“It’s official,” Ben says, “everyone on the internet is possessed.” If that line, and its perfect delivery from Aasif Mandvi, made you want to both laugh because it is hilarious coming from a show about demonic forces, but also cry because it feels so very true, you are not alone! Although Evil has taken on the internet in various ways before (see: Malindaz, the influencer gift that keeps on giving), here it goes for the jugular on social media, and more specifically, TikTok. Sorry, VidTap, which is apparently “the new TikTok” in the Evil universe (it is much cheaper that way). It’s the best episode of the season.
Ben comes to that astute conclusion thanks to the assessors’ latest case. They’re called in to investigate the possible demonic possession of a teen named Candice — she’s eating glass, speaking in tongues, writhing around in a white nightgown, you know, usual possession stuff — only to realize that she’s recording all of her incidents and putting them on her VidTap account. Apparently, as the assessors discover, PossessionTok is so hot right now. They find a whole mess of people on VidTap who claim, or to a certain extent believe, they’re really possessed. It all traces back to videos from someone named the Great Heller, a magician turned influencer, which, honestly, tracks so hard. While the Candice case is pretty open and shut, Evil has bigger plans for this storyline.
Instead of diving deeper into the Great Heller’s deal — please do an episode on magicians, I am begging you — the episode begins to explore just how easy it is to get addicted to social-media apps and how quickly those apps can become insidious entities in our lives. Kristen, David, and Ben are all highly critical thinkers, but even they are no match for VidTap’s algorithm. Each of them gets swept up in the app: Ben makes a video debunking the Great Heller and telling people not to trust an asshole and ends up getting involved in various fights via video with other users who think Ben’s the asshole; Kristen gets deeps into #moms, which starts out well-intentioned enough (“the best margarita is a fast margarita!”) but devolves into videos about moms who don’t trust their kids and tips for figuring out if your husband is cheating; David begins watching videos from other priests, many of whom are lonely and dealing with sexual temptation, which leads him right to a visit from our old pal Demon Kristen — her tongue is one piece, but she is wearing school-girl knee-highs, in case you want to know what tricks she’s up to these days. Needless to say: The app is relentless and addictive. They can’t help themselves.
Ben’s time on the app does lead them to a woman named Marie, who is worried that something is tormenting or trying to possess her two young sons. Her videos of their beds moving on their own at night, doors flinging open, and at one point, her older son Brandon putting his little brother in the dryer in the middle of the night are creepy and her plea for help feels genuine, so the team visits her. She seems to be at her wit’s end, and the two boys are genuinely terrified of their own house. Since all the strange happenings occur around the same time at night, the team tells Marie they’ll be back at 1 a.m. to check things out. Now, this is when our assessors should’ve called bullshit on Marie: It’s quick, but as soon as they mention coming back, her expression changes to one of … excitement? There’s definitely something weird going on with Marie.
And wouldn’t ya know it, just as Kristen, David, and Ben are set to return, Marie starts live streaming on VidTap — Brandon has claw marks down his back, they’re all screaming, something awful is happening. The three assessors race inside to help. Afterward, Marie insists that she didn’t turn the app on — the app itself must be evil; it turned itself on to live stream what was happening. And then, she begins to bleed from scratches on her stomach. Something just isn’t adding up, and Ben suggests they talk to a friend of his from the science club who works for VidTap. Katie explains that there’s no way the app could turn on by itself. It’s impossible. As the assessors press her about their experiences with VidTap, she is very clear: There’s nothing supernatural going on here; it is all the algorithm. If they hesitate even for just a moment over a video, the algorithm begins to figure out what they’re interested in, even if they don’t want to admit it to themselves. It is all about keeping a person on the app, engaged … addicted. So, supernatural, no, but evil? It sure feels that way.
