This week, Mara learns about love, in a small South American town, or at least the Reverie version of the town. She learns that love isn’t always as simple and straight forward as it seems, and can endure in unexpected ways. As is usual, the lesson applies to her own life as well.
Mara wakes up in the morning after episode 7 and Chris is still in her apartment. She asks him if he thinks this is a good idea. They go back and forth a minute, then she realizes she’s overthinking it. Chris says he’s good, Mara says she is too, and they decide everything is okay.
An elderly woman, Pilar Simonet, who lives in an assisted living facility, looks at her dreary life and decides that today is the day she’ll try her Reverie. She says “Apertus” as fast as she can when a staff member discovers her with her tablet. She wakes up young and beautiful in a small South American village where everyone is friendly.
At Onira, Mara and Charlie meet with Jack Selve, executive director of Shady Pines Assisted Living, who is NOT OKAY with his residents using Reverie. They’re supposed to be engaged with each other and life, not technology. Why, Pilar is such a bad girl that she’s missing a treatment for her terminal lung cancer today, plus physical therapy and meals. She’s apparently been sneaking time in Reverie for 2 weeks, and her health has worsened because of it.
Maybe if the staff of Shady Pines treated her like an adult it would help.
But Pilar’s health isn’t just her own concern. She’s setting a bad example for the community. If Mara can’t extract Pilar from Reverie within 24 hours, the director will transfer her out of evil Shady Pines and into the evil state-run facility.
Best not to be an introvert at Shady Pines. Too many days when you can’t face the world, and you’re out.
Pilar conveniently never married and has no children, so there’s no one with the legal standing to fight for her.
Mara enters Pilar’s Reverie and finds her dancing in a bar. Mara assumes that this is just a little vacation for Pilar, and tries to get her to come home. Shooting starts outside and Pilar rides away in the back of a truck, after telling Mara that this is her second chance at everything.
Mara describes Pilar’s Reverie to Paul, who’s very interested
and planning their next date. He thinks it sounds kind of sexy. Mara agrees, except for the shooting part. Paul, Charlie and Mara research Pilar’s history and manage to determine that the shooting must be the beginning of the 1973 military coup d’état in Chile.
Mara goes into Pilar’s Reverie to determine why a 45 year old military coup is something she’d want to relive. Before she goes, Paul asks her about the bruising from getting shot in episode 7. She’s uninterested in paying much attention to it, because she’s decided that he and Alexis will fix it, so she doesn’t have to worry about it.
Magical thinking alert.
Paul tells Mara that he still has no explanation for why it happened and no way to stop that or worse from happening again. Nope, Mara’s still not going to worry or be careful. That’s Paul’s problem.
There’s some detachment from reality happening here. She’s going into a war zone. She should be asking more questions than Paul, not blowing off the risks. What happens if she gets shot again, and sustains a more serious injury? What if she’s unconscious and can’t say “Exodus” to get herself out of the Reverie? What if she’s injured in a different way, like a broken bone or a knife wound? Is this getting worse with time, or was this a specific feature of the military Reverie? Shouldn’t Charlie be getting that information from Monica?
But no, Mara’s going to pretend she’s in love and can’t bother to worry about silly little trifles like this.
Pilar visits several young girls who are hiding in a church. They’re scared, but she promises them that they’ll be safe. She gives one a corn husk doll.
Then she meets a revolutionary named Joaquin outside. They kiss and he tells her he’s in love with her. They agree to meet tomorrow.
Mara is watching, and thinks she’s figured Pilar out. Pilar tells Mara to stop spying on her and startling her. Then Pilar doubles over in pain. Mara explains that as Pilar gets sicker in the real world she’ll feel it more in her Reverie. Pilar says that her Reverie is more important, and calls one of the nuns from the church to come help her. She tells Mara to stay away.
