The OA Season 1 Episode 8: Invisible Self Recap


This episode brings us to the end of season 1 and the end of the story of Prairie’s captivity. It’s full of endings, and possibly beginnings. We’re left with an ambiguous ending to the episode, after everything Prairie has told us has been questioned, reminding us that her mental health has been in question since Nancy and Abel adopted her. It’s left up to the viewer to decide how much to believe is real, and how much is fantasy, delusion or coincidence.

This episode picks up exactly where episode six left off, with Sheriff Markham walking in on Hap engrossed in listening to the rings of Saturn, while sitting in front of the captive monitors. Hap immediately confesses, but offers to use the captives to heal the Sheriff’s wife, Evelyn, who is dying from ALS. The sheriff appears unmoved as he cuffs Hap, and protests that he doesn’t make deals. Hap quotes his late mentor, Leon, saying that they both know there is no good or evil, only what a man can stand. Sheriff Markham says nothing as he drives Hap away in his patrol car without checking on the hostages. The next scene shows him carrying Evelyn to the car. He’s given in.

The captives get excited when the sheriff brings Hap downstairs at gunpoint, but only Homer and Prairie are taken out of their cages, then forced upstairs. Hap leads them to a bedroom, where he shows them Evelyn lying twisted on the bed, and tells them that he is going to lock them in the bedroom until they heal her. He and the sheriff will be watching through the monitor. He leaves Prairie and Homer alone with Evelyn.

Homer tells Prairie that, if they don’t heal Evelyn, the sheriff will arrest Hap and they’ll be free. Prairie replies that if they don’t heal her, then they aren’t who they say they are. They begin the movements, and watch as Evelyn slowly uncurls and becomes healthy. The power goes out as they heal her, so Hap has to switch to a thermal image camera to monitor.

Suddenly Evelyn grabs Prairie’s hand. She tells Prairie about an NDE she had as a child. She had a vision that told her that she would help two captive angels. It would be very hard and painful, but the vision told Evelyn to stay alive until she could give the fifth movement to them. She tells Prairie and Homer that using it will be a matter of will. Always a matter of will. Then she shows them the movement. As she finishes, her husband runs into the room, leaving his gun behind with Hap in his excitement. Prairie, Homer, and Hap all practice the movement. Then Prairie and Homer run to the end of the bed to touch each other for the first time after seven years of being separated by glass.

It’s a beautiful moment, with two sets of soulmates being united in ways that have been denied to them. Evelyn knew it would be her last, since she said that she would show them the movement, then hold her husband for the last time. But Prairie and Homer think it’s a beginning for them, now that they have everything they need to escape.

Not so. Hap stalks into the room and shoots the sheriff and Evelyn with barely a sideways glance, using one bullet to kill them both. Then he yells at Prairie and Homer to stop touching each other, and for Prairie to get out of the room, or he will shoot Homer. He locks Homer in the room. He injects Prairie with a drug that knocks her out.

She wakes up some time later in the back of a car, driving down an isolated road in the woods. Hap stops the car and drags her out, onto the ground at the side of the road. He says to her:

“Did you think you were indispensable to the work, to me? Well, you’re not. I have the fifth movement. I have Homer. I don’t need you. I’m leaving you exactly as I found you. I don’t have to kill you. And even if you get back, we’ll be gone in another dimension, all of us. And you’ll be all alone. With nothing. With no one.”

He’s been holding a knife to her throat during this speech, and at the end, he uses it to tear part of her dress, before he gets up and drives away, with her chasing after him, desperate to get back to Homer and the others.

The episode itself has been switching between Prairie in the present day, telling the story to her group in the empty house, and showing Prairie living out the story in the past. Present day Prairie grows increasingly emotional as the story goes on. She fiddles with Buck’s pocket knife in her hands, then cuts her dress when she tells that part of the story, so that her top half is clothed only in a sports bra. She cries, “Come back, come back!” loud and distressed as she finishes the story.

As she finishes, her parents, the boys’ families, and the high school principal come up the stairs. The boys have stayed out until dawn, plus Prairie and Alfonso ran out of the restaurant, and the reform school must have told Steve’s parents something. Jesse’s sister knew where they were meeting, and who would be there.

