Maniac episode 5, titled “Exactly Like You”, relates another of Owen and Annie’s dreams/reflections while under the influence of the “B” pill. It’s Owen’s turn to create the setting, with Annie following along. Gertie also inserts herself into the story, and some other characters from previous episodes make cameos in the dream.
In this dream, Owen is a high-end con artist, named Sir Ollie Hightower, who’s on his way to a séance at an upper class mansion, where he plans to pull off a heist. Annie is his estranged wife, Arlie, who also has an invitation to the event. What they both really want is to steal a valuable antique manuscript from the hostess, Lady Neberdine.
Partnership is always on Ollie’s mind. He wants a partner desperately, but has been burned so many times in the past that he’s now determined to work alone, with only minimal help from his driver. This is one, or maybe two, of Owen’s defense mechanisms. He’s lonely, and so overwhelmed by his loneliness that he can’t find a way out of it. He’s given up on trying to find anyone.
But sometimes, someone still attracts him and he develops a crush. His crushes always end in disappointment, when the crush either doesn’t notice him or betrays him. Since Owen comes from a wealthy family, there were probably many opportunities for people to pretend they liked or wanted him, when what they were really interested in was a job, money or an introduction.
There was a kernel of possible truth in Grimsson’s paranoia about Olivia not wanting him for himself. Owen was paranoid and delusional, but that doesn’t mean that Grimsson was completely wrong. Another defense mechanism is Owen’s subliminal recognition of clues that add up to patterns that most people wouldn’t notice. The pattern is the pattern.
His mind uses Grimsson to report these truths to him, probably because they’re often hard truths he doesn’t want to know. In this dream, Grimsson reports that there’s something wrong with Gertie and that he’s both sick and Jed’s dead twin. Grimsson is right about Gertie, and he’s fighting mental growth in Owen that might exclude him.
So Owen is using isolation, cynicism and hallucinations as defense mechanisms. These all feed into his depression and anxiety. But Owen also has positive coping mechanisms. He wants to live a life with purpose and help people. In this dream scenario, it turns out that Ollie’s been hired as a consultant to test the mansion’s security. He’s not a bad guy (anymore). He uses the knowledge he’s gained from bad guys to improve other people’s lives.
Episode 4 begins with the song that was playing as episode 3 ended, “Exactly Like You”. The song plays as Bruce/Owen gives himself up to Agent Lopez for Linda’s crimes in episode 3, then in episode 4 as Ollie/Owen and his driver ride alone through the woods toward a party and job. Later, it plays again and Ollie says that it’s his and his estranged wife Arlie/Annie’s song.
Ollie tells Bobby, the driver, to turn the song off. He examines his fancy, engraved invitation, which addresses him as Sir Oliver Hightower. This story takes place in the late 40s or early 50s. They are in the Rolls Royce that we saw Grimsson in at the end of episode 3. They’re driving down a long, dark, wooded driveway.
Ollie’s feeling optimistic and loves the fresh country air. Bobby points out that he gets shot every time they leave the city. Ollie says he never noticed that pattern before.
Owen’s frustrated that no matter how much he puts together the patterns and clues, he never gets the whole thing and it’s never enough. He still gets hurt.
Up ahead, they spot a Marilyn Monroe blonde in a fur coat strolling down the center of the lane. They pull over and Ollie tells Bobby to keep the woman, Arlie, away from the séance at all costs. Arlie walks over to the car, as if she was expecting them. She and Ollie already know each other.
Bobby thinks Arlie’s appearance means Ollie is supposed to work with her. Arlie and Ollie greet each other and establish that they both have tickets to the Neverdies’ exclusive, invitation-only event. Arlie asks if Ollie wants to go together. Ollie agrees and gets out of the car so that she can get in comfortably. Once she’s in, he slams the door shut, and signals for Bobby to drive away with her.
Out in the lab, Azumi and James are concerned by the way #1&9 are resonating together.
Azumi: “Look, it’s happening again. A fraction from 1 and 9 creating persistent inadvertent harmonies.”
