The beginning of episode 3 looks like a normal family shopping trip out to a discount store, until Nancy Johnson is accosted by a reporter and the illusion is shattered, for her and for us. The reporter, Patricia Knoller, specializes in telling the stories of young people who have been held hostage for long periods of time, and then returned to their families. She wants to turn Prairie’s story into a book. Nancy is unhappy with the intrusion into her family’s privacy, and dismisses Patricia. Before she goes, Patricia gives Nancy a copy of one of her books and her business card. She explains that she works closely with the victim and the family, and tries to make the experience something that is beneficial to the family, especially financially beneficial.
Nancy shops for a little longer, then sees Prairie, who is trying on a sweatshirt that reminds her of Homer. They look at each other across the store aisles. The love shared between the two women is palpable, but so is the concern and fear Nancy has for her daughter. She invites Patricia to dinner to discuss the book deal. Everything is going well, until Patricia mentions the sense of closure that finishing telling their stories can give the victims. Prairie gets upset, and tells her that she can’t give her that. Her story isn’t over. It’s just beginning. Prairie runs from the room. Nancy, Patricia, and Abel all look at each other, confused and worried.
Nobody does a concerned, worried parent face like Scott Wilson. He tamed the entire Grimes gang on The Walking Dead with a sincere tone of voice and some fatherly facial expressions. It’s only Nina/Prairie’s lifelong experience with secret keeping that’s allowing her to keep her secrets in the face of those two parents trying to wear her down right now. She knows no one will believe her, and they’ll probably drug her into oblivion again. But they’ll do it all out of love, just as they always have.
Prairie continues the story of her captivity. It took her a long time to get accustomed to being imprisoned. There were three other captives in cells adjoining hers. One woman, Rachel, and two men, Homer and Scott. The four captives were fed some kind of nutritional pellets. The cells were arranged so that the spring flowed through all of them. The prisoners used the water for drinking and washing. They have no privacy from each other or from Hap. Rachel cried for August, her friend who had been taken out for experiments before Prairie arrived and never returned.
After Prairie complained that she couldn’t survive without sunlight and fresh air because of her blindness, Hap brought her upstairs to stand in the doorway to the outdoors for a moment. She realized that she was in his kitchen, near a knife and a loaf of bread. Prairie made Hap a sandwich and gave it to him, which seemed bizarre to me at first, but earned her Hap’s trust. He offered Prairie half of the sandwich too, but she refused to eat without the others, so Hap allowed Prairie to makes sandwiches for the rest of the prisoners.
This gives Homer an idea. He wants Prairie to find a utility bill of Hap’s that’s waiting to be mailed, and his football championship ring, which he stashed in the upstairs bathroom before Hap took him to the basement cells. They can put the ring in the bill, and write notes on the bill, then put it back in the pile to be mailed. Homer has the cash Hap said he’d pay Homer for the study to add, as well. Hopefully whoever opens the bill at the utility company will notify the police. Homer has a child that he’s anxious about. He wants to make sure the baby knows that Homer didn’t just abandon him.
Back in the present day, Prairie is sitting in the abandoned house, thinking. Steve shows up and sits next to her. He asks if they’re going to help the people she was held hostage with. She nods yes. Prairie starts talking about the families you build yourself, and how those are the families that work. As they are talking, he reaches out to touch her. She startles back away from him. Without a word, she gets up and walks out. She’s serious about that no touching rule. She had enough done to her body while she was a hostage. No one else is getting near her.
Steve gets up to leave a minute later, but runs into Alfonso on the way out. They start a fight with each other. It’s mostly Steve, who hurls insults at Alfonso to take out his anger about what just happened with Prairie, but Alfonso’s got some pent-up emotions of his own that he’s all too happy to take out on Steve.
Betty listens to phone messages before going into work. The new messages are about taking care of her brother’s will. Then she listens to an old message from her brother over and over, just so she can hear his voice. When she gets into her classroom, someone has drawn a pornographic picture of her on the whiteboard. Instead of erasing it, Betty draws a cube around the image.
