Severance Season 1 Episode 3: In Perpetuity Recap

In episode 3, Petey tells Mark more about how he became reintegrated. After Mark leaves Petey alone in his basement for the day, Devon and Ricken drop off an advance copy of Ricken’s latest self help book outside on Mark’s front stoop as a gift for Mark. Suspicious of what Mark has been up to lately, Cobel/Selvig finds the wrapped gift and takes it with her. Then she searches his house, driving Petey to escape back out into the cold.

At the office, Helly continues to be unhappy and to search for a way out. Mark and Irving decide she needs more meaning in her work life, so they arrange a group tour of the Perpetuity Wing, the corporate museum which highlights founder Kier Eagan’s family dynasty, Lumon’s corporate philosophy and it’s good works.

Recap

By the beginning of episode 3, Petey (Yul Vasquez) has recovered from whatever it was that happened to him in the shower at the end of episode 2 and put on the blue and red striped robe Mark (Adam Scott) that left for him. Mark must have heard something happen because he asks if Petey is okay and apologizes about the robe, saying it was a gift from Ricken (Michael Chernus). Petey says he just slipped a little in the shower and to respect the robe.

It does look like a cozy robe.

They agree that Petey can keep the robe, since he likes it better than Mark, then Petey double checks that the basement is safe from prying eyes. Mark tells him that Mrs Selvig (Patricia Arquette) is his only close neighbor and she lives on the other side. Petey looks at himself in the mirror and jokes about the Fortress of Solitude, Superman’s arctic retreat.

Suddenly he’s in the men’s room at work and Irving John Turturro) comes through the door, complaining that they don’t have enough office parties. Petey replies that he pressed Cobel for an office mixer not long ago and she told him they had to earn one. He jokes that Dylan’s (Zach Cherry) 4% on Sunset Park won’t be of much help. Then Mark brings him back to the present. Petey explains that the reintegration sickness leaves him disoriented at times. Mark asks what Sunset Park is. Petey says he doesn’t know.

Is that true or is he avoiding explaining more about work for the moment? Technically, his innie doesn’t know what the files represent, but he should know that Sunset Park is a macrodata file that Dylan refined. Apparently Dylan started out as one of the slower refiners, then worked to improve his performance, which helps explain why incentives mean more to him.

Mrs Selvig gets some cookies and milk to snack on while she watches Mark’s house, but we don’t see her eat them. Her counter and stovetop are cluttered and dirty, unlike her empty desktop at Lumon. It looks like the remains of several batches of cookies still lie on the pans where she cooked them.

As far as I can tell, she’s watching Mark’s empty main floor while he’s downstairs with Petey. Is Mark-watching part of her normal evening routine? It’s a noticeable change for Mark to spend so much time in the basement instead of sitting in the living room in front of the TV, eventually falling asleep on the couch.

Petey eats pizza as he tells Mark that it’s difficult navigating two sets of memories. His memories from Lumon feel as old as those from when he was 5 years old. That makes sense- they’re each persona’s earliest memories, so they’re probably stored the same way.

Petey says the present gets blurred too, referring to the way he drifts between the MDR office and where he actually is, “but they said it would get better.” Guessing that being with Mark, who appears in both sets of memories, has made it worse. Mark asks who said it would get better. Petey tells him it was a group who knows severance is wrong and wants to stop it. Mark assumes he means the Whole Mind Collective, the activists who gave him the flyer on his date with Alexa (Nikki James), but Petey denies it was them.

Mark asks what Petey needs from him. In response, Petey asks if Mark wants to know what they do at work. Mark replies that he doesn’t plan to unsever or reintegrate or whatever. He feels being severed at work has helped him.

Petey: “What if the cost of that help is that you’re murdering people eight hours a day?”

Mark: “Am I?”

Petey: “Look, I found a department. One they don’t tell us about. One where you don’t get to leave.”

Mark: “Don’t none of us get to leave?”

Mark is referring to their innies, who are trapped at work. That’s not what Petey is talking about.

Petey: “No, I mean you really don’t get to leave, as in they’re down there right now.”

Which would mean those outies have effectively been put into permanent comas, or murdered. Reintegration allows both personas to live and communicate. Whether they get to leave Lumon’s basement or the city of Kier is another whole issue.

Petey must suspect that Macrodata Refining has something to do with consigning severed workers to permanent innie status.

Mark asks if the permanent innies, who live at Lumon full time, are chained up- as if that’s the only way to enslave people. It’s the perfect privileged response. He doesn’t think he’s ever been coerced into anything and would blame himself for not being smart enough to avoid getting taken advantage of if he had been. Because even now, deep down, he assumes he’s the master of his own universe.

Petey switches to innie mode, as if they’re back in the office. He refuses to discuss the subject any further in case their monitors are bugged or Irving walks in. Mark reminds Petey that they’re not at the office. Petey asks where June (Cassidy Layton) is, then holds his head in pain again.

Petey didn’t trust Irving with a secret, but he trusts Mark with his life, literally. Wonder if they just didn’t get along or if Irving was prone to snitching.

It’s almost like there’s still a Lumon barrier inside Petey that throws him off whenever he’s about to reveal something important. Surely Petey would manage to spit out more specific, useful information within his first couple of hours with Mark, after destroying his life to get this far and telling Mark that he wanted to make sure what he knows doesn’t die with him.

Mark asks who June is. Petey says she’s his daughter, “the greatest kid on Earth” and a heck of a guitar player. He acknowledges how difficult this situation is for both men. “How happy are you that you asked me to stay here?”

Outie Mark isn’t as laid back and compliant as Innie Mark, but he won’t turn away a friend in need, or a friend of his innie. Something in him was drawn to Petey from the first moment he saw him in Devon’s (Jen Tullock) backyard, even without conscious knowledge of their work relationship.

Cobel/Selvig watches Mark return to the living room and settle down in front of the TV. She wonders out loud what he’s up to. Her tone of voice sounds like she cares about him.

Natalie (Sydney Cole Alexander), the Lumon board PR spokeswoman, is featured on the show Mark watches. She’s grilled about the pitfalls of severance, but handles the news moderator as smoothly as she handles Cobel at the office.

News Moderator: “But what do you say, Natalie, to the woman who became pregnant at work less than a month after her company went severed?”

Natalie: “Well, first I’d suggest she reveal her identity if she wants to have an honest conversation about her experience.”

Moderator: “How could she have that conversation when her workie was the one involved…?”

Natalie: “Okay, first of all, workie?”

Moderator: “That, as I understand is the preferred term among…”

Natalie: “I think it’s exactly the condescending verbiage that I’d expect from a group trying to save people from their own choices.”

Mark shakes his head at Natalie’s attempts to derail the discussion away from significant issues like sexual assault and unwanted pregnancies among severed workers by keeping the focus on more trivial issues and refusing to admit that severed workers are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. By the time Natalie baits the moderator into saying severed workers have had their brains split in half, Mark gets annoyed and changes the channel. Natalie successfully convinces viewers on both sides of the severance argument that media coverage of Lumon and severance is biased, diverting viewers away from Lumon’s wrongdoing.

It’s doubtful that, within a month of the procedure, a severed woman had the mental capacity/knowledge of the world to make the choice to get pregnant. How much knowledge does severance leave the innies of how sex and pregnancy work? It probably doesn’t leave them with a full, adult understanding of the potential consequences of sex.

Mark falls asleep on the couch again, in front of the TV, instead of sleeping in the bed he shared with his wife. He wakes up in the morning to a weather forecast for the “greater basin” area. They mention Ganz, where Mark and his wife used to teach. It’s expected to stay cold and icy in Kier for the next several days.

Before he leaves for work, Mark wakes up Petey to say he can stay there for the day. He also tells Petey that he doesn’t intend to reintegrate, explaining that being severed helps with the pain of losing his wife. Petey replies that Mark frequently comes into work with red eyes. Mark’s innie feels his sadness during the day, he just doesn’t know why. Mark listens, but doesn’t respond. He tells Petey to eat whatever he wants and says he’ll be back around 6:00, then leaves.

When he goes out to his car, Mrs Selvig is using a blow dryer to melt the ice on her stoop. If you’ve ever lived in an icy climate, you’ll know that while this method sounds super tempting, it’s a good way to kill a blowdryer (and maybe electrocute yourself) long before you have much impact on the ice. Outie Mark is the least mansplaining of men, because he doesn’t tell the Widow Selvig his Top 10 Better Ways to De-Ice A Stoop now that she doesn’t have her husband to do it for her.

If her situation were real, Mr Selvig should have bequeathed her a couple of bags of rock salt in the garage. But, as always, I digress.

