Nothing like a little Satan-worshipping to bring out the devil in you, huh? “I Is for IRS” has a lot of elements at play, but it mostly comes down to a battle for Kristen’s soul. Evil has been playing around with the idea of Kristen being possessed since the end of season one, and her actions and behavior since have pointed toward something going on with her. There’s the murdering, the growing aggression, and anger (see also: Frozen Fry Incident), the flirting with the idea of cheating on her husband, the fire jinn hallucinations, all that burning crucifixes on her body, and more! Now whether it’s actual possession by the devil (if you’re into that stuff), something with her meds, or her new job giving her more agency, that’s for you to decide depending on what you believe. Regardless, Kristen is certainly walking a tightrope between good and evil, and her fate depends on which way she decides to tip. This episode might resolve that issue.
When Andy returns home, he notices the changes in his wife immediately, and they scare him — they’re still in therapy about it (didn’t Kurt say this would be a conflict of interest and he’d recommend someone else??). Andy blurts out what he wants to know: Is Kristen having an affair? Did she sleep with Ben? Kristen laughs. Did she sleep with David? Kristen says he’s becoming a priest, and she would never do that … which is probably not exactly what Andy wants to hear as the reason she wouldn’t sleep with him. At the mention of David, however, our old friend, the fire jinn, appears in front of Kristen. She gets Andy out of the room and informs Kurt what’s going on, and he prescribes her two new medications. Kristen feels like she’s losing it. And maybe she is!
She’s not the only one. Leland’s final exorcism has begun. It takes place over an intense three nights. David goes because he’s obligated, but he doesn’t expect much; He knows Leland is messing with him. But this time, something’s different. Leland seems to be actually struggling during the exorcism. Voices are coming through him. He kicks a priest clear across the room. David knows that Leland couldn’t be faking it. Afterward, Leland is alone in his room, where he doesn’t have to put on a show, and his hand is shaking. He looks scared. This exorcism just stopped being polite and started getting real, I think.
David is so baffled by it, he asks Kristen to attend the second night. The exorcism begins, and the same things start happening. It seems like Leland is really being tortured. He throws up some truly disgusting black tar stuff that starts bubbling on the ground. It seems wild to say, black tar vomit or not, we should be much less interested in Leland and more focused on what’s going on with Kristen. She’s sweating and starting to panic, and she runs into the bathroom. She is unwell, folks. Now, she did start that new medication, so maybe that’s what’s causing her to have horrifically gross hallucinations in which her stomach bursts and a tiny alien worm thing comes tumbling out along with so, so much bile and guts and stuff. AS IF WE HAVEN’T HAD ENOUGH DISGUSTING CREATURES BURSTING OUT OF WOMEN ON THIS SHOW (#GoblinBaby4Life). So, sure, maybe it is the meds. Or, maybe it has something to do with a possibly possessed Kristen being at an exorcism.
She flees, realizes it was a hallucination, and drives to the closest bar for tequila. It is highly relatable! She is unmoored, our Kristen. And then Graham saddles up next to her.
Graham is at the center of this week’s case. The IRS has asked the Catholic church to assist in the process of determining if an organization that has just applied for tax-exempt status should, in fact, be a federally recognized religion or not. Apparently, it is part of the process to have other federally recognized religions weigh in. Bishop Marx wants the assessors to investigate and see whether this new religion, led by this Graham fellow and his buddy Bishop Jim, meets the requirements the IRS agent lays out. The organization in question? The New Ministry of Satan. And yes, before you ask, there are old ones.
It’s obvious from the start that this New Ministry of Satan is bullshit. Sure, Graham is very charming, has answers for everything, and yes, has very clear skin, which he insists he got by praying to Satan (if only it were that easy!), but it mostly seems like a dingy office front where people are selling Satan merch and making up rituals in the back “temple” as they go along. Lots of horn headdresses are involved. But Graham is intrigued by Kristen, which is why he follows her to that bar. When she asks if he’s here to convert her, he tells her what we already know — he isn’t an actual believer, and he can tell she isn’t either. He’s certainly caught her at the right time. After everything that went down at that exorcism, it seems that Kristen is looking to do a bad, bad thing. So she takes Graham out to her car and fucks him in the passenger seat. Andy’s going to wish she was hooking up with David!!
Kristen gets to her house, and while putting her underwear back on in her backyard, Sheryl spots her. She knows exactly what happened and doles out some heartwarming mother/daughter advice: Take a bath, scrub it all off, take a shower, throw out your clothes, tell no one. It’s what Sheryl did all those times she came home to Kristen’s dad. Aw, what a sweet story. Anyway, Kristen follows that advice, but it isn’t an easy process. The extra dirty water coming off her body and staining her bathtub surely doesn’t help her calm down. The next day, she flies into Kurt’s office to tell him she needs to get off all this medication. In what seems to be a fit of paranoia, she questions whose side Kurt is on, if he’s working with Leland, and passing on information to Sheryl. She screams at him and then fires him. As soon as she leaves the room, Kurt gets on the phone and says “we need to talk” to the person on the other line, but when Kristen bursts in, having heard him and believing her paranoia has been proven correct, Kurt says it’s his wife on the other line and she can talk to her if she wants. But why would Kurt be calling his wife at that moment? Is something up with Kurt?? This precious man???