James: “Inverse self-reflections are present. Present in both. That’s fascinating.
Azumi: “Everytime I separate them, they just find their way back together.”
James: “They’re sticking. It’s reminiscent of iteration 41.”
Azumi: “It has to be hardware. We should examine the IO spindle.”
I think they’re being a bit shallow, suggesting it’s just a sticky hardware problem. Annie and Owen’s connection is much deeper than that. No matter how big the IO spindle is, I’m convinced that software will also be involved.
Azumi and James suit up and check out Gertie’s hardware. They find a bit of scoring, and possibly something to do with the F-Housing. They can’t fully diagnose or fix the situation while the test is running. Azumi asks if he wants to do a reset.
James: “No. Muramoto was too conservative when it came to these anomalies.”
Azumi decides that she can manage the sticking manually, while James will pulsate Annie out early to sort out the globular weaving.
When they’re done, Azumi says, “Yes, sir.” James looks at her intensely and says, “Azumi, we have shared intimacies. You don’t have to call me ‘sir.” For a moment, it looks as though they can’t decide whether to have sex on the computer room floor or go back to work, but, alas, work wins. Maybe they’ll play Find the IO Spindle at bedtime.
Also, there have been at least 41 other versions of the A-B-C drug trial.
When Ollie arrives at the mansion, he flashes his invitation and is told that Lady Neberdine welcomes him to the Full Moon Séance. There are 4 soldiers blocking the door, a butler checking tickets, and the door is locked.
The fur store was Annie’s brain and was unlocked, in a strip mall, and ready for battle, whether it was a firefight or a dance off. The mansion is Owen’s brain, and is isolated, locked and guarded, haunted, and full of magic. Two very different brains and strategies. Bobby is the heart that Owen wears on his sleeve and wishes he didn’t. Owen’s remained open-hearted and hopeful, for someone who wants to be shut down and cynical.
Olivia, the girl who Owen almost studied with in real life, who set off his BLIP, and who’s now his emotional poltergeist, approaches him as he’s looking at a live owl in the hall. She asks, “Do you know what they thought owls meant in the old days, Ollie? They’re the moon incarnate. They lead us someplace safe. Every time.”
Ollie notes that all of the regulars are at the party. Olivia asks if Ollie would take her on as apprentice and partner. He tells her that he works alone and walks away. She asks if he’s always going to fly solo.
Later, Ollie tells a group the story of how he used a simple card trick to win his title from another man. Arlie enters the room midway through the story. His audience is enthralled by his story. Arlie says that you can’t just give away a title like that. The rest of the crowd disagrees, and wants to see the card trick. Ollie agrees to demonstrate, using the butler.
The butler is busy smudging the house with sage before the full moon ritual. As Ollie is convincing him to take a break, he pickpockets the butler’s keys. Then he does the simple card trick for the crowd. As he’s leaving the room, Olivia stops him to say that Arlie is bad news. He says he knows, but she’s his wife, and follows Arlie.
Arlie is getting a tarot card reading. The reader says, “Sudden change and destruction will lead to liberation.”
Yikes, more brutal honesty.
Ollie finds her and says that Bobby better be lying dead in a ditch somewhere. Their minds really are in tune at this point. Annie’s assuming she’ll kill everything good in her life, and Owen’s assuming that his heart will always be broken. Perfect dysfunctional pair, who can hurt each other again and again, as they let each other know how inadequate they are.
Arlie says that Bobby’s not dead, she’s just hard to say no to. Ollie wants them to lay their cards on the table. As he says it, he puts his deck in front of her. She holds out her hand for him to pay up for a bad joke, clearly an old inside joke between them. He smiles fondly, and begins to pull out his wallet, but a gong is rung. It’s time for the ceremony to begin.
So, he stays away from her because, as she says, it’s too easy to get reeled back in, then burned.
Ollie tries to get Arlie to admit that she’s there to steal the lost 13th chapter of Don Quixote. Meanwhile, the butler is giving a grand introduction the queen of the Neverdies, Gertie Neberdine. Gertie, in the form of Sally Field, enters the room with her entourage of 2 identical twin young women and Robert in a leather helmet.