Prairie became Hap’s housekeeper. She learned that he used sleeping pills, so she saved up enough to kill him through an overdose. Then she made a stew from her childhood and fed it to him, but he insisted that she eat some, too. She tried to eat slowly, using the excuse that it was hard to eat because it gave her too many sad memories of home. Hap had an allergic reaction to the tomatoes in the vegetable broth she’d used, collapsing on the floor. Prairie considered letting him die, but Hap pointed out that she didn’t have the door codes, and the others would starve. Prairie ran to get Hap’s epi pen. When she got to the bathroom, she fumbled around. She found Homer’s ring, and the epi pen, but she also found August’s dead body in the bath tub. After he uses the pen, Hap explains that August died before Prairie arrived at his house (meaning he kidnapped Prairie as a replacement). Prairie finds a bill on her way back to the basement.
She showed the other prisoners her finds, and told them Hap was burying August in the morning. While Hap was outside, they passed the bill under the clear barrier between the cells where the water flowed through. Homer wrote messages from everyone. They tried to write as many details as they could about their location, but Hap was clever, and made sure none of them were able to take in where they were going. They didn’t even know what part of the country they were in. When Homer tried to pass the letter back, the current grabbed it and washed it downstream and away from Prairie. It was lost, along with their chance of contacting the outside world.
After they lost the letter, Prairie was devastated and crying uncontrollably. Homer, the former football star who was paralyzed from an injury he got while playing, but who could somehow walk again, was an awesome leader and coach. He got Prairie on her feet and doing a flaily version of jumping jacks, then got everyone talking and dreaming again. They started thinking about the future after he reminded them that if they found one chance to escape, they could find another.
Rachel told the story of her NDE. She was born in a small, prejudiced town, and her father was just as hateful as everyone else. She and her brother ran away, taking the family van. As they were driving, the van flipped. She remembered floating outside of her body, seeing her brother’s backpack on the road. She was always a good singer, but after that, her voice changed. It became richer and deeper, almost otherworldly. She sings for everyone, like she wants to sing for her brother.
Prairie was washing Hap’s dishes, but she refused to speak to him, even when he asked her direct questions. Hap had come to view her as so unthreatening that he just kept talking and didn’t let it bother him, as if she were a child. When it was time to return to the basement, she stopped at the top of the stairs to ask him what happened to August, and what happened after the gas? He made some speech about great progress requiring great sacrifice, and that she shouldn’t worry her pretty little head about it, because the gas was there to make sure that his part of the research didn’t bother them (WTF?). Prairie had heard about enough of that, and shoved him down the basement stairs. He’d gotten so complacent that he started monologuing with her behind him.
Prairie grabbed a cast iron pan and broke the kitchen window, jumped out, and ran. She kept running until she came to the edge of a huge canyon. Thankfully, something about the change in sound and air currents must have warned her, because she stopped a few feet from the edge. She stood and listened, trying to figure out what was going on. Suddenly, she was hit in the head with the butt of a rifle, and dropped to the ground.
Observations and Questions:
When Hap was a boy he was obsessed with a PBS show about things that could survive in harsh conditions. Now he experiments on the human brain to see what kind of harsh conditions it can survive.
Prairie asks a good question. Why is Homer so sure it’s a boy? He said his girlfriend was only two months pregnant, too early for an ultrasound to tell gender. Has he seen his son during whatever out-of-body experiences they have during Hap’s experiments?
Why doesn’t August’s body smell, and look decayed? Is she soaking in some kind of preservative?
How many escape attempts did Prairie make before she finally got free?
I’m assuming we’re supposed to infer that Rachel left her hometown partly because she’s a lesbian or bisexual, and that she and August were involved, even though it wasn’t said straight out.
Betty is just so done with the box she’s forced into by being a middle-aged high school teacher, and with being seen as less than a full human so much of the time. Drawing her as a sex object is just another way to dehumanize her and put her in a box. And to pretend that she is sexless, less than a full human being, as our society loves to do to women as they age.