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The Following Recap: Wives’ Tales

THE FOLLOWING: In a flashback scene Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon, R) seeks advice from Professor Joe Carroll (James Purefoy, L) in the "Poet's Fire" episode of  THE FOLLOWING airing Monday, Feb. 4 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

Two more followers were revealed this week. One of them was the guy who we ended on last week, the Poe mask guy. He turns out to be a dude named Rick who has trouble stabbing people, which is a problem since he’s a blind follower of a man who was known for doing that. Rick would prefer his trademark move be that he sets people on fire. Or at least that’s how he feels until halfway through the episode when he decides that stabbing is okay too. This show can’t even keep its own made-up character motivations straight.

The man who fell prey to Rick last week at the hot-dog stand was a book critic. “If you don’t like my piece, call my editor,” shouts the critic into his cell phone. “It is too early for this crap.” An earlier draft of the script had him saying, “I’m too old for this shit,” but then Danny Glover threatened to sue and the show lawyers were like, “Can he even do that?” and made the writers take the line out. That’s some insider knowledge for you guys. In a flashback later, we see Rick visiting Carroll in jail like the others did. It’s like when students come to visit their professors during office hours to discuss what they want to write their papers about. Except this professor is in jail for killing college students just like the ones who are now coming to him to pitch themes for their own murders they want to commit.

So Rick is all about revenge. That’s his thing. He’s done his “research” and found two men who hurt Carroll the most professionally, the critic and a college dean who denied Carroll tenure. Rick stabs the latter to death in his office. (And Hardy, AGAIN, realizes that the dean is the next victim just a moment too late.) It cracks me up that this show is devoted to not only a serial-killing Edgar Allan Poe academic but one who wasn’t even all that good at it. The show keeps reminding us of how bad his book was, how poorly it sold, while at the same time telling us how brilliant he was. At this point, I’m positive that Ryan Hardy never went to college, because there’s no other way he’d be as enamored with Carroll’s teaching style. Maybe the FBI recruited Hardy out of grade school because they saw something just that special in him.

Carroll approves of Rick’s plan. The hot-dog-stand scene is captured on witness cell phones and put up online. Emma, Jacob, and Paul watch the video while lying around and waiting to pose for an American Eagle catalogue. They spaz when they recognize their friend I.D.-ed as the suspect: “That’s Rick!” They can’t believe the news reporters can’t figure out they’re in a cult. I’m with them, actually, on that one. I thought we’d surely gotten to the bottom of that question last week, but all through tonight’s episode, every time a television comes on, you hear “The FBI won’t confirm or deny any cultlike activity.” Does having a single thing in common with a group of ridiculous killers make me one, too? Shrug.

Paul and Emma are still fighting over Jacob. It escalates when Paul tries to make peace but Emma slashes him on the arm. Seems like a smart move considering they’re going to be living with each other indefinitely. We get some more of Paul and Jacob’s backstory, and by that, I mean we see them make out a lot. Paul also has longer hair and glasses. I wonder if there is just a giant bin full of wigs and goatees and necklaces with crosses on the set that the cast was given, like, 60 seconds to just dive into. Whatever they managed to grab is what the writers then worked into their character’s pasts. It is kind of cool that this show, as traditional and by the book as it is in so many ways, has so many scenes of two men being sexual with one another. It’s just bizarre to me how convoluted the plotline had to be in order for us to get there.

Paul finally can’t handle Emma anymore and he storms out of the house. “Our faces are plastered on the news,” Emma says, and I wish I could send her an e-mail about how it’s okay, Hardy won’t figure out that it’s Paul until it’s two to five minutes too late to do anything about it. But I don’t know how to use technology the way the television FBI does. Those guys have cameras everywhere! They find a video of Rick putting on his Poe mask while standing by his car. Hardy asks if they can zoom in on the license plate. Come on, Hardy — even I know that’s television tech-guy child’s play. They get Rick’s name and address and speed over to his house. (Although they probably stop to catch a quick movie first. How come no one told Hardy that films are three hours long now?!!)  