Paul tells Alexis about Mara’s virtual gunshot bruise. Alexis doesn’t believe him at first, then doesn’t think it matters. Paul argues that just like women with false pregnancies can produce real hormones, if the brain is convinced that the body is injured, it might respond in real physical ways that are damaging. He reminds Alexis that Oliver thought this might be a possibility. Alexis simply refuses to face the possibility, and deflects, asking Paul why he cares so much about Mara.
Low blow. He does care about Mara, but this is a serious issue. The way she’s ignoring this issue is also exposing a pattern of ignoring the flaws in the program that lead to health issues in users.
They ignored the issue of users staying in the program too long until it was almost too late, and eventually hired Mara. That’s still not the greatest solution, since it doesn’t cover users who are alone and aren’t discovered in time for Mara to save them. They need a failsafe to boot people out when certain vital sign levels are met. And they need to separate the brain from whatever is happening with Mara right now.
Paul insists that they talk to Oliver about the issue and offers to be the one to make contact. Alexis tells him no and says that she’ll “look into it.” This will be a dance with the devil for her.
Back in the office, Mara remembers the night before with Chris and sends him a text. When she gets to Paul’s office, she tells Paul and Charlie that Pilar is staying in her Reverie because she’s reliving a tragic love story. Joaquin was killed soon after the scene Mara witnessed, so Pilar never saw him again. The three aren’t sure why Pilar hasn’t left Reverie now, but Mara assumes that Pilar is still unfulfilled in some way she’ll never get over, since Joaquin is dead.
Mara is really off her game this week. This is Pilar’s Reverie, customized for her. Pilar appears to be a smart woman who knows what she wants. She wasn’t as into Joaquin as he was into her. Why would she create a Reverie to give herself a second chance at love, and then not actually give herself the second chance? She writes the rules in Reverie, and can change history in any way she wants, including letting Joaquin live.
The obvious answer is that Mara is giving Pilar what Mara wants, not what Pilar wants. Pilar wants something else.
But Mara is busy being caught up in her romantic fantasy. She brings Joaquin to Pilar, who isn’t happy to see him. In fact, Pilar tells him that he can’t be here and sends him away.
Pilar is angry at Mara for changing Pilar’s set up without even asking her what she wanted. She complains that everyone tries to make decisions for her, leaving no room for her to live her life the way she wants to.
Then several jeeps full of soldiers pull into the plaza. The soldiers swarm into the church where the girls are hiding. Pilar yells “No!” and tries to stop the soldiers from taking the girls. The soldiers drive away with the girls in custody.
They are taken to the schoolhouse to be questioned about the rebels. When Mara asks why, Pilar says, “It’s easier to force the truth out of children.”
Pilar’s plan is in ruins. Mara apologizes, explaining to Pilar that she thought Pilar had come back to this town out of love. Pilar says she did, but it was out of love for the girls. Mara suggests they leave Reverie and Pilar restart the program, but Pilar is sure that she won’t be allowed to do that.
Yeah, she’s definitely right about that. Jack Selve acted like Reverie was cutting into his business.
Finally, Pilar tells Mara the whole story: I was on a cultural homestay in Chile, and on this exact day, 45 years ago, I fled town with those girls. I piled them into the back of a stolen van, and I drove them to the border. Away from the soldiers and the shooting.
Mara: You saved them.
Pilar: The only reason we were able to escape is because the soldiers were busy with the resistance fighters.
Mara: Joaquin’s men.
Pilar: I had the whole thing set up here, just like before. Only this time the soldiers aren’t busy with the men because Joaquin’s not there to lead them.
Mara: Because I brought him to you.
Pilar: I just wanted that feeling one more time. That my life had purpose, meant something. But now, any hope of that is gone, thanks to you.
Alexis and Oliver meet in a bar to discuss Mara’s Reverie injury. Once they’re past the usual hostilities, Alexis asks for Oliver’s help with identifying the glitch. She informs him that Mara was in an experimental version of Reverie with the Exodus function disabled so that it could be used for detainment. Oliver thinks that Mara’s injury wasn’t due to an issue with regular Reverie 2.0.