Azumi tries to figure out why Gertie is inserting herself into a reflection. She eventually tells James that Gertie is depressed.
Ollie offers to introduce Arlie to Gertie. Gertie tells Arlie that she knows all about her. She looks at Annie/Arlie and Owen/Ollie and says, “I heard you two were separated.”
Ollie says they’re back together now, and goes to get drinks. Gertie introduces Arlie to a much diminished Robert. Gertie says that, “It’s so hard to keep those we’ve lost in our lives. Don’t you agree?” She’s a little intense.
Ollie walks down a hall and uses the butler’s keys to access a locked door. Arlie tries to follow, but Azumi zaps her out of the dream. Arlie wakes up in the lab, but still dreaming. Ellie as a little girl is in front of her. She follows Ellie and zaps back into the room where Ollie’s searching for the lost chapter.
She and Ollie begin to bicker. She asks if he wants a gimlet, and he asks if she still poisons them. She says she only poisoned the one. Vodka gimlets were being served at Jed’s engagement party, when he was also on a new medication, and ended up attempting suicide.
Next, Ollie brings up the night his wife slipped him a mickey, disappeared, and he woke up with the cops, then spent 3 years in jail. That’s likely substituting the lemur for the mickey. Bruce turned himself in, but he wishes he hadn’t now, so Ollie pretends that she tricked him. In the dreamworld, Linda ran off while Bruce served time. Arlie confirms that he plead guilty to the Sister Wendy job.
He also mixed alcohol, a new medication, and blackmail by Jed, tried to kill himself, and probably ended up in the hospital for a while.
Ollie says he has to quit doing that- sacrificing himself for people who don’t appreciate him.
Apparently his wife had a condition and ran off with another woman. She had the condition of disappearing just when you needed her most.
Arlie tells Ollie that the lost chapter of Don Quixote is so powerful that it sends whoever reads it into their own dreamworld and they never come out. They spend the rest of their lives in a coma. Cervantes kept it hidden and never published it for that reason.
Arlie tries to convince Ollie that she’s there to help him find the chapter. She doesn’t want it for herself. And she was told where it is by an old crone in an alley in Barcelona. Ollie points out that the chapter will be in a safe, and Arlie can’t crack a safe without him. She says they should do what they usually do- she’ll do intel and he’ll crack the safe. She calls him Mr Magic Fingers.
Arlie: “We can’t help but do what we’ve always done.”
Ollie agrees because he doesn’t have a choice, but he warns Arlie not to betray him again.
The gong rings for the ceremony. The butler says the ceremony is meant to bring life back to the lady’s beloved. Gertie picks Arlie and Ollie to be the Astral Nodes. She has them stand in the center of the room, with the crowd circled around them, and Robert between them, and dance to Exactly Like You. Azumi manually separates Annie and Owen again, so Arlie pops back to the lab. Gertie says that Arlie went to the Astral Plane, and sends Olivia into the circle. Ollie leaves the circle to search for Arlie.
Arlie’s back in the lab. Little girl Ellie and Annie are in Annie’s pod, telling each other fairy tales while their father, Hank, argues with their mother over the phone. It sounds like Mom’s name is Rosie and she doesn’t plan to come home. Hank is furious.
Arlie zaps back to the mansion. She reappears swinging from a light fixture. Ollie finds her and waits for her to get down. They make their way through the private areas of the house toward the mirror.
Grimsson finds Ollie. He tells Owen/Ollie that he’s been to a retrocognitive. “It turns out that Jed and I were twins in the womb, except he strangled me with the umbilical cord.” Grimsson coughs up smokey ectoplasm. He sends Ollie back to his quest, but says, “Gertie’s nuts. I’m gonna stick around here a little bit.”
