantha: They must have rolled terrible Stealth. Sorry, sorry, I’ll tone down the D&D.
Karen and Nancy are home now. Karen yells at Nancy for lying to the police, asking how naïve she thinks her mother is with the “just talking.” Nancy admits that she slept with Steve, but it doesn’t make any difference at all. Barb is missing and something horrible happened to her and no one is listening to her. Karen insists that she’s listening to her daughter, but Nancy says she isn’t and stomps upstairs.
Samantha: Not sure how her sleeping with Steve is at all relevant to Barb, Karen. Damn.
Mari: I feel for Karen in that she’s taking umbrage at being lied to, but Nancy is right: she isn’t listening. If Karen were, she would know that the lies and the Steve thing don’t matter right now, in context.
In her room, Nancy pulls out the pieces of the photo she took from Jonathan. She cries over them for a moment before noticing something in one of the pieces. She works to put the photo back together and tape it all up. In the photo, just behind Barb at the edge of the pool, there is a human like-figure. I turned up my brightness and paused and studied it and everything. All I got was grainy vaguely human-like figure, not that that’s news to us.
Laboratory. Dr. Brennar and his team are trying to reach the man, Shepard, who went into the portal. He radios back that he’s about one click away from the lift and everything is covered in blood and very hard to see. Shepard, if you die, it’s really no one’s fault but your own. Once you hit “low visibility and covered in blood,” that is officially abort mission o’clock. (D: A+) (D: Also, Snark Lady advice saves lives, Shepard!)
All that’s coming through the radio now is heaving breathing. Then Shepard says that something else is in the portal. We hear lots of growling. The team tries to pull Shepard back in, but the UCASE gets him. The Lift brings nothing back but a bloody hunk of something I’m guessing is metal. I don’t want to believe it’s anything but metal LA LA LA LA. (S: Don’t worry, the blanket fort muffles scary truths.)
Assembly. The principal introduces the grief counselor. In the stands, Mike can’t get over the hypocrisy of those in attendance. Lucas agrees that most of them probably didn’t know Will’s name before today. A bit away from them, the school bullies mock the assembly. Eleven leans past Mike to see them and astutely calls them mouth-breathers. She’s a quick learner, that one.
After the assembly is dismissed, Mike confronts the bullies, stammering a little, but building up his courage to say that it isn’t funny. Troy, the bully who gets a name, says that at last now Will is in “fairyland” with all the other fairies because lol homophobia. The bullies start to walk away, but Mike screws up more courage and pushes Troy down. Troy stands and moves to retaliate, but he seems to hit an invisible wall and then starts peeing on himself. ARE WE TO BELIEVE ELEVEN JUST SQUEEZED SOME PEE VIA TELEKINESIS? WHAT.
Dani: I could have a lot of fun with this sort of power.
Everyone gathered laughs and laughs. Mike looks back at Eleven who smiles and wipes her bloody nose. The principal finally notices the commotion and everyone scurries. The other bully abandons Troy and his wet pants and pee puddle.
Jonathan is being shown options for coffins, but stops when he sees Nancy walk into the home. He leaves the salesman to talk to her. Joyce told Nancy Jonathan would be here. They go out to the hall to talk. Nancy shows him the photo and, he says it is weird, but it could just be a perspective distortion since he wasn’t using the wide angle lens. All Jonathan saw that night was that one second Barb was there and the next she bolted. Nancy say the police think she ran off too, but that isn’t like Barb. Nancy also tells Jonathan about what she saw in the woods, but then seems to realize she’s telling him all this while he’s shopping for coffins. She apologizes and starts to leave, but Jonathan is intrigued. Doesn’t this all just sound too familiar? He asks Nancy what she saw in the woods, what the man looked like. Nancy struggles to say what it was but she doesn’t need to. Jonathan finishes her thought: a man with no face. I practically cheered at this part! People! Talking! Exchanging information! BELIEVING.
Samantha: Go go go!!!! Keep doing this!
Dani: YES! THANK YOU for not dragging this out!
Mari: Hopper is at a bar aptly named the Hideaway, sitting next to a guy watching a game. He orders another drink for himself and this guy, and then pretends to be celebrating the fact that his daughter won a spelling bee. Bar man looks unamused and then blandly asks what Hopper’s daughter’s name is. You think maybe he’s onto Hopper’s act, but he actually just wants to cheers. To Sarah. You can tell this has become quickly uncomfortable for Hopper. Only for a moment because next he asks where he recognizes Bar Man from. BM (D: heh) is quick to answer that he’s been on the news for finding the Byers boy out in that state run property. He calls it dumb luck that he did. Hopper drops the accent a little and the nice guy act and says that the property is actually privately owned. Hopper asks Bar Man why he’s lying. Bar Man tells Hopper to stick his nose somewhere else because the boy is dead and that’s all that matters. Bar Man throws down some cash and “thanks” Hopper for ruining the game. Hopper downs the rest of his drink.
