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Recap: 'Mrs. Davis' Episode 5 reveals Clara's mind-blowing backstory
There's more that connects Simone and Wiley than we ever expected.
There were several twists and reveals in the first four episodes of Peacock’s Mrs. Davis that made my head explode — figuratively, of course. The fifth episode upped the ante by revealing Clara’s backstory and the truth of the Holy Grail. And, yes, a head literally exploded. (Not mine, thankfully.)
The episode starts in Jay’s restaurant, which has been trashed. Simone, wearing a life vest, rushes in and tends to her husband. Their relationship isn’t great at the moment — his other relationships and the way he used Simone’s “vows” to get her to do his bidding — but she still cares for her husband. Jay denies that it was The Boss (aka God) who did this to him, saying only that he just got in a fight. Jay also won’t say anything about Clara, whose relationship with Jay Simone now knows about because Wiley told her. Jay just loves everybody, he says, though it’s unclear how much of that is “Jesus loves you” and how much is “Jesus… loves you.” Simone’s on the verge of finding Clara herself, with or without Jay’s help, and when he asks where Simone is, she simply puts on a pair of sunglasses and says “I’m going to see a man about a cat” as there’s a smash-cut to her and Wiley zipping across the ocean in an inflatable raft. It’s an incredible opening, and it brings us back to a deserted island we haven’t seen since the second scene of the very first episode.
See, in that video they watched at the end of the last episode, Wiley and Simone were able to see Dr. Arthur Shroddinger’s name on the cat tag, and they correctly presumed that he was the person who had filmed Clara. The algorithm told them where to find him, but upon their arrival, Shroddinger doesn’t seem to want to be found. He had been reduced — as we saw in the series premiere — but he came back. It’s not until Wiley calls Simmone “Lizzie” that Shroddinger’s tune changes. Somehow, he knows both of them. Not only that, but he says he “tried to spare them.” From what? And where is Clara? He says Clara is closer than they think, but first, they need to hear her story.
(Throughout Shroddinger’s story, Wiley and Simone keep interrupting, offering commentary or gasping at plot twists they predicted — correctly or incorrectly. For the purposes of this recap, we’ll leave out the very amusing peanut gallery and just focus on Clara.)
What's Clara's deal?
Right off the bat, we get a couple of answers. It’s 1982, Clara is Mathilde’s daughter, and Mathilde is a member of the Sisters of the Coin, a group of women posing as bankers who are in charge of the safekeeping of the Holy Grail, a.k.a. “The Asset.” When Clara does through some doors she’s not supposed to enter, her mother has no choice but to induct her into the Sisters of the Coin, even though she doesn’t have a lot of faith in her daughter’s abilities. (Mathilde’s unhealthy relationship with her daughter is going to be a big issue in the future.)
The Sisters of the Coin have looked after the Grail for ages, and there are certain rules they need to follow to keep the Grail healthy — and, they believe, to keep the world safe. If these rules aren’t followed, disasters like the eruption of Pompeii will occur. Should the Grail not be kept in a state of near-constant movement, it will omit a foul odor. Drinking from the Grail is verboten — it’s the most important rule. And, 1 percent of the world’s population must look at the Grail every year. All this is why the Sisters keep the Grail on the move by carrying it around in fake pregnant bellies, but Mathilde has a better idea.
Rather than tote the Grail around, Mathilde has the idea of making a Super Bowl commercial featuring the Grail, that way 75 million people could see it in one go. She has an idea to make an ad for the coolest athletic shoe in the world (British Knights, a real company). Her apron man, our familiar German friend Hans, will become a priest to infiltrate the Vatican so they can steal the millions they’d need to complete the commercial. Mathilde will write and direct the ad, of course, but her fellow Sisters balk when she volunteers to star. She’s too old! Her daughter Clara, though, is just the right age.
Three years and 18 million holy dollars later, the commercial shoot is in full swing. Mathilde is busy, and she can’t (or won’t) make time to talk to Clara. Hans — now Father Ziegler — shows up, too. He echoes Simone when he snaps “it is not a costume” when Mathilde asks why he’s wearing his liturgical garments. Clearly, despite his claim that he was only resentful of his assignment at first, there are still some hard feelings. He tells Clara to meet him at sundown, where he makes a pitch: He has a perfect replica of the Holy Grail that she can swap for the real thing. Then, he’ll use the Vatican’s immense resources to find a way to destroy the Grail, thereby freeing Mathilde and the Sisters from the burden of looking after it. Only then, Hans says, will Mathilde be able to give both of them the attention and approval they deserve.
He also claims that he’s Clara’s father in a scene that intentionally recalls Vader’s iconic Empire Strikes Back moment, though Clara doesn’t believe him. Her mother would never have consummated with an apron man and broken her vows like that. (There’s that word again, “vows.”)
During the filming of the big bloody fight that opened the series, Mathilde berates Clara’s acting in a specific shot where she vows (again!) to keep the Grail safe. When they take a break, Mathilde tells her daughter that she’s dying. It sounds like she has a brain tumor, and she says the situation has forced her to reflect on duty and legacy. The knowledge that her mom is dying gives Clara the emotional motivation to really, really cry during the scene, and she’s still crying well after her mother calls cut and says it’s “good enough.”
