The jeopardy ramps up in episode 4, as Helly’s desperation to resign keeps her in the break room and then leads to increasingly dangerous attempts to get through to her outie. The loss of Petey triggers outie Mark’s grief for his wife, while innie Mark ponders what to do about the map Petey left him. Burt visits MDR and makes Irving an offer he can’t refuse. Dylan continues to offer sage advice that nobody takes.
This would be a very different show if people listened to Dylan’s common sense more often.
Self-harming trigger warning for this episode.
It’s late afternoon and Helly (Britt Lower) is still in the Break Room. She’s been there for hours, since before lunch of this workday that started in episode 3. Even Milchick (Tramell Tillman) looks droopy around the edges, but he dutifully informs her that she’s still not sincere enough in her reading of the mandatory Lumon confession of Original Sin, ever after reading it 259 times. However, when the clock on the wall clicks over to 5:15, their shift is over, so Milchick’s mood lightens, he methodically organizes his space and puts the recording of Helly’s confessions in his shirt pocket.
Then he escorts Helly to the elevator as if this were any other day and chirps, “We’ll try again in the morning.” At the elevator, he says he’ll see her tomorrow. Her hair is a mess. The slash on her arm from the broken window has bled through the bandage, but there’s no offer to let her clean up a little before her outie takes over, which is surprising, after the care Milchick took with the small wound on Mark’s (Adam Scott) forehead in episode 1.
But then, Mark’s wound wasn’t self-inflicted.
Maybe Milchick ran up the stairs to meet outie Helly at her locker with a first aid kit, a hair brush and a gift card for dinner for two at Pip’s.
From innie Helly’s perspective, and ours, the elevator doors close, then reopen immediately. Helly’s wearing a new outfit, with long sleeves to cover her injury. Milchick is still standing in the same spot, because the man is dedicated to his work. She and Milchick both look tired.
I’m going to pretend that he dropped her at her locker at 9:00, then ran downstairs again to greet her innie, even though it’s clear the show ships her and Mark. If the long term plan is for the innie and outie personas to live separate lives, then they’ll grow apart as people due to their different experiences, and they ought to be able to date different people. The severed can have a work spouse and a home spouse- we even already have the language for this situation. 😉 But I simply can’t use innie and outie in this case.
They walk back to the Break Room, where Milchick reverts to his stern persona, telling Helly she has to continue reading the compunction statement, even though she’s already read it hundreds of times. She (and we) can hear a muffled male voice speaking, but his speech is unintelligible. When she asks Milchick about the voice, he ignores her.
Helly begins the speech again, “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…” In tears, she interrupts herself to say she’s really sorry. Milchick tells her paraphrasing isn’t allowed. She needs to start over.
After the opening credits, we’re back to the evening before. When Mark gets home from work he follows the buzz from Petey’s (Yul Vasquez) phone and finds it under a table in the basement. Someone has been calling from a blocked number every few hours for days. Mark checks the call record, then hides the phone in the box with the rest of Petey’s things.
The next morning, innie Mark sits in a bathroom stall and contemplates the map Petey left for him. He runs his finger over the stick finger with waves and rays coming out his head and eyes.
Maybe the chip will eventually turn them into X-men.
He leaves the bathroom at 11:15, the MDR witching hour- slightly later than usual, but the guys are a little older and more mature than Helly, so they held out longer without her. Irving (John Turturro) stops Mark on his way to the cubes and reminds him that Helly’s still in the Break Room. He thinks Mark, as department chief, should check on her. Dylan (Zach Cherry) tells Irving that Mark doesn’t have the power to interfere with what’s going on in the Break Room.
Irving and Dylan gear up for an argument, but they’re interrupted by a visit from Burt (Christopher Walken), from Optics and Design. Dylan goes on the defensive, quickly turning a stapler into a makeshift gun and interrogating Burt about how he found them and why he’s there.
Dylan has definitely spent hours planning how he’d handle threatening intruders and made sure he had his weapon handy.
Irving is heedless of any potential threat and rushes toward Burt. Burt explains that the previous head of O&D, Alice K, visited MDR for a summit once and she left him directions. Dylan tells him to recite them in reverse. Mark takes over and asks how they can help him. Burt explains that he recalled Irving’s excitement about the new handbook tote designs and was worried that Irving would be distracted from his work while he waited for the big reveal. Burt knows how important their work is and doesn’t want them to be distracted, so he’s brought the tote bags early.
