And we’re off! If this episode sizzled your brain circuitry the way Gertie’s tears mangled her own wires, welcome to the club! Shit just got weird.
Like The Leftovers’ revered “International Assassin” episode, the plot of “Furs by Sebastian” is only tangentially related to the larger story at hand — instead, it runs along a parallel thread, an alternate time and place where the same people are thrust into bizarre circumstances manufactured in their own minds. Which is fitting, because this entire lemur heist tale is after all, a kind of dream state. And yet, despite the profound weirdness of Emma Stone’s accent and Lance and JC’s dance routines (or maybe because of them), I could not stop myself from gobbling up every bananas detail.
The narrative itself is pretty simple — Bruce and Linda Marino are a Long Island couple in the mid-1980s: three kids, single-home, the whole, typical package. Nan, a dying patient in the hospice facility where Linda works, has asked Linda to bring her beloved pet lemur, Wendy, to her (Nan’s) daughter. But before she can do so, villainous furriers steal Wendy and take her back to their fur shop, where they plan to skin Wendy and turn her into a hat. The entirety of the episode takes place in one day, as Linda and Bruce plot and then break into the fur shop to reclaim Wendy and sprint away in a blaze of gunfire and burnt rubber. Linda then tries to deposit Wendy with Nan’s daughter, which doesn’t go as planned.
An important bit of the trip through Annie and Owen’s drugged subconsciouses is all the accompanying details — those little blips that are connected to their real lives by a tenuous string, just like the odd familiarities that leap out in our own dreams:
• The book Bruce is reading in the car is called See Her See You See We, and it’s by Greta Mantleray, the same author of the text Owen was reading in his apartment in the first episode. She’s wiggled her way into his brain as his self-help go-to.
• Bruce’s two dolt adult sons are named Lance and JC — after the NSYNC members — as if Annie’s brain was calling up useless old trivia and putting it to work, here. Their predilection for making their dance routines crisp is icing on the cake. (“Get your head in the game. Find your hips. Kickball change.”)
• Annie is reading Don Quixote to Harriet, Nan’s sassy former roommate. Cervantes’s epic has popped up in every single episode so far.
• The Fish and Wildlife agent is the same character as the security guard from the first episode, and he’s got the same line about his job: “There’s not much of a difference, authority-wise.”
The most meaningful connection between Annie’s psyche and Linda’s narrative though, is in Linda’s visit to Paula, Nan’s daughter. When the door slams there’s a glimpse of a wooden sign bearing the name “The Nazlunds.” And then, when Linda is inside, talking through Nan’s note to Paula urging her not to procreate because “lemurs are better than human children,” Paula reveals she’s already 22 weeks pregnant. Her in utero son, she exclaims, will be named “Greg Fuck-You-Nan Nazlund,” as a final middle finger to a mother who clearly didn’t create the most loving environment. In other words, he’ll be Greg F.U.N. Nazlund, the man who fell asleep at the wheel and killed Ellie in the car wreck.
The dream, then, is working through Owen and Annie’s traumas, just as the “B” pill promised. Annie can safely, in the guise of Linda, confront the woman who brought her sister’s killer into the world and attempt, in a roundabout way, to prevent his conception — she tells Paula that maybe she shouldn’t have kids. What’s more, Linda and Bruce are a happily married couple who celebrate each other’s idiosyncrasies — they have the kind of relationship that Owen and Annie would want, but feel incapable of. Inside a pyrotechnic action movie of a dream, they can act out better versions of themselves. An Annie who would go to great lengths to make a dying woman happy. An Owen who would sacrifice himself to the police for a woman he loves.
By the end of the episode, Annie and Owen are starting to crack through into Linda and Bruce.
Back in the car, while he waits for Linda to finish up with Paula, Owen is looking at his Greta Mantleray book when a picture of Olivia, captioned “Olivia Meadows, your ‘emotional poltergeist,’ who you screamed at during your BLIP,” pops up. When Linda slides into the car, she starts to recount a memory from her childhood, of seeing her dad crying in his pickup, and knowing that her mom was either dead or gone — something that happened not to Linda, but to Annie.
The real fun of this episode, though, is all the filler in between. It’s a glorious, wild romp. Try to recount a dream and inevitably you’ll remember all those wacky unrelated bits that slipped in. Here, it’s Lance and JC, Tweedlee and Tweedledum, too busy arguing over who gets the shinier gold gun to actually get out there and defend their dad. It’s Sebastian shouting, “I’m a bear. I’m a motherfucking grizzly bear. I eat Fish and Wildlife.” It’s the faux deco decor inside the fur shop. It’s the incredibly over-the-top shootout and Lance’s shoulder shimmying death dance as he gets lit up by a spray of bullets. It’s Linda discovering at the end that the sweet little old lady who sent her on this entire expedition actually despised her own children and preferred lemurs.
It’s campy, it’s silly, it’s written like these showrunners are actually having some fun. We need more TV like this, that doesn’t depend on predetermined algorithms designed to maximize viewer engagement.
• Lance and JC change the code from 1234 to 5678: ”the dance numbers”
• Sebastian turns to the fur coat that’s slipped from Bruce’s frame and almost whispers, “Alright Sheila, you struck out again.”
• Linda painted her daughter’s squirt gun, which is a hell of a Mom Craft.
Sebastain: “That lemur become my lemur when I stole it from you.” Bruce: “That is so far from how property law works.”
• Agent Lopez has the kind of glee when the shootout begins (“It’s finally happening!”) that you might expect any B-team enforcement office to have.
• “That’s not an ‘I love you’ lemur. Thats a ‘go fuck yourself’ lemur.”