Case in point about my diagnosis of just not enough time at the end of the last recap: this sudden romance between Imogen and Chip!
I mean, I’m definitely not mad at it (unless, of course, it means he’s on the Slasher A team). Chip (Carson Rowland) has been cute but wrong-footed in all his scenes with Tabitha, and Imogen has been drowning in misery and mystery; breaking the two of them out of those dynamics and giving them a chance to bring something fresh to the story is a smart creative move. Plus they’ve got great chemistry!
And yet, because these two characters have never once shared a scene in any meaningful way, the sudden appearance of Chip in the middle of her very private pregnancy arc robs us of any of the fizzy anticipation that an even moderately slower ’ship-building exercise might have allowed.
Anyway, I really hope Chip is the good guy Tabby says he is. Imogen deserves a break.
If the point of “Scars” was to finally start cracking open the Final Girls’ deepest traumas, the point of “Carnival of Souls” is to start taking stock of where all the cracking gets them. And since it’s Mouse’s mom, Elodie (Lea Salonga), whom Slasher A has put in the hot seat this week, we may as well start in the House of Honrada.
The flashback that Elodie’s flung into after she gets Slasher A’s delivery of a flyer for the 1999 Millwood Carnival finds her teenage self (Emily Bautista) leading Angela into the depths of the Hall of Mirrors for a secret make-out session, only to push Angela away in disgust and accuse her of assault when teen Davie walks in on them. It’s hard, at this point, to imagine that Elodie could find a way to do more to destroy a teen girl’s entire sense of self, but that’s just because we haven’t yet learned the specific shape of the Big Lie she’s been telling Mouse since she was tiny.
And what is that lie? Well, when she was 5, she got separated from her moms at the Millwood Carnival, at which point she was almost snatched by a nice man who gave her cotton candy. Elodie chased “the stranger” off, but the very specter of what might have been has been strong enough that the Honradas have taken a camping trip every carnival season since. But that was a long time ago, and Mouse is a teenager testing the limits on her independence, so screw it! She’s letting Ash take her on a date to the carnival!
This is a lead they should all follow because, honestly, they can’t keep living every minute of their lives in fear of an omnipresent cyberstalker-murderer.
But that’s me getting ahead of things again. Because before they can come to any pro-carnival, anti-living-in-terror conclusion, they’ve got to catch each other (and us) up on everything that went down since Imogen and Tabby got back from Rosewood.
For us, this means learning that — phew!— the only thing Faran’s mom took away from her car crash was a broken leg and a bad attitude. We learn that it wasn’t Slasher A cutting the brakes that made Corey crash but rather her unwillingness even to acknowledge the possibility that Faran might have been in the right for calling her out at Swan Lake. And wouldn’t you know it: Neither that bloody tattoo gun Slasher A left on her desk nor her daughter learning the truth about the unnecessary back surgery she was subjected to as a child has motivated Corey to accept even an ounce of blame for any pain her actions might have caused. In fact, she stands by every decision she has ever made. And anyway, don’t all dancers experience pain?
To quote Faran: “Are you for real?”
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Because even after her back seizing up during rehearsal prompts Faran to reveal to Henry that she has been in severe pain for eight years, and even after he reported this development to Madame Giry, prompting her to refer Faran to a doctor specializing in ballet injuries, and even after that doctor confirms that her childhood surgery wasn’t just unnecessary but has resulted in enough damage that she’ll have to do physical therapy, wear a brace, and put a pause on dancing for at least six months, even then Corey is unwilling to acknowledge that she’s at fault for any of it.
First Marjorie rejects any ownership over Noa’s “decision” to risk her own future to protect Marjorie from herself, and now this! I’m starting to think this Y2K Mom Squad didn’t learn the lessons they should have from Angela’s tragic death.
Speaking of Noa, it turns out she’s more out of shape than she or her track coach would like. Noa, reasonably, suspects it’s all the pizza her mom’s bringing home from her new job. (That and murder-stalker-related stress.) Her coach, unconvinced, refers Noa to a trainer many of the school’s athletes work with. He’s unconvinced, so rather than prescribing a diet that’s slightly lower in carbs and cheese, he hands her an inhaler to take “a couple quick hits off” before practice each day.
Noa — again, quite reasonably! — finds the idea of taking “a couple quick hits off” anything more than a bit sus and is shocked when Shawn can’t seem to understand why. Sure, he doesn’t use an inhaler before his practices or games, but lots of his teammates do, and what’s wrong with that if it will improve your performance? As an argument, this is as hard for Noa to fault as it is to buy; no wonder, then, that when we see her take the inhaler out of her gym bag the next day, we don’t see which decision she ultimately makes.
