Hazel is dreaming about the good old days, when she wore cute (beige) floppy hats and floaty (white) dresses and oversize sunglasses by her prison-pool. In this vision, she takes exactly one sip of water before losing consciousness. Oooh, remember that broken glass from the first episode? Here we are, connecting dots! Even the restraints used to tie her to her lounge chair are a soft-tan color. Byron’s commitment to a coherent aesthetic, like his commitment to forcing his wife to stay in his life forevermore, is STRONG. He is sitting on an adjacent chaise while his science lackeys shave a little square of Hazel’s scalp and slip their chip in. Seems like the sort of thing you’d want to do in a more sterile environment, like perhaps an operating theater of some kind? But I’m just an English major.
Hazel wakes up at home to her dad making garlic bread and spaghetti and unintentionally haunting observations like, “She lives!” His doll is strapped to a gurney. Her name is Diane.
I really like how fully realized Hazel’s hometown is. We haven’t spent a ton of time here, but without laying it on tooooo thick, we are really getting a clear picture of why somebody like Hazel might have split; why she would’ve been drawn to someone like Byron, who probably represented everything this place wasn’t (a rich mover and shaker building the future instead of a dirt-broke townie drinking to forget his past); and how desperate she must be to be back here now. At some point during her decade-long absence, her dad sold that plane from the flashback, which she doesn’t exactly know how to fly, but whatever, she could have figured it out!
Also, there’s such great physical comedy in this episode! Nothing big enough to pull us out of the moment, but Hazel and her dad so quickly seem like a real father-daughter pair, even though they haven’t seen each other in ages. Her inability to get the rifle to do … whatever she wants it to do (I don’t know anything about rifles … I guess she’s, like, twisting it? Like a Bop It!? Please don’t explain this to me, thank you!) and the way he just takes it from her with a very paternal, “You’re not flipping it right,” and makes it work with minimal effort — perfect.
It’s also so parent-y for his initial response to her breakup news to be in her corner — “What did he do?” — only to steer around to how she should lower her standards and “give the guy a break” because she’s “a handful.” It’s like, DAD, whose side are you ON?! But eventually, of course he comes back around to helping her out.
“If the news says that I’m dead, demand to see my body,” she says, knowing that if this happens, she will NOT be dead; she will be STUCK in the Hub “getting revision brain surgery ORDERED BY MY HUSBAND.” Another thing I really appreciate here: In the years I spent covering Pretty Little Liars, those dopey beauties never once called the police or a parent or any trustworthy adult ever, and they had increasingly pathetic reasons for not doing so, which I personally found quite distracting, seeing as many of their problems were far more solvable than they ever seemed to acknowledge. But this world has built in a very solid case for Byron as this all-powerful tech god who can wipe out bank accounts, and even identities, with impunity.
Hazel houses some spaghetti and attempts to explain the (objectively insane but also accurate) situation to her dad: Byron is watching them, right now, through the brain chip. She only feels safe here at home “because Byron knows I would never fucking come here.” (I love it later on when her dad states the most obvious thing Hazel neglected to realize: Of course the chip has GPS!)
Hazel tries to go on the run on her own, but Lyle chases her down. (If you’re like, Wait, why do I know that guy?, AND you’re a regular reader of my recaps, allow me to help you out: He was Roger Furlong on Veep.) Lyle is carrying his chopped-off fingers in a little ziplock bag. He tells Hazel she’s been User One for three days, that Byron confessed after she escaped. Hazel does not trust Lyle, though Lyle insists that Byron turned on him, too, and now Lyle has no money or Social Security number, plus he only has like an hour to get those fingers on ice. He tries to lure Hazel into his car by saying she is “the single most valuable piece of technology in existence.” The thing is, Lyle can’t tell Hazel his plan because they know Byron is watching; the only safe way is to Out of Sight her (shove her in the trunk) and put a bag over her head to block the chip signal. She responds to this very unappealing offer by shooting him in the foot and stealing his car. Then she shoots him in the face and screams, “STOP FREAKING ME OUT,” LOL. And then her real chariot arrives: Dad, who brought Diane.
Byron is watching all of this, murmuring to himself that she still loves me, as your healthy and well-adjusted gentlemen are wont to do. He is remembering (right? This feels like his memory) when Hazel threw him a very tasteful, neutrals-only surprise birthday picnic, the only birthday party he ever had, or so he says. That she made a piñata with his face on it that she seems to take real joy in smashing does not alarm him. It is honestly the saddest birthday party I’ve ever seen. It has the same energy as the birthday party in Parasite before … you know.
Back to Hazel and Dad: What does the chip track? “The four senses and rudimentary emotional data.” “The FIVE senses,” Dad amends. Hazel says no: “Byron doesn’t believe in smell.” So weird, but that tracks for me. Dad explains to Hazel on the drive that his reputation has taken a dive because of Diane. Shacking up with a sexbot — I’m sorry, his “synthetic partner” — has shown him the closed-mindedness of his fellow townspeople. Do I think we are potentially headed toward some very pointed comparisons between Hazel and Diane regarding if a man puts a computer in your head and also traps you on a compound and makes you rate your orgasms, etc., etc., etc., is Hazel really so different from Diane?? I am worried about this but will withhold judgment because, so far, I feel like this show is making cool choices even with its bigger, weirder swings. So! Onward.
It’s Third Saturday Ride Night at the Spotted Rose, the site of Dad’s former glory and now the site of his shame. (Again, a great moment is when Hazel has to double back to her dad to get cash, just that very childish way she has to tap him on the shoulder and ask for money — their relationship feels so lived-in and real.) Dad goes to the family that owns the plane, and they make a deal: If he wins the mechanical bull-riding contest, then he can have the plane. He fails at this so badly he’s pretty sure he’s paralyzed. Meanwhile, Hazel gets turned on by a bartender who hasn’t showered in days. (Red lines reveal this arousal to Byron, grimacing as he watches his beloved be attracted to another.) The phone rings — menacing! — and the bartender is very curt with whoever is on the other end of the line. Also Hazel remembers finding her dad sleeping off his hangover outside this very bar after her mom died. Sorry to say it, but the girl they cast as young Hazel doesn’t really look anything like Cristin Milioti, but I guess we’re just supposed to take a brunette center part and roll with it?
Hazel lifts her dad’s car keys and leaves him in the dirt. As she heads to the car, she sees that Shane (son of the plane-owning family) has painted “PERVERT” on her dad’s car door and that he is stealing Diane. Hazel tries to stop him but can’t do it alone; she is assisted by … the bartender! Who intervenes and then peels off into the night!
Dad, Hazel, and Diane drive home. By this point, Dad is taking a break from telling Hazel her marriage would go more smoothly if she had a better personality and is back to saying that whether or not she gets out of this relationship is HER decision, NOT Byron’s. Thanks, Dad! He also lets Hazel know that he and her mom would have broken up even if her mom hadn’t died of cancer, because “the sex was getting terrible.” Cool, cool, cool.
As they approach the house, Hazel sees one of Byron’s lackeys out front. Dad offers to help her make a run for it — he could take the back roads! — but Hazel gets out of the car, goes inside, and finds Byron watching everything she sees on the TV screen. He says he thought they were happy. She says she wants a divorce.