Ryan Hardy, who’s apparently not miserable enough for Kevin Williamson’s liking, took on an additional world of hurt in this week’s episode of The Following.
Thanks to Joe Carroll, our alcoholic, barely sleeping, slightly too thin, literally and figuratively brokenhearted hero shouldered guilt for a bunch of new murders. Meanwhile, we met some more of Joe’s followers and got some very interesting backstory on a few others. Let’s review the major developments in “The Poet’s Fire.”
WHO’S THE NEW GUY? | The hour opens with a slight rewind on the attack that ended the last episode; this time, we see the follower in the Poe mask entertaining a crowd with a streetside recitation before dumping fuel on a passer-by and lighting him aflame. Turns out, the victim is an influential book critic who slaughtered Carroll’s novel, The Gothic Sea. (That’ll be important later.)
At the FBI command center, Debra and Ryan talk about the multiple sets of fingerprints were found at the followers’ hideout; Emma, Jake, Paul and Jordy are a given, but that leaves a few unaccounted-for crazy people. Debra also wonders what message Carroll’s trying to communicate. “I witnessed him in class. He could engage and inspire his students in ways I’d never seen before,” Ryan offers, which doesn’t exactly answer her question but does hint at what we eventually find out: Ryan was a little charmed by Carroll himself before realizing what a monster he was. The feds get news that Jordy is awake after his surgery, but he’s disinclined to help them – as a former corrections officer, he knows he won’t last long in in prison, and he doesn’t seem to care. The only thing that rattles him a little is Ryan’s news that Joe knows his portly pupil failed to kill Claire. Still, Jordy refuses to say anything and instead sings the theme to The Greatest American Hero (ha!) to himself, which makes Ryan slug him. Hey! Show William Katt a little respect!
THE BLAME GAME | Through security footage and DMV records, the FBI realize that Carroll’s masked flamePoer is a man named Rick Kester. At his home, they find Kester’s estranged wife Maggie, who’s a skittish, nervous ball of abuse. “Rick can be scary when he wants to be,” she says, and a police report documenting the time he stabbed her in the belly seems to back that up. Debra believes her. “She’s my mother, my sister, my other sister,” the G-woman muses. Interesting… Though Ryan wants another shot at talking to Joe, Debra says she’ll do it. She starts by flattering him, but Carroll only wants to communicate with his pal Hardy, whom he addresses via the close-circuit camera. “There are really only three people I hold accountable for my professional downfall,” he says, velvet-voiced. Ryan realizes that those people are himself, the critic Rick flambéed and Phillip Barnes, the dean who denied Caroll tenure. Too bad Rick, who we see via flashback has devoted himself to getting revenge on the prof’s professional enemies, is one step ahead of the FBI. He offs Barnes, ratcheting Ryan’s guilt a few notches higher. “Carroll’s out to torture you,” Debra points out. “It’s working,” Ryan notes.
FOOLED YA | Agent Reilly accompanies Maggie Kester back to her place, and against Debra’s wishes/orders, Ryan and Mike sit outside in Mike’s car, stakeout-style. (Loved Mike’s attempts to bond with his idol, loved even more when Ryan shut it down by getting out of the car to stretch his legs.) At the exact same time at the hospital, Debra tricks Jordy into giving up two key pieces of info: No one follower has all the information (“We divide the secret”) and despite her battered wife act, Maggie is a follower, too – and she knows where Claire Matthews’ son Joey is. That info comes too late for poor Agent Reilly, though, who tries to protect Maggie when there’s some scary thumping at her back door and is rewarded by her slashing his jugular. (Side note: After the nude eyeballer incident in the first episode, maybe all agents involved in the case should know to duck when they see a text message that says something like “Now,” no?)
Flashbacks show us that Rick stabbing Maggie wasn’t an incident of domestic abuse; it was him practicing to try to get over his squeamishness with knives. And in the present day, as the pair try to escape, Ryan shoots Rick twice but Maggie slips away. The moral of the story, driven home by Debra lamenting her faith in Maggie and Ryan remembering how cool he thought Joe was when they first hung out: Everyone gets snowed sometimes. Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Jordy tearfully screams his apology to his absent mentor, rips his shoulder dressing with his teeth and then starts to swallow it, choking himself. Impressive.
THREE’S A CROWD | Off at Casa Cracked, Paul tries to make nice with Emma… who gives him the sweetest look as she slices his forearm with a kitchen knife. “Don’t try to turn Jacob against me. It won’t work,” she warns him. Later, Paul calls Jacob a liar and takes off with the car. He picks up a stock girl at a local convenience store and takes her out into the woods for a little kissing and head trauma before bringing her home so he won’t feel like a “third wheel” around lovebirds Emma and Jacob.
Realizing that stuff is about to get real, Jake sends Emma to check on Joey (who, by the way, is still unaware that he’s been kidnapped). “We promised we wouldn’t tell anyone, especially Emma,” Jacob reminds his former roommate. Whatever could he be talking about? Unless… Yup. Though in an earlier flashback we saw both men balk at the idea of playing gay to gain Sarah Fuller’s trust – which, for the record, was Emma’s idea (“gay chicken,” ha!) – we now witness the first night they drunkenly hooked up for real in their shared townhouse. It’s hot. And messed up, given the circumstances. (But mostly hot.) Note to Paul: If Emma slashed you over merely trying to win Jacob’s allegiance, she’s gonna have your parts on platter when this little secret comes to light.
All of the tangled feelings drama doesn’t interfere with the followers’ agenda, though, because they’re able to record a video of Joey and email it to Claire. She summons Ryan, who watches in horror as Jacob teaches a reluctant Joey to kill a bug and then a mouse. Taking a living being out of existence, he tells the boy, means “your life means a little more.” Claire realizes they’re teaching her son to become a monster. Then, as instructed by Emma and Jacob, Joey turns to the camera and waves with another creepy message disguised in an innocent package: “Hi Ryan!”
Now it’s your turn. Did you see the Paul-Jacob complication coming? Do you think – as I do — that maybe Ryan’s taking on a little too much responsibility for the insane machinations of a criminal mastermind? And how soon in the episode did you suspect Maggie wasn’t what she said she was? Sound off in the comments!