We cut outside where Hopper is now punching the shit out of Bar Man and demanding to know who told him to be out at the quarry. (D: YES AGAIN! omg, people talking AND Hopper investigating! I love this episode!) Bar Man says he doesn’t know. He was just told to call the body in and not let anyone get too close to it. Hopper asks who this guy works for. Bar Man looks over Hopper’s shoulder to a black car. Hopper asks who that is, but Bar Man only says that Hopper is going to get them both killed. Hopper runs closer to the car, which drives off, and Bar Man takes the chance to also take off.
Byers House. Joyce plays Should I Stay or Should I Go and yells at Will to talk to her.
The boys go into the AV Closet and start up the radio. The static throws Eleven into a trauma flashback. This time she’s at the table with a picture of a man in front of her. Dr. Brennar asks her to find him. She asks, “hurt him?” and Brennar tells her no. He just wants her to listen to him and repeat back his words. Eleven concentrates and we see that in a room somewhere else in the lab, a man is reading out a list of words. Brennar tells Eleven to repeat them to him, but instead, she cuts the lights and turns on the PA system so that they can hear the man himself. There would be a joke in here about overachieving IF THIS WEREN’T ABOUT CHILD ABUSE.
Sorry, Eleven trauma-backs make me emotional.
Dani: Emotional outburst approved.
Mari: In the present, Eleven is concentrating still. The lights cut out and on the radio, the boys hear some clanging sounds.
In her house, Joyce hears the same clanging. And from the walls, she hears Will calling out for her. In the AV Closet, the boys hear Will, calling out to his mother. Joyce runs outside, but there is nothing there. Back inside, she starts clawing at the wall paper and rips it off, revealing a window into the portal. Will is on the other side. Joyce asks where he is and he says that it’s like their house, but dark and cold. The boys hear all of this as well. The monster is coming, so Joyce tells Will that she will find a way to get him out but right now he has to run. He has to run and hide. The window starts closing up and we see Will run away.
Samantha: I really like that this isn’t just the “kids believe and the adults don’t” trope. We have 3 sets of people who believe and are investigating and I’m really hoping they’ll all eventually come together.
Dani: I have questions about this window to the other world opening. Did Eleven create the opening via the ham radio/telekinesis/whatever? Was there no way Joyce could, I dunno… punch through and drag Will into their house? And most importantly, where does she find the strength to make him run and hide after coming THAT close to having him back? #MommyFeels
Mari: In the AV Closet, the lights turn back on, the radio sparks until there’s a fire. Dustin grabs the extinguisher and puts out the fire, but the school alarm blares on. Eleven is frozen in her seat and can’t seem to move. The boys help her up and we see them pushing her out of the school on a cart.
Joyce grabs her axe and attacks the wall, breaking clear through to the other side, nothing out of the ordinary in her walls. She sobs.
Darkroom. Jonathan is brightening and enlarging the photo of Barb. Nancy asks if he’s been into photography for a while. Jonathan says he’d rather capture moments than talk to people because people are the worst. I paraphrased and added a little bit of my own philosophy in there, but you get the idea. (D: Accurate.) Jonathan apologizes for taking naked pictures of Nancy (S: Needed apology is needed.), but her attention has gone to the developed photo, where we can now more clearly see the UCASE. Jonathan thought his mom was crazy, because she said that Will was alive. And if Will is alive, maybe Barb is too.
Hopper drives to the coroner’s office. There is a state trooper posted outside of the autopsy room. Hopper tries to lie his way inside, but has to resort to punching again. He finds the body and looks suspicious after touching it. He takes a deep breath, pulls out a pocket knife and makes a cut. What he finds is cotton stuffing. If only this were 2017 and he could take a phone pic, man.
Hopper’s next stop on his breaking, entering and punching tour is the Hawkins National Laboratory. And cut to black.
I’m so happy that midway through this recap/episode, I talked about how all the non-belief was getting to me, because this episode really ramped it up to bring it to a satisfying turnaround. Jonathan is starting to believe his mother. The boys are starting to believe Mike and Eleven. And Hopper is starting to believe Joyce. It was so nice to see these pieces coming together when there are still so many things unknown. I also really like that a lot of the things that started off trope-y in the pilot are getting fleshed out. Hopper’s drunk cop is turning into astute, brave, punchy, investigating cop. Joyce’s frantic mom is turning into astute, brave, axe-y, investigating mom. (Seriously, Joyce is a hero.) (S: Sincerely.) Even Nancy is swinging back towards a place where I like and appreciate her more. I love her convictions, like I love Joyce’s, because it is those convictions that ground the story.
Sometimes, though, the supernatural bits are more believable than the every day details. From Eleven walking out in a rather ridiculous wig and getting no more than passing questioning, to the principal being RIGHT THERE while Eleven telekinesis bullies the bullies, to the seriously will any Wheeler ever go in that basement? sometimes this show loses the very minor details. It’s a quibble, though, because over all, still brilliant.
Next time on Stranger Things: Nancy and Jonathan go after the UCASE in S01 E05 – The Flea and the Acrobat.