The visit with Katie isn’t all bad news: She tells Ben that, yeah, duh, they know everything about their users — what, like it’s hard? — and that it’s Marie who is really up to something, not the app. She edited her videos in the app, so Katie has access to the raw videos before those edits and she sends them to Ben (Katie is crushing on “Benny the Boy Genius,” everyone knows it). The videos confirm it: Marie is the one doing all of this to her sons — right down to the scratches on Brandon’s back. When the team confronts her, she denies it. She claims that she must be possessed in order for her to do this to her children — and she runs right over to her phone to begin recording before she begins writhing and screaming out as if there’s a demon inside of her at that very moment. She grabs a pair of scissors and lunges at Ben, David, and Kristen before they hold her down and call the police. And you thought your addiction to social media was bad.
Marie is not the only one toying with video in this episode. Babes: I’ve been holding back on a major episode reveal, and it has been killing me, but it’s so good it deserved some build-up. For those of us who’ve been worried about Andy’s safety, uh, it turns out we were very right to be.
After one of Kristen’s late-night VidTap scrolls, she gets it in her head that her marriage is in trouble and she quickly hops on the computer for a quick chat with Andy. Thus far, Kristen’s video chats with her husband in Nepal have been less than satisfying. The connection is terrible and he rarely has time to stay on long. This call, however, feels weirder than usual. His responses to her, specifically when she wishes him a happy anniversary, feel … not human. He seems robotic, almost, or like he’s following a script from which he can’t waver. When you think about all of the other conversations we’ve been privy to, they all seem eerily similar.
And that’s because the video is a deep fake that Leland is making out of his apartment.
Andy is not in Nepal with Edward. Andy is being held hostage in Leland’s closet. He’s paralyzed but can still see and hear everything around him. This, of course, means that he knows that Sheryl is 100 percent in on it. There she is, sitting by Andy’s side, giving him a manicure and informing him that in a few months they’re going to tell Kristen that he died in Nepal but that Edward will still give Kristen the money promised. “You’re more use to them gone than back home,” she tells him cheerfully. This is dirty and maniacal — even for Sheryl.
• Leland may have the upper hand on Andy, but Andy’s daughters really have Leland’s number, don’t they? After the Archdiocese decides Leland did nothing wrong by visiting Lexis at school (of course it did), the girls take matters into their own hands. They put together a video of all the creepy stuff he’s done on Bumblebee Valley and, as their avatars, out him as a pedophile, noting his name and that his IP address traces back to St. Joseph’s. The Monsignor finally — finally! — fires Leland. Leland threatens not only the Monsignor but also vows to make the Bouchard girls orphans. So, that’s not great.
• I love that we got two perspectives on David’s temptation here: First, we watch his interaction with Demon Kristen, which he plays pretty cool, all things considered. She does goad him a bit about working for Victor and the Entity, noting how she knows David’s bothered by the fact that several of the things Victor’s told him don’t add up. Mostly, however, David knows how to handle Demon Kristen at this point. Still, from Sister Andrea’s point of view, he might not have as much of a handle as he thinks: She walks in to find David asleep on the floor with a giant bug demon crouched over him, sucking something from his brain like a bee taking pollen from a flower. “You let something into your life,” she fearfully tells him. He brushes her off — this is worrisome.
• While we get shots of David, Kristen, and Ben all resisting the lure of VidTap in the end, we never actually see them delete the app from their phones. Do more social media-related problems await us? I’d wager yes, at least in some form.
• Okay, but can we get a spinoff that’s just Ben debunking popular TikTok trends?
• I’m sorry, the Monsignor actually thought Kristen’s daughter’s name was “Luxanne?”
• When the Monsignor tells Kristen that Leland’s visits were found to be harmless, he mentions that Leland was supposedly meeting with a teacher named Christine Rutherford. It seems weird that we’d get a name and not meet her, so be on the lookout.
• “It thinks I’m a mom who drinks a lot.” “Maybe you are a mom who drinks a lot.” I cannot emphasize enough how precious Kristen and Ben’s friendship is to me.