A couple of episodes back, in one of these recaps, I expressed that I felt like Seth was too good to be true. He was too happy, too generous, and too funny, especially for someone who’s ostensibly been sent off on this retreat by their parents as a form of punishment. In episode four, “Day 42/15,” the gilt finally comes off the lily, and it does so in a profoundly dark and disturbing fashion.
Everything starts innocently enough in this episode over on Girl Island when Dot inadvertently reveals to Fatin that it’s her birthday. She pleads with Fatin to keep it a secret, but, again, Fatin being Fatin, she stomps into where the rest of the group is hanging out, middle fingers blazing, and announces that it’s time to “ice the booze and get horny,” because they’re having a rager for Dot.
Shelby pretty much takes over from there, getting party fever in a way that’s absolutely not healthy and probably has something to do with the fire-snuffing she did the last episode. She wants the girls to be as happy to be stuck on the island as she is — or maybe she just wants to take her mind off her mistake. Later in the episode, Toni will admit to Martha that she’s head over heels for Shelby because there’s “no hiding or secrets,” saying Shelby has made her “feel safe, which is new.” If only she knew, right?
Meanwhile, Boy Island is preparing to bag a jag. Thanks to Seth’s Second City training, they rally together to concoct a plan to build a pitfall trap using the weird little hatch shelter thing. They split up to clear it out, gather wood, and make spears, and end up putting together a pretty decent-looking trap, rotting opossum bait and all. Henry doubts it will work, but only time will tell.
Each group of boys gets remarkably personal while they’re out preparing for battle. Josh tells Raf about his overachieving siblings and hard-driving parents, explaining that he’s been sent on the retreat in an attempt to give him a little more grit. Raf suggests that it’s worked, oddly, and notes that he should be proud to be still alive, and Josh takes slight comfort in the fact that it seems like they’re becoming friends, despite his various Latinx-related insensitivities, like calling Dia de Los Muertos “Mexican Halloween.” Yeesh.
In his cell, Raf tells Leah that, in a way, he likes being quiet because it lets people reveal themselves and their flaws to you, which Josh certainly does here. Still, while it’s certainly easy to find Josh annoying, it also has to be mind-bogglingly hard to be him. He seemingly knows who he is whole cloth but has come to find that who he truly is doesn’t actually fit into much of the world. While he’s maybe been able to find a few friends here or there in his young life, the idea of being stranded on a desert island with seven other people who you have absolutely no bond, connection, or personality traits in common with would be daunting to even the most socially suave person. To Josh, it would be isolating at best and emotion-shattering at worst. Given what happens to him later in the episode, it’s clear that we’re definitely heading for the latter end of the spectrum there.
In camp, Scottie and Ivan face-off after Ivan makes a fanciful spear he calls Excalibur and Scottie tells him to “stop prancing around.” Scottie digs himself into an ever-deeper hole when he starts spouting off about how he’s a man because he provides for his family and loves big breakfasts, and Ivan ends up with an even bigger wall around him. It’s going to be interesting to finally hear from him since he’s clearly a keen observer of people and life, and his experience on the island will certainly come from a slightly different perspective than, say, Kiran’s.
Speaking of Kiran, he’s off gathering sticks with Seth, who’s trying to make small-talk. Kiran’s not biting, but Seth keeps opening up. He admits that he wants people to like him and says that, when he meets a girl he likes, he really can’t think of anyone else. When his last girlfriend dumped him, though, he took her cat, resulting in the girl’s parents charging (?) him with some sort of kidnapping and him getting shipped off to this retreat. Given what happens later in the episode, I feel like there’s got to be a little more to the story or motivations there, but at the very least, we know that Seth is probably as co-dependent and emotionally needy as someone like Raf, even if he puts off the vibe that he isn’t. Kiran, on the other hand, is still a pretty closed book. I keep thinking he’s going to crack, but it hasn’t happened yet.
On Girl Island, the beach is ablaze, and the girls are celebrating Dot’s 18th birthday. Though she admits that previous birthdays have set the bar incredibly low, she tells the girls that this is her best birthday ever, limbo, champagne, sparklers, and all. Martha and Shelby chime in with their best birthdays (Penn & Teller for Martha, Joel Osteen for Shelby), and everything is hunky-dory until Rachel reminds everyone that she’s lost her twin, Nora, and she’ll only be celebrating one birthday on their shared day from here on out.
Anyone who’s lost someone close to them knows that sometimes the weirdest and most mundane situations can set your grief off in new and unexpected spirals. That Rachel broke at Dot’s birthday honestly felt pretty true to the grief experience, which can make even the most pleasant days seem darkly bittersweet. Rachel may be increasingly able to put her head down and work, finding the occasional little bit of joy. However, she’s only recently lost Nora, and it’s understandable that she would still be deeply, deeply sad and that she wouldn’t always know the best way to express it.
Some of the most poignant moments on The Wilds are when it becomes abundantly clear that, despite how grown up the island might make us feel that these characters are, they’re still kids — and incredibly fucked up kids at that. They’ve been chosen for this horrific experiment for a reason, and the stumbles or traumas they’ve endured that have landed them there tend to be soul-shattering.
Perhaps that’s why, after the boys (Kiran, really) manage to kill the jaguar, their he-man celebration just feels so ominous. They did accomplish something, and they do know each other in some respects, like Seth opines in his toast, but they’re all also still strangers to one another. Some of that could be the fear that, as a teen boy, it’s not encouraged to open up and share stories and trauma. (Just look at what happened to Josh when he cried in the first episode.) There’s also a level of shame involved for all parties. Why expose your darkest moments to those who might see them as a sign of weakness? And what if you haven’t come to terms with what your deepest, darkest trauma is?
Seth’s assault on Josh is, hands down, one of the more brutal things I’ve seen on television in recent months. It is a degrading display of false power, and it is truly heartbreaking. I felt for Josh in that moment, because how could you not, but I also felt for Seth, who —while very, very much in the wrong and deserving of some sort of reckoning — is seemingly carrying some sort of sexual or emotional baggage that wasn’t evident before his “nuclear pantsing” by Kiran. (Who also should have known better, as someone who allegedly doesn’t like other dudes looking at his dick.)
The Wilds has never shied away from the realities of sexual abuse or assault, and it’s clear they won’t be glossing over it any time soon. It’s never easy to watch, and that’s good because it shouldn’t be. As viewers, we can only really hope that characters receive some sort of justice and that their onscreen suffering wasn’t in vain. Fifteen days into life in the boys’ camp, shit just took a turn for the absolute worst, and we’ll just have to hope that there’s at least some sort of light at the end of the show’s TV tunnel.