Mark thanks her for the cookies and she promises to make more. He encourages her to share them with him, then gets in his already de-iced car and drives off. As soon as he’s out of sight, she turns off the blowdryer, puts on her Cobel expression and goes inside. The de-icing was just a ruse to watch for Mark to leave and maybe have a conversation to check on his mental state after the unusual behavior she observed last night.

She waves the blowdryer around like it’s a gun.

Innie Mark finds the new group photos in his morning mail. Helly seems happy when she tells him she successfully binned some scary numbers while he was out. He’s surprised to discover he missed a day of work. Irving informs him that Dylan took over training Helly and was great at it. When they notice the new photos, Irving is happy that they can throw out the old ones.

Now that he’s met Burt (Christopher Walken), Irving has moved on to a new era in his life and he wants his desk photo to reflect that.

He also thinks Mark looks thinner and wonders if he had food poisoning. Milchick told Graner (Michael Cumpsty) and Cobel that Mark said he was having a stomach thing, but we didn’t see him tell the MDR team.

Helly tells Mark not to bother putting the photos into the frames since she submitted her resignation request. Mark is surprised she went through with it. She says it’ll save him trips to the Break Room.

Milchick joins them, greeting them all as “refiners”. He tells Mark that his outie was shattered that he couldn’t make it to work yesterday, confirming the theory that the managers play the innie and outie personas off each other. Milchick also told Outie Mark that his innie would be upset about missing a day.

Work Mark seems to take the absence in stride. These personas are used to missing things without explanation or warning and they’ve been trained to understand that their own desires don’t matter much. But telling each persona that their opposite has made a decision they should respect or that they have strong feelings about something is the perfect way to manipulate severed employees, who can’t check with their other halves for confirmation.

It’s 9:20. Milchick invites Mark to read the morning announcements for the first time as supervisor. Mark comments that he’ll have it easier than Petey did, since he used to heckle Petey and make rude noises. Milchick documents the occasion with his camera. Helly and Dylan honor Mark and Petey by heckling him. Mark announces that they need to stop putting garbage in the recycling and putting post-its on their faces- post-its clog outies’ pores. Dylan tells Helly he does a beloved sticky-head character using the office product. Mark also announces that they shouldn’t boast about “previously attained waffle parties.”

Helly’s resignation request has received an usually quick turnaround. Helly stands up, ready to sprint out the door for the last time, but her request has been denied. She insists that has to be wrong, even though they warned her that resignation requests are always denied. Mark tries to comfort her with something Petey said, but she runs out. Milchick heads in the opposite direction, radio to his ear.

Ricken and Devon pull up outside of Mark’s house with a gift for him. Ricken is excited, making a production of deciding where exactly to leave the package and wondering when Mark will find it. Devon is supportive, but she’s pregnant and needs to use the bathroom, so she just wants him to move along. As soon as they leave, Cobel, now dressed for her Lumon job, sneaks over to Mark’s house and puts the package in her bag.

Petey is in the basement, still in Ricken’s robe, trying to recreate the map of the severed floor on a piece of paper. He dissociates and thinks he’s on the severed floor, with Mark asking him if he’s playing Sudoku, the numbers game. Petey says it’s a drawing of Mark getting back to work, in Cubist form. Hallucination Mark asks how Innie Petey knows what Cubist form is and what Petey’s wearing. Petey is embarrassed that he’s worn the blue and red robe to the office and is transported back to Mark’s basement.

Would Innie Mark know what Sudoku is? Shouldn’t that be just as foreign to the innies as Cubism, even if it’s not as esoteric to the outies? Is Macrodata Refining just code for helping the Lumon board do competitive Sudoku?

The rules about what objective information the innies remember and forget are so vague and confusing, complicated by them forgetting whatever is attached to a personal memory.

The clock on the office wall says it’s 10:50. That is so routinely the witching hour on the severed floor that Petey’s brain works it into his hallucinations. Or, despite his reintegration, maybe his implant is still programed to synthesize and release a low dose of a hallucinogen (DMT?) at around 9:00 on weekday mornings, which then reaches its peak at about 10:45.

Depending on where his entrance was timed in the staggered schedule, obviously.

Ms Cobel has a key to Mark’s house and lets herself in after she pockets Ricken’s package. I’m going to hope Mark gave the key to Mrs Selvig so she could feed his fish when he’s out of town. Not that I’m condoning her stalking him or breaking into his house, but it’s slightly less creepy if he gave her the key than if Lumon did or she stole it.

Maybe we need to develop a creepiness scale for this show.

Petey hears her and hides. She heads down the basement stairs, in full Cobel mode, no kind, daffy Selvig to be found. She doesn’t search the basement, but walks through, stopping at the bin labeled “Gemma’s Crafts” that Mark opened when he needed a light bulb. She takes the green and red candle out, sniffing the scent, then puts that in her bag along with Mark’s package. She pokes around a bit more, then Milchick calls her about Helly’s reaction to the denial of her resignation request.

This is another day when Helly had an outburst at about 10:45. And Milchick is feeling incapable of handling her outbursts by himself, or maybe he just wants it on record that Cobel signed off on his actions. If Helly is someone important in the outside world and her innie needs to be punished, her outie might eventually demand an explanation or suggest she was mismanaged.

Cobel wanders into the bathroom to take the call and paces while she talks. Petey watches her and flashes between current reality and seeing her in her office. When her back is turned, he tiptoes up the basement stairs, still in the robe. Cobel asks Milchick if he gave Helly directed praise, then tells him she’s on her way in. She hangs up and goes to her car.

Petey watches her leave from behind a bush. He walks away from Mark’s house without even trying to get back in. Maybe he’s worried that Mark sent Cobel after him or his disorientation has him confusing Mark’s house with the office. As he walks through the streets of Kier, he continues to flash back and forth between the road and the severed floor and tries to follow the map he was working on before he was interrupted. The main road takes him back across the bridge toward the more populated part of town.

Lumon’s basement appears to go on and on. What if the underground severed floor roughly matches the layout of the town above it?

As supervisor, Mark decides it’s time to check on Helly after she’s been locked in the bathroom alone for 45 minutes. She insists she’s fine, but won’t come out or tell him what she’s doing, so he goes in anyway. He finds her writing “Let me out” on her arms in a way that can only be read when they’re pressed together. Mark figures it out with a glance, which suggests it’s something newbies try frequently.

He reminds her that she ‘s had some successes on the job in the last couple of days and is surprised that she’s still so anxious to leave. She reminds him that the work isn’t enjoyable and says she doesn’t want to work there with him, so he can stop pathetically trying to convince her that she does. He gets angry and gives her 5 minutes to wash the writing off her arms, threatening her with Graner and the Bad Soap if she doesn’t comply. She’s incredulous when she confirms that Bad Soap is really a thing.

Does it briefly make your skin itch or burn or does it make you feel bad, causing depression or fear? Never forget that Lumon started with a guy making topical salves and talking about taming his mind.

In the outside world, Helly is either someone very rebellious or very entitled or both. Or her innie is the polar opposite of her outie, like Cobel and Selvig. Though Cobel/Selvig aren’t currently an actual innie and outie pair, as far as I can tell, it’s possible they started out as one.

Irving was eavesdropping on Mark and Helly. He corners Mark outside the bathroom.

Irving: “I am troubled by you having high stress exchanges like that so fresh off your food poisoning.”

Irving missed Mark when he was absent. He also just lost Petey. He doesn’t want to lose anyone else.

Mark says that acclimating to the severed floor takes time, which is more evidence that Helly’s progression so far isn’t particularly out of the ordinary. Irving adds that it takes guidance. Mark asks what he has in mind. Irving doesn’t think incentives will be enough to motivate and fulfill Helly. He believes she needs a visit to the Perpetuity Wing to bring meaning to her life and work. Mark thinks she can get the same messages from reading the handbook, but Irving feels seeing it is important. It’s everything.

Severance S1Ep3 Petey in Robe at Lumon

Severance S1Ep3 Red Fish Black Fish vs Natalie & Mark
Red fish on the left with black fish, Natalie on the left with Mark’s silhouette.

Severance S1Ep3 Devon & RickenSeverance S1Ep3 The You You Are Cover

When Cobel arrives at her office looking harried, Milchick is waiting for her. His desk is in the antechamber to her office, so he serves as her gatekeeper in addition to his many other roles. He asks how the check went and she hands him the package she confiscated from Mark’s front door, telling him to open it. Is she afraid there’s a weapon inside or is opening packages beneath her, unlike breaking and entering and theft?