Oliver: Crossed Reveries. Weakens the bond between the BCI and the parasympathetic nervous system.When the bullet hit Kint, she wasn’t in deep enough for her body to ignore the signal from her brain, tensing up all the muscles in her abdomen. An internal injury caused by an autonomic response.
Oliver gives Alexis the file name and location of the memo where he described suggestions for safeguards and changes to the Reverie code to fix the issue. The memo is named Planet of the Petechia.
Before Alexis leaves, Oliver figures out that the program that injured Mara was in the hands of the military and he becomes irate. She calms him down, but he’s still furious.
Jack Selve is predictably negative about giving Pilar another chance in her Reverie. Mara only has a few hours left to get Pilar out. She decides to go back in and help Pilar try to save the girls. Paul gets her set up with the new equipment she needs in the Reverie.
She uses some C4 to create an explosion that distracts the guards while Mara and Pilar remove the girls from the school. They get the girls into an old van and drive them out of town with soldiers shooting at them. When they get to the border, the girls cross and find relatives and other people they know on the other side.
In real life, after this the girls were shuttled between foster homes and refugee camps for years. Pilar tried to stay in touch with them, but she lost them all. She never saw them again after she left them at the border. Now she wants to cross with them in Reverie, and stay with them.
Pilar knows that these aren’t really the girls she loved, just digital shadows. Mara tells Pilar that she can still have purpose in the real world, and that the real girls wouldn’t want her to wither away and die while she lived with their digital ghosts.
Pilar gives in, and says goodbye to the girls. The girls go to the border, and Pilar and Mara leave the Reverie.
Pilar goes back to her dull life at the assisted living facility. Mara visits her and brightens her day, as they rehash their Reverie adventure. Then Mara calls Charlie into the room. He brings an older woman and a girl with him. The woman is one of Pilar’s girls, Elvia. The girl is her granddaughter, Pilar. Charlie found the rest of the girls as well. Elvia brought a stack of photos of her large family. They are all grateful to Pilar, because none of them would exist if it weren’t for her.
Oliver meets a middle-aged man in a bar and they agree to a pay off once the man has done a job for Oliver. After the man leaves, Oliver stands up and takes out a tablet. He has words written in marker on his chest, but we can only see the top edge. He says, “Apertus,” and collapses to the floor.
Mara gets home from her long day to find Chris already there waiting for her. He still had the key from when they used to be together. Then Mara’s phone rings, and it’s Chris calling. When she answers, it’s Chris on the other end. He’s confused about the text she sent him referring to dinner, because they haven’t seen each other in days.
Gradually, Mara understands that it’s the real Chris on the phone and a derealization standing in front of her. The illusion turns into Ray and says, “I’m here for a reason, Mara.” Then it dissolves.
Mara is left alone and in anguish.
Pilar Simonet is such a fantastically romantic sounding name.
I knew Chris wasn’t acting right. The real guy was way too bitter to jump back into a relationship so quickly. And he’s way more focussed on himself. Fake Chris let Mara talk about herself all evening.
This is the first time that I can remember seeing Mara so thoroughly insert her own feelings into someone else’s Reverie. She likes to use her experiences as an example to help her and the client relate to each other, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen her dismiss clues about the true nature of the Reverie in favor of what she wants it to be.
Mara was supposed to get rid of everything that was connected to the earlier set of derealizations so that they wouldn’t trigger her. Like Brynn and Ray, Chris is now a trigger, so she has to stop seeing him, right? Good thing Paul is such a caring friend, who’ll be happy to help her through the disappointment.
Whatever secrets Ray had that led him to hold a gun on his family and that Charlie is still trying to cover up after making sure the police sirens were on during the incident, Chris is involved with too. The way Charlie warned him off at Onira by itself didn’t send up a red flag, but that combined with him appearing as derealizations that dissolve into Ray and give Mara the prime message seems like too big a coincidence. There was some program that the three of them were involved in that led to Ray’s death, and Charlie’s highest priority is to maintain the cover up.
Images courtesy of NBC.