Irving is delighted by Burt’s gesture. He looks like he wants to eat Burt with a spoon and Burt looks like he’d be fine with that. Mark seems confused about why they’re gushing over handbook totes. Dylan is still certain that this is a prelude to an attack with Burt playing the role of bait.
Burt invites Irving, and anyone else who wants to come along, to O&D for a tour of the department, whenever they want a break from their hard work. He put directions to the department in one of the tote bags. Burt is barely out the door before Irving leaves for O&D, despite Mark arguing that it breaks the guy code to appear too eager for a second date and Dylan reminding him that O&D are mass murderers.
Irving doesn’t care. He tells them it was Kier’s (Marc Geller) desire for everyone to work together. He’s off to fulfill Kier’s plan.
Mark forgets about Irving when Helly drags herself back in from the Break Room. The first thing he says is, “How many times?” She answers, “1,072.”
She must have finally put enough feeling into her apology at about 11:00, the witching hour.
While they take a break for lunch Helly asks about the voice she heard in the background in the Break Room. Dylan asks if she means the crying baby. She says she heard an angry, mumbly guy. Mark reminds them that what happens in the Break Room stays in the Break Room. Dylan tells Helly that the secret to conquering the Break Room is to trick the lie detector by thinking about something you’re actually sorry about. He imagines how sorry he is for the husbands of the MILFs he’s sure his outie has been with.
Burt’s/Alice K’s map lacked detail, so Irving gets turned around while trying to find O&D and wanders the halls for a while.
Mark comforts Helly by saying that the Break Room sucks, but Lumon’s strict protocols and procedures are meant to provide structure that supports innies and keeps them safe. He promises she’ll get better at following the rules. Dylan and Helly give each other the side eye in solidarity. They only follow the rules because it’s expedient and are both certain Lumon doesn’t do anything for the sake of the innies.
Irving finds Felicia (Claudia Robinson) working alone in O&D. She tells him that Burt is over by Shelf 6, then snarls at him not to touch anything on his way there. Burt shares some of the logistics involved in shipping and maintaining Lumon’s art collection as he shows Irving around the metal storage cabinets where the art is stored. Larger works are shipped already in their frames. The handbook appendices are reissued periodically and are stored in small metal drawers.
Burt makes a point of saying that he and Felicia “make do” as a two person department, but their work isn’t as challenging as Macrodata Refining. Irving is starstruck at the thought of Burt seeing the new artwork before anyone else. He confides that he cried when they hung “The Youthful Convalescence of Kier”, he was so moved to see the
biblical handbook passage depicted visually. “It was only up for a month, but man, what a month!”
Burt brings Irving over to a another cabinet and reveals that all of the art is returned to O&D for permanent storage after it’s done rotating through the departments. He opens a drawer and pulls out “The Youthful Convalescence of Kier”. They take turns quoting Kier: “Let not weakness live in your veins. Cherished workers, drown it inside you. Rise up from your deathbed and sally forth, more perfect for the struggle.” Brought closer by their shared feelings over the painting and the struggle, they clasp hands for a few seconds, until Irving is overwhelmed and suddenly decides he needs to leave.
Helly walks up behind Mark sitting and staring at Petey’s map. He shoves it in a desk drawer, hoping she doesn’t notice. She tells him she made it to 4% on her file. If I remember right, that means she gets a useless eraser for her achievement. Mark congratulates her. She gives him a suspicious look, then goes back to work.
Irving’s route back to MDR takes him past the conference room Milchick used as his booknook. He notices The You You Are sitting on a chair.
Helly swipes the contraband map out of Mark’s drawer and takes a good look at it, then shares it with Dylan, who points out that making maps is forbidden. Mark agrees, it is forbidden, and says he didn’t make it. He thinks Petey did. Now Dylan is shocked that Mark didn’t hand it over to Milchick as soon as he found it.
Helly tells Mark he’s a hypocrite for lecturing her on the rules. Mark protests that he just wanted to keep her out of the Break Room. Dylan focuses on the more important issue- that Petey made them a map. He quickly discerns that the map only shows the places they’ve already been and says it must have taken Petey weeks to create.
How would he know that? Maybe he’s done some mapping himself?
Mark explains that there’s an Eagan rule, “Render not my creations in miniature.” Helly notices the little houses on the right side of the drawing and says that they look like houses. Mark thinks they’re just random doodles of houses.
Because maps are usually filled with random, meaningless symbols.