It’s Ricken’s latest book, as we already know, titled The You You Are: A Spiritual Biography of You, by Dr Ricken Lazlo Hale, PhD, which might be the best self help book title ever created. He really wants you to know he has that degree, giving him the expertise to plumb YOUR spiritual depths. Cobel says it’s his fifth book. Milchick, who recognizes Ricken as Mark’s brother-in-law, reads the title of Chapter 12: “On Learning to Be Emotionally Nude in Front of My Wife”. Cobel tells him, “Check it for messages, just to be safe,” which is weird, since this was meant as a gift to Mark’s outie, who should be entitled to receive whatever messages Ricken wants to send him.

Is Ricken an innie who’s placed out in the world or someone with inside knowledge of Lumon’s procedures? Why are they monitoring Mark’s outside communications so closely? Do they monitor all outies so closely and how can this system possibly be cost effective?

No time to answer any of these questions- Mark enters the office, so Milchick drops the book face down on his desk. But now they need to keep him distracted from it and get him out again quickly. When Mark asks to see Cobel, Milchick asks if he filled out a prior request for supervisory interaction. Of course he didn’t. Cobel tells him to come in anyway and shut the door.

This is the first time we see them alone together in the office. Milchick is usually there as a chaperone, but right now he needs to stash the book.

Mark says that Irving suggested they take Helly to the Perpetuity Wing. Voice dripping with sarcasm, Cobel tells him she’s glad she promoted Irving. Mark rephrases the implicit request into an “I” statement. She asks if he’s filled out a “Common-Space Reservation Slip” in triplicate and emailed it to all of the appropriate supervisors with at least 30 days notice.

Ashamed, Mark admits he hasn’t. He confides that it’s been so weird since Petey left.

Mark: “He set the tone.”

Cobel: “If Petey were the tone-setter you’re lionizing him as, he’d still be here.”

Circular logic for the ages.

Mark: “What does that mean?”

The combination of Helly and Reintegrated Petey have had an effect on Innie Mark. All of a sudden he thinks he has the right to expect his world to make sense and to question it when it doesn’t.

Cobel: “Are you gonna make me throw my mug at you?”

Mark: “Why would you…?”
Without looking up, she throws the mug. Mark dodges it, so it hits the office door.

Cobel: “Get MDR to its numbers.”

Mark: “Okay.”

Cobel, looking down at her paperwork instead of at Mark: “What I just did was something that I knew you could handle and grow from. It was very painful for me. I hope that you’ll let it help you.”

Mark doesn’t know what to make of this. On his way out, he asks if she wants him to leave the door open or closed. She waits several seconds to answer, then says, “Both.” He leaves the door halfway in between.

I feel like we’re in The Matrix. There is no spoon mug. Or is it that there is no door?


Cobel, Severance and Dissociation

Through most of the interaction, Cobel’s emotional affect was the flat calm that’s encouraged in Lumon employees, but as it went on she vacillated between anger and calm. She’s like a person who’s trying project their concept of the correct emotions in a situation. That could mean she’s a psychopath or it could mean she’s very dissociated from her authentic reactions.

There are a wide variety of situations that lead survivors to dissociating from their emotions and physical sensations. Soldiers who see combat, abuse victims, survivors of a serious accidents, natural disasters, serious illnesses and victims of wars and major crimes can all detach from reality and the experience to varying degrees in order to survive. That detachment can become a routine coping mechanism, particularly if the traumatic experience takes place over a long time or has lingering physical effects. Once you’ve learned to disconnect your physical reactions and emotions from external stimuli and it becomes a habit, I’m not sure you can ever completely go back to normal.

So please, let’s not jump to making assumptions about Cobel’s motivations because she reacts a little strangely. All of the workers on the severed floor do, and they all seem like they were damaged as individuals before Lumon got to them. Maybe having a history of trauma and of dealing with it by dissociating is part of the selection criteria for working on the severed floor. If those pathways already exist in the brain, then the implant technology has a head start.

Normally, I would say that Cobel was angry and lashing out at Mark when she threw the mug, but I think her words about helping him were truthful. His recent actions are putting him in danger and he’s not being cautious enough about it, either at home or at work. Maybe if Petey had been smarter and more cautious, he would still be part of the team, or at least not wandering the streets alone in a bathrobe. Without actually telling him, Cobel was trying to tell Mark that not everyone will be as nice as her and Milchick when they become suspicious of him. That’s what “Both” meant. She wants him to look for the hidden meaning in her words.


Meanwhile, back in the MDR office, Dylan tells Irving that his delts (shoulder muscles) look exceptionally fit today. He’s certain that his outie does muscle shows. Irving thinks Dylan wouldn’t have to work at Lumon if he did muscle shows, because they pay so well. Dylan says none of them have any way of knowing how much muscle shows pay, but it’s unlikely that they pay much. They go on to argue and hypothesize about the prize system for muscle shows- trophies and monetary prizes per muscle or for overall fitness? Which muscles are worth more?

This is probably meant to show how immature and sheltered they are, but it sounds like typical bro conversation to me, no matter the age of the bros. My late grandfather, born in 1914, would have happily weighed in on this conversation, at length. It’s timeless. The conversation shows that they retain their knowledge of human anatomy and a certain amount of knowledge about the monetary system and the culture. And that they retain a certain vanity and competitiveness about their looks.

While the guys goof off, Helly writes “I don’t want to work here” on a small piece of paper, folds it up and seals it inside a pen cap with a piece of tape. She takes it to the kitchenette, gets a glass of water and pops the pen cap in her mouth, preparing to swallow it.

Mark has just returned from having a mug thrown at him by Cobel. From behind Helly, he asks, “Thirsty?” Luckily, the surprise doesn’t cause her to choke on the pen cap, but she also can’t answer out loud.

Mark continues the conversation on his own: “Hey, uh, just in case you find this relevant for some reason, the code detectors, they can read messages hidden inside the body as well. Also, when that happens, it’s Milchick’s job to extract the message from you. And when he asks you how long ago you ingested it, I really can’t recommend honesty enough. It’s easier for you both if he knows which end to start from. [He holds out his hand. Helly spits out the pen cap.] Another good try though.”

The genius of Adam Scott and Britt Lower is that because of their chemistry and comedic timing, this scene came off as them flirting in a romantic comedy. Mark seemed more like the person we see in Petey’s flashbacks than he ever has before, either as an innie or an outie. He’s seemed most comfortable and confident when he was with Petey in the flashbacks.

Does that mean Cobel was right about what Mark needed to motivate him? Does he work best when he has a challenge to decipher and push back against?

But more importantly, I think we need to pause and reconsider just how beleaguered poor Seth Milchick, the unsung hero of Lumon Industries, actually is. Like a bunch of toddlers and two year olds, the severed workers are always getting into something and that man literally never sits down. No wonder he’s in such good shape.

I hope he gets paid an extraction bonus.

I’m starting to wonder if there’s a typical progression of escape attempts that newly severed employees work their way through before they give up and accept their fate. How far is the average severed employee willing to go?

Mark walks out of the kitchenette, turning to tell Helly to shut down her work station. It’s time for a field trip! In the background, Irving and Dylan are still arguing about muscle shows, having worked their way down to the calves. Mark ought to at least let them do ankles and feet before they leave.

As the team set off on their adventure through the Lumon hallways, Irving has the employee handbook safely stowed in an official totebag. He acts as tour guide, explaining that there have been eight Lumon CEOs, all descendants of the founder. He’s written a mnemonic poem (that’s not sanctioned by the company) to help them remember the names. He laments that it’s an imperfect creation- he had to include the slant rhyme Ambrose/ban those, which is doubly egregious as Ambrose is frequently seen as the black sheep of the Eagan family, but Irving meant no disrespect toward him.

Irving is a first class mansplainer.

While Irving continues to chatter on about his love for Eagan family history, Dylan slips Helly and Mark each an Eagan Bingo card to help stave off boredom during the tour. Mark debates whether Eagan Bingo is appropriate, especially now that he’s department chief and ostensibly one of the grown ups. Dylan argues that it’s a bonding activity for everyone except Irving.

Everyone tenses up when they run into Burt and Felicia from Optics and Design at a crossroads. Burt and Irving greet each other and continue their discussion from the previous day in the Wellness office. Burt reminds Irving that the new handbook totes will be arriving soon. Dylan gets aggressive and asks what they’re doing out of their “hole”. Felicia nods at the tray she’s carrying and tells him they just finished an egg drop challenge in the team building space. “Tight department like us gotta keep our synergy up.”

