By the end of this week’s episode of Severance, we’ve witnessed everyone’s outies in action. Previously, we’ve seen a great deal of Mark’s outie and even caught a quick moment with Dylan’s outie, but we finally get to spend some time with outie Irv … and even get a tantalizing glimpse of outie Helly. She’s at some fancy event in a gorgeous ball gown. She’s sipping Champagne and talking animatedly to someone. Hmm. Wasn’t Lumon planning a big Eagan family gala to celebrate the end of the quarter?
Could it be? Could our Helly be a Lumon luminary?!
From where we leave off with the Overtime Contingency situation at the scream-inducing cliffhanger at the end of this episode, it seems that we’re going to learn quite a lot more about Helly’s outie in the finale.
Oddly, the brief Helly moment might tell us more about Helly’s outie than the ample time we get with Irv’s outie. Outie Irv is living a monastic life; in fact, we do not hear him utter a single word. At the top of the episode, we see him go about his day after work. He goes on a walk with his soulful dog until sunset. Then he heads inside, pours a cup of coffee, and paints. And listens to Motörhead. And paints. And paints. And paints.
Something is wrong with outie Irv. He has dozens if not hundreds of paintings, and they’re all of the same thing: a pitch-black hallway with a door at the end. At the top of the doorway is a bright red arrow. Recreating this image is a compulsion for him. This situation explains two mysteries about innie Irv. First, that black substance we saw under his fingers in the second episode? That was probably oil-based paint. Second? Innie Irv has been nodding during work hours because his outie can’t stop won’t stop painting. And it’s no wonder that he’s dreaming about the black goo because it’s basically all his outie sees. It all makes for a disturbing tableau, made even more disturbing by what happens with Ms. Casey later on in the episode.
As Cobel sends Mark to see Ms. Casey for an end-of-quarter wellness session, it’s clear that she’s still seeking a sign of recognition in either of the severed workers. Cobel has set up an emotionally-triggering situation in which Mark is made to feel responsible for Ms. Casey’s innie death. Although the two seem to be making a connection, and Ms. Casey confides in Mark about her “good old days,” the spell is broken by the emotional block of the severance chips in their brains. Cobel’s frustration over Ms. Casey and Mark not having a personal breakthrough seems to be the last straw for Milchick. He says, “It’s good they don’t remember one another,” confirming that Ms. Casey is not — as I previously theorized — a robot, but a stolen version of Mark’s wife Gemma. I’ll be using her real name from now on because, frankly, it’s what she deserves.
What they’re doing to Gemma is unconscionable, and Severance suggests that Irv went through the same process. As Milchick sends Gemma back to the testing floor, he leads her to the very hallway that Irv has been obsessively painting over and over again. Given that Gemma tells Mark that her life has only been a mere 107 hours long, it’s clear that she’s walked this hallway and reset her brain many times before. And, although she’s not meant to have a memory of it, her palpable fear as she walks down the hallway tells a different story. #FreeGemma!
This all begs the question: Is it possible that Lumon staged Irv’s death as well, and Burt is pining for him somewhere in the world above? Discuss.
The end of the quarter is clearly bringing about a lot of change on the severed floor. Everyone’s nervously waiting for Helly to finish refining her file. Now that she is motivated to complete her work, she’s on it. She’s actually good at it, too. The moment she finishes, the scary numbers dissolve, and a wild pixelated sequence appears.
It’s like she’s beaten the final boss in an ’80s computer game. A cartoon version of Kier thanks Helly and then tells her that he loves her. The camera cuts to Helly here, but it’s hard to read the emotion on her face. Then Kier literally flies away, presumably leaving Helly to temporarily revel in her accomplishment until she’s expected to crack open the next file and do it all over again.
Immediately after Helly completes her file, Mark is summoned to Cobel’s office, where they have a cathartic laugh sesh for an uncomfortably long time. Mark’s work laugh is as perfect as ever, while Cobel’s laugh careens between maniacal and genuine before it shifts to genuinely maniacal. Despite all the shenanigans that MDR has gotten up to in the past few weeks, Cobel is willing to forgive and forget because the ever-prized quota has been met. She says, “I … Lumon needed this.” What are the refiners doing that’s so vitally important to the company as a whole? It’s a question that lingers in the air like the full-bodied scent of Rwandan coffee.