Helly wonders if they’re outside and Petey found a way out. Mark thinks that doesn’t make sense, since they’re on a map of the severed floor. Helly thinks they must mean something, but Mark denies it. She accuses him of being more loyal to Lumon than to his best friend.
Mark: “I’m loyal to how it felt around here before you showed up.”
Helly: “You mean when Petey was here?”
Mark: “Yeah, because there was balance. We could have fun and work without the whole department imploding.”
And because he resents her for replacing Petey.
Helly: “The work is B-S.”
Mark: “The work is mysterious and important. And we deal with the uncertainty it brings us in the way that Kier would’ve wanted. Together, as a family.”
Helly: “I could not, with a razor to my throat, be less interested in being your family. Your best friend left this for you and you don’t give a sh*t.”
Mark snatches the map from her hand and runs it through the very thorough office paper shredder. He thanks her for driving him to this, because now the map won’t distract them from their work.
Dylan spent a long time looking at the map. Then he watched Helly and Mark. Wonder how good his visual memory is.
Before the argument can get any further out of hand, Irving interrupts with an emergency of his own. He brings them back to the conference room, where they treat Ricken’s book like a bomb. Irving explains that he would have gone straight to Milchick, but he “didn’t want to break the chain of command.” He quotes the handbook, passage 31, page 110: “Be content in my words and dally not in the scholastic pursuits of lesser men.” Mark translates: “No books except the handbook.”
He picks up the book and opens it anyway. Dylan notes that Helly got to his ego during their argument. Mark denies having a bruised ego, but doesn’t finish his sentence. He’s found Ricken’s handwritten dedication to his outie:
“To Mark, Intrepid cartographer of the mind. Ricken”
This is a stunning turn of events for the innies, especially right after the altercation over Petey’s map. Irving is scandalized, then decides it’s a loyalty test. Dylan assumes it’s another message from Petey and tells Mark to look for his name in the book. Irving asks Dylan if he remembers the spicy candy.
Spicy candy? We’re going to need to hear that story eventually, but it will probably be better told after reintegration when the innies fully understand the context.
Mark says he’ll bring the book to Milchick. Now Dylan is the one who’s scandalized, trying to convince Mark that the book is bootie and thus fair game for them to keep. Irving thinks that the idolatrous book should be removed from their possession with all due haste
before it contaminates their very souls.
Dylan plays by pirate rules. Irving clearly went to a Catholic school with very strict nuns.
Helly stares at the office copy center in the corner, then goes over and gets out a piece of equipment.
As the guys walk back to MDR, Dylan asks if there are stalactites in the O&D space, implying it’s a large cave. Irving says it’s nice- Burt fosters the Spirit of Lumon in his department.
The Spirit of Lumon is not to be confused with the Spirit of Christmas.
By the time the guys return to the office, Helly is off on another mission. She bursts into Cobel’s (Patricia Arquette) office with her fingers under the blade of a paper cutter, having raced by Milchick, Cobel’s gatekeeper, so fast he couldn’t stop her. He apologizes for the stain this will cause on Cobel’s day. Helly threatens to cut off four of her own fingers if they don’t let her record a video message to her outie right now. She’s very convincing with the blade of the paper cutter. Cobel orders Milchick to get the camera.
Once the camera is set up and ready to record, Helly puts her weapon aside and speaks to her outie. When she’s done, management and MDR escort her to the elevator, where she’s confident her outie will finally listen. She comments to Mark that she’d tell him to go to Hell, but he’s already there.
Then she gets into the elevator, disc in hand. As the elevator doors close, she says, “I was never sorry.”
Can’t blame her for that jab.
A minute later, the elevator doors open back up. The disc in Helly’s hand has changed, but everything else is the same. The whole gang is still standing there- they all knew exactly how this would play out, but everyone has to try it for themselves.
Do they give new outies a handbook on all of the shenanigans to expect before newborn innies settle down and get to work?
Dylan, Mark and Irving watch the new video with Helly. This might as well be their outies. Maybe it was their outies when they were new.
Outie Helly: “Helly, I watched your video asking that I resign. I also received and responded to your previous request. I assumed that would resolve the issue, but now Ms Cobel says you threatened to cut off your fingers? I understand that you’re unhappy with the life that you’ve been given. But you know what? Eventually we all have to accept reality. So, here it is. I am a person. You are not. I make the decisions. You do not. And if you ever do anything to my fingers, know that I will keep you alive long enough to horribly regret that. Your resignation request is denied. Turn it off.”