Dylan is still suspicious, while Mark explains that they’re taking Helly, their new team member, to the Perpetuity Wing. Burt welcomes Helly to the severed floor, then says they need to be getting back to their nest. As they part, Dylan shouts an insult about their eggs and Felicia throws him a dirty look, but otherwise the encounter ends without further incident.

Cobel returns to her office from someplace, probably supervising the O&D egg drop challenge, to find Lumon PR hack Natalie waiting for her. Milchick sets up the speaker on her desk for the board to not speak through. Seth has been so busy that Ricken’s contraband book is still sitting in plain view on his desk just outside.

In this conversation, we’re on a first name basis. Except the board, who continue to be in stealth mode. Harmony and Natalie greet each other. Harmony asks Natalie if the meeting is about Helena, which must be what Helly is short for. Natalie tells her it’s about Peter Kilmer and that the board is listening in. Seth and Harmony give each other a warning side eye before he leaves the two women alone.

They sit in silence as everyone tries to out wait everyone else before speaking, since speaking first in a board meeting is a sign of low status at Lumon. Natalie eventually tells Cobel that the board wants her to speak first. This is an intriguing moment, because we’re meant to think it makes Cobel the lowest status person in the room, but in fact it was Natalie who blinked first. She may relay the board’s messages, but she’s just their lackey.

Cobel says hello and stops, until Natalie nods for her to continue. Cobel speaks one sentence at a time, waiting to be prodded to continue every single time. They practically have to beg her to speak. She tells them that they’re continuing to search for Petey and says that before he disappeared, he showed signs of reintegration.

Natalie holds up her hand to tell Cobel to pause, then listens to the board on her earpiece. When they finish, she relays to Cobel that the board have conveyed, using strong language, that severance is proven to be irreversible and someone who’s the manager of a severed floor should know that. And Cobel should be focusing on getting MDR to their quota by the quarterly deadline in three weeks.

Cobel: “Yes, of course. We are quickly rekindling our yield down here with our nimble new refiner.”

Cobel tries to continue, but Natalie informs her that the board has hung up on her. She tries to ask Natalie a question, but Natalie cuts her off as she rushes out the door.

Well, that was cold on the part of Natalie and the board. They’re very invested in severed workers maintaining their selective amnesia, aren’t they? It’s almost as if they already know the technology has glitches and they don’t want Harmony to reveal its flaws. Harmony sees reintegration as positive and is involved in a battle of wits (Wiles) to get the board to admit that reintegration is possible.

If you’re counting on your crimes remaining secret forever without having to permanently silence witnesses through unsavory means like murder, severance is a godsend. Imagine the possibilities for organized crime, authoritarian regimes committing war crimes and wealthy men who want to have a good time in ways that happen to be illegal or immoral. Or oops, someone gets hurt. Or dead.

Or pregnant.

Cobel isn’t stupid and she knows how to speak in code, too. She used the words “rekindle” and “nimble” to refer to Helly. Nimble is one of the nine core values, which links Helly to the Eagans. Rekindle may or may not have significance beyond Helly’s fiery red hair, but I feel like all of the uses of red as a warning are going to result in an actual fire sooner or later. Not to mention the candles and overt fire references.

MDR continues walking to the Perpetuity Wing- shouldn’t they get to ride in a school bus on their field trip? Helly brings up O&D again, confused that there would be a two person department. Irving thinks it sounds lonely. Dylan thinks it’s unnatural and perverse, just like O&D themselves. He reminds the others that Kier sorted workers and departments according values- “Macrodats are clever and true while O&D are more cruelty-centered.”

Is this information from the handbook?

No one’s sure how many other departments there are. Dylan guesses 30 and Mark guesses 5. Dylan says that the departments are kept separated because O&D attempted a violent coup on the rest decades ago. Helly asks if they killed anyone. Mark insists that there was no violent coup and no one died. Helly asks why they don”t get to socialize with other departments, if that’s true. Mark backs off to 99% certainty.

Helly proposes they kill Mark, then wear the skin from his face as a mask to show how tough they are in case O&D returns. She believes it would send a powerful message for O&D to find them soaked in Mark’s blood. They would tell anyone who asks that it was the blood of the last person who messed with them. Mark, as supervisor, gives her a little constructive criticism, suggesting that Helly wear his face inside out so that O&D won’t recognize that it’s him, making MDR look more fierce. Helly smiles at him, because he gets it.

Severance S1Ep3 MDR vs O&DSeverance S1Ep3 Cobel Meets with the BoardSeverance S1Ep3 NatalieSeverance S1Ep3 Jame Eagan StatueSeverance S1Ep3 Pepetuity Wing

The Perpetuity Wing is at the end of a long hall, behind an unassuming door. Inside, there’s a statue of current CEO James Eagan (Michael Siberry), a “remarkable” and “handsome” old man with white hair and bushy eyebrows. He looks about 90 years old. Two quotes are displayed on the walls, one from Kier and one from James.

Kier: “The remembered man does not decay.”

James: “History lives in us, whether we learn it or not.”

The usual contradictions, but now the source of them is revealed. Both quotes refer to immortality, one through memories, which Lumon has commodified with the severance technology, and the other through the body’s biochemical processes for storing and transferring information, also commodified with the severance technology. Two different ways of describing the same thing, in the end, but one grants the owner of the mind their humanity and the other treats the human as a machine.

Which reveals the difference between Kier and James- Kier had principles, or at least pretended to in public, while his descendants/James have corrupted them and the business. We’re back to Kier as God and the severed floor as purgatory or maybe Hell. Is James the equivalent of Lucifer, the OG fallen angel?

Once they’re all inside the Perpetuity room, Irving adds another quote: “Come now, children of my industry, and know the children of my blood.”

Is there anything about this place that isn’t creepy and excessively paternalistic? I maintain that vampires of one kind or another will appear eventually. There’s just no way there aren’t real, live monsters in these bright shadows. And what about the GOATS? Someone is going to drink the blood of those poor babies. This place is way too obsessed with blood, whether flowing in the vein or metaphorical.

And with ownership. Severed employees may actually be Eagan descendants. Or they may sign power of attorney arrangements as part of their severance contracts, handing over control to the company while their innies are at work. For legal purposes, that would essentially make them the company’s children and give the company the right to be possessive and controlling with them. Lumon would argue that it only has their best interests at heart.

Wonder how closely severed workers read their contracts.

Helly gives the statue of James a long look, as if he’s familiar, while the team heads down the long spiraling staircase to the hall where the rest of Lumon’s CEOs are depicted. Irving explains that the center of the wing is for all of the CEOs, but the back part is devoted to Kier.

A rapidly deteriorating Petey wanders the streets, using his Lumon map to guide him, while a recording of Kier’s voice plays over the scene. Kier says that he knows he’s getting close to death because others keeping asking him how he wants to be remembered while his corpse rots.

Kier: “In my life, I have identified four components, which I call tempers, from which are derived every human soul. Woe. Frolic. Dread. Malice. Each man’s character is defined by the precise ratio that resides in him. I walked into the cave of my own mind and there I tamed them. Should you tame the tempers as I did mine, then the world shall become but your appendage. It is this great and consecrated power that I hope to pass on to all of you, my children.”

Kier renamed the four tempers that have been known since ancient times. The painting from episode 2 illustrates him taming his own tempers in the cave of his mind, but there’s much more going on in the painting than that. Kier is depicted as a saint, for one thing, rather than a mortal man learning self-control.

Their next stop is Myrtle Eagan (Jillian Lindig), CEO 1941-1959. Helly jumps when the automated statue speaks: “I think to be an Eagan, either a true Eagan or anyone working in this Lumon family, what you are is a keeper of an ethos, a compact of values that we have long held as precious, and which I do believe will one day save this world. And that ethos goes all the way back through my blood to where we all started, with Kier. When I was a girl, my father would make me whisper… Vision, Verve, Wit, Cheer, Nimbleness, Probity, Wiles…”

We hear Myrtle list 7 of the 9 core values, skipping over Humility and Benevolence. Those qualities do seem to be missing in the Lumon we’ve been watching for three episodes.

After listening to Myrtle’s recording, Helly crosses “Lumon Will Save The World” off her Eagan Bingo card. And look, blood comes up again in Myrtle’s speech, both as a metaphor for the Eagan/Lumon family and corporate lineage and as the blood in her veins, where her “goodliness” literally resides.

