Sorry for the long delay with finishing this series! Hopefully I’ll be able to zip through the rest of the episodes now that we’re through with sweeps and other shows are taking breaks instead of ramping up. There are only five left in season one, including this one, so my plan is to have them done within the next two weeks, at most. Then we wait for season two, now that we know that a season two is coming.
This episode is a big one. We finally get to see Hap’s experiments, Prairie gets her sight back, we see the beginning of the escape plan form, we see the origin of the name OA, and both of Prairie’s teams begin to grow closer. This feels like a major turning point in the season.
Prairie wakes up on some sort of rocky, mossy plain, with a wide open sky and mountains in the distance. She realizes she’s dead again. There’s an old, red shed nearby. She enters it, and is in Khatoun’s star field. She tells Khatoun that she can see now. Khatoun tells Prairie that she always could, and beckons her over. They debate whether this was Prairie’s true time to die or not. Prairie doesn’t want to abandon the other captives. Khatoun says that as things stand now, the prisoners will never escape. They will all die in Hap’s basement, despite their determination to escape.
Then, Khatoun fishes for something to feed Prairie. She catches a small bird. The bird represents a way to travel that is unknown to humans. It requires practice, but if it works they might someday be able to use it to free themselves. It requires a sacrifice in fair trade though. Prairie will have to give up eternity with her father in order to attempt this escape method. Prairie catches a glimpse of her father out of the window before she makes her decision. She decides to go back to her life. She can’t leave the others to their fate. It’s a huge sacrifice. Being reunited with her father has been her heart’s desire since they were separated. Especially since the escape plan isn’t guaranteed to work.
Once Prairie makes her decision, Khatoun says she’s ready for the gift, since now she understands sacrifice. The bird is the seed of flight. Prairie needs to swallow it, and the knowledge she needs will grow inside of her so that the five captives can avert a great evil. Prairie tells Khatoun that there are only four of them. Khatoun says she’ll see in time, and let’s the bird go so that Prairie can catch it and eat it, which she does. It turns to light as she eats it.
Prairie wakes up in Hap’s house, with him sitting next to her. He says she was dead for seven minutes. She’s the only “subject” who’s extracted concessions from him, challenged him, or tried to escape. But he can’t let her go. He apologizes for being so violent with her outside, but he didn’t want her to fall down into the mine. Hap has no sense of irony, since it doesn’t seem at all odd to him that he killed Prairie to avoid letting her fall to her death. He’s also more than a little in love with her, in his own sociopathic way.
The next time Prairie wakes up, she’s back in her terrarium. The other three are watching her closely to see if she’s going to be okay, especially Homer. As she’s waking up, she makes gestures with her hands and arms. Prairie tells the others about her escape attempt and visit with Khatoun. She explains that they need to try to figure out what Hap is doing during the experiments, then take them over. They need to make the experiments work for them.
She says that the thing they have in common is their NDEs. They aren’t lab rats or unloved. They’re angels. Then she reveals that she’s gotten her sight back.
In the present day, Prairie’s time is up for the night. Betty is moved by Prairie’s story, and tells Prairie that she wishes Prairie could have met her brother before he passed. Prairie needs to leave the empty house to get home in time. Jesse and Steve walk Betty to her car. Betty has more phone messages about settling her brother’s estate. It’s sweet to see the way the boys are bonding with Betty, especially Jesse, but even Steve is trying.
Jesse finds his sister Allie at home getting high on the couch. Their house is barely furnished or decorated. The walls have drawings all over them. Allie seems like she’s only a little older than Jesse. Their mom comes up during their conversation, and they mention that she’s dead, having taken her own life.
Betty is at a lawyer’s office, finally dealing with her twin brother’s estate. She signs off on paying bills and reimbursing her mom for funeral expenses. She reveals that this has been hard for her to face because she turned her brother in to the police, who forced him into rehab. Now he’s dead. The lawyer tells her that her brother left her everything, including a $50,000 life insurance policy.
Prairie’s mom, Nancy, reads the book about the other child who was held hostage for years. She thinks she should go back to work to help pay Prairie’s expenses. Abel says they will both be on Prairie’s side. The book seems to be helping them wrap their heads around what Prairie’s been through and how she might react in the future, which is good. The only problem would be if Prairie’s mission causes her to act very differently from what they’ve come to expect.
