Previously: Nancy went via tree into the Vale of Shadows.
Marines: I wrote the first 3 episodes about a week in advance, but since then, I’ve been writing these recaps pretty much one a day. Like always, I had wonderful plan-ahead plans and then life went LOL. Anyway, the point is that even with slowing down enough to recap, this has been an emotional roller-coaster. And yes, I’m already freaking out before I’ve even pressed play on the episode.
Samantha: Nancy, R U OK?
Mari: We pick up right in the same place, with Jonathan in the woods, yelling for Nancy, who is in the Upside Down, yelling for Jonathan. They can hear each other vaguely and cutting between the shadowy world and our world, the two of them presumably passing alongside each other in different dimensions is so creepy.
Jonathan follows Nancy’s voice back to the tree with the portal opening. He eyes the alien goo warily, calling into the portal. Nancy is nearby, hiding from the monster, having also spotted the opening through which she came in.
Dani: NOW STICK TOGETHER, DAMMIT!!!
Mari: RED LETTERS.
Steve, Tommy and Carol are going to Nancy’s house ’cause Steve is worried about her. Tommy and Carol make fun of him for it, and he snaps at them to shut up. (S: Snap at them more, Steve. They suck.) He parks outside the Wheeler house, tells his friends he’ll BRB, and climbs up to Nancy’s window. He peaks in and sees Jonathan sitting on Nancy’s bed with her, putting a blanket over her shoulders gently. Very quickly, Steve has become the one outside the window, looking in.
Dani: Maybe you shouldn’t have been such a dick about Barb, Steve.
Mari: Das all I’m saying.
Byers House. Joyce and Hopper are sitting together and he’s once again going over everything he saw in the laboratory. This time, he mentions the drawing he saw in the kid’s prison room. Joyce stops on the detail and asks if the drawing was any good. Hopper says it was stick figures Joyce stands and grabs Will the Wise drawing, with the green fireballs. She shows it to Hopper and says stick figures ain’t Will. Hopper has a thought. He grabs the article about Terry Ives and her lost child and tells Joyce about the kid seen with Benny before he was killed. All this time, Hopper has been searching for Will, he’s been following around some other kid.
Nancy takes a shower, but keeps having trauma-backs as you would IF YOU ENTERED A SHADOW DIMENSION AND SAW A FACELESS MONSTER. Like, she’s actually holding up pretty damn well because you guys would not believe the DRAMA that would become my entire existence had I entered a shadow dimension and seen a faceless monster. I mean, maybe you would believe it because you’ve seen how much caps lock I use just writing about it.
Samantha: I would live eternally in a bubble of blankets, never to feel the sun’s warm light on my face again. Adieu, dear sun.
Dani: I’d use it as my go-to excuse for all the things. “I’d like to help you move, but you know… shadow dimension.”
Mari: I’d like to call that a Snark Squad Excuse for Any Occasion, but that one’s real valid.
Out in Nancy’s room, Jonathan is rolling out a sleeping bag. Nancy comes back into the room and he asks her if this is okay. He can go home, he just figured… Nancy says it’s all right. She doesn’t want to be alone. They both get into their respective beds very awkwardly, Jonathan clutching the gun inside his sleeping bag. After just a moment, Nancy asks if he can just share the bed with her. He seems a little taken aback, but agrees, bringing the gun with him. He asks if she wants the lights off, but she wants to keep them on. He gently tells her that the monster can’t get them in here. It’s a sweet thing to say, especially considering we know he doesn’t fully believe it; he’ still clutching that gun. Nancy says they can’t know that. Jonathan turns toward Nancy, and they both look like they will never sleep again.
Elsewhere in the house, Mike is brooding in the basement. He looks over at the fort he made for Eleven and once again loses his temper, tearing it down and kicking the pieces.
Samantha: IDK, a little over Mike’s temper too, even if I do sort of understand it.