The Eagan’s are obsessed with the thought of what is carried in and passed through their blood and they believe it’s more than just physical characteristics. When combined with their interests in refining, purity and human experimentation, that’s more than a little chilling. I will be shocked if eugenics doesn’t play into this somewhere. There’s just too much talk about babies, blood and purity for it to go anywhere else. Especially since Kier started out during the slavery era and lived through the eugenics era, into the Nazi era.

Mark congratulates Helly on crossing off a Bingo square. Irving joins them and reverently says that it’s okay to cry. He tells them that when she was 7 years old, Myrtle told her father that she’d be CEO of Lumon someday. Irving marvels at her audacity, since Lumon had never had a female CEO before her.

That’s a bit of melodramatic mythology added to the story to make Lumon seem more progressive, even though only 2 of the 8 CEOs have been women. When Myrtle was 7, it was 1893 and Kier was the only CEO Lumon had ever had. Good for Myrtle for being ahead of her time, but by the end of 1941, the year she took over, the able-bodied men were about to go off to war. That might have had as much to do with her ability to win the role as her verve and nimbleness.

Helly tells Irving that Myrtle’s origin story is beautiful. “It almost makes me wish I remembered my own childhood.”

Irving: “It’s an unnatural state for a person to have no history. History makes us someone. Gives us a context. A shape. But waking up on that table, I was shapeless. But then, I learned that I work for a company that has been actively caring for mankind since 1866.”

While he’s been speaking, Irving has led them into the Lumon Legacy of Joy, where rows of cropped, enlarged photographs of smiles line the walls. He tells Helly that each smile represents someone that Lumon has helped- it should be noted that they weren’t necessarily helped with dentistry. Nevertheless, the sheer number of smiles, which are rotated in and out of the room, brings overwhelming happiness and pride to Irving. This is what he believes in. Even if the work they are doing in MDR doesn’t matter, they facilitate the good done by Lumon and that gives Irving an identity to hold onto.

Dylan is, as always, unimpressed. He notices that the mouth wall has been updated and his favorite female mouth is gone. Denied a visit with his fantasy girlfriend, Dylan is ready to leave, but Irving bristles that they haven’t even seen Kier’s part of the museum yet. Off they go, to a perfect replica of Kier’s home, which has been reconstructed inside the Lumon basement, the yard lit by a faux sky similar to the lights in Ms Casey’s Wellness room.

It’s another time when this show reminds me of Dark, with its underground lair whose entrance was fashioned to look like a Greek temple. That structure started out as a mine. I wonder if Lumon, which sounds like it should be related to light, also developed from taking raw materials that were mined underground (or in the subconscious) and bringing them up to the light. Maybe now the mines have been turned into the severed floors (where the memories are buried rather than brought to the surface).

They enter the house and go straight to Kier’s bedroom, an odd choice. Why not his office or workshop, where the Lumon magic happened? Or is the bedroom where the most important Lumon magic happened? The bedroom is tricked out as if Kier might come home to it at any moment, only preserved as a museum, roped off and under glass. A sign warns visitors not to sit on Kier’s bed.

Irving continues to pompously explain the obvious. Mark and Helly play along, but Dylan says, “I hate this place. It smells like 19th century *ss.” Irving lashes out at him for treating the tour like a beer party. Dylan protests that he’s been reverent until now. Mark tries to sneak a moment on Kier’s bed while Irving is distracted, but Irv doesn’t miss anything when it comes to his idol.

While he’s chastising Mark for wanting to find out what a bed feels like he notices the bright blue Bingo card in Mark’s pocket and becomes even more perturbed. He can’t believe Mark could do this to the Eagans. THE EAGANS. According to Irv, Mark should have matured beyond these silly distractions by now. Mark protests that the game was really to help Helly learn, not to keep him and Dylan awake.

This confession makes it even worse for Irv. It’s blasphemy!! Mark tainted Helly’s spirituality and search for meaning before she had the chance to be exposed to right and wrong! OMG!! Irv thinks a department chief should really be better than this. Mark points out that he didn’t want to be department chief and he definitely didn’t want Petey to disappear…

Speaking of disappearing, they realize they’ve lost Helly.

Well, to be fair, Helly has disappeared herself, as usual. Her snake and apple metaphors, the pen and paper, are once again within her reach and this Eve will keep biting that apple until she gets kicked out of Eden, come Hell or high water. Or Kier Eagan’s minions. But her devoted Adam (lol, good casting), Mark, won’t let her ruin things for both of them if he can help it.

Severance S1Ep3 Mark in Kier's RoomSeverance S1Ep3 Helly Under Red AlertSeverance S1Ep3 Frazzled MarkSeverance S1Ep3 Milchick & BookSeverance S1Ep3 Break Room

Helly’s written another note to her outie and is making a run for it through the labyrinthine halls of the severed floor. Mark chases her to a choppy, intense piano score and matching camera work. It’s all very Hitchcock Noir, except that there are no shadows anywhere, emphasizing why Helly needs to either escape or go insane- there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Milchick sits in a conference room with a glass wall and reads Ricken’s book. He’s not impressed, but then he doesn’t need any improvements. More importantly, he got to sit down for a few minutes!

Helly makes it to the stairwell, but the door is locked, since this isn’t a sanctioned learning experience. She runs back for the fire extinguisher and uses it to break the glass window on the door. The broken window sets off alarms, including a buzzer and flashing red lights throughout the area. Milchick jumps up, leaves the book face up on the table, and rushes to the stair well.

Once the alarms go off, Mark figures out where Helly is and catches up to her quickly. She pulls out her Bingo card out and sticks it through the window, pushing her arm and head through as far as she can in an attempt to trigger the chip to put her outie back in charge. She’s written a note on the paper that says, “Never come back here.”

But it doesn’t work and we’re in full horror movie mode now. Mark pulls her back through the window and they both fall on the floor. Her arm is bleeding from scraping across the broken window glass and the alarms are still going off. Graner the cryptkeeper appears at the other end of the hall. He uses a remote to click off the buzzing and flashing, leaving the hall bathed in red light, then says, “This way, Helly R.”

Helly and Mark have a brief Lucy and Desi moment, where she half smirks and shrugs her shoulders at him before deflating, while he looks exasperated with her.

She hasn’t been to the Break Room yet. She gives Mark a dirty look before she trudges away after Graner. Mark doesn’t exactly soften toward her, but his look changes to whatever you call the combination of miserable, worried and expectant. Cautious terror? Self-loathing schadenfreude? Hollow anxiety? This is the closest to his outie persona we’ve ever seen his innie appear.

Helly walks down the dark, narrow hallway to a tiny room where Milchick is already sitting and waiting for her. In a soft, calm voice, he tells her he’s sorry to see her. He hoped she’d settle in without going through these difficulties, especially since Mark is working so hard to make her happy. As he’s speaking, he sprays Lumon brand Triple Antibiotic Ointment (salve) on her bleeding arm (she jumps), then wraps and tapes a bandage around it.

Helly says he seems like a smart person, so he ought to be able to recognize how messed up this is. He stops her, saying, “Not right now.”

Do they have this kind of conversation somewhere else, sometime else? Are they lunch buddies? Or maybe dinner and breakfast buddies??

He commands her to sit and put her hands on the table, adding a please at the end because it has to seem like a request. There are ridges on the table for her to slide her fingers between so that the embedded lie detector sensors will pick up her readings. Milchick finishes setting up his equipment, including an old-fashioned audiocassette recorder that isn’t part of the room’s original equipment. He states for the record that this is the compunction statement for Helly R, then turns on an overhead projector on his side of the table, which projects the statement onto a glass barrier between them. She jumps at the brightness. He tells her to read it. She says she doesn’t want to. He says, “No, do.” She complies without any further argument.

That was an odd bit of business. I wonder if there’s a calming agent in the ointment that he knew was about to take effect, so he could give her a firmer order than usual. He didn’t wash off her cut or check to see if she had glass splinters in it, so the reasons he treated it were to give her the ointment and cover it so he wouldn’t be exposed to her blood. That wasn’t really about her health or safety. (It’s possible Graner did the first part, but the cut still had blood smeared around it.)

It’s the same statement that we’ve heard before: “Forgive me for the harm I have caused this world. None may atone for my actions but me and only in me shall their stain live on. I am thankful to have been caught, my fall cut short by those with wizened hands. All I can be is sorry and that is all I am.”

Milchick plays with the light settings so that she’s looking at maximum glare while she speaks. When she finishes, he tells her she didn’t mean it and makes her read it again. He makes her read it over and over. Cobel watches behind 2 way glass, signaling that Helly should keep going.

