(WARNING: THIS RECAP CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE WAYWARD PINES EPISODE "EXIT STRATEGY.")
Previously on Wayward Pines ... Nurse Pam was a bad nurse, Jason was a bad leader, and Dr. Theo Yedlin M.D. was a good doctor but a bad protagonist.
Now on Wayward Pines ... people we thought were dead aren't, people we thought were incredibly boring still are, and Wayward Pines gets a wacky vagrant/official candy. Neat!
Tracy Jordon loves this episode so much he's gonna take it behind a middle school and get it pregnant. Related: every middle schooler in Wayward Pines is required to be pregnant. Who's ready for another upbeat episode of every pro-lifer's favorite show?
- Hey! Remember Xander? Xander Beck? You know, he was a resistance double agent? Got dragged away by a horde of abbies at the beginning of the season? ...He's the guy who plays William Stryker in the new X-Men movies, okay? Right. Now you remember. Anyway, he's not actually dead (which I totally called, nbd). But he is down a very deep hole for some reason. Anyhoo, he kills an abbie, climbs out of the hole and runs headlong into none other than Adam Hassler! No, not the guy from X-Play, that's Adam Sessler. No, not the comedian who you're Facebook friends from high school still think is funny, that's Adam Sandler. No, not the right-wing pundit from The View, that's Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Are you even trying right now? Adam Hassler was Ethan Burke's boss last season, who apparently knew all about Wayward Pines and is the reason the entire Burke family wound up going full post-apocalyptic in the first place. Right. That guy. Boy, it's just a who's who of "who the @#%$ is that guy again" this episode. Anyway, he's also here for the end of days, go fig, and has a really banging Rip Van Winkle beard now. Turns out, Hassler was sent out of Wayward Pines to see if there was literally anyone still alive out there other than evil, naked mole people. So Xander wisely hitches himself to Hassler's wagon, they head back to the Pines, and are both heralded as heroes for having survived living out among the abbies.
- Back at the ranch, Dr. Theo Yedlin MD patches up Hassler as best as he can, but the beard has kind of taken over as beards do and now Hassler's a bit of a wild hobo. He drinks, sleeps on park benches, and sees abbies everywhere. Yeah, he's a regular Red the Bum. Meanwhile, Xander has taken up residence back at his candy stand (no, really, he's Wayward Pine's chocolatetier, I guess) and, according to Kerry, he's temporarily in the clear since everyone's just so glad the abbies seem to be gone and that nobody got chewed up like a dog toy outside the town for once.
- There's a general agreement that it's time to take a real team outside of the Pines to figure out how safe things are and to really plant the hell out of some crops. So CJ leads the team (hooray for letting Djimn Hounsou do things this episode), Hassler comes with since he knows the lay of the land, and OH GOD IT'S THERESA BURKE AGAIN. WHY, WHY, WHY. I'll give you a guess -- where's my son, you guys? Where's my son? Did you know I have a son and, other than my dowdy outfits, that's my entire character? Anyway, they take her with and they find dead Ben Burke's dead Ben Burke body and Theresa's mad about it. OK.
- And then there's the pregnancy plotline. So basically, Megan Fisher thinks The Handmaid's Tale makes a great instruction manual for Wayward Pines. Wayward Pines needs more food before it can have more people. It needs more safe land, too. But don't tell Megan Fisher that, because she's too busy requiring every eleven year old who bleeds once a month to get knocked up. And that's the big plotline of "Exit Strategy". Rebecca Yedlin's young padawan, Lucy, has her first period, but isn't ready to be a mom, because she is basically a baby herself. But Megan convinces Lucy's brother, Corey, to rat her out so it's off to the breeding grounds. Thankfully, Rebecca refuses to allow Megan to take Lucy away, insisting that every woman in Wayward Pines is still entitled to make that choice. Considering how deeply indoctrinated the Pines' kids are into this Atwoodian nightmare, that's not much of a choice at all, really. But Megan still insists she'll fight Rebecca over this one girl because no woman gets to be anything but a walking, talking incubator in this town.
- Oh, and Corey is hanging out by a carousel when an Abbie shows up. Which is weird because they all left and, if they'd come back, someone would've seen them on the scanners, right? Unless of course this abbie was in the town already. But isn't Megan watching over all the specimens? Certainly she would have no ulterior motive for letting one of them loose and OH WAIT I SEE WHAT YOU DID, SHOW.