And there it is. The blatant admission, in front of all four of them, that outies don’t see them as human beings worthy of human rights, not even the right to live. They have no power or control over their own lives, no hope that they can improve their lives and they will be tortured, possibly killed, if they don’t obey the people in power. That’s a textbook definition of enslavement.
It’s a few minutes after 3:00. Helly spent the morning in the Break Room, her lunch hour arguing with Mark over his lack of interest in Petey’s map and her afternoon getting humiliated and rejected by the other half of herself, in front of literally everyone she knows. It’s been a rough day.
Jump to Mark at home, sitting in the dark, on the phone with Devon (Jen Tullock), helping her look at a birthing center website. He looks like a ghoul, lit only by the glow of the computer, as he criticizes the center’s rustic cabins that are surrounded by nature, mocking Ricken (Michael Chernus) for suggesting the place. Devon tells him to get all of his snark out now, before he’s officially an uncle. Then they hang up because Mark is tired. He’s also drunk.
Though he doesn’t consciously recognize it, outie Mark is in a bad mood after the lousy day innie Mark had at work. Outie Mark is also a victim of tragedy, with no wife and child of his own, but doing his best to there for Devon anyway. Today just wasn’t a day when outie Mark could go along with Ricken’s pretensions of the world as a spiritual, peaceful place. Did Ricken even look into details like how fast a medical team can get to the birthing cottage if something goes wrong or did he leave that to Devon?
When Mark hangs up, his phone pings with a notification of Petey’s death from an “unknown ailment” after his collapse at the convenience store. As soon as Mark sees the news report, Petey’s phone buzzes. Mark turns toward the basement with dread. This sequence is shot like a horror film, as if a monster is incubating inside the box in the basement and it’s only a matter of time before it escapes.
In the morning, the sun rises on Kier’s monolith. Graner (Michael Cumpsty) asks Cobel if the Board has contacted her about Petey’s death. Harmony sits staring straight ahead, motionless other than her hands slowly working a finger trap back and forth. She waits a long moment, then says no.
Graner tells her, “Kilmer wasn’t your fault and it certainly wasn’t mine. They’ll understand.”
When she doesn’t respond, he repeats, “It wasn’t your fault, Harmony.”
Harmony replies, “If you want a hug, go to Hell and find your mother.”
This is a woman who’s been forced into complying with too many company mandated hugs. It must feel good to rebel, however slightly. I do so love her mother references. It will be hilarious if she and Graner turn out to be related.
The thought of mothers snaps her out of her trance and she puts her finger trap away. She might be the only employee who appreciates them as much as Dylan, and she’s found a use for them as a meditation device. They would be great for contemplating questions that don’t have easy answers, such as, “What do you do when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place?” (Answer: Become the opposite of that which is trapping you. Soften up, slip or maybe slither out of the trap.)
She mentions Petey’s reintegration, but Graner cuts her off, saying “The Board’s never acknowledged reintegration.” Let’s note that Graner doesn’t deny the reality of reintegration. His wording implies that reintegration is real, known about in the Lumon community and has been going on for some time, but it’s inconvenient for Lumon and their bottom line, so they officially pretend it doesn’t exist.
Undeterred by Graner’s negativity, Harmony tells him they need to recover Petey’s chip. Graner informs her that Petey’s body will be cremated on Sunday following his funeral. Then he walks out, leaving her on her own to recover the implant. Harmony repeats the nine core principles to herself: Vision, Verve, Wit, Cheer, Humility, Benevolence, Nimbleness, Probity, Wiles. She looks at her desktop photo of Kier as she says probity and wiles.
Probity means moral decency and Wiles means devious cunning, which is confusing, because they would seem to be at odds with each other. I take Kier’s philosophy to be that the ends justify the means, as long as your overall cause is moral and just. A philosophy which can also be summarized as doing whatever it takes to get what you want, while putting up a good front.
And so we’re off to Petey’s funeral, where Mrs Selvig runs into outie Mark. She says Petey frequented her shop and he says he assumes he knew Petey at work. She tells him they can be funeral buddies and suggests he visit the body, which is located in a closed casket in an alcove. Mark thinks quick and decides to visit the bathroom first, which is code for the bar.
With alcoholics, everything is code for another drink.
He asks for a whiskey, but it’s a wine bar, so he settles for a glass of red. There’s a photo of Petey playing cards with his daughter, June (Cassidy Layton), on the bar. The Mac Davis song Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me plays in the background. There are lush floral arrangements all over the funeral home, suggesting Petey was deeply loved. Or Lumon sent flowers.
