For those who perhaps did not attend a peculiar elementary-school assembly during which the school counselor showed a film strip of Aesop’s Fables on an annual basis, “The Scorpion and the Frog” is a cautionary tale. A scorpion wants to hitch a ride across the river from a frog, but the frog is worried the scorpion will sting him. Ultimately, the frog is persuaded to do it anyway. If he dies, the scorpion will drown too, and surely the scorpion would like to live. Halfway across the river, though, the scorpion stings the frog, explaining in his final moments that he couldn’t help it: That’s just my nature. The moral, I guess, is that some people are assholes. It’s not accidental; it’s not circumstantial. There is such a thing as evil in this world, or so I was taught sitting on the sticky gymnasium floor, age 9.
What the film strip neglected to mention is that most scorpions don’t walk around with stingers on their tails. They look like regular people. Sometimes they look even brighter and shinier than regular people. On a related note, Villanelle is back. Fresh off a murderous rampage of innocents, she heads to London to wait for Eve in the privacy of Eve’s hotel room, which she breaks into because Villanelle’s back. Eve tells her to get gone, but the greedy breaths she takes as soon as she’s out of sight suggest some ambivalence.
Eve is juggling multiple fascinations now. As intriguing as it is to encounter Villanelle half-dressed, Eve would rather be at Yusuf’s, brainstorming how to get closer to Hélène, with her alluring French lilt and her chic lob and, crucially, her head start hunting the Twelve. While season three got bogged down in Eve’s vendetta, this episode is propelled by it. Having not given a shit for multiple seasons, I find myself suddenly also curious to know who indeed is behind this international consortium of femme fatales — gotta be someone we already know, right?
So rather than deal with the elephant in the hotel room, Eve elects to spend the day tailing Hélène’s car around London. She never makes it out of the parking lot. Instead, she intercepts the hysterical Fernanda, a scorned lover also, coincidentally, hoping to find Hélène by stalking her driver. Before long, Eve and Fernanda are putting back a third bottle of frosty white and commiserating about the women who ruined them.
It’s actually a pretty therapeutic session, at least for Eve. She tells Fernanda that her ex was controlling and selfish, but her new friend challenges Eve to accept some responsibility. Villanelle can only play her wicked head games with a willing partner. Brutal, incisive, clearheaded advice from a batty, heartbroken woman who claims to have never known what her husband of five years did for work. Alas, she’ll never be able to ask him. He vanished right around the same time, come to think of it, that Hélène showed up in her life.
It’s uncharacteristically messy of Hélène to allow such a loose-lipped loose end to roam the earth, but she’s distracted by her new problem child. The shifty mortician is back and she’s got a name: Pam. I like it. Pam is understated and baggage-free, particularly in a universe of Eves and Hélènes. She’s meticulous in her embalming work, specific, diligent, unperturbed by the very smell of death — you can see what attracted Hélène. Pam and her older brother, Elliot, inherited the funeral home, but he’s the face of the operation and she’s back office. Elliot is a scorpion who walks around acting like a scorpion all the time. After Pam has the audacity to leave the morgue, for example, he locks her in the frigid room with the lights off. He probably deserves to die, but Pam would be content just to escape her cartoonishly awful orphanhood.
Hélène insists she’s not ready for the field, though, but offers some encouragement to soften the blow. Pam’s USP is that people underestimate her, Hélène says, which is depressing as far as superpowers go but also useful. Next time Elliot gets on her case, Pam stabs him with a scalpel and leaves him on the embalming table. However unsanctioned, Pam’s first kill is on the board, and Hélène is forced to bring in reinforcements to manage the unruly recruit — cue Konstantin.
Elsewhere in Mother Russia, Carolyn’s apartment literally stinks very, very badly. She doesn’t have an office to escape to, and if she keeps giving Vlad the intel he wants for free, I’m not sure there’s much incentive to give her one. She has uncovered a fourth dead member of the Twelve and suspects the assassin is from Scotland. Before she can lobby to be dispatched back to the U.K. (an unlikely assignment, methinks), Vlad tells her about a fifth attack even more promising than the fourth. The target was a Russian spy, and what’s more, he survived the assault. Vlad agrees to let Carolyn lead the investigation in Cuba, but his change of heart is under-explained. Is this really a big step forward for Carolyn’s new life in the FSB, or is he just hoping to put 6,000 miles between them?
Villanelle makes the most profound breakthroughs in this episode. Not content to sit around a three-star, she goes to see Martin. Religion didn’t cure her; maybe therapy is worth a shot. She finds his address on Eve’s iPad, and why is his house so nice? Isn’t he an NHS doctor? Villanelle tells a petrified Martin that she feels “like shit all of the time.” She doesn’t know what she wants; lately she doesn’t trust her own thoughts. But sometimes things get worse before they get better. Martin suggests that feeling pathologically insecure may signify that the change Villanelle is struggling to effect is actually happening — slowly, imperceptibly, painfully. It’s such a therapist thing to say.
As is inevitable, their soul-searching tête-à-tête winds its way to the topic of Eve. Yes, Villanelle relishes the hold she has on Eve, but maybe Eve is more powerful now. Villanelle daydreams a future for them as boring as it is endearing, the kind where they tell each other the minutiae of their days and share a bedtime. Did Eve ever imagine something so pedestrian for them? Something so depressingly similar to the life with Niko she chucked away? When Eve follows Villanelle’s digital bread crumbs to Martin’s house, the daylong therapy session ends abruptly. It’s regrettable that the comedy chokehold Villanelle puts Martin in leads to an accidental concussion, but Eve’s mind is made up about Villanelle before that. In fact, she’s the one who brings up the story of the scorpion and the frog. Villanelle wants attention, and Eve keeps playing her game, ferrying her across the river, ignoring the risks. “Enough,” she says. Before going to Martin’s, Eve called the police, who arrest Villanelle for the murders of the vicar and his daughter. Game over.
Eve is finally free. Villanelle will face punishment for her terrible crimes. It’s a good outcome, or at least a fair one. So why isn’t it more gratifying? Maybe the truth is as Villanelle suggests. She’s the frog; Eve is selfish and controlling. Villanelle is doing the work, and Eve is the asshole who won’t change her ways. There’s a flirtatious twinkle in Eve’s voice when she phones Hélène at the end of the episode, a bounciness that confirms she’s not mourning the loss of Villanelle. Perhaps she’s not thinking of her at all. Eve didn’t really like the messy, conflicted Villanelle of recent episodes. Hélène, though? She’s everything Villanelle once was — cold, elusive, distant. Attractive. Manipulative. Dangerous. A scorpion, really.
That wouldn’t be a bad description for Eve right now either. She gets Fernanda drunk, rummages through her purse, then abandons her in a bar. She takes what she can from Yusuf, then does what she wants. She’s indifferent to the suffering she causes, indifferent even to her own safety. Maybe that’s the measure of how badly she wants to take down the Twelve, or maybe the Twelve is Eve’s excuse to be as callously destructive as she likes. Maybe that’s just her nature.