Last week, Holly Gibney’s investigation led her toward even more unbelievable-yet-reasonable explanations for Frankie Peterson’s murder.
This week, she finally presents those findings to the rest of the investigative team. Also, Jack Hoskins gets to find out just how bad that sunburn on his neck really is.
Night Terrors and Confusion
The episode opens with Holly Gibney waiting at a bus station to return to Georgia. A nearby television is showing a news report about the man killed in the police standoff from last episode, who they identify as Tracey Powell. Holly sees Tracy’s face on screen and immediately recognizes him as the man she encountered at Heath Hofstadter’s grave.
She calls Andy to ask if he can look into who Tracey was. After he agrees, Andy attempts to express how much his misses her. It’s enough to make Holly smile, but still doesn’t stop her from shutting him down with ruthless efficiently before boarding the bus.
While traveling down the interstate, Holly takes out her computer and pulls up the pictures she took of Tracey at the gravesite. The last few photographs reveal the same severe blistering on the back of Tracey’s neck that Jack has. She also receives an email from Andy (this bus has wifi??) telling her that Heath and Tracey were first cousins. Before she can respond, the wifi disconnects (of course), leaving Holly alone with her thoughts.
After dozing off for a bit, she wakes up and heads back to the bathroom, where she’s met by a mutilated doppelgänger of Tracey Powell. He grabs Holly, then turns her around and menacingly whispers to look out the bus’ front window, where she sees that they are headed straight for a semi-truck stopped in the middle of an intersection.
Holly rushes up the aisle and screams for the bus driver to stop. The commotion is enough to distract him from the road, which we see is completely empty save for a green light. He turns back around just as the bus slams into a guardrail. Thankfully, the driver is able to pull away from the edge of the road and bring the vehicle to a stop. The driver is pissed and Holly is confused, but at least everyone is safe…for now.
Back in Georgia, Ralph Anderson compares the drawing Jeannie Anderson made of the man she saw inside their home with the one from the kid who originally stole the white van Terry Maitland (allegedly) used.
It’s clear he recognizes how similar they both are. It’s also clear that he doesn’t want to believe it.
As he continues to ponder this impossible coincidence, Jeannie comes into the dining room and notices the pictures’ uncanny resemblance, as well. Despite Ralph’s repeated attempts to explain and rationalize the Green Hoodie man appearing to multiple people (including Jessa Maitland) Jeannie refuses to consider that the man who was in their home was the product of a nightmare–or that his threat to kill Ralph was empty.
She also convinces Ralph to bring her and Glory Maitland to his meeting that day with the investigative team.
Perception vs. Reality
Jack Hoskins wakes up that morning to a pleasant surprise: The blisters on the back of his neck have significantly regressed. After thanking an unseen entity, he calls Ralph to ask if he can be part of the meeting that day.
Over at the Maitland home, Glory struggles with the adjustment to being a single parent in a household weighed down by oppressive grief (that “Daddy’s are for weekends” line absolutely killed me). She gets a brief reprieve when Jeannie arrives to give her children some of Derek’s old toys–and to invite her to the meeting. Glory agrees.
Jeannie also asks if she can ask Jessa to give a more detailed description of the “blurry” man who visited her and how his appearance changed each time she saw him.
Meanwhile, Ralph goes to his therapy session, where he admits to having recently seen his son in a very vivid dream. Despite how traumatizing this sounds, Ralph insists that his son’s message to “let him go” should be seen as a breakthrough rather than an indicator that his mental state might be deteriorating.
Elsewhere, Holly (who was lucky not to get kicked off the bus) continues her trip back to Georgia. She gets a call from Andy the Security Guard, who was somehow able to use his law enforcement connections to obtain some critical pieces of information: The inside of Tracey Powell’s car had fingerprints from the girls who Heath Hofstadter allegedly killed. Tracey also knew the girls. He’d previously dated an older half-sister of theirs and was in and out of their house all the time.
Ralph arrives home to find Jeannie’s drawings of what Jessa saw hung up on the wall along with the previous ones, which rattles him.
Meanwhile, Jack Hoskins arrives at the bus station to pick up Holley Gibney for the meeting. During a stop to get some coffee, Jack asks if she can give him a preview of what she’ll be sharing with the rest of the investigative team. Holly refuses, instead observing that Jack looks like he’s going through something awful. He appears to be about to explain what’s happening when a sharp pain silently overtakes him. He takes a moment to gather himself before casually brushing off his pained demeanor as a result of his recent marital problems.