Mrs Selvig visits Petey to
do reconnaissance pay her respects. Petey’s daughter, June, is already standing next to his casket. Selvig doesn’t recognize her, or pretends she doesn’t, and asks if she was a friend of the deceased. After June identifies herself, Selvig asks if they were close. June gives her a dirty look for the invasive question.
Selvig is as nosy about everyone as Cobel is uninterested in her employees personal lives. Both attitudes are an act. The only person I’m fairly certain she cares about is Mark, but she might only care about him as a reintegration experiment.
Petey’s ex-wife, Nina (Joanne Kelly), introduces herself to Mark at the bar, where he’s taken up residence. After a minute, she realizes that he only “knew” Petey through their severed jobs. Then she gets hostile, but before she says much June interrupts to tell her the service is about to start.
June sits behind Mark and asks if he knew her dad. He explains that he knew Petey at work. She seems sad that he’s not as much of a connection to her father as she had hoped, but she asks him if it ever occurred to him that there are better ways to deal with bad situations than shutting off your brain half the time. He says he’s not sure, which is probably as unsatisfactory as whatever Petey used to say.
The service begins with a music video of Petey and June playing a face-melting song together, Enter Sandman by Metallica. June sings lead and plays bass while Petey plays guitar and sings backup. It’s a song about nightmares, fear of aging and death.
Mrs Selvig sneaks out the back to retrieve Petey’s implant while everyone else is occupied. She opens his casket and takes her mini drill out of her purse, then drills into the side of Petey’s skull. Unlike the Lumon doctor, she drills through his temple, where the bone would be thin and soft, making it the fastest spot to get into, her priority over hiding the hole or maintaining brain function. Once she’s through, we get a quick shot looking out of Petey’s brain through the hole in his skull before Mrs Selvig sticks a pair of tweezers in and roots around until she finds the implant. Her face shows determination, but no squeamishness.
June cries as the video continues. When Petey joins in the singing, Mark has flashbacks to his outie memories of his friend. Mrs Selvig is drilling at the same time, so Mark may be able to hear the drill on a subconscious level and be triggered by the sound, which some part of him would associate with the severance procedure. His flashbacks and emotions grow in intensity until the song ends, corresponding to the period when Selvig is removing the implant from Petey’s brain. It feels like Mark reacts to each step of Selvig’s removal procedure.
I’m going to be so disappointed if Petey didn’t transfer (or link) his Katra to Mark.
The video ends with Petey shout-screaming “No” with joy, but at first it sounds like pain. Mark has had as much as he can take and slips out the back. He’s drawn toward Petey’s body, but Mrs Selvig intercepts him, complaining about her cystitis issues. They decide to leave.
Back home, standing in his driveway, she asks if the funeral was just too sad for him. He says it was something like that, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. He thanks her for being his funeral buddy and they say goodnight. Mark opens his front door, pauses, then locks it again.
He drives to a wooded area and parks on the side of the road, leaving the headlights on. He gets out and goes to a tree on the other side of a broken guard rail, laying his hands on the tree and silently crying. This is where Gemma died.
This is the only place where we’ve seen outie Mark let his guard down and honestly feel his pain and love. His grief is still raw, but he usually tries to disguise it with polite distance or outright coldness toward other people and to numb it with alcohol. In this scene, he lets go and just aches.
Tonight, the city of Kier feels like Narnia, stuck in perpetual winter because Mark’s heart has been frozen since Gemma’s accident.
The next day, Cobel passes Milchick Petey’s implant sealed in a plastic bag. He asks how she got it, but she doesn’t answer. She tells him to take it to Diagnostics. He stuffs it in his pocket when Ms Casey (Dichen Lachman) knocks on the door and enters. Cobel wants her to give Mark a special Wellness session. Milchick is surprised again and asks what’s wrong with Mark. Cobel gives him a look. She tells him to trust her judgement.
Irving finds Burt finishing up with a painting that’s hung over a drinking fountain. They agree that the painting is nice enough, but it makes them nervous. It shows Kier standing at the top of a summit, looking out over the view. They worry that he could fall.
Burt changes the subject, expressing how exciting it was to have MDR visit O&D. He’s worried that he embarrassed himself. Irving assures him that neither of them should feel embarrassed about what happened between them. His confidence restored, Burt invites Irving to finish his rounds with him. Irving accepts. Before long, they’re discussing the merits of on-the-job napping. Burt’s in favor, despite the rules. He thinks it means Irving’s outie lives an exciting life. Burt is sure his own outie spends much of his time sleeping.