So! Some honest to Pete interesting conflict this week. But also some stupid stuff, and some wacky Wayward stuff, too. This is still the Pines after all.
- This is a personal good, but "Exit Strategy" was directed by modern horror guru, Ti West. I'm excited he's taking on some TV work (he also directed the penultimate episode of last season's Scream TV series) because he has a real gift for filling quiet moments with tension. And, as a horror guy, I'm glad to see Wayward Pines get infused with dread by someone who really gets how horrific these circumstances are. Choosing West to direct shows a commitment to maximize the creepy factor of Wayward Pines and that's a good thing.
- The show has decentralized a bit. I suspect the writers realized we no longer require a stranger in a strange land protag now that the audience knows what's up. So Dr. Theo Yedlin MD has been sidelined a little in favor of a more ensemble approach. And that serves Theo very well as a character. His refusal to share Hassler's medical details with Jason while still remaining dispassionate really gets to the heart of what's challenging about being a doctor in Wayward Pines. Letting Theo fill that role specifically fleshes him out a lot better than forcing him into the everyman role.
- I don't like the forced pregnancy plotline, but I confess it is probably the most honest and charged part of the show right now. And we need it. From episode one of this season I've wondered if they'd acknowledge that all the girls are pregnant. And, now that they're starting to, it's become so clear that this is absolutely true to what would happen if the human race found themselves in these circumstances in the real world. These hard questions, this style of absolutist leading, the forced power dynamics between men and women -- we already deal with this mess now, so what Wayward Pines is doing is genuinely speaking to the problems of our world. Crazy, I know! But Rebecca's pro-choice stance is under exactly the same kind of danger it is in the real world now. And Megan's seeming willingness to do whatever it takes to force the right to choose out the window in favor of her own perceived greater good is also chillingly familiar. And it raises even more questions. Like, what's it like to be gay in Wayward Pines? I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth delving into.
- And speaking of this conflict, if you were waiting for a new character to like, I think Rebecca Yedlin might be the one. She's got mystery (did she help build the town, who was she in love with while Theo was sleeping), she's got stakes (protecting every little girl in Wayward Pines) and she's tough. Rebecca might be the bravest character we've seen on Wayward Pines thus far. And it's exciting not knowing exactly who she is or shy she's there. Rebecca is identifiable, but still unknown. That's how you write a multi-faceted character for TV.
- Theresa Burke, meanwhile, is decidedly not how you write a character for TV. She's still just a worried mom right up until she finds her dead son's body. Now she's just an angry ex-mom. I suspect she'll probably want to lead the next wave of rebels, but honestly, who cares? And what will she do? Blow up stuff? The Burkes have been nothing but a blight on the town and the show. The writers have had no problem killing off the rest of last year's cast; gosh I wish they'd hurry up and knock Theresa off, too.
- The show needs to do a better job of handling these deep cuts. Reintroducing Adam Hassler with nothing more than a "Previously on..."? What is this, Game of Thrones? I'm not sure anyone was clamboring for Adam Hassler's triumphant return, so I wish they'd give the character more to appeal to viewers than abbie brand PTSD.
- Another episode means another chance for Arlene to strut her crazy stuff. This time she's mincing down the hallway to let Adam Hassler know she's scheduled him for a haircut, a shave, and a mani pedi. Oh, Arlene... you and your desperate attempt to "any port in a storm" with literally every man who walks your way. Could you be any more relatable? I submit that you could not.
- Xander sells candies in Wayward Pines because 1950s facade of normalcy, I guess. He gives Kerry something that he calls "Wayward Vines" which is cute and all BUT THAT WAS OBVIOUSLY A TWIZZLER WHICH IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT, XANDER.
- And give it up to Ti West who filmed a sequence with Hassler imagining a small child getting attacked by an abbie where the key visual tragedy is a scoop of ice cream that fell off the kid's cone. Oh, no -- my buttescotch!
All-in-all, just another bananas episode of Wayward Pines, but one I think that's actually setting up some interesting stakes and pitching the show's narrative towards something that feels a little more freaky Twin Peaks and a little less boring Revolution, which is a huge relief.