Last episode, Jack Hoskins fully committed himself to being under the entity’s control. Meanwhile, Ralph remained staunchly skeptical in El Cuco’s existence despite the evidence in front of him–and that Claude Bolton would be its next victim.
Tonight, we see just how far Jack is willing to go to appease his new master…and if anything can finally convince Ralph their adversary is not human.
Returns and Reunions
The episode opens with Jack Hoskins making a 911 call that a police officer had been shot near his apartment, which draws away the surveillance team assigned to it. He uses the opportunity to break inside, retrieves a substantial amount of firearms, and steals back his car to escape.
Meanwhile, Claude Bolton has made his way to the small town of Cecil, Tennessee, where he meets up with his brother Seale. After a brief exchange of brotherly affection, Seale asks why he left the Peach Crease (which he hilariously refers to as the Ass Crack). Claude claims it’s because if he stayed, it felt like something terrible would happen to him…which was 100% correct, but not for the reasons he was thinking.
Path to Interception
Back in Georgia, the investigative team discusses the possibility that they may need to find Claude Bolton before El Cuco can turn into him (while Ralph listens incredulously). Yunis says he contacted Claude’s parole officer, who said he’d recently asked for permission to go see his brother in Cecil. Armed with his current location, Holly states her plan to find Claude and isolate him, both from harm and blame. She also explains that all their information points to El Cuco being in mid-transformation, meaning that the entity is weak and potentially vulnerable. It already had to run once before it was at full strength after the video of Terry Maitland surfaced (hence it’s need to enslave Jack). Another contested crime could cause El Cuco to prematurely attempt to flee again, making the creature that much easier to stop.
Andy, Yunis, and Ralph (surprisingly), offer to travel with Holly to Tennessee. Alec declines a spot on the road trip, saying he is unable to go. As the group heads out to their cars, Andy asks Holly if she wants to ride with him, but she asks to travel with Ralph instead. (Oof).
Before everyone leaves, Howie comes over to inform Ralph that Glory is suing everyone involved in any way with her husband’s death…except for him. She believes that if anyone can vindicate Terry, he can.
As Ralph quickly packs for the trip, Jeannie asks why he’s going, especially when he doesn’t believe that what they’re hunting is real. Ralph assures her that they aren’t walking into a fight, but Jeannie insists that he treat it that way, telling him that she won’t be able to survive losing him, too.
While traveling on the road–in his own truck– Jack hears an APB on him, which (obviously) includes his vehicle’s make, color, and plates. He also has a passenger with him who needs to eat.
Jack stops by a river and kills a man returning from a fishing trip. He then sits and keeps watch in the woods while El Cuco eats him, which is a genuinely stomach turning thing to have to listen to.
Once the entity is finished feasting, Jack dumps his vehicle and takes the fisherman’s truck. After being on the road for a few minutes, he notices a mirror ornament featuring the fisherman with his family in various vacation photos. This shakes Jack up enough to make him pull over. Things get even more tragically bizarre when El Cuco reaches up from the back seat and asks Jack to hand him the ornament. When he does, we see that the entity’s hands have Claude’s “CAN’T” and “MUST” hand tattoos. The creature then tells Jack that it needs to eat again because its last meal was “full of cancer.”
Later, we see Jack inside a cave as El Cuco eats. It throws a piece of meat at him, clearly unsatisfied with whatever animal Jack provided it, and roars.
Laughing Into Focus
The investigative team hits the road for Tennessee; Ralph and Holly in one car and Yunis and Andy in the other.
Yunis asks Andy if he is a believer in El Cuco. Andy replies that he is a believer in Holly. This leads to a great scene where Yunis makes Andy think he might be dying because Holly can tell when people are a few days away from kicking the bucket–and she treats them the same way she’s often treated him. After Andy nearly craps his pants, Yunis reveals that he was joking, giving both of them a good laugh.
Things are quite a bit more serious in Ralph’s car, where they have both learned that Jack broke into his apartment, stole a bunch of weapons, and is on the move again. This leads to Ralph telling Holly about how Jack missed out on his lifelong dream of becoming a sniper due to his scores on the final psyche evaluation–making him a perfect “pain magnet” for El Cuco.
Ralph follows that up by asking what El Cuco (if it’s real) wants. Holly responds that all it wants to do is survive. She also tells Jack that she appreciates his skepticism, which not only makes her feel grounded, but is something she needs on a bizarre case like this.
Later, Holly says that she didn’t know about Ralph’s son dying. Ralph responds with an anecdote about when he was a kid and his mother died. On her last day alive, she’d been talking about a song she liked as a kid named ‘Washington Square’ by the Village Stompers (linked below).
Ralph remembered seeing it in her record collection, so he went down to the basement to get it. By the time he returned with the record, she had passed. He played the song for her anyway, then called his dad.