Irving quotes the handbook: “No workplace shall be repurposed for slumber.”
Burt quotes an earlier edition of the handbook, blowing Irving’s mind: “The original word of Kier: ‘And I shall whisper to ye dutiful through the ages. In your noblest thoughts and epiphanies shall be my voice. You are my mouth and through ye, I will whisper on when I am ten centuries demised.” Irving doesn’t understand, so Burt summarizes- Kier finds ways to speak to them beyond the paintings and the handbook.
Like hallucinations of black sludge? Or Ricken’s book? Kier’s God complex and dreams of immortality are on full display in Burt’s quote. It can be interpreted to mean Lumon owns everything its employees create, because his spirit is in them all, so ultimately it was all inspired by Kier and is all an emanation of Kier.
Meanwhile, Mark reads Ricken’s book in a bathroom stall. Chapter 9, The Quitting Bell, advocates for joblessness. “Your job needs you, not the other way around.”
Irving says goodbye to Burt at the entrance to O&D and sets off for MDR. Ms Casey calls Mark in for his Wellness session. Helly tells Dylan she’s going to clock out for the day. He plans to keep working until his staggered exit time. He thinks he can “still crush this thing tonight.” Helly wishes him well and says goodbye.
Dylan is absorbed in his work and doesn’t even look up. Once he’s sure he’s alone in the office, he searches Mark’s potential hiding spots for The You You Are until he finds it, then opens the book to read Chapter 5, entitled Destiny: An Acrostic Poem Experience by the Author, Ricken Hale. He continues reading: “D is for dreaming, the start of it all. E is for energy, breaking down walls. S is for stewardship of home and Earth. T is for terror, which gives us more worth. I is for eyes, to observe us with love, until N, meaning newness, rains down from above. And Y. That’s a question we needn’t now ponder. For destiny, friends, shall deliver all yonder.”
He was right when they found the book- there is a chapter with his name on it. While the plain language and real life anecdotes of Chapter 9 are right for Mark, the wordplay and mythology of Chapter 5 will speak to Dylan. The progression of the poem sounds like the story of an innie’s life, especially according to Dylan’s interpretation of their work (cleaning up the oceans so humans can move underwater to escape the post-apocalyptic land). And just as Mark’s message suggests it’s time to leave his job, Dylan’s message is that newness and destiny are coming for him.
Ms Casey begins the session by lighting Gemma’s scented Christmas candle. She asks Mark if he’d like to sculpt his feelings in clay. He agrees. As always, Cobel is watching. Ms Casey watches intently, but placidly, while Mark sculpts a tree. The combination of Gemma’s candle, Petey’s funeral and his outie’s visit to the scene of the accident have created an emotional connection between Mark’s two personas. Innie Mark accessed one of their most intense memories on a visceral level. 😉
But we only see the finished tree from Cobel’s perspective, on her computer monitor, reminding us that Cobel created the circumstances that brought the two Marks to this point of early reintegration. It may not have ever happened naturally.
The rest of this sequence is a reminder that she’s ignored her other duties to focus on her obsession with Mark and reintegration.
Irving walks part way back to MDR, then changes his mind and returns to O&D. When he gets there, no one is in the storage room, so he follows a clicking sound to a door in the back. Behind the door, he finds
a closet Narnia a vast manufacturing floor lined with rows of 3D printers. Burt and Felicia are there along with at least 7 other people. The two person department actually has a minimum of nine people. Irving is shocked and backs away from the door before they see him.
He had no idea there were so many artistic people hiding behind closed doors. Confused and disillusioned, Irving slowly walks back to MDR.
After she says goodbye to Dylan, Helly smuggles an extension cord out of the office and grabs the metal trash can from the hall on her way to the elevator. Once she’s used her key card, she throws it into the trash can, then brings the can and cord into the elevator. The can serves as a stool as she moves ceiling panels and checks the sturdiness of the support beams, then ties the cord to one of the beams. Her preparations are intercut with a scene from earlier in the day when Mark checked on her and they both pretended she was fine.
She loops the cord around her neck in a noose and steps off the can.
Where was Milchick during the final sequence? He’s usually there as soon as one of the refiners sneezes, especially Helly.
