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The Following Recap: Killing Claires

THE FOLLOWING: Special Agent Parker (Annie Parisse, L) and Ryan  (Kevin Bacon, R) leave the FBI bureau in the "Love Hurts" episode of THE FOLLOWING airing Monday, March 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT)

I wonder how Marin Ireland is feeling about getting typecast these days. She looks like a young Meryl Streep, but she’s getting all of the roles of an older Dennis Hopper. First she was the terrorist who took Saul’s heart hostage on Homeland, and now she’s jittery, husband-and-mistress-chop-upping Amanda on The Following. She makes an appearance in Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Side Effects, too, playing the part of, according to IMDb, “upset visitor.”

Okay, so I enjoyed immensely all the Homeland Security silliness at the beginning of the episode. Cult expert Parker again demonstrates how badly she sucks at her job, since she and Hardy have so far narrowed their follower profile down to everyone in the world. “Who are these people?” asks some governmental higher-up. “Housewives, teachers, accountants, military, all walks of life,” answers Hardy, followed by a shot of this jolly-looking mom-type smiling warmly at Joe as he convenes a meeting in his living room. “All of them fit the personality types associated with cult susceptibility, empty, lost, maladjusted to full-blown psychopaths.”

The main problem with this show (and the only real barrier to being able to treat it like your standard guilty pleasure) is that it expects us to believe that Joe’s followers are united by a shared love of murdering other people. They are seeking community and develop romantic relationships with one another where they toss around the word love but don’t care when these same people die. They claim death is the only way their lives will matter, and yet they treat the people they kill like worthless bags of garbage. Most of them seem like they’re mainly in it for the half-assed literary seminars and awkward wine mixers, but isn’t that what Meetup.com is for?

At least this week the Followers that the episode focused on felt like they came to Joe because they were already unhinged. Jilted Amanda was certainly a nutball way before she met him. I could see her going on a killing spree to get back at Hardy for sleeping with a married woman (it’s when you factor in that she was also doing it in order to help Joe get back that same married woman that the logic starts to break down, but whatever). After laying down some “dream within a dream” philosophizing, Joe tells his followers that they should come speak to him during office hours to discuss their chapters. Man, does this guy miss being a professor. Amanda shows up all “upset visitor”-like and says she wants her chapter to have a happy ending. Joe flashes her a “clever girl”-type smile. It turns out that by happy ending she meant just for Joe, not for the world. Her plan is to find all women named Claire Matthews (which is Joe’s wife’s name) and kill them with an assortment of weapons, like fishing spear guns and corkscrews. She and Louise (last week’s blonde woman) follow (I guess) one Claire to a diner where she’s having lunch with her friend. Claire 2.0 goes to the bathroom, and Amanda sits down in the booth opposite the friend. She tells the friend to relay a message to Hardy, “Love hurts,” because yes, the show went there. I guess Joe is running out of different Poe keywords to type into Wikipedia. He’s switching to quoting song lyrics.

Amanda kills Claire 2.0 (and then just walks out the diner’s door, past dozens and dozens of screaming witnesses) and later a third Claire Matthews too. Hardy is freaking out because he’s worried that the original Claire will learn about what’s happening from the news and willingly give herself up to Joe in order to save the other women who have her name. I believe she’d do it, too, except not for the same reasons Hardy does. He thinks she’s a saint; I just find her to be terrible at strategizing. Which is probably why she’s better suited to Hardy than Joe. There’s a great moment when Hardy is on the phone with the “chief homicide detective” in Dallas, looking at a photo of two guys that the detective sent over (Weston probably opened Hardy’s e-mail for him, from within his comatose state). The detective thinks it’s a photo of Jacob and Paul, and Hardy is insisting it’s not. “Complete waste of my time,” says Hardy once he’s off the phone. I’m not sure Hardy has the track record to back up being so judgmental of other law-enforcement officers.