At the end of the day, Mark sits at his desk and broods while Dylan prepares to leave. Once Dylan turns out the overhead lights and heads for the elevator, Mark decides to finally switch out the group photos. He retrieves the old photos from the supply closet and replaces each photo. When he gets to the final frame he finds a detailed map on the back of the photo. This is the map Petey said he left for Mark.

Petey is in a convenience store having a physical and mental breakdown. His nose is bleeding down his chin and he’s yelling at the cashier for tokens so he can eat. The cashier gets to him just as he has a painful spasm or seizure and sinks to the floor.

Mark’s exit from work is uneventful, except that Judd (Mark Kenneth Smaltz) isn’t at his desk. He discovers Petey missing when he gets home and goes back out to look for him. When he sees an ambulance at a crossroads near the bridge, he follows it, probably figuring that Petey’s reintegration sickness makes him a walking emergency.

He pulls into the convenience store lot behind the ambulance, but stays with his car as the paramedics help Petey out of the store. Petey seems to sense Mark’s presence as soon as he’s outside. He stops and looks straight at Mark, who’s standing next to his car. For a moment, they both have a look of recognition, almost joy, on their faces, then Petey drops to the ground, unconscious. Mark watches the paramedics with concern, realizes he shouldn’t be there and gets back in his car. He looks like he isn’t even sure where he is for a second, then drives away.

When he gets home, he rushes down to the basement to hide the evidence that Petey was ever there. As he’s heading back up the stairs, Petey’s phone buzzes from where he dropped it on the floor under a table. A blocked number is calling.

Severance S1Ep3 Petey's Inside MapSeverance S1Ep3 Judd & Petey at Convenience StoreSeverance S1Ep3 Mark at StoreSeverance S1Ep3 Petey at StoreSeverance S1Ep3 Petey's Phone


Commentary

Where does Dylan get all of his rumors and information? Some of it must come from the encyclopedic Lumon handbook, but who’s spreading the rumors?

Helly doesn’t dissociate. She’s present all the time and reacts to everything. After her run in with the super scary numbers in episode two and the dismissal of her resignation request, she’s spooked for the entire episode, jumping at every unexpected sensation. It makes me wonder if her outie faced some consequences for the resignation request and what ever happened to her overnight left Helly jumpy.

One of Helly’s metaphorical guises may be as Helen of Troy, who was a complex mythological figure. Cobel asks Natalie if the board wants to talk about Helena, but it’s not clear which character she’s referring to. The odds are that it’s Helly, but you never know.

Helen of Troy’s father was Zeus, the king of the Greek Gods and her mother was Leda, a mortal woman, so Helen was technically a demi-goddess. She was worshipped as a Goddess in several regions. Zeus disguised himself as a swan to impregnate Leda, which caused her to lay two eggs, each of which held two babies. The Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, were in one, and Helen and her sister, Clytemnestra were in the other.

Due to her legendary beauty, Helen’s life only gets more complicated from there. When she was 7, she was kidnapped by Theseus, then rescued by her brothers. As an adult, she was married to King Menelaus, but then the Goddess Aphrodite gave her to Paris as a bribe/prize in a contest. Paris claimed her/abducted her and took her to either Troy or Egypt, which started the ten year long Trojan War. Menelaus and the Greeks win the war when they sneak inside Troy by hiding inside the Trojan Horse. Helen reunites with her husband and they return home, doing some sightseeing and having adventures along the way.

So far, Helly’s outie life is mysterious, but she seems to be someone important. Milchick told her how excited they all were that she was going to be working with them and he doesn’t seem to be easily excited. Milchick watches her closely, just like Cobel watches Mark. They gave her a lot of leeway in her behavior, rather than bluntly coercing her to sit down and shut up, until she physically harmed herself.

Trojan Mark

But none of this, or the other little hints I could point out, is conclusive. There are some rough parallels in the story which may or my not amount to much later on. What’s more interesting is the blatant reference to the Trojan Horse in the opening credits, with one Mark sitting at a desk inside a larger Mark’s head, with Big Mark’s skull flipped open like a flip top. That suggests whatever is in the severed workers’ heads, including their alternate personas, will be the agents of Lumon’s destruction, and Helly will be the catalyst that sets those events in motion.

Is this the way Milchick extracts internal written messages from severed workers?

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Mark and Petey Are the Heart and Soul of MDR

Petey still haunts the Macrodata Refinement Department.

I don’t think it’s being severed that’s helped Innie Mark. I think it was making a new connection with Petey and the rest of the team that gave him a new reason to keep going. Now the situation is more complicated, because his innie has to keep going and even take over for Petey, but he doesn’t understand why Petey was so important to him.

Judd the Lumon security guard was one of the paramedics who helped Petey at the convenience store. This has all kinds of implications for where Petey will be taken for medical care and what that care will look like.

At the end, Petey looks pained but determined, like he knows he needs to do something, but it’s going to be tough. Then he looks straight up into Mark’s eyes and they have their moment of joyful recognition before Petey collapses. Mark takes a few seconds to snap out of it and looks like he isn’t even sure where he is at first.

What if Petey transferred something to Mark in those moments? He said he didn’t want everything he’d learned to be lost- maybe it wasn’t. Maybe one of the things the rebels did was give him a certain amount of control over his own implant. Or maybe implants are programed to transmit their content when the body is about to die and Petey knew that, so he chose Mark as the person who would receive his transmission.

What I’m saying is, maybe Petey put his Katra into Mark the way Spock put his Katra into McCoy in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

Mark was closer to Petey than anyone else in his life, in or out of Lumon. He’s close to his sister, Devon, but it seems like he tries not to burden her too much, since she’s married with a baby on the way. It seems like Devon and Ricken and Mark and Gemma were all close and Devon and Ricken both miss that, but for Mark, seeing them together is another painful reminder of what he’s lost, now including a potential family.

Mark’s relationship with Petey doesn’t carry any of that baggage. At Lumon, Petey didn’t bring much baggage to his side of the relationship either, but he did bring his ability to connect with and read people.

While Work Mark rushes in to help his coworkers, Home Mark is polite and sometimes even kind, but he typically hangs back in a crisis. Even though he feels their connection from the beginning, he doesn’t go to Petey when he sees him the first time outside of Devon’s house and he doesn’t go to him at the convenience store either. It took him a few days to decide to go to the address on the card.

As Petey is led out of the convenience store, he stares at Mark, then he collapses. Did he look straight into into Mark’s eyes? Was there a subconscious exchange of data between their chips, even if it didn’t rise to the level of Vulcan Katra? Is this a quantum entanglement situation, like on Travelers?

It was reminiscent of the way Milchick stared into Helly’s eyes as her implant was activated. Was Petey’s implant deactivated in that moment or was some other Lumon protocol triggered? There’s a bit of other evidence that Petey and Mark have a brain connection- Petey gave Mark the niece card when Mark is about to become an uncle; the frills on the “mind” on the map make it look like Mark’s fish.

At end of episode, Petey’s clothes should be somewhere in Mark’s house, too. Maybe they were part of what he rolled up and hid.

Up until this episode, no one but Mark has been seen eating. Frequently plates are empty and still clean. The clue that this was something to pay attention to was when Devon, at nine months pregnant, didn’t also make a sandwich for herself after the non dinner, when the usual trope is that pregnant women are always hungry. (I was shocked that the sandwich was for him.) We’ve seen Mark eat Mrs Selvig’s chamomile cookie and Devon’s ham (?) sandwich. Otherwise we see him drink alcohol almost constantly as an outie. So we’ve only seen him ingest substances as an outie and eat solid foods that are given to him by women he trusts.

But Petey actually eats the pizza Mark gives him. This is the first time someone other than Mark has eaten or drank. Over the course of the first 3 episodes, Petey goes through a process of physical deterioration that was started by reintegration (as far as we know). Was the pizza his actual and symbolic last supper?

The robe is blue and red, action and danger, but blue is also symbolic of corporate loyalty and red signifies the spark of life- when one was threatened, so was the other. Severance affects the employees’ corporeality in some way we don’t understand yet. Maybe the chip copies their mind and has a kill switch that activates if its damaged, so that it can’t be removed. If true, that would be the reason why severance is irreversible and permanent. But maybe a version of the employees mind can outlive their body if they last long enough for their entire mind to be copied.

Even though Mark’s outie was a college professor, Irving and Dylan are better natural teachers than Mark, understanding that Helly needs patience, praise, and repeated explanations using different methods and motivations. Maybe that’s because Mark worked with adults, who were self-motivated, or maybe his teaching skills were located in the parts of his memories that were wiped. Whereas Dylan and Irving are less likely to be professionally trained teachers, so those skills were located in other parts of their brains, such as with emotional or practical caretaking skills learned by doing rather than professional skills learned in school.