At Rick’s house, they meet his wife, Maggie. They bring her in and question her. She says that she and Rick are divorced and that she’s afraid of him. We see a flashback of his rushing at her with a knife and stabbing her in the belly, and I swear I knew then that Maggie was in on it. I could tell that they were going to come back to the flashback later on and show them being all gross and loving about being killers together. Which is exactly what happens later on. Here’s my question, though: Agent Parker was so sure that Maggie was telling the truth — “She’s my mother, my sister, my other sister.” (Sounds like holidays are pretty fun at your house, Parker.) Is this because Parker is terrible at her job and thus supremely qualified to be part of this team? Or is it because, like some of you already seem sure about, she’s one of Carroll’s followers?

Last week, there were some comments made about Parker delivering the Poe book to Carroll. That wasn’t a definite tip-off that she was working for him to me, since she’s so cheesy when it comes to her cult-leader stuff that I could see her wanting to meet Carroll for herself. It seemed like a power thing to me, like she was showing him that he couldn’t control everyone. Obviously this is going to be a long season, and I expect a lot of surprise follower reveals along the way. It’s the strongest aspect of the show, and already it seems to be losing its thread since the new followers are both too blandly like the old ones, but also there doesn’t seem to be enough regular characters to shock us when they turn. Parker and the second-youngest-agent-ever guy are the most likely twists. If it does turn out to be Parker, I would like the show to then go back and delete all the scenes like the one where she talks to Jordy without any other witnesses. If she was in on the plot, she wouldn’t need to do that. Or she could’ve been, like, “Okay, it’s just the two of us now, nerd, let’s talk about how much we love murdering people and then I’ll just tell them that I made you tell me about Joey. Stop singing the theme song to Greatest American Hero already. God, why couldn’t I be assigned to the cool-kid sex house?”

I had to rewind the part where Jordy suffocates himself on his own bandages, not because I wanted to but it felt like my professional duty to understand what the hell was going on in that scene. It didn’t seem possible that I was seeing what I was seeing. But yep, that’s what happened.

Paul goes to the 7-11 and picks up a foxy clerk. They fool around in his car and then she wants to stop and he knocks her out. It’s not enjoyable to watch, and it’s an aspect of the show that I find super unsavory, how it sexualizes violence. Hardy gets sent home by Parker after she drops some character exposition on him: “You overidentify with the victims. The guilt makes it so personal you unravel. I get it.” Hardy wants to go sit outside Maggie’s house, and FBI Agent Jr. offers to drive him, acting under secret instructions by Parker to not let him out of his sight. Jr. tries to bond with Hardy over how Brooklyn is really blowing up, but Hardy isn’t listening. He’s waiting to hear commotion in Maggie’s house first before he does anything. Someone really needs to set Hardy’s watch and cell phone fifteen minutes ahead so he thinks he’s running late but actually he’s on time.

Maggie gets a text saying “Now,” which her FBI agent guy sees before she does. He’s all “WTF?” and then the agent is stabbed in the throat. That’s when Hardy makes his move. By the time he arrives, the agent is dead, but Maggie and Rick are still outside. There some confusion, and Hardy kills Rick while Maggie gets away.

There’s also a lot of flashbacks of Hardy and Carroll interspersed throughout that I’m not going to get into other than they involved a lot of wine-drinking and Poe-quoting and Hardy trying to make it seem like he always carries a backpack around, he’s just that guy, when he clearly just bought it that day.

Emma and Jacob send a video to Joey’s mom where they put a mouse in a jar and have him screw the lid on so that the mouse dies. “I never killed anything before,” a smiling Joey says while looking at the camera, not protesting or crying at all, because this show really thinks it is that easy to turn human beings into monsters. I did like Joey’s mom’s reaction to Hardy saying they were going to find her son: “Then just find him already!” Maybe that undergrad art collage that Agent Parker tacked up on the wall will yield some clues next week. They did say that they found nine sets of fingerprints in the clubhouse and so far we only six followers. Nine seems like a low number for an entire season, but that’s probably just a word they threw out without thinking, like most of the other words in this episode. We also have three more dead bodies, which means that hopefully Costco is offering a two-for-one deal on its vodka and coffee. The coupon should just read “Do you overidentify your victims? Does the guilt make it so personal you unravel? We get it.”

Photo: David Giesbrecth/FOX