When it’s time to shoot the running-on-water sequence, Hans shows up again, accusing Clara of stealing his decoy — which, of course, she did. Clara swaps the phony Grail for the real one when she’s underwater. Hans goes back to the church, telling off Mathilde as he storms away.
There is only one tiny, tiny little problem with this commercial: Mathilde never got approval from British Knights. They don’t want this commercial, they never approved it, and they certainly won’t be buying Super Bowl airtime to broadcast it. Mathilde is humiliated, and the Sisters of the Coin demand that she bury the whole thing. Nobody can ever see the commercial or any of those damned shoes. Clara is mad at Mathilde, too, but not because of the British Knights mishap. After all that, Mathilde cut the “vow” sequence from the commercial. Mathilde isn’t really dying, she only said that to get Clara to act and even then it wasn’t good enough for her. Mathilde then fires her daughter rather than let her resign, not knowing that Clara is actually in possession of the real Grail.
How do you destroy the Holy Grail?
That’s when Dr. Shroddinger enters Clara’s story. He’s a professor, and she comes to him because she’s learned that he (and not Hans, duh) is actually her father. He had no idea she existed, but that’s fine, because she didn’t come to him for a family reunion. She came to him because she thinks he can use his scientific know-how to find a way to destroy this indestructible Grail. Shroddinger makes a bet: If his lab’s extremely powerful laser doesn’t destroy the Grail, he’ll vow (again!!) to dedicate himself to its destruction.
The laser does not destroy the Grail, and so they begin a partnership — one that they both claim is not based on any familial bond but only scientific interests — in hopes of finding a way to break the Grail. Clara gives Schrodinger the pair of British Knights she had from when she filmed the commercial as a gift. They are the only pair out there in the world, which explains why Hans was so intrigued when they showed up on Wiley’s feet. (Shrodddinger says the shoes must have been given away when he was presumed dead.) They shoot that video to blackmail Hans and keep him out of their business.
A decade goes by and the pair are no closer to being able to destroy the Grail. Every month they got together to test a new theory. While none of these methods of destruction worked, they did manage to learn some things about the Grail, like that most of the Sisters of the Coin’s “Articles of Care” were bogus — although it did need to be moved or it would admit a foul odor.
On Oct. 21, 2002, the pair are in the American Southwest in an attempt to destroy the Grail with ignited rocket fuel, courtesy of a NASA launch. It doesn’t work, but what happens next changes everything. While having lunch, Clara has an idea: What if she breaks the most important rule and sips from the Grail? They haven’t tried that yet, and there’s a chance that it’s the most important rule because it’s the one thing that will break the Grail.
Shroddinger is hesitant. Even though most of the Articles of Care were bullocks, he’s still worried that drinking from it could be dangerous. And, although he claimed otherwise, it’s clear that he has come to care for and love his daughter over the past 10 years. He wants to drink from it, but Clara uses mind games to win a fateful game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Clara pours some soda into the Grail and takes a sip.
At first, nothing happens. But then some blood begins to drip from her nose as a look comes over her eyes. Schrodinger says it was a sense of complete peace and tranquility, and that it looks like she went somewhere. Simone knows exactly where Clara went: to Jay’s restaurant.
Clara then smiles and says, “Whatever it takes,” before HER HEAD FREAKING EXPLODES! BLAMMO! BLOOD AND BRAINS AND SKULL EVERYWHERE! AHHHHH!!!!
As shocking a twist as Clara’s sudden demise is, it’s not the last reveal the episode has in store. Shrogginer says that he knew he had to get Clara’s liver into another person’s body. At some point during the past decade, a mouse drank from some water that had collected in the Grail. The mouse died, but when his cat Apollo ate the mouse, not only did Apollo not suffer the same fate, but he lived to be 35 years old. Shroddinger posits that whoever had Clara’s liver might therefore be able to drink from the Grail and survive. And, what two characters do we know got a liver transplant in late October 2001? That’s right, Simone and Wiley. That’s why Shroddinger says Clara was close.
What's next for Simone and Wiley?
Upon seeing that Clara’s liver was in two children, Shroddinger realized his obsession with fulfilling his vow and seeing about the destruction of the Grail was too great. Sure, if one of them drank from the Grail and survived, it might be the means to destroying it. But, he could also kill them. To resist the temptation to put his Grail theory to the test and risk their lives, Shroddinger hitched a ride with some marine biologists and fed the Grail to a sperm whale… who promptly went berserk and destroyed the ship. That’s how he got stranded on the island for years until his rescue as seen in the first episode. He went back to the island because the first thing he asked Mrs. Davis was the whereabouts of Wiley and Simone. He knew he was still obsessed with his Grail theory, and the only way to keep them safe was if he went back to his island seclusion.
But, even though he tried to avoid them, Simone and Wiley have come to him. And, after a long pause and a flashback to some of the moments of Clara’s life, Simone says that she, too, is ready to do “Whatever it takes” to destroy the Grail. She aims to sip from it — and it looks like the next episode of Mrs. Davis just might borrow a page from Moby Dick because we’ve got a sperm whale to find.