On the Tabby and Imogen front, while they start the episode coming from the same place — i.e., recognizing that in revealing to the others what they learned about Angela having been raped, they might want to take the opportunity to share the still-raw stories of their own sexual assaults — they diverge widely afterwards.
For Imogen, the overwhelming sense that she has been living with the fact that revealing her rape would confer lifelong stigma on her baby is counteracted by the sudden, shockingly genuine support Chip shows as their robot-baby class project unfolds. Sure, Slasher A stealing Clarice (the robot baby) just to provoke Imogen’s fear of being a bad mother isn’t great. But the sparkle she takes on as her whirlwind crush-mance with Chip progresses more than makes up for it. A real banner couple of days for Imogen Adams!
Tabby, on the other hand, descends into something a bit closer to madness, finding herself caught up in increasingly horrifying daydreams the longer she keeps her story to herself. The prospect of turning that trauma into her film-class final project does some work in keeping her sane but not enough. At one point, she imagines stabbing a pen into the back of Wes’s hand for condescending to her for being unable to maintain “critical distance” from a proposed double feature of a pair of films featuring graphic rapes. Later, she imagines Slasher A cornering her in the woods and stabbing her.
Happily, these daymares are enough to send her to the sheriff’s office to talk to the nice female deputy Imogen had recommended. Unhappily, it ends up being Sheriff Beasley who finds her, at which point he menaces her about the role she might have had in Tyler’s disappearance. So definitely not worth reporting a rape to anyone there! At her wit’s end, Tabby tries the school nurse, whom Imogen confoundingly recommends with zero reservations. But before she can get her story out, Tabby spies a poster for an upcoming blood drive on the nurse’s wall and gets an idea.
Also getting ideas, unfortunately, is Steve, who spent the last episode stalking Mouse. After he sends her a text saying he got them tickets for the carnival, Mouse loses it and turns to her elite hacker skills (looking him up on LinkedIn) to track him down at work and threaten to dox him if he doesn’t leave her the fuck alone. This has two surprising benefits: First, it appears to cut Steve’s presence in Mouse’s story off at the knees, and second, it reveals that not only has Elodie been keeping her participation in a support group for parents of kidnapped kids secret for more than a decade, she’s been lying about the man who tried to take Mouse being a stranger. Not that Elodie will own up to any of this when Mouse confronts her about it later. Which, if that’s how things are going to be, Mouse is just going to go to the carnival with Ash, and Elodie can kick rocks.
So the girls find themselves at the carnival — four dates and one mom (Sidney) in tow. For the girls with dates, the mandate is clear: (1) process everything you learned this week about yourselves and your moms, (2) acknowledge the specific ways your particular date has supported you in that processing, and (3) get a little smooch in. For Faran and Henry and Chip and Imogen, this cycle is very sweet! For Noa and Shawn, who are interrupted by a bunch of aggressive Rosewood jocks who want to start a fight that Noa has to break up, eh, not so much. And for Mouse and Ash? Well, what starts out bracingly tender — Mouse calls him her boyfriend! He is so into it! — eventually turns into terror when Slasher A follows them into the House of Mirrors and chases them out through the emergency exit straight into Elodie’s arms. At this point, Elodie takes Mouse aside and reveals the truth: Elodie was originally meant to just be Mouse’s surrogate mom, and the man who tried to take her wasn’t the boogeyman but her biological father.
Elodie! Jesus. Just awful Y2K moms all around.
Unfortunately for all our girls, this isn’t the worst part of their week, as they are interrupted in the middle of their next lunchtime confab by the first Group A text since Spirit Week. The message? A photo of Tyler’s dead smurf body slumped in a bathtub and packed with ice.
• Despite its myriad constraints, Original Sin is still managing to get in a lot of fun nods to the more iconic episodes of Pretty Little Liars’s inaugural season — in this case, that season’s own carnival outing, “Monsters in the End” (season one, episode 21). They even brought back the same horrible clown-mouth fun-house entrance!
• Teen Elodie going full gay-panic and blaming Angela for “attacking” her when they’re caught kissing in the Hall of Mirrors is giving me full-on Alison DiLaurentis vibes. It underscores just how much closer, at least in terms of cultural progress, 2010 was to 1999 than 2022.
• Sheriff Slenderman! Incredible. No notes.
• Kelly thinking it was Faran behind the masked figure with the knife in the auditorium is so frustrating but extremely believable. You probably don’t “gotta hand it to” masked horror-movie serial killers, but in terms of this specific instance of social engineering, I’m inclined to hand it to Slasher A for pulling it off.
• SlAsh Count: 0!