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Quentin wakes up in a mental institution, far away from Brakebills. And this is not where he expected to be. Weirder still? Eliot is here, in his pajamas. Remember how Quentin was locked up early in the series? Well, his old doctor is here, as is Penny, dressed as a hospital orderly. It turns out, the "court" ordered Quentin to be here and Brakebills is a hallucination he has when he's not taking his pills. Wait: has everything so far just been a dream?
And! In addition to Eliot and Penny, the rest of the gang is here, too! Alice is a patient who thinks she's an alien and that Quentin is here to rescue her. Dean Fogg appears as a doctor monitoring all of their behavior. When Julia drops by to visit Quentin, things get a little suspicious. She says she wants to help, but Quentin can't help notice that she's also a little…manipulative and evil, maybe? Wait, is Julia behind all this? Quentin gets confirmation that he's trapped in a dream when Jane Chatwin appears and then Quentin realizes that this is a spell and that the answers are in one of the Fillory books.
Later, in his music therapy class, Quentin hears Fake-Dream-Sequence Penny mention Taylor Swift, remembers that they'd talked about it in the past, and chooses to contact Penny through psychic abilities and DANCE! That's when Quentin's father shows up at the nuthouse and they all watch a video proving that Quentin tried to kill his father and that's why he's been committed. More and more, it's starting to look like Brakebills really might exist in Quentin's damaged mind.
That's when Real-Penny turns up, hears fake-Penny singing Taylor Swift, calls Quentin a racist (Fake Penny has a strong Indian accent in Quentin's dream) and agrees to go looking for Quentin in real life. When Penny wakes up, Julia and Marina are revealed to have cast the whole thing as a spell in order to get revenge on Quentin. But, is that all? Marina has bigger plans. See, in order for Quentin to be rescued from the dream, Dean Fogg has to drop some of the protection charms around the school, and that allows Julia and Marina to get into Brakebills and steal back Marina's memories. Yep. It turns out Marina was thrown out of Brakebills and had her memories (and the spells they contained) wiped and stored in a wooden box.
Kady (keenly aware of Marina's machinations) reveals she knows where Quentin's unconscious body is and leads the Dean to it. Dean Fogg endeavors to wake him from the spell by letting a mechanical looking scorpion crawl into him. They can wake him up halfway, but Quentin has to do the rest himself. The dream, though, has taken a pretty terrifying turn. As Penny jumps into the dream to help, the doctor and Quentin's bloody father have decided to lobotomize Quentin. Marina steals her memories back from Brakebills and Kady convinces Julia to help Quentin get out. Julia risks everything by going to Dean Fogg and asking for help.
Quentin finds himself in a sort of light-jail with Jane Chatwin and Ellsworth Downs, a magician from the Fillory books. They have to play a game like they're in a Fillory novel, and Quentin decides to do what Ellsworth Downs did – stop playing. Once he does this, he's rescued, awakes back in the real world and asks Dean Fogg to help him learn magic faster. Finally, Marina restores her memories and is furious with Julia for helping Quentin. She removes Julia's tattoos and tosses her out of the hedge witch circle, cutting her off from magic completely. Things are not going well for poor Julia, team.