Last week, Ralph was faced with near irrefutable evidence that something supernatural was involved in the death of Frankie Peterson and Terry Maitland.
This week, the investigative team must decide how to hunt an enemy they have no idea how to kill.
Cave of Sorrow
The episode opens with a flashback to 1947, which is revisited intermittently throughout the episode. It begins with a boy searching for something in the dark upper loft of a barn. This chilling set-up is quickly revealed to be nothing more than two brothers playing hide-and-seek with flashlights. After the younger brother wins, both boys run off to go on an adventure in the caves near their house.
After traveling through the woods for a bit, the older brother tells the younger one about a secret entrance that won’t go through the official/tourist one, saving them the $0.25 entrance fee. They find it and head inside.
Later, the boys’ father calls them in. When they don’t respond, he goes looking for them. His search eventually leads him into the caves, where he hears his lost children calling to him for help. He commands them to stay put and runs back outside to get help.
After rounding up everyone he can, the father returns with 33 people to search for his sons, all of whom end up trapped inside the tunnels during a cave in. With no food, water, or way out, everyone (including the lost children) dies.
Back in the present, Ralph Anderson is in the process of explaining to the two officers who came for Claude Bolton why he couldn’t have been the one who tried to kidnap the child at Cavestock. When the the officers ask why Claude has multiple law enforcement officers over for a slumber party, Ralph and Yunis Sablo make up a story about being instructed to question Claude in the Frankie Peterson case–and that they were told to do it in a non-threatening environment, which Seale Bolton was kind enough to provide. The officers seem skeptical, but agree to go along with it since the information is coming from fellow officers.
Before they leave, Yunis and Ralph ask if they could interview the witnesses in the recent attempted kidnapping case–just in case there’s a chance the perpetrator in both cases ends up being the same person, of course. The officers agree.
After they leave, Holly expresses her belief that El Cuco can see and hear everything Claude can, meaning that they need to make sure not to discuss their plans and what they know in front of him. Howie, on the other hand, remains unconvinced that El Cuco is even real…but Ralph finally is. He suggests that Howie should do the same.
Back inside the house, the team discuses what to do if they find El Cuco. No one appears sure how or even if it can be killed, much to Seale’s frustration. Holly reminds Seale that whatever they are going to do, they need him–and that includes finding a way to get Claude out of the house while they come up with a plan.
When Claude walks into the kitchen, Seale suggests that he make a trip to Hi-Way Heaven (a great fried chicken place about an hour away) to get everyone some food. Howie agrees to drive him there in his convertible.
Down With the Sickness
Ralph takes a smoke break and calls Jeannie to tell her everything is fine. Unfortunately, he also tells her that “it’s here,” which justifiably sends her anxiety skyrocketing. Jeannie begs him to not go after the entity and come home. Ralph responds by assuring her that they are only gathering information on the supernatural monster that broke into their home and told her it would kill him. As you might imagine, this does little to ease her concerns.
Back inside, the group deduces that El Cuco exposed itself before fully transforming because it was desperately hungry, meaning it will go after another child soon. Andy suggests they try the only nearby cemetery to look for its hiding place since the creature likes to hole up near its victims’ families. Seale brusquely responds that most of his family was buried near a cemetery that washed away during a flood in the 1960’s. After some gallows humor about dead family members body surfing, he rudely instructs the group to wash their dishes (so we remember that he’s a jerk) and reminds Ralph that Claude is the only family he’s got (so we know he’s not a complete jerk).
Meanwhile, Claude and Howie hit the road for some chicken. Claude quickly deduces the real reason he was sent out. This leads to him discuss his revulsion over the thought of El Cuco being inside his head. It shakes him up so badly that he has Howie pull over so he can barf.
Later, they reach the Hi-Way Heaven Fried Chicken, which Howie discovers to live up to the hype and then some. As the two eat, Claude asks the lawyer if he remembers representing him eight years ago. Howie says he doesn’t, but that he should take that as a compliment–he only remembers the truly evil ones.
Back in Cherokee City, District Attorney Hayes receives some disturbing news: A young boy was found dead near a hiking trial, his body violated and mutilated like Frankie Peterson’s was. As he looks over the crime scene photos, it becomes clear that Hayes is finally starting to accept that he was wrong about Terry Maitland.
Meanwhile, Andy and Holly still decide to visit the nearby cemetery for some reason. They come across the graves of a couple that died only days apart. Andy thinks it was a case of one person’s heart being too broken to go on without the other. Holly, on the other hand, deduces that their deaths were caused by the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. Andy refuses to believe that, insisting that the couple loved each other so much that they couldn’t live without each other, history be damned. Holly smiles, clearly charmed by his romanticism.
The pair then makes their way to the Cavestock festival grounds. Andy notices that the direction El Cuco fled in the video they saw does not lead toward any of the cave entrances. Holly checks the cave directory and finds the same residue on it that she found in the Maitlands home after El Cuco visited Jeannie.
Elsewhere, Ralph and Yunis are allowed by the local police to interview the boy El Cuco tried to kidnap along with his grandfather. Ralph asks the boy if the man in the fox mask scratched him, which the boy says he didn’t. The grandfather says that he doesn’t think he was scratched either, but did notice something odd about the man: His eyes.