Location, Location, Location: The Fortress of Solitude, the Company Town and Scary Numbers

Petey makes an offhand remark to himself in the bathroom mirror about Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, the remote arctic retreat in the Andes Mountains where Superman keeps his alien artifacts and rooms full of keepsakes that memorialize his loved ones. It’s the place where he goes to problem solve and to get away from it all.

Petey used the cold greenhouse as his Fortress of Solitude, where he hid from hid family and his enemies while he worked on the map of Lumon and the severed floor. Then Petey spends most of the episode in a robe, like a God or an Ancient, walking around in winter without proper clothing on.

The Fortress of Solitude housed a miniaturized city in a bottle, much like Kier’s home in the perpetuity wing and the housing for full time severed workers that Petey mentions. The fake skies we’ve seen give me pause- is Kier a city in a bottle, with fake skies?

We’re seen panoramic views of the countryside, so I’ve resisted this theory. But its geographic isolation could keep it closed, a metaphorical city in a bottle, if it’s in a location similar to the remote location in the Andes Mountains where Superman had his Fortress of Solitude. The weather report in this episode referred to the greater basin area.

If Kier is built inside a caldera (the hollow, collapsed crater at the mouth of a volcano) or a basin formed by an extinct lakebed within and surrounded by mountain ranges (a graben), it could be both mineral rich and have a high elevation that’s still much lower than the surrounding region, which would lead to further isolation, since this geographic configuration blocks radio waves, cell phones, internet signals, etc. There have been a few other hints that they might be in Nevada or Utah, or at least in the Western US. The Western states have many regions which could work for an isolated company town that would include radio silence.

I’m basing these ideas on the Plains of San Augustin, in New Mexico, the location of the Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory. The site was chosen for the VLA because of its naturally radio-quiet environment, which helps the astronomers filter out manmade background signals so they can detect faint ancient radio waves produced by space phenomena. The severance implants also use wireless frequencies and would work best with as little outside interference as possible.

My current guess for what the Macrodata numbers represent is information that’s encoded as frequencies that match their implants. The implants pick up a given frequency, which elicits an emotional response in the severed workers, at the same time as a number behaves in a particular way. They’re sorting the information stored in the frequencies- it could be signals from space, vocal patterns, whale song, lie detector results, or anything that can be translated into a radio/electromagnetic wave.

Associating the number with the frequency is a learned behavior and picking up the frequency among all of the other distractions in the room takes some time to master. The implant allows them to discern signals beyond the human brain’s normal capacity. This is why they’re underground and in the center of a large room- the environment blocks out most other signals, which further helps them isolate frequencies. Different people have different talents for which type of signals they’re most likely to sense, which is why MDR works as a team of four, made up of the four tempers, and they don’t share files when they get behind.

Severance S1Ep3 Map Detail Guy with Arrows & Waves Coming Out of Head
Detail from Petey’s Map-Person Emitting Rays & Waves from Head & Eyes

The team’s implants must be synced to work synergistically, with four being the optimal number. But it also has something to do with harmonics- harmony will be the fifth bin. The four refiners are hardly ever alone in that room for long. I’m never going to understand physics or electricity well enough to explain it, but my guess is that it will have something to do with how wave patterns interact. Sound waves are mechanical vibrations. Radio waves, electrical currents, brainwaves and light are all electromagnetic waves that can form patterns or interfere when they interact with each other. Hallucinogens alter brainwaves.

This page gives a plain language description of different forms of electromagnetic waves, their comparative strength and ability to affect each other.


Kier’s Tempers

Page 6 from the Lumon Severed Employee Orientation Handbook, which describes the 4 types of numbers. They probably correspond to the four temperaments.

Kier reworked the ancient system of four temperaments and humors first described by the ancient Greeks to fit his own ideas of how the world works, renaming the temperaments woe, frolic, dread, malice. We’ve already met these tempers in the categories the MDR workers sort numbers into, as described on Handbook page 6 from Severance companion book The Lexington Letter.

The categories are:

1- WO (woe), which elicits melancholy or despair. Clearly this one corresponds to the traditional melancholic temperament.

2- FC (frolic), which elicits joy and ecstasy. This would correspond to the sanguine temperament.

3- DR (dread), which elicits fear, anxiety or apprehension. Dread corresponds to the phlegmatic temperament.

4- MA (malice), which elicits rage or a desire to do harm. Malice corresponds to the choleric temperament.

There are 4 employees in the Macrodata Refinement Department (Mark, Dylan, Helly, Irving) and 4 members of the management team who were see most often (Cobel, Milchick, Graner, Natalie). In other words, each groups has one person person per personality type.

Milchick is malice, not because we’ve seen an active threat yet but because he’s the man of action on the floor and this is the active verb of the temperaments, corresponding to the choleric, also an active temperament. This category also describes Helly, which I shouldn’t have to explain. She created a plan to rip Mark’s face off in this episode.

The Widow Cobel/Selvig fits woe, which corresponds to melancholic, the depressive. Her defining trait in both guises is her overwhelming sense of loss, as is Mark’s, who is also woe/melancholic.

Graner is dread/phlegmatic, as is Dylan. Graner speaks softly and carries a big stick. We’ve never seen him lose his cool. He is a serious man who instills fear in others and believes in enforcing the rules. Dylan, on the other hand, wears his dread on his sleeve, using his imagination to come up with a paranoid scenario for every encounter.

Natalie is frolic/sanguine, as is Irving, though they represent two different aspects of this temperament. Natalie doesn’t take anything seriously, other than her power over others and the board’s power over her. She’s shallow and frivolous, perfectly wiling to engage in exploitation to achieve whatever outcome her employer desires. She’ll dance while Rome burns. Irving exhibits the artistic, compassionate side of frolic/sanguine, with a side of the pettiness that defines Natalie. They are both aligned with authority and disinclined to do the deeper thinking it takes to become an activist.


The Lumon CEOs, in Order of Appearance

(unreadable dates taken from this reddit post)

Kier Eagan- Lived: 1841-1939/ CEO: 1865-1939/ Died at age 98. CEO for 74 years. Founder of Lumon Industries and creator of the Lumon core values and tempers.

Ambrose Eagan- Lived: 1865-1941/ CEO: 1939-1941/ Ceo for 2 years. Died at age 76 after waiting his entire life to take over the family company. Kier’s son? The black sheep of the family, probably because it was impossible for him to measure up to his saintly, uber successful father’s reputation and expectations, so he went in the other direction.

Myrtle Eagan- Lived: 1886-1960/ CEO: 1941-1959/ Died at age 74. CEO for 18 years. First female CEO. Probably Ambrose’s daughter, who took over after her father died. Might have had to muscle some brothers and male cousins out of the way. At age 7, vowed that she would run Lumon one day. Followed Kier’s values.

Baird Eagan- Lived: 1902-1976/ CEO: 1959-1976/ Died at age 74. CEO for 17 years.

Gerhardt Eagan- Lived: 1920-1991/ CEO: 1976-1987/ Died at age 71. CEO for 11 years. Lived for 4 years after leaving CEO position. Maybe he was in a coma?

Phillip Pip Eagan- Lived: 1937-1999/ CEO: 1987-1999/ Died at age 62. CEO for 12 years.

Leonora Eagan- Lived: 1960-2008/ CEO: 1999-2008/ Died at age 48. CEO for 9 years.

Jame Eagan- Lived: ?-present/ CEO: 2008-present/ Presumably the show takes place sometime in the 2020s and Jame has been CEO for a minimum of 12 years. According to Lumon CEO tradition, Jame should be younger than Leonora, who would only be 62 in 2022 if she had lived, so why is Jame depicted as an old man?

In general, the ages of the CEOs suggest that the position is passed down to the next generation each time it changes hands and that the Eagans tended to have children when they were young, until Leonora was born when Pip was 33, breaking that cycle. Jame is depicted as an old man in the Perpetuity Wing, raising the possibly Leonora died childless and was an only child herself, so the family had to turn to an older relative to replace her, perhaps one of Pip’s or Gerhardt’s brothers.

There’s a coded message in here somewhere about the great and consecrated power Kier wielded that his children haven’t been able to replicate. He lived to the age of 98, but none of the CEOs who followed have lived past the age of 74, the number of years that Kier ran Lumon. Recent CEOs are dying at younger and younger ages.