Before getting back on the road, Jack heads to the bathroom. After splashing some water on his face, he looks up to find a message (written in what I really hope isn’t poop) on the previously blank wall behind him:
After arriving at Howie Soloman’s office, Holly Gibney makes her presentation to the team plus a few new additions. In case you need a roster, her audience consists of:
- Ralph Anderson
- Jeannie Anderson
- Glory Maitland
- Jack Hoskins
- Howie Saloman (Terry’s lawyer)
- Alec Pelley (Howie’s investigator)
- Yunis Sablo (GBI Detective)
Holly carefully lays out her case, starting with the striking similarities between what happened to Terry Maitland, Heath Hofstadter, and Maria Caneles.
She then explains how they are linked: Terry being in Ohio and running into Heath and Heath encountering Maria in a New York bar.
So far so good.
Unfortunately, its at this point where her previously grounded and completely sensible chain of logic has no choice to veer into the supernatural. Despite it being clear that she doesn’t want to, Holly states her evidence-based belief that El Cuco (aka The Boogey Man) is not only real, but had chosen Maria, Heath, and Terry to be victimized…and it must be stopped before it finds its next target.
Introducing such an outlandish theory to a room filled with detectives, lawyers, and grieving parent goes about as well as you would expect.
Glory rips into Holly before storming out of the room with Howie following close behind her. Ralph looks like it’s all he can do to keep his head from exploding. Jeannie and Alec are completely stunned. Jack and Yunis (who knew the legend of El Cuco from his childhood) are the only ones who initially appear to give Holly’s theory any credence.
The investigation team disperses. As they walk down the stairs from the office, Alec tells Howie that maybe there’s something to Holly’s story. Maybe the centuries’ of tales featuring monsters among humans mean it’s at least possible that one walks among us today. Howie responds with a joke about a Yiddish vampire (from the episode’s title) and dismisses his theory.
Outside in the parking lot, Yunis tells Ralph that if Holly is right, it means that Claude Bolton (the strip club owner) will be next. When Ralph questions why Yunis would even consider Holly’s theory, he says that they should keep an open mind about her findings. Ralph disagrees and storms off.
Back inside the office, Jeannie listens to Holly explain her theory in more detail. A few feet away, Jack listens while examining Holly’s display board. As he listens to her explanation, another sharp pain jabs him in the back of the neck. He also sees the same “STOP HER” message from before, this time as cuts on the back of his hands.
Back outside, Jeannie joins Ralph in the car. As he begins to share his harsh thoughts about Holly’s presentation, she gets in the backseat, too. Turns out Jeannie had invited her to stay with them.
After arriving at the Anderson’s house, Holly is immediately zeroes in on the series of Green Hoodie Man drawings Jeannie has hung up on the dining room wall. She hypothesizes that the entity’s gradual degradation from looking like Terry to a “blurry” face is why it needs to wait almost a month between killings: So it can transform.
Ralph, as you might imagine, is not thrilled about Jeannie and Holly being on the same page. He becomes even less pleased when Holly begins to investigate Jeannie’s claim about the Green Hoodie Man being inside their house.
Despite Ralph’s pointed criticism of her, Holly refuses to back down from telling the truth no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Her tenacity is rewarded when she uses a homemade ultraviolet light to expose an unknown substance on the surfaces where Jeannie said the Green Hoodie Man was standing.
Jack returns home still reeling from Holly’s presentation and the jabs of pain that have begun afflicting him again. After taking a shower, he walks into his living room to find his deceased mother standing before him.
It quickly becomes apparent that this is not a happy reunion–and that their relationship was not a good one. After Jack asks why “he” had to send her and begs his mother to leave, she leaps across the living room with super human agility and knocks him to the floor. Jack barely has time react before she’s gleefully beating him senseless.
Realizations and Reconciliation
Over at the Peach Crease (heh), Claude continues to struggle with the hazy feeling he’s been experiencing since Terry scratched him. After breaking up a fight and nearly getting involved in it himself, he steps outside for some air and decides to go home, completely unaware that Yunis Sablo is watching him.