This episode confronts death, suffering and the Faustian bargain Mark made by choosing severance more directly than previous episodes have. We see the extent of innie Helly’s suffering and her determination to escape the Hell her outie has put her in. We also see her outie’s extreme denial of that suffering, along with everyone else’s insistence that she’ll get used to how terrible her life is and then she’ll be fine. Except for Dylan. Dylan endures severance, but he doesn’t kid himself that it’s okay and he doesn’t lie to Helly, either. He tries to help her learn to cope.
It’s strange that someone like Helly, who hates innies, would choose to devote so much of her own life to being one. An intelligent, confident woman like Helly could own her own time and body and do fulfilling work that she’d be proud of and want to remember. Instead she chopped her life into pieces and hates the severed piece so much that rather than show her other half compassion, she threatened to torture her even more.
Outie Helly couldn’t even understand that she’s already torturing her innie by keeping her locked in a basement, sitting at a desk, staring at a computer and being emotionally manipulated. The innies are literally imprisoned- they never get to leave. This isn’t a matter of sucking it up and doing a job they don’t like. This is asking them to accept that their entire lives will be spent being imprisoned by an evil corporation and the other half of themselves.
The torture the innies endure will eventually affect the mental and physical health of the outies, as we can guess from the turnover in MDR and Petey’s willingness to risk experimental reintegration. In that sense, severance is a true Faustian bargain. Lumon lures people in with the impossible promise that severance will turn them into completely separate people who share the same body.
It’s impossible for people who share the same apartment to lead completely separate lives. Two people who share the same body and brain are going to be affected by each other. Altering memories doesn’t create a new person, it just creates selective amnesia. All of the trauma is still stored in the body and mind, waiting to be released and processed. For most, maybe all, of the innies, severance will add to the individual’s trauma in the long run. But the Devil Lumon gets what they want out of it and they can cover up whatever goes wrong, just like they deny that reintegration exists.
Now Cobel has smuggled Ricken’s book inside and Mark’s read the sentence, “Your job needs you, not the other way around.” For someone who’s been taught that their employer is a literal God, the source of everything in their lives, this is a mind boggling sentiment.
Just as it was mind blowing for Irving, the literalist, to discover that the words he lives by aren’t the original words of Kier. He’s been quoting someone else’s paraphrases of the founder! How can he know what the truth is if he’s not reading the actual Word of Kier in the handbook? Is it all lies and half truths?
Irving has clung to the handbook as the truth, he’s clung to protocol, he’s turned to the people around him, he’s dedicated himself to the work and the company, but they’ve all failed him. He’s left standing on the slippery black sludge of his waking nightmares, sure of nothing. He has some decisions to make about trust, forgiveness and whether he can learn to be more flexible.
Dylan is an agnostic and dreamer who works hard but pulls off random acts of subversion whenever possible, such as the Eagan Bingo cards. He’s looking for deeper meaning in his life than he can get as an innie. Ricken’s book confirms what he’s already sensed for long time- that there’s more to the world than what Lumon offers them. He’s ready for the revolution when it comes.
Helly eats food, now that she’s been to the Break Room. The two other people we’ve seen eat, Petey and Mark, are also the two other people we’ve seen suffer and bleed. Maybe suffering and pain incarnates the people of Kier, as in “to take bodily form; to be made flesh”. The innies, especially, may need to be anchored into their bodies and encouraged to mature emotionally by facing adversity. Then after they’ve had a certain range of experiences, the innies develop a meaningful understanding of what it is to be human, rather than just a shadow slave to their outie.
This could explain why the culture is so limited on the severed floor, because humans have rights, and as outie Helly tells her innie, they aren’t considered separate people and don’t have the right to make decisions for themselves beyond their needs in the moment. If they learn too much, they might discover that they have the right to leave the building and to get paid.
But it also shows why the innies are so desperate for more of everything. They are people, and they’re starved for purpose, culture and humanity. As I’ve theorized before, it could be that MDR work requires a certain level of memory erasure and innocence. Once the innies mature to a certain level and store a certain amount of memories, they may have to have their memories erased and start over in another department or another MDR office. Management may walk a tightrope with taming the tempers of MDR newbies so they’re productive, but keeping them ignorant enough so they’ll last longer as refiners. That may be why there are three managers for four refiners and they always seem to be watching.
After all, the work is not only mysterious. It’s important. Why else have all those incentives and quotas?
In the Break Room, Helly heard a muffled male speaking voice, but Dylan heard a baby crying. Helly is rebellious, but Dylan is protective. I suspect the sounds are calculated to be whatever will irritate each listener the most. Nobody needs protection more than a crying baby. And there’s nobody a confident young woman has to rebel against more than a patriarchal old man who won’t stop talking.