Nancy sees how Prairie is dressed and starts clucking. She takes off her own coat, then goes to Prairie and drapes it over her shoulders. As Nancy and Prairie walk home alone, they see a police car approaching the house. Later, Prairie sits on the edge of the tub and pulls a piece of pencil lead out of her leg.

Abel and Nancy go to the house where the other families are meeting, but they are turned away. Alfonso runs outside to talk to them. Nancy immediately apologizes to him, before he can say anything. What does she think Prairie was doing to him? He explains that he’s going to prove that Prairie’s story is true. He says the others don’t understand what they were doing, but he’s going to make it all right. Oh, Alfonso, this is like a modern-day witch hunt. You can’t stop that train. Nancy and Abel are surprised to hear that Prairie told the boys and Betty what had happened to her.

Later, Abel sits at the kitchen table. The phone rings, and he pulls it out of the wall, then slams it to the floor. He’s had as much as he can take.

The press have surrounded the Johnsons house again, so they go to a hotel. As they’re leaving, people are yelling questions, asking what Prairie was doing with the boys, and if she’ll tell them how she got her sight back.

When they get to the hotel, Abel is still upset. Prairie finally starts to tell them the story of her captivity. She tells them a few harsh details, then asks if they want her to stop. They don’t.

In the morning, Nancy looks happier, and relieved. She pulls a piece of paper from her wallet, and wakes up Abel to show it to him. It’s the note that Prairie left when she ran away. It says that she was going to find her father, and would bring him back to meet them, so that then they would believe he exists.

Abel gets up and leaves the room without a word. Nancy follows him to the hotel’s breakfast room. She tries to talk to him, but he’s come to a public place because he doesn’t want to talk. They end up having the conversation anyway. Nancy was afraid the police wouldn’t look for Prairie if they knew she’d left a note. She hated that Prairie talked about her birth father as her father, when Abel was her father, and she didn’t want Abel to be hurt. Abel is incredulous that Nancy thinks he would be that petty when their daughter was missing. Then Nancy admits that she feels guilty for choosing Prairie at the adoption agency at all. Abel wanted the uncomplicated baby, but Nancy wanted the blind girl because she thought Prairie would always need her and never leave her. She thinks she was so clingy that she drove Prairie away. There’s probably some truth to that part. They both tried to force Prairie into some rigid definition of normal midwestern girl, but Nancy also tried to keep her helpless. They both tried to suppress any mention of her past by calling it part of her mental illness.

Prairie tries to call the boys from the hotel, but can’t find their numbers. Alfonso and Steve look online for proof that Prairie’s story is real. They find a video of her playing the violin in the subway.

Alfonso goes running late at night and notices that Prairie’s house is empty. He climbs in through an unlocked window, and searches her room, looking for evidence that can help him prove her story. Under her bed, hidden under her wolf sweatshirt, he finds an Amazon box with books in it. The books are on angels, near death experiences, Homer’s The Iliad, and the Russian oligarchs. Alfonso, the skeptic, immediately decides that this means that her story isn’t true.

I don’t know what the show will ultimately tell us in season two or beyond, but if I had Prairie’s life experiences, I’d be interested in reading books like those to try to make sense of my life. She’s been blind and/or in captivity her whole life. She couldn’t just pick up a book to find out more about her childhood home. We’ve seen how easily threatened Nancy and Abel are by anything that isn’t “normal” or that’s a reminder of her past. Of course the books are hidden.

Or are we supposed to think that she’s a pathological liar who manipulated the boys and Betty for attention, so she wouldn’t feel so alone? The books can’t be supposed to point to showing how delusional Prairie is, because this seems like a very elaborate plan for someone whose story is a delusion. I can’t recall the psychotic people I’ve known doing research to improve their hallucinations, but maybe that’s just the ones I’ve known.

Alfonso goes into the bathroom to splash water on his face and think. He sees himself reflected as Homer, the hero. Only, Homer is the poet, not the hero. If anyone is the historical Homer in this story, it’s Prairie. Prairie may have been reading books to help her frame her story and her life in her mind. That doesn’t negate her experiences. She may have liked seeing Homer’s name on a book. She may have changed names. Homer’s a pretty obscure name to steal, though.