Since there’s always some truth in Grimsson’s messages, the question here is, what’s the truth? Gertie is nuts, that’s already confirmed. But what’s up with Grimsson? Is he dying? He’s normally as overactive as Jed, but he stayed seated this time, in addition to losing his ectoplasm. If the therapy works, Grimsson might not be necessary anymore. He just told us that he only exists in the first place because Jed is so abusive. If Owen can get away from Jed and avoid other abusive relationships, he won’t need Grimsson.
Arlie finds the magical full length mirror. She says that the crone told her the mirror would take her exactly where she wanted to be. She spins it three times. The house around them changes. They are still together. You could interpret this to mean that where they want to be is together.
Arlie doesn’t know what to do next, but Ollie remembers what Olivia said to him about owls and safes. They run down the stairs and find that the safe is sitting where the owl was in the other version of the house.
While Ollie cracks the safe, he suggests that Arlie’s really the one with the broken heart, not him, but pretending it’s the other way around makes her feel stronger and him seem smaller. Arlie says sure, but maybe he likes being a martyr a little too much, and he thought that the “sir” title would fix him, but it hasn’t fixed anything at all.
Ollie opens the safe, and takes out a tiny, 1 inch by 1 inch book chapter. He puts it in a matchbox. Annie pulls out a gun and takes the matchbox. Ollie says that he would have just given it to her. She says that’s his problem (he’s too much of a trusting sap), but he says that his problem is he lets her get too close, and she’s poison. He walks away.
Arlie opens the matchbox. Just as she discovers that the chapter isn’t inside, she’s zapped away again. Ollie’s ace of hearts is left behind. He must have palmed the chapter.
Arlie walks over to the bonsai garden in the Commons. A little matchbox car that looks like the one she was driving in the accident is sitting on the ground, sideways, smoking. She picks it up, and the headlights shine brightly into her eyes.
She awakens in one of the small exam rooms as herself, with James shining a light in her eyes to see if she’s awake. He tells her that her experience of the “B” pill is complete. She asks for Ollie.
Next up, James administers the proximity test to Annie, which evaluates her experience so far and helps Gertie prepare for the “C” pill. He tells her not to worry, he’s a friend and this is normal. Then he tells her that he was sorry to learn about her sister being crushed and burned to death in that car accident.
Moving on. The test is scored on a zero-ten scale. Each verbal answer is given points based on her honesty and openness, according to what they’ve observed of her so far. She’s given points for honesty, loses them for lack of honesty. She has to reach 9.2 to prove she’s made enough progress in dissolving her defense mechanisms in order for them to use her data and let her continue in the trial.
James asks Annie questions about her “reflections” and how they relate to her real life and psychological issues. We find out that she doesn’t know where her mother is. Ellie’s letter must have been destroyed in the accident.
Annie says that she had a hundred reflections/dreams, all layered on top of each other. James says that “It’s a globular cluster of arborized realities.”
Annie feels like those realities mattered more than her real life. She describes her own reality as suffering from long-term depression.
She describes each dream reality. She says that when she was Linda she was a nurse, a wife and a mother, which is so far from anything she’s ever wanted. Her score goes down. Then she says that Arlie was a thief and a con artist. James points out that a con artist is a liar, and asks why she’s a liar.
Annie stumbles a bit, trying to answer that question. She settles on telling him that most people lie because they’re afraid, and she was, too, but she didn’t want anyone to see it.
James asks if anyone did see through her defenses. Annie says that Owen/Bruce/Ollie did. James asks her to describe Owen’s presence in the reflection. She says, “We were connected in all of them. With Linda, it was the kind of connection where you meet in 7th grade and then 20 years later, you look up, and he’s still there, holding your hand while you have a baby.”
James is moved by what he’s hearing. “You remembered whole lives together?”
Annie: “Yes. Did the pill do that?”
Owen: “It wasn’t designed to.”
There’s something magical about putting the two of them together.
James asks why she thinks they experienced so many lives together. She replies that Owen thought there was a pattern connecting everything. She told him it was just chaos.
Her test score goes down.
Next he asks about Wendy the Lemur. She explains about Paula Nazland and her son, Greg FUN Nazlund, and how she used to fantasize that he’d never been born. Then he asks about Arlie being a thief. Annie says she had a goal and she was willing to do anything to achieve that goal.