Fifteen years later, the only other time Ralph ever heard the song was right after Dylan was born. He was driving in his car and imagining a conversation with his mother about meeting her grandson, turned on the radio, and there it was.
Ralph asks Holly what she thinks that means. Holly replies that it sounds like a coincidence, which makes them both laugh…and maybe understand each other a little bit more.
Claude heads home with his brother. As the two bond over their turbulent family history, he asks Seale if he’s still attending anger management classes, which he is.
Later, Claude makes a run to Burger King and ends up getting stopped by the police, who take him into custody without charging him for anything. After a while, however, Claude ends up joking around with the two officers in the waiting room, putting everyone at ease. That all gets blown to smithereens when Seale (who already has a history with the police) shows up and begins screaming at the officers for arresting his brother. They respond by tasing him and locking both Boltons up in a cell.
A few hours later, the investigative team arrive at the station. Turns out they were the ones who had Claude detained so that he would be in police custody if El Cuco tried to commit any crimes as him.
After getting the Bolton Brother’s out of jail, they all head back to Seale’s house and decide to tell the them exactly what they think is happening. Claude is understandably skeptical at first, but also admits that he knows something hasn’t been right with him since seeing Terry Maitland the night that Frankie Peterson was murdered.
Despite Seale not being crazy about a bunch of cops being in his home, the group decides to stay there overnight so there will be law enforcement witnesses to Claude’s innocence if/when El Cuco strikes.
With that awkward meeting out of the way, Ralph heads outside for a cigarette. Holly follows him and expresses her concern that his disbelief will end up being an impediment to their investigation. Ralph asks if she can respect the fact that he’s trying get his head around things at his own pace. She responds by telling him that he needs to speed that process up significantly.
A family (mom, dad, son, and daughter) arrive in their RV to a festival of caves that is literally called ‘Cavestock (ugh). That night, there is a cave festival featuring music, carnival games, and (conveniently) people walking around in creepy animal masks. The son, who is wearing a bear mask, goes to check out a map of the caves, where he is approached by an adult appropriately dressed in a fox mask. After dropping some cave knowledge on him, the man invites the kid to check out a cave with him, which the boy accepts. Fortunately, his sister sees this going down and runs after them while calling for help. A group of festival goers surround the pair and tackle Mr. Fox to the ground. One of them manages to rip off his mask while a few onlookers take pictures/video before he gets up and flees.
That night, the investigative group all find various places in Seale’s house to sleep. Before turning in, Yunis and Holly both end up by accident at the same church looking for courage and answers.
Later, Ralph is awakened in the middle of the night by a sound that appears to coincide with a dream he was having. He gets up and discovers that Claude was also awakened in a similar manner. To make sure the point being made here is driven home, the camera pans across a table filled with Seale’s puzzle pieces.
Speaking of Seale, he wakes up Ralph again by taking his picture, which he claims is to document things since he doesn’t trust the police.
The next morning, Yunis is awakened in his car by Howie and Alec. Turns out that both men felt guilty about not coming along to help–especially Alec, who got the same sense about this trip that he used to before an engagement while serving in Iraq.
A little while later, the Bolton household is visited by two police officers looking for Claude. Luckily for him, the house was filled with law enforcement officers who could vouch that Claude was with them the entire evening…which completely contradicts the video the Tennessee officer show them of Claude having his mask ripped off at the Cavestock fair after attempting to abduct a child. For the first time ever, Ralph finally looks like he’s ready to believe that El Cuco is real.
The episode closes with a shot of El Cuco sitting in a cave and angrily devouring the remains of a deer.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the supernatural turn this show has taken, that was still a fantastic episode. From the car ride conversations to Jack’s torment at the hands of El Cuco, there were a plethora of outstanding character moments.
Also, the show does a brilliant job interspersing these dialogue heavy scenes with brief moments of tension and fear. By the time we see El Cuco’s abduction attempt at the festival, the audience is wound tighter than a drum. Our fear for the boy’s safety makes the obvious revelation about the face under the mask feel much more potent than it would have otherwise.
And speaking of El Cuco…good lord. The entity definitely makes the most of its limited screen time. The creature might not look like an actual monster (yet), but it’s already all types of terrifying. Much of that fear is thanks to some great sound and camera work, but Marc Menchaca deserves a ton of credit for the way Jack portrays and reacts to the evil that is controlling him.
As far as the narrative is concerned, this episode manages the rare feat of being densely packed with character development while also moving the plot forward significantly. I also love that no matter how supernatural things get, every move Holly and the others make is based on grounded/ forensic evidence.
About the only thing I didn’t like was Claude’s brother, Seale. Aside from providing us with a few moments of comic relief, his cartoonishly angry presence ends up being more annoying than anything. The one good thing you can say about him is that he makes Andy look good by comparison.
Maybe he’ll be one of the first to go when the team goes to take on El Cuco…although if that’s what ends up happening next week, then you can bet there will be more a lot more than one casualty by the time its all over.