Alfonso takes the box of books and walks downstairs to leave. He runs into Elias, who must have been notified by either a neighbor or a silent alarm. He asks Alfonso his name and if he’s alone. Alfonso is terrified that he’s just ruined his life. Elias recognizes Alfonso’s name. Alfonso asks if Prairie told Elias her story, and if he knew the story was lies. Elias tells Alfonso about second-hand trauma, which is when you take somebody else’s pain, so that they can survive. Elias tells Alfonso that he and the others did that for Prairie, and they did good. He brushes off Alfonso’s pain at the idea of the story being a lie, and just gives him a hug. He never really gives Alfonso a straight answer about whether or not he thinks Prairie’s lying about her story. Elias has heard bits of it, after all.

Elias is really clueless sometimes. Or, did he have some other purpose in misdirecting Alfonso? It’s weird that he’s not urging Prairie to tell her whole story to him or the detectives so that they can try to rescue the other captives, and that now he doesn’t want to know anything about what she told the boys. Even a version that was mostly fantasy might have some clues about where she was that would be useful. He did tell Prairie that he believed she had been held captive when she doubted herself, citing her medical records as evidence.

Homer is the one person who definitely does actually exist. Prairie watched YouTube videos of him in episode one. That’s not proof that she knows him, but it’s probably proof that she didn’t get the name from The Iliad. It’s a bit of a convenient plot hole that the boys never search on the second most important person in Prairie’s story, who they know was a football champion because of the ring story, which matches the YouTube evidence.

Alfonso takes the box of books to show the others. Buck keeps the book on angels.

Some amount of time later, Prairie is recovered, and happily planting purple flowers in the yard with Abel. He remarks that she’s going to be taking an online creative writing class. Prairie says that she took that lyprexa (stand in for zyprexa, schizophrenia/bipolar disorder drug?) on an empty stomach and is dizzy. Abel tells her to go lie down.

She decides to relax in the tub. The camera reveals that she’s wearing an ankle monitor. She’s made the compromise that Alfonso wanted. She’s accepted that she is back home, but that means being medicated out of being too weird, and being on an electronic leash so that she can’t run away again.

Betty and the principal are in Betty’s classroom so that she can empty her desk. The school board has dismissed her after a hearing. The principal is sad to see her go, but she tells him, twice, that she’s brought her car in for a tune up. She can go anywhere, and she’s looking forward to it. Prairie helped set her free from the burdens that were holding her back.

Alfonso goes to the empty cafeteria to plug in his phone. He looks out the tall glass walls at the leaves of the trees waving in the wind as his phone charges. He wouldn’t have been so relaxed before he met Prairie.

At lunchtime, the cafeteria is full. The boys are all sitting with their separate friend groups again. They all seem okay, except Buck seems serious. Betty is saying goodbye to her former coworkers.

Prairie has dozed off in the tub. She startles awake with a bloody nose. Fully dressed and wearing Homer’s wolf sweatshirt, she runs downstairs. Abel meets her at the front door. Prairie tells him that she had the dream again, and she’s figured it out. He stands aside so she can pass. She takes off running down the street.

Back in the cafeteria, Jesse’s friend sees a kid with a gun approaching the school. He pulls Jesse onto the floor just as the first shots are fired. The students scatter, looking for shelter under tables, trying to get out, or to hold the door closed. The principal tries to get Betty to leave with him, but she can’t leave her boys, and runs to the cafeteria, instead of away. The boys have all ended up under tables. Steve starts looking them all in the eye, then they all look at each other, nodding and choosing their moment. They know in their hearts that this is the moment they’ve been preparing for.

As one, they stand up and perform the five movements. The shooter is distracted and stops shooting to watch them. As they reach the end of the sequence, a cafeteria worker jumps the shooter. A stray shot is fired as he goes down. There’s a glow of light while they do the fifth movement. Prairie is standing just outside the glass, finishing the movement, with her hand over her chest. She reached the school in time to do the movements with them. But there is a bullet hole in the glass, level with her hands.

