“It’s Not Just for Dog Shit” is a necessary transitional episode: coming off the pilot, it adds context to the way Alison has been living her life as Lennon for the past year. It still skips between two timelines, but in both, we’re seeing aftermaths: the aftermath of Alison killing her sister and hiding her body, and the aftermath of Alison finding the freaky note in her closet a year later.
This also means it’s the episode that gives us our first real look at Bruce Grant, Alison and Lennon’s CW-looking hot dad. We learn that last summer, Alison immediately came clean about what happened, and it was her dad who convinced her to maintain her lie. He even dictates the fake running-away note they’ll leave for the cover story, speaking aloud all of Alison’s insecurities and resentments that could’ve led to her plausibly running away from home. It’s mostly the same stuff we learned about the last episode, stemming from Alison’s frustration with Lennon and Bruce’s habit of ignoring their own pain after her mom’s suicide.
A year later, Bruce has become comfortable with the story. It even seems like he might believe it himself, at first: even in the privacy of their own home, he refers to smoking as Alison’s “sister’s thing,” as if Lennon really is the one he’s speaking to. But in one of the episode’s final scenes, he finally refers to what happened last summer, if indirectly. “You need to be careful around people,” he says, recognizing the way her smoking could lead people to connect the dots.
Meanwhile, Alison has her first big reunion with her old friends (Lennon’s friends, more accurately) and tells them about the note. Much of the episode is spent with the characters scrambling to figure out who the sender could be, checking in with each of them to see how they’ve coped in the past year. Margot had a nervous breakdown and started binge-eating on her mukbang channel, which the show treats like the biggest sign of mental illness there could possibly be. Dylan cut everyone off, including his best friend Riley, and installed salt licks to attract goats. Johnny got engaged to their old closeted gym teacher, Coach Craft (more on that in a second).
“It’s Not Just for Dog Shit” is at its best when it stays away from the flat side characters and explores Alison’s struggle to inhabit the role of Lennon. Away at Michigan, it was easy to make a new life for herself; back around her old friends who knew the real Lennon, it’s much more challenging. Everywhere she goes, Alison has to actively focus on how Lennon would respond to people. Riley doesn’t realize how right she is when she tells her, “You really gotta get back on your cool-girl vibe, or people are gonna start to wonder what’s up.”
Much of the episode is downbeat, even a bit slow. But it all ends in the nastiest bit we’ve seen yet, a scene that moves I Know What You Did Last Summer closer to the slasher mold of the movie. Visiting his fiancé at the school, Johnny finds him trapped under a barbell; when he tries to save him, it only sends a hidden dumbbell careening into his face. Then Johnny himself gets killed. The episode ends on the repeated sickening squelch of Johnny’s shovel decapitation, recorded and sent to everyone from Alison’s number.
It’s nice to see some graphic kills, which re-energize the show after a slightly sleepy hour. But Johnny’s storyline in this episode is otherwise kind of inexplicable. The reveal of his relationship with Coach Craft feels like something from a bad Ryan Murphy show, and I’m not one to moralize about unconventional relationships on TV. It’s just a strange choice — the show seems to want to both laugh at Johnny’s relationship and fetishize it. But it also wants us to take Johnny and Mr. Craft’s love seriously, with no intention of unpacking the weirdness of the dynamic (especially considering they became involved while Johnny was still in high school).
It’s admittedly a small part of the episode, but that’s part of the problem. I hesitate to comment too much on the optics of killing off two gay men when I’m expecting plenty more murders to come. But having your one main queer character get engaged to his high school gym teacher at 19 in the second episode, only to immediately kill both of them off and linger on their brutalized faces? It’s just confusing and not a great win for representation.
Some Other Stuff They Did Last Summer
• Okay, we also get some more glimpses of Clara, who Alison sees near Dylan’s house. I’m choosing to wait and see when it comes to her, but we see her entering the cave with the goat head — and the rest of its body on the street for Alison, along with Johnny’s head.
• Bruce is having rough casual sex with the chief of police, Lyla, but clearly has deeper feelings for her. I don’t really care about this relationship so far, but I can see its utility for bringing a cop into the narrative.
• Why does everyone in this show describe each other’s actions as “ugly of you”? It kind of fit with Margot’s Cheryl Blossom-esque style of speaking in the first episode, but it’s weird to hear Alison say it here.
• I get Riley’s joke about how Dale is illiterate and “that message has way too many words in it,” but how is she using that as an actual reason he can’t be the stalker?
• Bruce and Alison’s choice to bury Alison’s old stuff instead of burning it will definitely come back to bite them in the ass.
• Alison really needs to watch the road when she’s driving, or she’s going to hit and kill someone else, and we’re going to get a season two called “I Know What You Did the Following Summer.”
• Johnny’s death is heavily foreshadowed, of course, by Margot referring to him and Coach as “star-crossed lovers” and Johnny replies, “You know star-crossed lovers end up dead, right?”