Steve and Jesse are taking Betty to the rehab facility to clean out her brother’s room. It looks like he lived there for a while, based on how much stuff there is, and how settled in it all looks. Betty shares stories about her brother as they pack. She says that she got old in a way that her brother didn’t. Jesse doesn’t think she’s old, and mentions how old his parents would be. Betty didn’t know that they weren’t in the picture. Jesse’s dad isn’t dead, he just took off. They talk about how some people just aren’t cut out for family life. Jesse is a deep thinker who’d blossom if an intelligent adult would take him under their wing.
Prairie has a session with the FBI counselor.He’s very patient and understanding, but Prairie doesn’t think he’s ready for a story like hers. As with the book author, he can’t do much for her if she can’t tell him the truth, so Prairie leaves.
At the next night’s story session, Prairie tells the others that Homer’s football coach told him that, “Knowledge is a rumor, until it lives in the body.” Even though Prairie had told them the basics that she learned from Khatoun’s “seed” right away, it took the captives a while to figure out a concrete plan. First, Hap came to get Prairie to question her about her most recent NDE. He doesn’t usually use subjective evidence, but she’s proven to be an unusual subject. Hap hooks her up to what amounts to a lie detector and tells her to tell him about what happened. She tells him that she doesn’t know how to talk about it. He’ll have to ask her questions. He asks her general questions about what the place she went to looked like and who was there. She’s able to answer the questions in a way that avoids mentioning Khatoun and fools the lie detector technology.
Prairie decides that they have to find out exactly what happens during Hap’s experiments. Someone needs to avoid being gassed and stay awake through the whole thing so that they can remember. Scott refuses to help by swallowing extra gas so that Prairie can stay alert. He’s already sick and he’s afraid. Homer volunteers. Rachel and Prairie will pull the gas from his cell with their mouths when it’s sent in, so that Homer will be awake for the procedure.
The first try fails completely. Rachel and Prairie pass out before they suck much of the gas from Homer’s cell, so he passes out quickly, too. But they learn that the gas doesn’t knock them out for long, and when they wake up, they are very, very compliant. It’s a date rape gas. It takes the captives a year to perfect the process of sucking enough gas out of Homer’s cell to keep him awake.
Finally, Homer gets his first look at the lab and an idea of what Hap’s doing. Hap has Homer strip and sit on a metal apparatus that keeps him upright, with his arms held out. His head is encased in a plexiglas cylinder that starts to fill with water. Uhoh. Hap goes to sit in his control room to observe the experiment, but Homer’s heart rate rises, so Hap gives him gas, which Homer can’t refuse.
For three years, Homer keeps trying to make it through the entire experiment awake. It becomes his mission.He channels all of his emotions into it. During one session, the other captives make noise to get Hap to go check on them. Homer searches the control room while Hap’s gone. He plays some of Hap’s recordings. We hear Hap explaining that he works with people who’ve survived NDEs because people who haven’t already died tend to die during the experiment and stay dead. People who’ve already been brought back once can be brought back again.
We also hear recordings of what sounds like Homer’s dreams. It’s recordings of the soundscapes of the NDEs Hap is inducing in Homer. Hap is killing them over and over again, then bringing them back. He’s trying to map out the other side, and prove that death is not the end.
Homer never gives up trying to get through the entire experiment without the gas, despite it taking years. Prairie tells him that once he makes it, if he sees anything that’s alive, he should eat it.
He finally manages to drown without the gas. He wakes up in a dreamscape that looks like a ceiling crawl space and starts crawling. He’s wearing only his underwear. Homer sees a spider and tries to catch it, but falls through the ceiling tiles to the bathroom below. That room is flooding from overflowing urinals. He hears voices yelling to each other about trying to catch him, so he grabs a spare robe runs. He finds another room with chairs and an aquarium full of coral and tropical fish. He grabs one of the sea creatures and swallows it just as the voices are catching up to him. Not exactly the peaceful starscape and motherly figure that Prairie got.