As a reward, the refiners get treated to a perk we haven’t heard about yet: the coveted pre-waffle party egg bar. But the refiners aren’t celebrating their work win; they’re plotting what comes next.
During this episode, director Ben Stiller makes some interesting decisions, including framing the refiners in mirrors throughout the party and panning the camera upwards in scenes that feature the Lumon labyrinth. Everything is pulling us in the direction of the real world above, and as the refiners say goodbye to one another, the tension ramps up to a fever pitch.
As Milchick goes to escort a fired Cobel out of the building, the MDR team gets one last moment together. Mark reads a passage out of Ricken’s book, and Dylan chimes in, saying, “my friends, the hour is yours.” Page 197 slaps, y’all.
For now, Dylan is the man of the hour. Milchick escorts him down to the Perpetuity Wing for his long-coveted waffle party. But whatever you expected this waffle party to be, this ain’t it. This is definitely not a Leslie Knope-approved waffle party. There’s not even whipped cream.
From the jump, this waffle party is weird as fuck. Dylan enters Kier’s creepy replica house, finds a stack of waffles with butter that’s not even melty (ew), and proceeds to dig in. The bottom of the plate instructs him to go to the founder’s bed. On the bed lies a whip with nine tails, each tail clearly labeled with one of Kier’s nine virtues. Dylan dons a rubber Kier mask and a parade of scantily clad dancers immediately floods into the room. Three lingerie-clad women enter first, and they’re wearing masks. They are the fool, the old woman, and the young woman. Then, a man enters. He’s the goat.
Now we know why Dylan said the house “smells like 19th-century ass” when MDR went on their little field trip. Because waffle orgies, that’s why.
What these dancers were meant to be doing with Dylan in the founder’s bed is probably best left off-screen, but from context we can glean that it definitely involved recreating the painting that Irv and Burt admired when they first met. Over time, it’s become clear that this image is of Kier using the nine virtues to tame the four tempers and that this is the bedrock of the Eagan/Lumon philosophy.
Before the tempers can finish their dance, Dylan hightails it out of there and heads to the security office. In the real world, Mark preps to head over to Devon and Ricken’s for a book reading, and he invites a disturbed Cobel. Irv continues to paint, and Helly attends her mystery event.
And Dylan? Dylan does his thing. We find out that the perk he requested from Milchick is one of those laser-cut glass photos of the entire MDR team. Awwww.
Dylan navigates the control panel with ease. He activates the switches for his three friends and then scrolls to “Manage Mode.” Within this mode there are several different options: Beehive, Branch Transfer, Clean Slate, Elephant, Freeze Frame, Glasgow, Goldfish, Lullaby, Open House, and Overtime. Excuse me? Why are there ten options? And why does “Open House” sound like a sex thing somehow?!
Dylan doesn’t have time to register how messed up these choices are. He hustles over to the switches on the wall, grasping one and then doing his best yoga stretch to grab the one on the other side. As the music kicks up — it should be noted that it’s the same melody that accompanies Irv’s black goo reveries — he finally snags the second switch, clicking it into the “on” position. The light goes green. The screen goes black.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who screamed out loud in my living room at this scene.
It looks like it’s time for my waffle orgy, er, staggered exit, so I’m gonna go grab the elevator. Until next time …
• During Gemma and Mark’s last Wellness session, she’s reading off facts about his outie. She gets to “your outie likes giving …” and then gets abruptly cut off. We can only imagine how that sentence ended, but good for you, Gemma!
• Irv smashing a deviled egg into the Lumon handbook, a.k.a. the Kier cult bible, as a “fuck you” before the end of the day is absolutely everything. Seeing as his outie’s life is free of dialogue, John Turturro takes us on many face journeys in this episode, but his expression at this moment is one of perfect gleeful revenge.
• We briefly see that the four sets of numbers the refiners are sorting are abbreviated as WO, FR, MA, and DR. These correspond to the four tempers: Woe, Frolic, Malice, and Dread. What this means, I could not tell you. But it seems like an important fact.
• (Innie) Helly and (innie) Maaaark, sittin’ in a tree!!! Oh, man, this show is setting up one hell of a love triangle between Helly, Gemma, and Mark, and I’m here for all of it.
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