James asks if she shares that behavior in real life, or if one of her parents does. Annie shuts down and the defense mechanisms come out. He asks if she joined the trial in lieu of harming herself, or if she’s suicidal. She says no and asks why the counter didn’t change, since what she said was true. Finally, she admits that Arlie is like her mother.
Annie: “She could charm anyone. She would make deals with people. She would say things to me like, ‘This is just between you and me Annie. You’re the only one who understands.’ That’s how she would get you. And then she knew that you gave a s— and so your guard was down and she would gut you. Okay? How’s that?”
James: “It disturbs you, this idea of behaving in the same way your mother behaves.”
James: “Did you and your sister make any of these special deals, similar to the ones that you and your mother had made?”
Annie: “No. Ours were different.”
Annie: “Ours was a pact. I took care of her when we were little. And she took care of me when we grew up.”
The counter reaches 9.2. The computer prints out Annie’s diagnosis information, which James hands to her. It says she shows signs of borderline personality and pathological grief. There are other buzzwords like destructive, self-loathing, and harmful impulsivity.
Back in Owen’s reflection, Ollie brings the chapter to Lady Neberdine and tells her that her security leaves something to be desired. He’ll send her the bill. She tells him that the chapter doesn’t work, and he says, “Every mistake I’ve ever made started with, ‘It’s too good to be true.” He has a professional demeanor, now that the party’s over.
As he’s on his way out, Olivia asks again if they can partner up. He still declines. She asks what his wish would have been for if the chapter was real. He says he keeps his fantasies to himself.
His fantasy is to avoid temptation and to not give people he can’t trust any power over him. That’s part of why Owen’s real life is barren. Less ammunition for Jed.
Ollie gets in the car and tells Bobby he has some explaining to do. Bobby puts on Exactly Like You, and apologizes for messing up. But Arlie shot him in the shoulder. He asks if Ollie and Arlie reconnected, at least. Ollie says that it didn’t work out, because Arlie had too much else on her mind.
Owen has figured out that Annie is too wrapped up in her own problems to be a decent partner, at least to him. She used his reflection to take advantage of him the way her mother took advantage of everyone, the way Jed uses people, and the way Owen always fears that new people will use him. During her reflection, in the end, she used him like he was just another dream element who didn’t matter.
Owen’s grown enough that he’s not interested in pursuing someone who doesn’t want him.
“Life is simple as H–l until you bring on a partner.”
This fantasy is driven by Owen, with a lot of interference from other characters. He wants to know what it would be like to make his own way in the world, based on his wits and intelligence, rather than his family name, but even here, the lab family keep hijacking the dream. The party he and Annie attend is modelled after the recital, Jed’s engagement party, and probably hundreds of other command performances Owen’s made at family events. But this time he isn’t a man who’s alone because of fear and rejection. His avatar prefers to work alone and is equally at ease making small talk with the crowd or quietly searching the house for treasure during a few stolen minutes.
But Owen secretly/not so secretly longs for a partner. In his original set up, he has a faithful sidekick in his driver. As the fantasy evolves, it turns out that Annie is his devious estranged wife. Both are upscale con artists who’ve come to this particular event to steal a missing chapter of Don Quixote, Annie’s symbol of mental health. Using the book this way is a great commentary on the nature of sanity vs insanity, truth vs reality, and the validity of fantasy as a path to happiness. And too much of a good thing.
As in the previous episode, Owen appears to sacrifice his own success for Annie’s. Since this is his story, he’s the more competent hustler, but she knows how to push his buttons to get what she wants out of him. At this point, Annie becomes a clear representation of Jed, the brother that Owen wishes he could be close to. Jed always takes advantage of that secret knowledge and uses it against Owen in the worst ways.
Owen is smarter, but Jed is ruthless and relentless. He just takes whatever Owen produces, the way that Arlie takes the Don Quixote chapter here.
