Two episodes in, and Surface already feels positively Scrooge-like in the way it’s doling out clues to the mystery at its core. Nothing much happens in this episode, and we don’t learn much about anything.
The TL;DR of it all would be: Sophie has a fuzzy memory of riding horses with a girl who called her Tess, James may or may not be in trouble for stealing millions from his fancy investment firm, and Caroline isn’t really the ride-or-die friend she’s been posing as to Sophie (well, duh). Oh, and Baden is also still on the case. Which, again, duh.
Seeing as this is the second episode in a trio of episodes released by Apple TV+ on the Surface premiere date, the narrative drag of the middle installment might be forgivable. Only the third episode will give us context, but we’re not quite there yet.
For now, we get to tag along on a vaycay jaunt with Caroline and Sophie. At the top of the episode, Sophie’s therapist Hannah recommends that she get out of the city for a while. So, she asks James for permission to head out to Marin for a girls’ trip. After a very small amount of resistance, he allows her to go. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be watching.
From the dress debacle in the first episode, it has been established that James is controlling to the point of possibly being abusive to Sophie. The rest of this episode continues that narrative. Early on, Sophie learns that she’s been shut out of all of their bank accounts and credit cards. James says this is because he had to establish a conservatorship when Sophie was in a coma for three weeks.
While this is pretty terrifying and does reek of financial abuse, the concept does check out. Sophie obviously wouldn’t have been able to make any decisions for herself while she was unconscious, and we know what she’s been like since she woke up; she’s adrift and confused. The conservatorship might check out in a world where James is a trustworthy, caring partner. And yet …
First off, James hasn’t been upfront with Sophie about his stranglehold on her spending habits. It’s been five months. He had time to talk to her about it. Strike one. Second, he lied about where he was when Sophie had her accident. He claimed to be at a conference in Portland, but there’s no paper trail or social media photos to back up his claim. Strike two. Third, the man has a full-on surveillance system at their house in Marin. Things are starting to stack up against James in a very real way.
Also, while Sophie is away, James and his buddy go to a Lakers game. James concerns himself with obsessing over the security camera footage for the majority of the time, but he perks up when his friend mentions an email from work. Millions of dollars are missing from the firm, and the partners need to meet the next day to discuss. Could this be why James is hiding financial info from Sophie? Potentially! Or maybe he’s just a possessive creeper. Or both!
At first, Sophie is blissfully unaware of the cameras tracking her every move in Marin. (Are there cameras at the house in San Francisco too? It seems very possible.) So, when Caroline has to take a work call, Sophie takes the opportunity to sneak out to the nearby stables.
There’s a primal urge pulling Sophie toward the stables. Once she arrives, she quickly convinces one of the stable hands to tack up a horse for so she can ride. She’s clearly had lots of riding experience and takes off on the horse like a pro. As the animal takes her through wooded pathways, she starts to recall snippets of her past life. She has lots of memories of a lone horse in a field, followed by a brief snippet of a bloodied girl who calls her Tess.
Sophie’s memories are sparse and unreliable, though, so when she gets back to Caroline, she seeks answers. Caroline is cagey about everything, giving brief answers to complicated questions. When Sophie asks who she was before the accident, Caroline says, “skeptical and complicated.” And when Sophie starts to press for information about her marriage, Caroline seems to get very uncomfortable, calling James “loyal, stable, and devoted.” These are not the answers one would expect from a bestie.
Throughout the trip, Caroline does her best to pepper in quintessential girlfriend moments, such as popping on a fun and topical tune to help alleviate Sophie’s anxiety as they cross the Golden Gate Bridge. She also wants them to drink — a lot. As Caroline, Ari Graynor does a fantastic job of straddling the line of supportive friend and possible villain of the story. She imbues Caroline with a breezy attitude, but she ensures that every encounter with Sophie is also shot through with an electric current of anxiety. It feels like these two were once friends, but there was no actual depth to the relationship. There still isn’t, and as Sophie mines for something that isn’t there, the friendship façade is starting to crumble.
Once Sophie returns home, she coincidentally overhears a conversation between Caroline and James by jogging to Caroline’s office at exactly the right time. Very convenient! So, with no one left she can trust, Sophie sprints over to Baden’s car. He’s been tailing her this entire time. In fact, while James was spying on Sophie, Baden got a valet to get all the GPS information from James’s car. How’s that for karma?
Baden offers to tell Sophie everything he knows as the episode cuts to black. Here’s hoping that we’ll get more answers soon.
• At the top of the episode, Sophie remembers a shadowy figure looking over the railing as she plunged into the ocean. This feels like possible evidence, but memories can be unreliable. That said, the show’s entire premise hinges on something shadowy happening to Sophie on that boat, so it’s safe to say that we can rule out suicide at this point.
• When Sophie walks into her bedroom in Marin, she immediately recognizes it as the room from her sexy video with Baden. Given that there are more security cameras in the house than there are in a Target, it seems probable that James knew about this affair.
• The mystery I can’t solve in this episode? The strawberries. One morning after Sophie arrives home from her run; there are some cut strawberries just sitting on a cutting board in the middle of her kitchen. As she calls James’s secretary for info, she absentmindedly eats one and then leaves the room. Who cut those strawberries? James? If so, why didn’t he clean them up? Why doesn’t Sophie clean them up?! It’s so easy to toss a handful of strawberry tops into the trash! The answer is probably that they have a housekeeper, but leaving cut fruit on the counter for prolonged periods of time is exactly how you get ants.