Dani: You can be shouty, Mike, or you can be kicky, but you can’t be both.
Mari: Words to live by.
Hopper is in a payphone booth. He gives the person on the other line Terry Ives’s name and gets some information in return. Hopper goes back to the car– Joyce’s car– and tells Joyce he’s got it.
Jonathan did actually fall asleep. He wakes up in the morning to Nancy sitting up in bed, rustling through some papers. Nancy wasn’t able to sleep because every time she closed her eyes, she saw the monster. She thinks that wherever she went, the monster lives and feeds in there. And if that’s where Will and Barbara are…
Jonathan cuts off her thought and says that Joyce spoke to Will recently, so if he’s alive, Barb could still be, too. Nancy says in that case, Barb is trapped in that place. They have to get back there. Jonathan is kind of surprised that Nancy would want to go back out to the woods, but Nancy says maybe they don’t have to. Nancy’s got a book about animals out and starts talking through what they know: the monster is a night-time predator like a coyote, but hunts alone like bear. Last night in the woods, the monster grabbed the deer. And at Steve’s place, Barb cut her hand, so it can detect blood like a shark. Nancy kind of self consciously says that it’s just a theory. Jonathan says they could test it, but if they do… He leaves the possibility of monster time hanging open. Nancy says at least they will know it’s coming.
Dani: Sure, let’s lure the coyote-bear-shark-alien monster into our dimension because there’s no way that could end poorly. The ’80s, man.
Mari: The door knob rattles, causing Jonathan and Nancy to both jump and cling to each other. Karen calls for Nancy, saying she’s made blueberry pancakes. Nancy says she’ll be down in a minute. Karen leaves, and Nancy and Jonathan both sigh and awkwardly release each other. Jonathan asks, “your mom doesn’t knock?” and Nancy smiles.
Segue Magic to knocking. We see that a suspicious woman is knocking on Mr. Clarke’s door. She asks if he’s Steve Clarke who teaches AV Club. (D: I am so scared right now because isn’t this the same woman who shot Benny? Don’t make us start a Justice4Clarke hashtag, show!) Clarke lets her in and she tells him about some state-wide AV club with a newsletter and everything, playing right into his naive, geeky heart. Suspicious AF asks if maybe Mr. Clarke knows of any kids who might be interested, and he knows just the children. CLARKE, NO. GATHER UP SOME HEALTHY SUSPICION.
Dustin joins Mike in the basement. Mike can’t believe that Eleven didn’t come back. He knows that Eleven messed with the compass, but she was just trying to protect them. Dustin tells him to calm down because this isn’t his fault. Mike’s like, “yeah. It’s Lucas’s.” Dustin says it wasn’t his fault either. Mike can’t believe Dustin just said that, but Dustin, lovable fave that he is, says that Mike, Lucas and Eleven were all acting like little assholes and he was the only reasonable one. (S: Accurate, although I have a little more patience for Eleven’s behavior.) (D: I mean, she’s spent her entire life being tortured in a lab, so maybe cut her some slack?) The bottom line is that Mike pushed first and he knows the rules when you draw first blood. Mike says no way is he shaking Lucas’s hand, but Dustin insists. It’s the rule of law that must be followed lest the party be broken up. Dustin grabs his things and says they are going to Lucas’s and then they are going to find Eleven.
Dani: Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly love Dustin any more than I already did…
Mari: Traumaback. Eleven is on her cot bed in her prison cell. She wakes up when someone enters her room and is immediately freaking out. Fair, ’cause it’s Dr. Brennar, bringing her a little plant as a gift, though I’m almost certain he stole that from some intern’s desk on his walk here. He tells her that today is a special day because today they are going to make contact. He boops her on the nose and I want her to telekinesis his finger off.
Eleven wakes up in the present in the woods. It’s so quiet and lonely. She walks to a pool of water and uses the reflection to put her bad wig back on. She considers the reflection for a second before pulling the wig off again. She screams a growl of a scream at herself. The water blasts away from her and birds skedaddle from a nearby tree.