Stalactites are the cave formations which hang down from the roof, like icicles or spikes. Dylan’s question about the O&D cave connects back to all the ice & snow we’ve seen outside in Kier, is foreshadowing for Helly hanging herself in the elevator and vaguely references Batman’s Batcave. The Batcave, Batman’s secret headquarters, is located in a cave system underneath his alter ego Bruce Wayne’s family mansion, Wayne Manor. It serves many of the same purposes as Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, but it’s accessible to Batman at a moment’s notice rather than hidden at the ends of the Earth, so he uses it for everyday crime fighting purposes as well.
The severed floor, as a basement that’s several stories underground, is, in reality, a cave that’s been finished and turned into offices. Lumon’s basements may well have been a cave system that was used for other purposes in the centuries before it was turned into modern offices. Or the basements could be repurposed mines or have been dug to serve as offices. We’ve seen some panoramic views of the area that show rolling hills. The TV weather report mentioned that they’re in a basin. Lumon could be built into the side of a mountain or escarpment, making direct exits to the outdoors from basement floors possible, the way the Batcave has a driveway for the Batmobile while also being situated under the mansion.
It could be that the severed workers knowledge of comic books and superheroes wasn’t taken away completely. Maybe because those memories are so visual and action-oriented or maybe because they seemed trivial to the Lumon geniuses who decided what to wipe. With no personal memories or experiences, or knowledgeable friends or family to call on to aid in decision making, the severed workers rely on gut instinct and whatever expert opinion they can find- the handbook, each other, bits of information gleaned from the outside world. Since their experiences are extraordinary, they need to compare them to whatever extraordinary fictional circumstances they can find. Vague memories of superheroes are creeping in.
Felicia and Dylan are practically the same person, with the same temperament and outlook on life. Are they mother and son on the outside? She’s as competitive and protective as Dylan, but has an extra world weary edge that comes out in Claudia Robinson’s scathing facial expressions.
Cobel’s daffy, nearly invisible, older woman persona makes for a fantastic cover identity when doing spy work. Everyone is so busy finding her annoying and dim that they’d never believe she could be a ruthless operative. Dear readers, remember that the next time you dismiss someone as a grandmother. Grandmothers have seen and done it all and motherhood is excellent crisis management training.
Mark is healing, but not because he’s severed. It’s his friendship with Petey, seeing his open heart, his relationship with June and watching her mourn him openly. It’s the way Devon and Ricken continue to love him and include him in their family, no matter what. It’s the other friendships his innie has formed, which fulfill his outie on a subconscious level. It’s even Mrs Selvig and her nosy way of watching out for him. They’ve all given him a support system that he’s beginning to trust will catch him if he opens his heart and takes the chance he’ll fall.
Gemma died in the woods, surrounded by nature. It’s understandable that Mark isn’t excited about Devon giving birth in the woods, surrounded by nature. Of course his snark was extra snarky during that phone conversation. He couldn’t tell his sister what he really felt about a place that’s objectively very nice, but isn’t someplace where he’s going to be comfortable with her life potentially being in danger. This decision isn’t his call.
Kier Invites You to Drink of His Waters
These are the three paintings from Kier’s life we’ve seen so far. The Youthful Convalescence of Kier probably depicts the moments before a bloodletting, given the way the doctor and nurses are arranged around Kier, the towel draped over his arm, the doctor pulling the bedding away from his lower arm and this show’s interest in blood.
Kier Invites You to Drink of His Waters appears to be a portrait Kier posed for. He may or may not have actually been on the cliff at the time, but the location was carefully chosen for the message it sends about more than water. Kier wants you to know that he sees all, knows all and owns all.
We aren’t given the official title of the third painting that I call Kier Tames the Tempers, but in the Perpetuity Wing, Kier tells the story of his metaphorical battle with his own demons inside the cave of his own mind. The painting depicts the way Kier visualizes his inner struggles to control his lesser urges. I thought at first that the goat boy was part human, but looking at it again I realize that he’s actually fully a goat, but apparently able to dress and interact on the same level as humans. In these paintings, we watch Kier grow from a weak boy to a man at his full strength to an old man at the height of wisdom. The tempers and everything else in the paintings are part of Kier and either help make him stronger or is an obstacle he needs to overcome.
The first thing Kier left behind is vulnerability and he continued to beat any sign of weakness or compassion out of himself in favor of vision and self-sufficiency.
Images courtesy of Apple+TV.