Well, we finally know what has broken Emma, and it’s terrible. Though she never discloses the loss in her life, Noah does in a conversation with Luna. There was a baby, a girl, who died just 63 minutes after she was born. Emma was still knocked out from whatever medical procedure, so she never got to hold her hand, and it’s clear that if she had a time machine, that’s what she would change in her life.
Speaking of time machines, there may be one of sorts? At least, that’s certainly the vibe in this episode, “El Espejo” (the mirror), which opens with Alex reminding us that “this isn’t the end. The second half is the heartbreak.” We see him stumbling through the jungle, filming himself. On what, we don’t know — that’ll come into play later. He’s making a video directed at “Baltasar the memory detective,” which is cute and seems about right.
It’s unclear when Alex is actually making this video. Maybe 2006? But in a flash, we’re right back in the hotel room watching him sit naked, drifting in and out of consciousness before finding a pair of pants on the ground. They’re a 30-inch waist, which he’s not, and he realizes that someone has been in his room. He tears the closet open, scaring the shit out of Sam and Violet, then just grabs a robe and closes it up. S&V decide to make a break for it, only to find that they’re essentially locked in the room, held hostage (in what’s probably a light, unthreatening situation, but only we know that) by a man who clearly doesn’t have the greatest command of reason and restraint. That’s when Alex paints Sam and Violet as they sit terrified on his couch. They’re also grossed out by Alex’s scent, which Sam describes as “blue cheese and patchouli.”
Meanwhile, Baltasar, Luna, Emma, and Noah are set up in their hotel’s day-care center going over case files. (The business center was booked.) Baltasar has done way, way, way, way more work on this whole case than the two Americans, and it’s instantly clear that they were foolish to think they could just up and solve it. That being said, Baltasar is convinced they’re somehow involved since they do appear on Alex’s mural. He begins leaning on them for more information, both personal and about the incident that led Emma to find the phone, only to discover that, really, they don’t have all that much to offer. He says he needs to understand them to know how they can work together and to figure out how they fit into the puzzle.
Upstairs (and in the past), Alex is convinced that Sam and Violet were looking to steal from him or fuck him over, and he asks them to empty out their pockets and purse. Violet is reticent, so Alex does it for her. He finds her book, flips through it, then loses his shit. “Where did you get this?” he demands. He insists it’s about him, which seems like a stretch because books can really be about anyone if you look hard enough, but … maybe it is? What do we really know about Illán Iberra anyway?
We do know more about Baltasar, though, who says he was born with a dexterity in his hands that led to working in the Frías family business when he was 10. He sewed the yellow snake into couture garments for some of the worst people in the world and ultimately fell in love with a detective novel named El Espejo. (That’s by Iberra as well, yes?) His dad died when he was 10, and all of that is how he became involved with Alex and the Oceana Vista and this case.
He leans on Emma and Noah for more information, asking them if they hooked up their first night together. They did, four times, Noah admits (damn!), and both agree that the wedding was the highest point in their marriage. Emma makes up some shit about financial hardship being their lowest point, but no one’s buying that. Baltasar asks her if she had any sort of connection with the phone when she saw it, and she says no, but we know that’s not really true. I’m not sure what the emotion is that we’re supposed to know she felt, but it seems like almost an instant recognition or a connection beyond just “Oh, weird, a phone.” Why, Baltasar asks, is this case their mystery to solve? It doesn’t seem like any of them really know yet.
Somehow the book is helping Alex begin to put some pieces of his memory together. He remembers that pasaje means a room outside of time and decides to use Violet’s directions to Iberra’s house to go seek some answers. He tears open part of the wall to reveal a presumably nine-story-tall fire pole and tells the duo they can either come with him or not. Miraculously, they do — maybe he still has their phones, or maybe they just want the ride — and the ride is harrowing, to say the least. Alex is trying to read and drive at the same time, and he’s convinced they have been a couple for some time. He tells them he was in love once, he thinks, then immediately swerves off the road toward a nearby fruit stand. While Sam and Violet share some fruit and talk about the loss of Violet’s mom, Alex somehow puts some more things together and comes to warn them: “Do not go to pasaje. Go home.” He leaves them at the stand, phoneless, and heads off in search of God knows what.
In the woods, as Noah and Luna walk and talk, Baltasar hammers Emma for specifics: Where exactly did she find the phone? How was she oriented when she found it? And why did she put her hand just there at that exact moment? If she allows herself to remember clearly, after all, they both might learn something new. It’s remembering that that causes Emma pain, though. She has clearly never really dealt with the death of her daughter, and even the thought of opening up that old wound has her basically paralyzed and catatonic. Maybe that’s why she found the phone, in some sense — to feel alive again and to be forced to talk, even if it’s to a tailor–mind detective. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who it is, really.
The episode ends with a walking and talking Alex saying in his narration that he hopes Violet and “Swimmy” are safe and far away. Noah sees Emma lying prone on the ground with Baltasar over her and takes off. He goes head over heels and lands with a thud. He looks up and bam! — there’s Violet’s phone, placed delicately against the trunk of a tree by Alex. We know this because we see him do it in a flashback — just like we see him place Sam’s phone right where Emma would later find it. He jets off when he hears of Emma’s ATV accident, though we have to assume there’s some sort of time jump or loop there in the meantime because the phones were pristine when he placed them, and when Emma and Noah found them, they were very much not. What in the world is going on here, really? Will any of it ever make any sense, and does it even really matter?
• Shout-out to that well-placed towel rack in the William Jackson Harper shower scene. Your hard, censoring work did not go unnoticed.
• Don’t hold me to this, but I’m one of those people who can sometimes figure out what’s going on with a suspenseful TV show long before the twist actually comes. (If you read my recaps for The Bear, you know.) There’s a part of me that feels like somehow a cenote is involved in this whole scenario, like maybe it’s a sort of “If you go in these waters, time passes or doesn’t” situation. I don’t know entirely why I think this. It’s been mentioned a few times in passing, I suppose, and there’s a part of the lighting at the beginning of the eps that seems indicative of water reflecting off rocks or something. I think Alex also maybe saw one briefly in his return to some degree of sense? All of this being said, while I’ve been to the Riviera Maya, I’ve never actually been in a cenote, so this is based on some conjecture. But isn’t that part of the fun of this whole show? I think so.