Jacob brings a wounded Paul to his parent’s country house. His mother shows up unexpectedly. At first Jacob gives her attitude, a lot of “Moooooom, leave me allooooooone”-type stuff. She tells him, “I’m your mother and I love you, but I don’t understand this. Help me understand.” “I don’t think that I can explain,” he answers, because his involvement in particular makes no sense. He hates the idea of killing people, which is the only thing the cult he belongs to believes in. I think we’re supposed to think that Jacob was way more awkward before meeting Joe than he is actually being played, like girls never liked him until he met Emma. And here’s a question: What did Jacob tell his parents during the three years he was living as a gay man with Paul? Did he just not invite them over the whole time? Also, is Jacob getting younger? He looked about 20 in this episode. Did he move in with Paul when he was in high school? If only he had waited until he started senior year, when his cool-nerd English class teacher would’ve played the Simpsons Halloween episode of “The Raven” for sure! (FYI: When Joe told Hardy “love hurts” over the phone, I suddenly saw him as Sideshow Bob, and that’s the image I’m going to have of him from here on out.)

Jacob keeps telling his mother that he’s never killed anyone. “Mooooooom, stop calling me a murderer!” Paul backs him up, with the help of a flashback where we see Paul brutally stab to death a girl in the trunk of his car while Jacob watches but doesn’t join in. Later, while driving home, Jacob is freaking out about how the girl’s eyes looked, and Paul starts laughing and telling him that, don’t worry, his secret about not being a serial killer is safe with him. He tells him that Jacob owes him one, a debt which I feel would’ve come up again in the three years since that conversation, while these two dudes were living together. Like, every time Paul wanted a blow job he would’ve laughingly brought it up or something. Instead, Paul brings it up now, as he lays dying (look at me, quoting dead authors, I could totally lead a cult.) He tells Jacob he wants his life to mean something. And so Jacob picks up a pillow and smothers Paul to death. Then he goes to the house where the rest of the cult is, after receiving an e-mail from Roderick with the address.

Roderick keeps trying to make a play on Emma all episode, but she isn’t biting. He seems unruffled by this and keeps flexing his dimples. He knows it’s only a matter of time before his chiseled features wear her down. Emma tries to show some PDA to Joe, who definitely isn’t into it. She acts way more shocked than she has a right to be, considering, well, every single thing she knows about him. A more serious Jacob shows up at the house. I’m sure he will act all different now that he’s murdered someone, darker. Like he’s probably going to become the most killingest killer of them all.

Amanda follows a fourth Claire Matthews to a costume ball rave. Claire 4.0 has left her cell phone at home (no plausibility problems there) and so she doesn’t know that there’s a psycho hunting down women with her name. Some guy she meets recognizes her from the news and tells her to go find a cop immediately. That advice made me feel nervous because cops on this show feel like a lose-lose scenario. Either you find a fake one who turns out to be a follower who kills you or you find a real one who screws things up and gets you killed. Claire 4.0 spots Amanda and the guy tells her to run. He then tries to stop Amanda himself but she stabs him … literally right in front of Hardy! I can’t even get on his case for being too late this time since he was already there, a few feet away and still he bumbled it. He chases Amanda and Claire 4.0 into a construction site. Amanda picks up a nail gun and fires a nail into his arm. Then she holds the nail gun to Claire 4.0’s head and says she has to kill her so Hardy suffers. He apologizes for sleeping with Claire, and Amanda is happy about that. She becomes confused about how to proceed, he wrestles the nail gun from her, she’s captured.

Hardy wants to interrogate Amanda first thing next morning. He’s willing to stay up all night drinking vodka water if that’s what it takes to show up at the prison early enough. Just Call Me Nick boss man won’t have it. Amanda’s being sent to D.C.  Oh, also, the blonde follower from last week, Louise, is dead. Roderick tells Joe he’s fine about it even though he was sleeping with her. He’s all, “I don’t care. Maybe I do. Nah, I’m fine.” I liked how he delivered the lines, actually; it gave me chills. He’s a scary kind of crazy. Then he tells Joe something about bouncing satellite signals around, which resulted in their figuring out where the original Claire is being kept. Somewhere in Pennsylvania. Hardy sighs at Claire’s photo on the news. He luuuuuuuvs her. Too bad the FBI’s tech team is so much crappier than Joe’s ragtag staff. Who knew all those hours of playing Farmville would pay off so well?

Photo: Giovanni Rufino/FOX