Wheeler House. Karen is feeding precious Holly some pancakes. (D: Those are not blueberry pancakes, Karen! And you wonder why Nancy doesn’t trust you.) Ted asks where Nancy is and what’s taking her so long to come downstairs. Karen goes to find out. We hear music playing inside Nancy’s room, but the door is still locked. Karen pulls a bobby pin out of her hair and unlocks the door. (S: That’s an unexpected #MomSkill.) (D: *makes mental note to start using bobby pins*) The room is empty, the window is open and the mother, crestfallen.
Dustin and Mike make it to Lucas’s house. He opens the door and at Dustin’s prompting, Mike extends his hand for a shake. Inside, Lucas says he’s willing to shake on the condition that they forget “the weirdo” and go straight to the gate. Mike says no deal, they yell FINE! at each other, and Dustin has to step in again. He reminds them what happened on the Bloodstone Pass when they decided to split ways and trolls took them out one by one and they were all disabled. They need to stick together. Lucas agrees, but thinks their party is right here, in this room. Mike says Eleven is one of them, but Lucas thinks the heck not. She could’ve killed him, accident or not. Mike says that’s why they need her– she’s a weapon. Ouch. I know Mike’s just trying to reason with Lucas, but Eleven is not a weapon!!!
Samantha: These boys are lucky that they have Dustin because otherwise they’re losing me.
Dani: They’re both equally stubborn and equally certain they’re right and the other is wrong.
Mari: Lucas doesn’t buy the weapon thing, anyway. He says he’s not spending his time looking for a traitor when they could be looking for Will. He says he’s going to the gate alone.
Eleven finds a supermarket. As soon as she walks in, she attracts attention. The looks she’s getting send her into a traumaback: The rsensory deprivation tank room is full of people who Dr. Brennar says are just friends, here to watch. He tells her not to focus on them, but to stay in her head. He tells her that whatever she sees can’t hurt her. It’s reaching out to her and this time, she isn’t to turn away from it. Dr. Brennar wants her to find it. Eleven goes into the tank and she’s back in the black place.
In the present, a store manager asks if she’s lost. Eleven looks dead at him and calls him a mouth-breather.
Mari: He’s even standing in front of a big ICE CREAM sign.
She spots the Eggo Waffles and grabs arm fulls. The store manager tells her she has to pay for those, but Eleven keeps on walking, using her telekinesis to slow the manager’s pursuit of her and finally shatter the glass sliding doors behind her. This was the first time I noticed that the sound effects for her telekinesis sound an awful like the alien sound effects for the UCASE.
Samantha: I appreciate Eleven using her power for food.
Mari: I mean, it’s actual priorities.
Joyce and Hopper arrive at Terry Ives’s house. Her sister answers the door and reluctantly lets them in, but mostly because she doesn’t think this will help them much. They are about 5 years too late. In the living room, Joyce tells Terry that her son is missing and they want to talk about Jane. Terry doesn’t answer and only barely reacts. Hopper asks what’s wrong with her and Terry’s sister says that they are wasting their time.
Lucas prepares a survival bag and ties a camo bandana around his head. (D: Also from ‘Nam?) Outside, he grabs his bike and spots the Sketchy Technician with the Skeevy White Van (I’m pretty sure I’ve called him about 100 variations of that by now…) parked outside his house. The man waves and after a second of hesitation, Lucas waves back and takes off.
Dustin and Mike ride together, and Dustin says it’s weird without Lucas. Mike thinks Lucas should’ve shaken his hand. Dustin says Lucas is just jealous because they are best friends and then Eleven shows up and starts living in his basement, and all Mike wants to do is pay attention to her. Mike says that isn’t true, but Dustin says it definitely is and they both know it, but no one wanted to talk about it until it came to blows.
