You can blame the terrible options out there for your sad dating life all you want, but some of you only have yourselves to blame. Included in that is one, Mr. Ben Shakir. Ben here was dating a woman who seemed super cool and normal at first and then revealed that she believed her dead sister’s ghost was grafted to her arm and made her do things. My man stayed with her, and eventually, her ghost sister … showed up in corporeal form? Maybe? It’s unclear and also exhausting. But just as Ben very much voluntarily stayed with Vanessa long after he knew about her arm sister, here he chooses to hook up with Renee, another friend from the Science League, after he learns that she is the leader of the Yeshua cult and believes herself to be Jesus’s earthly vessel. So all that goat blood poured all over him? That’s on Ben. I get being horny, but you have to draw the line somewhere. And the line is cult leader.
Our assessors find themselves on Renee’s cult farm by way of their latest case. They’ve been called in to assist with a little cult deprogramming gone wrong. Owen is no longer brainwashed after joining the Yeshua cult at the urging of his girlfriend, Lily, which is great, but he now seems to be possessed, which is bad. He’s been tied down to a bed for a month, participates in a lot of screaming and destruction, and enjoys correcting priests on their Latin verb conjugations. That last one, I respect. When the team learns that Owen’s girlfriend is still on the Yeshua farm, they decide to track her down in the hopes of getting some additional information.
While David and Kristen let Lily know where Owen is and urge her to go see him with them, Ben is tasked with getting closer to the cult leader. Now, don’t you ever say Ben Shakir doesn’t take his job seriously, you hear me? Ben runs into his science friend Renee and gives her a bunch of shit about being into this nutty stuff, but gives her shit in a flirty way, you know? She reveals that she is actually Yeshua herself, the leader of the entire cult, but before Ben can even process the shock of that, Renee flirts back by way of quantum entanglement theory and friends; I hate to say it, but it works. Before long, Ben is sipping a nice, bold red wine in bed with Jesus’s Earthly Vessel.
The situation is extra-concerning because David and Kristen have to leave the farm to get back to the rectory: David’s been called in by Victor LeConte, and Kristen is fed up with David’s disappearing act lately, so she insists she tags along. It’s actually a good thing she’s there because Victor’s latest mission for David has to do with Lexis.
Victor had tried to get David to plant a tiny toy bird in Lexis’s room — some sort of surveillance — because they’re trying to keep track of all the RSM Fertility babies, but are especially interested in Lexis, who, Victor says, is “being groomed by demonic forces” to take over one of the most powerful sigils on that lil’ demon map. When David balks a bit, he reminds the good priest (The Good Priest??) that even Hitler was a child once, which honestly is a lot. Victor LeConte is, and forever shall be, a messy bitch who loves drama. I don’t care how stoic he is; a man who only wants to meet in spookily lit corners is high maintenance, okay? Or he’s a serial killer. Regardless, David, who, as we know, is already questioning how much he can trust Victor and the Friends of the Vatican, refuses. He even uses the f-bomb. That means he’s very angry. He would never betray Kristen. His connection with Kristen is so moving that it almost makes you wish Andy would never come out of Leland’s closet!!
But just because David refuses Victor’s request, it doesn’t mean Victor can’t find some other means to get his way: He uses the ruse of plumbers to get that toy into the Bouchard girls’ bedroom (may that shriveled head stuck in the pipes never be resolved!), but when David and Ben hang out at the Bouchard house for dinner, David is able to get the toy out of there. This is exactly why Victor demands David leave the cult farm for a meeting. But while David and Victor and Victor’s three backup trench coats debate nature versus nurture, Kristen makes her presence known. Victor gives in and tells her about Leland grooming her daughter for evil. There’s got to be a better, kinder way to say, “He is intent on putting your daughter on a demonic throne above the destroyed world,” but our Drama King refuses to find it. Kristen is horrified to hear all of this and horrified to learn that the reason Leland has been targeting her all along — Victor knows all about Orson, Kristen’s night terror friend George, and her other hallucinations — is to get to Lexis. She promptly runs off in tears, wanting nothing else but to hug her daughter.
Unfortunately for Kristen, she’s involved in multiple other storylines. She gets a call from Lily, who has gone to the motel to find Owen on her own. Kristen and David head back upstate and find that the deprogramming team — and the exorcist David called in — tied Lily up in a closet to keep her away from Owen. Now come on, there’s taking your deprogramming job seriously, and there’s just being a dick. When Kristen frees her and Lily gets near Owen, something strange happens — it seems like he’s back to his normal self. Is it because of Lily, or did that exorcism actually work? Before we get any definitive answers (will we circle back to this at a later date … or?), Kristen and David are off to find Ben.
Back on the farm, Ben’s situation has gotten dire. It turns out Renee’s favorite post-sex activity is spearheading a blood sacrifice, and it doesn’t take long for the rest of the cultists to bust into the room and drag Ben away. His “are we in Midsommar territory?” line of questioning comes just a few seconds too late. The ceremony is as you might expect: lots of wailing, people trying to beat the guilt out of themselves with sticks, a goat tied up nearby, etcetera, etcetera. Renee wants Ben to atone for the guilt he feels over the death of his mother, a fun fact she learned through Karima at science club (I suspect Ben will be having a chat with his sister in the near future). Ben explains that, yes, he does feel guilty about how he treated his mother before she died, but that he is facing it like normal and not whacking himself with a stick like a psycho. Truly kudos to Louisa Hill, the writer of this episode, for being able to fit in meaningful character development in the midst of an absolutely bonkers scene.
When Kristen and David find Ben, he is standing in the middle of the field in the dark, covered in blood. It’s not his, thankfully. Instead, Renee sacrificed that little goat, which honestly had no shot once we saw it standing in the room, and poured its blood all over Ben. He’s in shock, laughing about it. When Kristen asks why they did this, he answers: “religion.” It’s a simple response but one that also reinforces one of the major questions this show is asking: Is religion a force of good or evil?
It’s not until the very end of this wild day that Kristen gets to go home and hug her sleeping daughter. When Lexis wakes up to find her mom silently crying while holding her, her response is, “you smell like blood.” What must Kristen be thinking at this moment? So much of David’s argument against pursuing Lexis is that children are just a “potentiality” and that just because Lexis has the capacity for doing evil, good could win out. She’s being raised by a loving mother, David tells Victor. But in this instance, nature versus nurture offers up two equally unsettling sides, doesn’t it? As we know, Lexis comes from a long line of women who have given in to their dark sides, no matter how well Kristen thinks she’s adjusting to her post-murdering life.
• Dr. Boggs is so desperate to write a book about his spiritual epiphany (w/t is From Bali to Queens: My Spiritual Journey, and that needs a brainstorm sesh or two) that he takes Leland’s advice and lets a demonic muse in. He’s dripping his own blood on his computer and singing “Alouette” and immediately as if possessed, knocks ten pages out. Of course, those pages are full of phrases like “the black pit of oblivion opens,” but a cursor blinking on a blank page is much more frightening. He begs Leland for more help, but Leland says the only way the muse will return is if Boggs cuts off all of Sister Andrea’s hair. Don’t do it, Kurt!
• Sister Andrea’s face of disgust after Boggs tells her that he wants to write a book is subtle but stinging.
• The running joke that no one remembers Ben’s name is tragic/hilarious.
• Kristen is so excited to show the boys her new margarita with pop rocks recipe, and they hate it so much!! Ben’s review is simple but effective: “Oh God, why?”