Either there’s fierce competition to lead the company, as if they’re a royal family poisoning each other to gain the throne, they have a genetic disease that’s grown worse with each generation (autoimmune diseases and hemophilia come to mind- Gerhardt, Pip and Leonora all could have been affected by HIV in blood transfusions) or they’ve figured out how to transcend their corporeal existences and are leaving the earthly plane behind as soon as they can manage. I suspect it’s something along the lines of the first two, given the obsession with blood and family, but maybe the chip slowly harvests their souls so that they can then transfer themselves to a new body that’s younger and is free of genetic diseases.

Or that Jame is hiding his/her true identity behind that statue of an old man, since the last three CEOs served for 12 years or less, then died. They all died when they were age 74 or younger, the number of years Kier seems to have gotten out of the deal he made with the devil when he was 24, if we go with a Faustian point of view. Jame could be hiding his/her identity to avoid the jealous relatives or rivals who are slowly picking off the family.

Or, the old man statue of Jame could be for the severed floor alone, as another way to promote paternalism. Someone may have decided that old man Jame would be a comforting, grandfatherly figure for the innies to relate to, one who would help them feel safe. That statue may always represent the current CEO, no matter who it is.

They feel like trophies to me. Why only mouths? All of those teeth also start to feel threatening, just like the numbers.

A Closer Look at the Eagan Bingo Card

Thanks to Mr Metawitches and his amazing “pause” skills for help with 3D and 4D.

1A: Wax Tears / 2A: Monocle / 3A: Monogrammed Pen / 4A: Picture of Child with Rickets //

1B: Prominent Wax Bulge / 2B: “Erection” Used in a Construction Sense / 3B: Lumon Referred to as “She” / 4B: Nine Core Values Listed //

1C: Four Tempers Referenced / 2C: Lumon will Save the World / 3C: Unexplained Eagan Death / 4C: Lock of Old Hair //

1D: Eagan Depicted with Halo / 2D: Dueling / 3D: “Goodliness” Referenced 4D: Passive-Aggressive Sh*t-Talking of Ambrose//

Maybe in this world, Goodliness is next to Godliness?

We seen many of these referenced, either in the Perpetuity Wing or otherwise, though I don’t think they’ve all been explained yet. I definitely don’t remember any references to dueling- that might explain the decreasing lifespans of the CEOs. I’m going to hold on to the image of Myrtle beating Ambrose, the black sheep, in a duel to win the throne. There’s a couple of sex references in addition to the death references, because what would a cult be without its obsession with sex and death?

I wonder if the child with rickets refers back to Lumon’s past use of actual child labor, whereas now it just uses baby goats and baby severed personas. We also have references to the frail human body vs the artificial wax body, which are repeated in Kier’s opening speech about how he wants to be remembered when he’s rotting in his grave. How he wants to be remembered is clear: through memories of his greatest deeds and discoveries, plus by the personal power his followers can create in taming the four tempers within themselves. And maybe by his prominent wax bulge? 🤷🏽‍♀️


Corporation of the Week: Lumon as Vaseline and Kier Eagan as Robert Chesebrough

Vaseline, or petroleum jelly, the whitish, gooey substance used as a lubricant and a base in ointments, salves, moisturizers and other medical and skin care products, was popularized and refined in the mid 19th century by Robert Chesebrough, a chemist. He learned of it from oil field workers in Pennsylvania. The black, jelly-like substance that they called rod wax was a waste product which built up on their equipment. They would smear it on cuts and burns because they’d noticed it lessened the pain and helped injuries heal more quickly.

Chesebrough, who was looking for a new product to bring to market, brought some of the rod wax back to his lab and refined it into the lighter, thinner gel he eventually patented as Vaseline. “Chesebrough traveled around New York demonstrating the product to encourage sales by burning his skin with acid or an open flame, then spreading the ointment on his injuries and showing his past injuries healed, he claimed, by his miracle product.” (X)

“In reality, it doesn’t heal cuts and burns, the jelly forms a layer, causing dirt to not get in (one of the leading causes of death and disease in his day were due to open wounds being infected) and trapping the moisture in. To further create demand, he gave out free samples, one of the first instances of it ever being done.” (X) According to legend, he was such a strong believer in his product that he ate a spoonful of Vaseline every day. He lived to be 96 years old.

Vaseline was made by the Chesebrough Manufacturing Co until 1987, when it was sold to Unilever. The modern Vaseline has a Healing Project called Equitable Skincare for All equivalent to Lumon’s Legacy of Joy.

Lots of refinement going on:

Vaseline® uses the highest quality ingredients and a proprietary triple purification process involving distillation, de-aeration, and filtration. This ensures that every jar is completely pure with a smooth consistency unlike many of the imitation brands which do not have the same level of stringency around quality. Look for the Vaseline® Triple Purification seal for a worry free purchase.

Odd Vaseline corporate timeline that doesn’t have links and leaves out Unilever.


More on Lumon’s Potential Use of Hallucinogens and Brainwashing on the Severed Workers

Disclaimer: Please don’t try this at home. I’m not endorsing the real life use of hallucinogens in any way.

I think the ketamine from Helly’s procedure in episode 2 was both a clue and a red herring. A more likely hallucinogen for Lumon to use with the severed employees on an everyday basis would be something plant or mineral based that Kier encountered and used as an active ingredient in the original Lumon topical salves, one that he either found by accident in a remote area or came across in dealings with indigenous people.

It might be DMT, which is naturally created by plants and animals, including humans, and may be responsible for dream-like Near Death Experiences. DMT is normally a fast acting drug that lasts 30 minutes or less, but indigenous South American tribes created a tea using the plant Ayahuasca Dieta which expands the experience to several hours.

Innies could be given this or a similar, but fictional, substance, processed into a tasteless, odorless compound that they ingest with their morning coffee, which then gives them a mild high for about 8 hours and a slow let down, probably peaking at the 10:45 witching hour. They might start with a quick vape in the elevator in the ride down. The elevator is small and the air can be saturated, then cleared, quickly and easily, to coincide with a memory-wiping electrical or chemical charge they get from the implant.

But the most efficient way to control the innies via microdoses of halluinogens would be for the implant to stimulate the brain to synthesize small amounts of DMT on command. DMT is chemically similar to the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, with its components readily available in the body. If the implant’s inventors were especially good, it might also be capable of telling the body to synthesize stimulants and depressants from the worker’s own body chemistry.

Despite what Milchick told Helly, I think there may be some Clockwork Orange/Winter Soldier style behavioral training done between the implant procedure and their first day as a severed employee, while the trainee is particularly receptive because of the drugs they’ve been given (3 vials of ketamine!). Agents of SHIELD S1-3 and, to a lesser extent, Agent Carter S1 covered this territory in detail. The combination of microdoses of drugs and the prison-like Lumon environment would prolong the employees retention of the training. The Break Room and other punishments reinforce early training sessions, which are wiped from conscious memory, but left as subconscious compulsions.

But beyond whatever may or may not be forced on them, I think the innies are the Machine Elf versions of the original identities. The innies create their identities from the dreams they have on Lumon-induced psychodelic trips, the ghosts of their original’s subconsciouses that haunt the edges of their memories and the collection of archetypal messages they assemble from their environment and whatever cultural memories are left in their brains.

How much the innies remember is left purposely vague. We know they keep some learned knowledge, because one of the input survey questions tests this- name a US state or territory. But they also seem unable to draw on their learned knowledge reliably or to trust that it’s true when they do remember, since they generally treat the outside world as a mythological, unknowable place- a place that’s one big ball of fake news. Or at least Mark, Dylan, Burt and Irving do, having given up on their dreams of travel and adventure in the outside world. Petey and Helly never give up on escape and Petey actually got out.

With vague general memories, that means the innies function in the present moment and only call on buried knowledge to appear when they need it, if it’s available. But they don’t necessarily know what they know or don’t know until they’re tested. If they don’t know a subject exists at all then they won’t think to test their knowledge of it and the innies are the equivalent of culturally deprived children.

Has Dylan thought much about his use of imagination as a coping mechanism, whether to relieve boredom or figure out the next move of a potential enemy? He thinks about strategy all the time, but Lumon keeps him so off kilter, focused on hating other departments or making quota that he can’t take his reasoning in any useful direction.

It’s an age old strategy, from Roman bread and circuses to Brave New World. The way to avoid uprisings is to keep people ignorant, fed and entertained, then give them an enemy to hate who isn’t you. Lumon has done all of those things. A daily microdose of a hallucinogen might help the employees sort data or it might simply keep them from being able to organize an uprising. Or both. Nothing wrong with using it to do both. And it might help with Mark’s depression, too.

Severance- Pajama Mark wirh Cat O'Nine Tails Mark

Images courtesy of Apple.

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