Ives House. Becky Ives is telling Hopper that Terry joined some kind of study in college. “MK Ultra,” Hopper guesses, and he’s right. Becky explains that they gave people like her sister psychedelic drugs and would put them in isolation tanks, all with the goal of expanding the mind. She clarifies that no one made Terry do anything, but she didn’t know at the time that she was pregnant. Joyce asks for a picture of Jane, but Becky tells her that they don’t understand. Terry miscarried in the third trimester. (D: Whaaaaaa????) Becky takes them upstairs to a nursery and tells them that Terry pretends like Jane is real. She asks if they’ve ever read any Stephen King and lol. Yeah, we get it bros. Terry thinks Jane was born with abilities. We get an abrupt cut to Eleven throwing back the orderlies trying to lock her in her cell. Becky laughs at Hopper and Joyce for looking so scared about this. Joyce asks what abilities exactly and Becky answers telepathy and telekenisis and we get additional cuts to Eleven murdering people and pushing things around with her mind, in case we don’t get that Eleven is really Jane Ives. Joyce asks if there’s anyway that Terry could’ve given birth, but Becky’s like, “um, no.” (S: I beg to disagree, Becky.) (D: Yes, I do not accept this.)
Lucas follows his compass all the way to the fenced off border of Hawkins National Laboratory.
Jonathan and Nancy are shopping in an army surplus store. The cashier gives them a look when they put down the bear traps and ask for bullets, but laughs it off when Nancy says they are monster hunting.
Samantha: Seriously though, can you sell bullets to minors?
Dani: It’s Indiana in 1983. We didn’t even have tamper-resistant packaging for Tylenol yet. Bullets were probably like stocking stuffers, or something.
Mari: Outside, Nancy thinks it’s so weird that last week she was shopping for a top Steve might like with Barb and this weekend she is shopping for bear traps with Jonathan Byers. Jonathan asks what the weirdest part is and she smirks that it’s definitely him. Someone drives by, honks, and tells Nancy that he can’t wait to see her movie. Jonathan asks what that’s about. Nancy doesn’t know, but she’s scared, and kind of pieces it together quickly. She’s pulled back into that high school drama she just said felt so far away and takes off running, Jonathan following, until they reach the theater where the marquee reads “All the Right Moves” and spray-painted underneath “starring Nancy the slut Wheeler.”
Nancy hears familiar voices in the alley next to the theater, and sure enough, there are Tommy, Carol, Steve and Nicole the Snitch. Tommy is spray-painting something about Jonathan being a perv. Nancy slaps Steve (IN THE FACE) and asks what his problem is. Jonathan arrives, and Nancy figures out that Steve must’ve stopped by and seen them together. She tries to explain that it wasn’t like that, but Steve gets in her face and asks what it was like. She cowers and doesn’t know what to say AND OMG I KNEW I HATED STEVE. (D: Steve! No!)
Can I just say: I went pretty easy on Steve for being just kind of bland, boring, generic. Some of that was FOR SURE influenced by the fact that I saw Tumblr edits for Nancy + Steve, and I got it into my head that he took a turn for the better later on? I mean, he still might, but here we are, after he’s taken a turn for the worst and at this point, he could pull Will from the Shadow Vale and I wouldn’t be able to forgive this knee-jerk slut shaming.
Samantha: I am FURIOUS. Yep, he has escalated beyond “ugh he’s a dumb teenage boy” to “YOU ARE A PIECE OF SHIT”. Lots of people have told me that he gets better but like? This is awful? I don’t think I’m going to care when he learns about the monster and sees the error of his ways.
Dani: I agree with you both, looking at this with 2017 eyes. I just wish we were this enlightened back in 1983. I probably would’ve made better dating decisions…
Mari: Sorry not sorry, Steve. All I’ve got is 2017 eyes.