Back at the Anderson household, Holly theorizes that what Jeannie saw was a projection of the entity that it sends out while recovering/transforming into its next victim. She also surmises that the entity forces a person like Tracey Powell to do things for it until it’s able to emerge and fully interact with the world again.
Ralph decides that he’s heard enough and leaves to visit Derek’s room, where he wonders out loud if what he saw was actually a memory of his son or something else. He’s interrupted by a call from Glory Maitland, who has been unsuccessfully searching through her husband’s things to see if he was hiding anything from her.
Ralph goes over to her house and apologizes for what happened at the meeting. Glory responds by asking if he is 100% sure that Terry didn’t kill Frankie Peterson. Despite not finding anything to implicate her husband, she’s started to convince herself that the only logical explanation for what happened to her husband might be that he’s actually guilty. Ralph assures Glory that he truly believes Terry is innocent and will continue working to clear his name.
Ralph returns home to find Holly making coffee in the kitchen. After sparring with each other for a bit about whether anything supernatural can ever truly be proven, Holly mentions that she’s surprised Ralph hasn’t had any strange visions/dreams like her and the others close to the investigation. Ralph admits that he did have one, but it was of his son. Holly hints that she believes it was actually the entity, which does not sit well with him. He goes to bed while Holly continues to work, printing off a picture of the blisters she photographed on the back of Tracey Powell’s neck.
The next day, a bloodied and bruised Jack tells the entity that he’ll do whatever it wants. After cleaning up and putting some make up on over his more egregious injuries, he calls Holly and offers to take her out to the barn where they found Terry Maitland’s clothes.
When Holly arrives to pick Jack up, he brashly explains his beat up appearance as the result of a fight. As they drive toward the barn, he wrestles with his own thoughts, conflicted about doing what the entity wants and the pain that will be inflicted upon him if he doesn’t.
After a bit of awkward silence, Holly says that he would look better without the make up and offers him a wet wipe. He drops it and bends over to pick it up, exposing the blisters on the back of his neck that have returned in full force. After seeing them, Holly claims she forgot something back at the Anderson’s and attempts to turn around. Jack responds by placing his hand over hers on the steering wheel and insisting they continue toward their destination.
There’s a lot of great stuff in this episode, so let’s get the nitpicks out of the way first.
I really, REALLY hope this is the last time we see Andy. The forced chemistry between him and Holly is bad enough, but the way he’s able to get so much sensitive police information about her case feels like the worst type of plot convenience.
Also, I’m still not sure I like how fluid the rules for the entity are (which was also one of the few problems I had with the book). For example: Shouldn’t Terry have been feeling the type of hazing effects from the entity’s scratch that Claude was? Why does it attack some people on the case (Holly, Jeannie, Ralph, and Tamica) and leave others (Yunis, Howie, Alec) alone?
Aside from those two minor quibbles, though, ‘The One About the Yiddish Vampire’ is an exceptional episode of television.
For starters, Cynthia Erivo turns in her best performance of what has already been a stellar run. When Holly presents her case, her discomfort at having to discuss such a seemingly outlandish conclusion is so palpable I starting to sweat right along with her. On the other side of the coin, however, her unflappable belief in the truth no matter how bizarre it seems make her character that much easier to root for.
And then you have Marc Menchaca as Jack Hoskins. This series has taken a one dimensional character from the book and given him layers I never expected. Beyond sympathy for what Jack’s going through, the fear and pain we see him experience when the entity takes the form of his mother is absolutely heartbreaking.
And speaking of that scene…good lord. This show has mostly built its scares through slow burning tension and physiological terror. This one was just some good old fashion (and wonderfully executed) horror.
Julianne Nicholson (Glory Maitland) and Ben Mendelsohn (Ralph Anderson) also deserve a ton of credit for the way their characters are reacting to some unbelievable circumstances. Glory in particular shows a painfully believable range of admirable strength and weakness.
Her reaction to Holly’s findings–along with the rest of the investigative team–are one of the key components that make this story continue to feel like a true crime story investigation despite the introduction of a supernatural element. Every conclusion, no matter how outlandish, is revealed via a carefully constructed chain of evidence and truth.
Add in the consistently excellent cinematography, The Outsider feels like the second season of True Detective that we actually wanted–a near perfect mix of true crime and supernatural horror that revolves around wonderful characters who battle each other as much as the unfathomable case before them.
Now let’s hope Holly can battle Jack to get out of that car next week.