Prairie is strapped onto a stretcher, bleeding from her chest. Her group walks with the stretcher as she tells them that they did it. She has the necessary will. She asks if they can feel it? The ambulance doors close , and it begins to drive away. Steve hears a whooshing sound, like Hap mentioned hearing when the consciousness leaves the body. He says, “It’s happening!” They all follow the ambulance for a bit, Steve farthest of all, calling for her to take him with her. It’s very reminiscent of Prairie trying to get Hap to wait for her.

The screen goes dark, and we hear the sound of waves. Prairie reminds us that traveling through dimensions is supposed to be like jumping into an invisible current that carries you away.

Then we see OA, dressed in white, with her hair pulled back, in a white room, with a brightly lit, rectangular window behind her. Her face is in close up, and there is a tear running down her cheek. Just as the screen goes dark again, she says, “Homer?”

A haunting a capella cover of Sarah McLachlan’s Angel by Devon Walsh plays over the credits.


My full season 1 commentary and analysis is HERE.

Hap keeping Homer and getting rid of Prairie was a shock, especially because he phrased it as if he and Prairie were fighting over Homer, rather than that he wanted Prairie while she and Homer wanted each other. We don’t know the whole story between Hap and Homer yet.

We don’t see Nancy again after the hotel and the note reveal. The house is for sale. Abel mentions that Nancy told him that Prairie had signed up for classes. They could be separated, based on what we see.

The adults are all shocked and horrified by what they see when they discover the meeting at the empty house, though, after three viewings, I’m still not clear about what’s quite so horrible about the situation. Sure, the kids shouldn’t be out all night. Yet every single one of those kids has been coming to that house at all hours of the day and night since long before Prairie came back, usually to drink and do drugs, which they aren’t doing now that they’re with her. They aren’t doing anything sexual, either. Prairie’s bra covers more than most bikini tops do. Do they think the candles mean they’re doing witchcraft? Does a slightly older woman spending time with guys automatically mean something sexual and evil is going on? The town and the parents react as if it’s either a gang bang or a satanic cult, with no other possibilities. I don’t dispute that what Betty was doing would be inappropriate in the eyes of the school district. I dispute the automatic belief that the boys were being harmed by the women in some way, and not the other way around, or that anyone was harmed at all. I resent the families for pretending that they were attentive and caring, and that their innocent babes had been corrupted by Prairie telling them a story. The only parents I believe cared and noticed were Buck’s.

The editing and cinematography for this episode deserve an award, especially the first 15 minutes, as Prairie tells the dramatic ending to her time in captivity. Even afterwards, we are kept off-balance, reminded that we’re never completely sure of what’s real or not real, what or who’s important or not important until the end. The hotel bellboy who brings the cot looks like he is in an orderly in a mental institution, and careful editing makes our location unclear until the director is ready for the reveal. We never see the face of the shooter, because the identity of this angel of death isn’t what’s important. We see the incident from the same angles as the people involved, so that we are right there with them. We can feel how much strength, faith, and bravery it takes for them to jump up and do those movements together. The camera peeks through doorways and around corners, as if we are eavesdropping on private moments that are meant to be kept secret.

Does Alfonso work at Applebees, the grocery store, and the Olive Garden?

Prairie told Betty in episode 1 that Steve was acting out because he’s so sensitive. He was the only one who heard the whoosh, and the first one to recognize that the time was right to do the movements.

My Wizard of Oz comparison worked out surprisingly well. I was guessing in episode one when I said that she’d end up with a wicked witch substitute who’d want her ruby slippers/immortality substitute, but that’s what we ended up with. Hap is the witch, the movements that allow dimension hopping are the slippers, Khatoun is Glinda, Leon is the Wicked Witch of the East, the Sheriff and Elias are both the Wizard (authority figures who promise help/rescue but turn out to be shams), the other captives, the boys, and Betty are Dorothy’s traveling companions, and she ends up back in some place bright and shining in that last moment, saying Homer? That brings this season, and that story arc, full circle, with her in the Emerald City/Russia substitute, and reunited with the only other person who’s loved her unconditionally besides her father. She may actually turn out to be some place terrible, without Homer, next season, but it doesn’t change the end of this story arc for this season.