Joyce and Hopper leave the Ives’ residence. Joyce gets one last look at Terry, and the feeling I get that she seems something reflected there is confirmed in the car when Joyce thinks about what it would mean to be looking for your child for 12 years. Hopper reminds her that Jane was spotted at Benny’s a week ago, so it’s a chance and a hope. He would give anything for a chance. A call comes through the radio about the fight. Callahan asks if Hopper knows where Joyce is.
At the station, the secretary prepares some ice for Jonathan. Nancy asks how long they’ll be there, and the secretary says um probably a while seeing as how Jonathan “assaulted an officer” (hardly). The secretary calls Jonathan her boyfriend, which Nancy objects to. Secretary says she should let him know that he isn’t, because only love makes you that stupid. That may be true, but I would say it was love of Will that made Jonathan pound Steve’s face. #siblingfeels (S: AGREED. Sibling love is powerful.)
Nancy takes Jonathan the ice and helps him ice his face. She’s kind of bashful and awkward about it.
In the woods, Eleven eats her cold Eggo waffles. Desperate times, I guess. She hears Mike and Dustin calling for her. They hear something too, but unfortunately for them it’s The Bullies, and the one that peed himself has a switchblade. Dustin and Mike run, dropping their bikes in a way that mirrors Will in the pilot.
Lucas is still making his way around the fence and following the compass. He realizes that whatever he’s trying to get to is behind the fence. He climbs a tree and uses his binoculars to peek over the gate toward the lab. He sees intimidating things like satellites, armored trucks and those shady as shit white vans.
Mike and Dustin keep running, but the Bullies split up and corner them. Mike and Dustin try to make a stand, but Pee Bully (I know they named him, but damn if I remember…) (D: I think his name is Troy, but Pee Bully is much, much better.) grabs Dustin and holds him at knife point. There is a lot of yelling and threatening, but basically Pee Bully tells Mike to jump from the nearby ledge into the quarry, or Dustin’s going to lose his teeth. We knew this ledge would be significant because a few episodes ago, Hopper stood here and told us no one could survive that jump.
Samantha: These school bullies escalated to death and maiming very quickly.
Dani: Another nod to Stephen King and It.
Mari: Mike goes all the way to the edge and braces himself. Pee Bully gives him a countdown and even though Dustin is yelling for him not to do it, Mike steps off. The Bullies and Dustin all run to the edge and peer over. There, they see Mike just floating in midair. And then he floats back up towards them and over their heads. Mike looks to his left and sure enough, there is Eleven, walking towards them like a badass, in full on cowboy showdown stance. The heroic 80’s music starts up and everything. Eleven pushes down Other Bully and breaks Pee Bully’s arm to get him to drop the knife. She tells them to go and the Bullies run off. Dustin yells after them that this is their friend and if they ever come back, she’ll kill them.
Dani: This is so 80’s and I just love it:
In the present, Eleven apologizes to Mike. She tells him that she was the one who opened the gate. She’s the monster. But Mike knows better. He tells her that she isn’t. She saved him. Mike pulls her up and hugs her. Dustin joins. I cry over the image of them all huddled and hugging. (S: It’s very nice.) (D: FEELS.)
It’s a haunting shot to leave off on in an episode called “The Monster.” We only ever saw as much of the monster as we’ve ever seen in this episode, because what we learn is that it’s a predator. I don’t know if we’ll see more nefarious things from the UCASE later, but for now, it’s just a predator, brought into this dimension by powers outside of itself. What we do see is other terrible things: fighting between friends, slut-shaming, the sorrow of losing a child, the rage born of protective love, what bullies are capable of. And if you ask me, the real monster at the heart of it is Dr. Brennar. And every one of those adults who stood by as this happened to a child are just as monstrous. Eleven isn’t a monster and she isn’t a weapon. She’s a child that’s been used as a tool by the real monsters of this story.
Samantha: Tears. Also, fuck Steve.
Next time on Stranger Things: Lucas warns the gang that the bad men are coming in S01 E07 – The Bathtub.