Leland is also seemingly losing it after that second exorcism. He’s shaking, unable to move from his couch. He needs Sheryl to come over and help him. “Help” in this case means to draw him an actual bloodbath made with blood from jars labeled with people’s names. When Sheryl asks if he feels better after she poured one bottle over his head — labeled Jeremy, sorry to that man! — Leland asks for “the two women from the airport.” This show has gone off the rails in the very best, most special way, hasn’t it? After a nice soak, you can see Leland’s hand isn’t shaking anymore. He’s back, babyyyyyy!
And just in time for the third and final night of his exorcism. Unfortunately for David, Leland’s back to his old tricks — he fakes the whole thing until the end. The power of Christ compelled him to do absolutely nothing. But again, it’s Kristen we should be watching. As the priest is performing the exorcism on Leland, she’s writhing on the floor of the bathroom, sweating, throwing up — you know, how a person might look if a demon were being pulled out of her. Also, maybe, how someone might look coming off a whole bunch of anti-hallucinatory drugs, no?
When the priest asks Leland if he rejects Satan, Kristen says, “I do.” It looks like this exorcism is working — just not on the intended. We don’t see Kristen’s answer when the priest asks Leland the final question, if he “claims the protecting power of God,” but when David finally opens the bathroom door looking for her, she seems like a new person. She seems relieved. A weight has been lifted. She asks David — over fries, be still my heart — if an exorcism still works if the person doesn’t believe in God. He says yes, God doesn’t need you to believe in him. Kristen’s not so sure, but you can tell she really, really wants that exorcism to have worked.
And it does seem like she’s changed. She realizes she has to get home because Andy is about to leave for Colorado, and she needs to talk to him before he goes. She leaves him a teary voicemail to wait for her and that she’s been so awful and he and their kids are everything to her. He gets the message. She finds him sitting in the backyard, and they have a very sweet reunion! Is Evil romantic now? Evil is everything!
Andy invites Kristen to join him for a fire puja, a Tibetan Buddhist ritual for purification. They write down the affliction they want to be purified, dip them in butter, toss them in the fire, and they are cleansed. Kristen writes down “I cheated on Andy” and, per Andy’s directions, circles both his name and ‘I’ because burning people’s names without that protective circle is real, real bad. Their afflictions burn up in the fire, and they talk about new beginnings and fresh starts. You know, the whole thing is like an exorcism but without the screaming and sweating and vomiting. It doesn’t always have to be so hard!
• Before you start missing that fire jinn, now that Kristen has been exorcised, know that he appears at the foot of Leland’s bed, and Leland greets him with a “heeeeey.”
• If you wondered how the New Ministry of Satan thing worked out, the team had enough evidence to prove it was a scam. Graham and Jim try to fight it by telling everyone that Kristen slept with Graham and now is trying to hurt him, but Kristen is a great liar. Bishop Jim promises that Satan will come for them all. As if they haven’t heard that before.
• Countdown to Ordination: 18 days, people!! You know things are only going to get wilder as we approach that date. Ben tries to persuade David to quit by reminding him that he’ll never have sex again. Kristen’s knee-jerk response: “That’s not what I hear; priests do pretty well.” KRISTEN BOUCHARD!!!
• The assessors are really coming for the Catholic church in this one, and it is A Thing To See: When Anita from the IRS assures them she’s not here to audit the church because she’s sure it’s “using every penny of its substantial funds for altruistic purposes,” Ben can’t help but pipe in “except for the lawsuits.” BEN SHAKIR!!
Wait, Bishop Marx still doesn’t know Ben’s name?? Poor Ben!
• Of course, a lot of the Evil discussion is about the horror aspects and the clever way the show can discuss topical issues but not enough is said about the great comedy going on. That builds up in the scene in which the team sits down with Anita, “the scariest woman we’ve ever met,” she announces she’s from the IRS, and it immediately cuts to The Pop Up Book of Terrifying Things, complete with thunder and lightning is an example of some of Evil’s perfectly timed comedy.
• This episode opening! We get the song “Fake Palindromes” by indie-rock multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird seemingly explaining what Sheryl’s up to after that strange transfusion last week. According to the lyrics, Leland is swapping Sheryl’s blood for formaldehyde. And now Sheryl’s super into it! She keeps coming back for more! More formaldehyde! She’s working with Leland, seducing men and then taking them home to, how should I put this, uhh drill tiny holes into their heads. I guess Leland has to get those jugs of blood from somewhere, right?
• Well, this is interesting: When Sheryl says she’ll only help Leland recover from his exorcism for something in return — their relationship is purely transactional — he offers up Edward, and Sheryl agrees. What are they going to do with Edward?? It’s going to be gross, isn’t it? It’s totally going to be gross.
• Root beer is the devil’s drink, everybody!!