Owen lets him, in order to maintain peace in the family and avoid conflict. Jed taught him when they were children that literal violence and murder are on the table if he doesn’t approve of Owen’s decisions. And Jed won’t just hurt Owen. He’ll target anyone or anything Owen cares about. Owen has been a victim of psychological abuse for a long time.
The behaviors that Owen’s stuck in mainly stem from the fact that he believes he’s powerless, trapped in the abuse cycle. He’s made small steps toward breaking free of Jed’s and his family’s hold on him, but he still puts himself in positions that give them power over him. He always sees them in their territory, at their command, for their purposes. He still spends so much time with them that they know him well and can exploit his weaknesses at will.
Unlike a con artist, Owen’s an open book and has no poker face. While Annie is a hard-shelled creature, Owen is a squishy sea animal who is tender on the outside and inside. He defends himself by being slippery and hard to catch. His instinct is to retreat at the first sign of trouble, either by giving into demands or withdrawing physically or mentally. Like an octopus, he disappears in plain sight by becoming still, silent and blending in with the furniture. His family has generally approved of this strategy because it keeps him out of their way.
I don’t think Owen actually has schizophrenia. The show has been careful to say that he was diagnosed with or has signs of the illness rather than that he has the illness. I think he has psychotic depression, which is major depression that includes symptoms of psychosis (hallucinations, delusions, or breaks with reality, like Owen’s BLIP).
In order to heal and grow, Owen needs to take charge of his own opinions and needs, and put himself first for a while. He needs to work through his depression and learned helplessness so that he can believe in himself.
In this dream, Owen/Ollie uses the knowledge that he learned as a con artist to do legitimate work as a security consultant. This suggests that he’s considered ways to take his knowledge of Milgrim Industries and his family and use it to make a living working for someone else. But first he’d have to have the confidence to break with his family, trade on the family name, and go up against his father and Jed. That sort of escapist fantasy, when used to imagine and work through possible futures, would be another positive coping mechanism.
He and Annie both have huge abandonment issues. Annie has been physically and emotionally abandoned, while Owen has been psychologically abused and neglected. For each of them, having someone who sticks with them and is on their side, no matter what, would make a huge difference and be very healing. Having a cheering section as they take risks in the world, like if they were to try out new careers, say in nursing and security consulting, would go a long way toward lessening stress and building confidence. Knowing someone will catch you when you fall really is huge.
But the entwined couple who tell Annie and Owen, “You don’t belong here,” suggest that they should keep their relationship platonic, for now. They’re not ready for the complications physical intimacy adds.
Unlike Annie, Owen’s progress is obvious at the end of the story. He’s learned how to avoid the emotional traps he’d normally fall into, only had one brief hallucination, accomplished a useful, helpful task for a paying client, become a respected member of the community, and only had his heart hurt a little bit. He still has to overcome the giant hurdles that lead to his isolation, but it’s clear that the A-B-C therapy is working for him.
Annie needs to be poked and prodded by Gertie and James into making the connections that show she’s made progress. Gertie has to give up on metaphorical reflections and show Annie scenes from her own childhood, juxtaposed with putting Annie in the role of her mother.
It’s telling that Gertie doesn’t think that Annie’s declaration that she’s not suicidal is an important truth. Annie is a consummate survivor, and Gertie can see that. The truths Annie needs to face have to do with who she is, who she wants to be, and who she’s hurt. Facing her similarities to her mother and learning how to avoid making the same mistakes is a good first step. Accepting that the past is over and that she could have a better future is the end goal.
In addition to exploring defense mechanisms, the “B” pill allowed both Owen and Annie to live some lives that could have been theirs have they made different decisions. They got to see what happened when one aspect of their personality was heightened. For Linda, it was Annie’s sense of duty to Ellie and Nan, and her need for some form of justice, in a senseless situation. For Arlie, it was leaving all sense of duty and fair play behind, and living selfishly. For Bruce, it was Owen’s need for partnership and commitment, to the point of sacrificing himself to save his family. For Ollie, living as an island, a man whose work is his life, was explored.
Images courtesy of Netflix.