Hap brings Homer back just after he swallows the creature. Homer tells Prairie that he doesn’t feel any different. Prairie says that she felt different as soon as she swallowed the bird, but now it’s all inside of her, just out of sight, waiting for something. She feels like it’s waiting for Homer to have the same thing in him.
Prairie says the thing calling in her is a name truer than Prairie. It sounds like “away” or “O-A.”
Homer dozes off and starts making gestures with his hands and arms similar to the ones that Prairie learned from the bird.
Khatoun doesn’t pull her punches or sugar coat anything. She’s a gentle and fair mother goddess, but she won’t shield her children from the real world, hard work or consequences.
Khatoun calls the sacrifice of eternity with her father for the little bird a fair trade. Is she trading the true love of the parent and child for true romantic love between Prairie and Homer, and true undying bonds of friendship with the others? What Prairie’s getting in return would have to be more than a possibility for it to be worth giving up her father. And, is this confirmation that her father is really dead?
Jason Isaacs plays Hap so perfectly, with just the right blend of caring and sinister coldness. I believe that in his own mind, he doesn’t want to hurt his prisoners, he just has no choice, because what he’s doing is so important. He sees himself as a good man who takes care of his livestock in a humane way. Prairie is livestock who becomes a beloved pet, but still needs to be eaten eventually.
Prairie’s journey is about sacrifice, but Homer’s is about determination. He’s in a particularly vulnerable state, and rather than being helped, he’s being hunted. The floors are slippery, the crawlspace is fragile, and the things he’s offered to eat are gross. He has to want to find and eat the living thing very badly for it to happen. But, like Prairie, he passes the test.
Prairie and Homer have moved their beds next to each other, separated only by the glass between their cells. She must feel completely lost without him in the present day, after seven years of being so close, all the time, with only the other two or three captives for company. That was what we were seeing in the first episode or two.
They filmed the scene where Prairie wakes up in her dreamscape on the tundra in Iceland, according to various sources.
Homer eats some kind of sea anemone, according to my animal science geek sources.
Khatoun: To exist is to survive unfair choices.
Prairie: Khatoun had fed me a mystery. I couldn’t understand it, but I could feel it inside me. A clue, a bomb, a Hail Mary.
Prairie: He was an explorer and death was his frontier. Whatever his reasons, Homer never gave up on his mission to die awake.
2 thoughts on “The OA Season 1 Episode 4: Away Recap”
Great recap! I’m re-watching and desperately want to talk with another person who loves the show to trade theories and observations. One question I have from this episode is when Homer listens to the recordings, is this supposed to be what is happening in his death-dreamscape? It sounds like men are struggling to catch/hold him. One of them asks his name and when Homer responds, the man answers “your name is not Homer” … did you catch that? It sounds just like the voices that are chasing him when we finally see him enter death-dreamscape conciously. But if that is the case, and I have interpreted things more-or-less correctly, HOW in seven hells is Hap able to record the soundscape of his subjects’ death journeys? That is some advanced technology right there! Anyway, thanks for logging so beautifully and accurately. =)
I heard the same thing you did from the recordings of Homer’s NDEs. I wish they would have given us a little more. I think it’s supposed to tie into the later episodes when the present day team questions whether or not Homer, or any of the other team, is real, and uses the Homer that wrote the Odyssey as part of their evidence. I’ve wondered if there are pseudonyms involved, and who started using them.
There are also the suggestions that the story could turn out like The Life of Pi, with the whole thing as metaphor, which would feel like a giant cop out to me. It could be that her captor was replacing people as they died, so a certain cage was always filled with an endless parade of young men. She may have been able to hear the torture and deaths. As a coping mechanism, she may have given the occupant of each cage a name that stayed the same, no matter who was in it, maybe based on one person who lived longer than others, that she was closest to. The NDE tapes could be her memories, or her subconscious trying to break through with the truth.
If her story is real, as I hope, then I have no idea how he’s recording the NDEs, other than electrodes stuck to specific sections of the brain. If they answered the question in the show, I missed it too.
I’d be happy to talk more about The OA! Right now I’m in the middle of recapping Stranger Things 2, so responses will be slow for about another week.
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