When Ralph asks him to elaborate, he explains that the man’s eyes looked like they were too far back in their sockets. When he ripped of the fox head, it almost appeared as if the man was still looking at him from beneath another mask.
As the grandfather is saying this, we get a brief and chilling shot of El Cuco (as Claude) inside the cave with Jack.
Back at the Bolton house, the team tries to figure out where El Cuco fled to. According to Ralph, the boy said the man who tried to kidnap him had mentioned a cave where bears scraped their claws against the rocks to sharpen them, but no one knew what he was referring to.
Seale tells them that the bear cave is definitely real, but it was sealed up in 1947 after a tragic incident: The story of the lost boys and the cave in that has been referenced throughout the episode. The death toll included his grandfather and three of his grandfather’s brothers, making it the largest Bolton grave plot around.
Seale also tells them that teenagers still manage to find a way into the bear cave to participate in all sorts of illicit activities. After opening an older map and showing them the entrance, he asks if they’ve considered the possibility that El Cuco is waiting for them to come to it. Before the discussion can continue, Howie and Claude return, forcing the group to go silent.
Regret and Respect
Back in Cherokee City, Glory Maitland comes over to visit Jeannie. After grabbing a couple drinks, she tells Jeannie that D.A. Hayes asked to speak with her privately, which she refused due to the lawsuit.
Glory then opens up about how angry she was at Jeannie for having her attend the meeting where Holly revealed her theory about El Cuco. Jeannie apologizes and explains that she had no idea that was where the meeting was headed, but that she also believes what Holly said is true. Glory replies that she doesn’t, but still appreciates and respects Jeannie’s sincerity in that belief–especially if it includes Terry Maitland’s innocence.
The investigative team head out in two vehicles to the cave entrance while Howie and Seale stay behind with Claude.
On the way there, Yunis notices that Ralph has dropped the conditional “if” when speaking about El Cuco. Ralph admits that the creature’s existence is now almost impossible to deny, but it also upends his entire view of the world. Alec Pelley tells him that the best way to deal with this new knowledge is to digest it in small bites–accept what you can and keep it together until you’re ready for more.
With that weighty subject out of the way, Yunis asks what they should do if the creature can’t be contained. Alec replies that they should kill it before it can kill them. Yunis reminds him that they don’t know if the creature can be killed, either.
Back at the Bolton house, Howie smokes pot with Seale while Claude sleeps. He also expresses his opinion that it’s not right they are keeping Claude in the dark about things. Howie says they should stick with the game plan before heading to the kitchen for the leftover chicken. While he’s out of the room, Claude wakes up and Seale decides to tell him what the rest of the group is doing anyway. Claude becomes enraged, explaining that the creature knows whatever he does, meaning that Seale has just put the rest of the group in serious danger.
Sure enough, this scene is intercut by one of El Cuco raising his head and sending Jack out of the cave.
Meanwhile, Howie tries to get a hold of the team, but they are already near the caves and out of cell phone range (OF COURSE). After Seale surprisingly admits he screwed up, the three of them arm themselves and head out to try and get to the group before its too late.
As Jack sets up his sniper rifle, Andy and Holly share a tender moment in the car together–which probably means Andy is a total goner in the next episode.
The two cars pull up near the cave entrance and everyone gets out. Jack sets his scope on Alec Pelley and fires, blowing his head off and spattering Ralph with Alec’s blood. Multiple gun shots ring out as the screen goes to black.
Hoo boy…that ending was something else! I’m not sure why Jack decided to shoot Alec first, but I think both book and non-book readers alike can safely assume he won’t be the last to go.
As far as the episode as a whole is concerned, it was slower than I’d anticipated or hoped for, but still very good. Having Ralph finally get on the same page with everyone else (and watching the havoc it wreaks on him) made for a fascinating shift in the group’s dynamic. I was worried about Howie and Seale becoming the group’s hardline skeptics–especially Seale. Unlike last episode, however, he was somewhat tolerable this time.
Speaking of becoming somewhat tolerable, I found myself actually liking Andy a little bit. Maybe it’s because he’s actually contributing something to the group now or that the scene between him and Holly in the cemetery finally made their chemistry start to click, but he’s not anywhere near as annoying as he was when we first met him.
The episode did have some missteps, though. The flashback scenes with the lost boys and the cave search party were incredibly well done, but also felt like filler considering how much of the episode was dedicated to showing how it happened. It certainly had more of an impact when Claude explained why the bear cave entrance was sealed off (and why El Cuco would choose the cave for its lair), but the amount of time dedicated to the event didn’t square well with its importance to the overall narrative.
Same with the scene between Jeannie and Glory. Aside from her mention of speaking with D.A. Hayes, I think most of us already assumed that was how Glory felt based on her talk with Ralph back in episode six (and the fact he’s the only person she isn’t suing).
Those issues aside, however, ‘Tigers and Bears’ does a brilliant job setting up the final showdown between the investigative team and El Cuco/Jack. The burn may have been a little too slow to get there this evening, but there’s no doubt a terrifying fire will be raging inside that cave next Sunday for the series finale.