Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) continues to be baffled by the surreal pace of life in Wayward Pines, but he’s no longer completely clueless. That said, he’s still fully capable of putting disastrous events in motion, which he does in episode two: “Do Not Discuss Your Life Before.” Spoilers follow!
The episode’s title, we soon learn, is one of the rules of Wayward Pines. These rules are posted around town with casual menace. “Do Not Discuss Your Life Before” and “Do Not Discuss the Past” are separate entries, and the extreme importance of keeping quiet cannot be ignored. But the ultimate grand supreme rule is what Ethan learned last week — “Do Not Try to Leave” — and episode two begins as Sheriff Pope (Terrence Howard) emphasizes this very fact. He’d also like to have a word with Ethan about his new career as a car thief.
Their interactions are not friendly (“You just assaulted a federal agent!” “No. I just restrained a suspect who was resisting arrest”) and Pope, who claims that his Secret Service contacts have never heard of Ethan, advises his incredulous adversary that Ethan is his number one suspect in the death of Bill Evans. (Before episode’s end, we’ll learn what a mindfuck of a statement that is.) While the men are arguing on a Wayward Pines back road, a group of teenagers bicycles past in the dark. One of them turns back: “Don’t try to leave, Mr. Burke. That’s rule number one!”
Okay. So that’s eerie, as is the super-quick aerial shot of the town that pops up after the credits finish rolling. Let’s just say Wayward Pines is a near-perfect grid of civilization that appears to be plopped in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Ethan returns to the hotel that was super-eager to kick out his non-paying ass that morning, where he’s apparently welcomed without incident. (Maybe Sheriff Pope is fitting the bill for his number one suspect?) The prim manager is of zero assistance on Ethan’s info-gathering hunt, since he doesn’t have any computers that work and he hasn’t gotten a new newspaper in two weeks (the only game in town is the local rag, and “I guess there hasn’t been that much news”).
Though Ethan’s not supposed to leave the hotel, he’s not one for rules (a big reason why he’s the odd man out in WP), and he can’t resist returning to the broken-down house where Evans’ decomposing body is attracting more flies by the minute. “Breaking and entering is a felony in the Gem State,” Sheriff Pope announces when he enters behind him. He’s none too pleased to see Ethan roaming around, potentially tainting crime scenes. Ethan protests that he’s just doing his job, and more than that, he’s looking out for a fallen colleague, and even more than that, why in the hell is the body still here? “Forensics is coming from Boise,” Pope blusters, and Ethan believes him, or pretends to.
Next stop for the wayward Agent Burke is the bar, where Beverly (Juliette Lewis) is mopping up. “Thanks for the clothes,” he says. “No problem. You look cute!” she answers, before pulling him close for a dance — but her attitude is borne of fear, not flirtatiousness. They have to be cheek-to-cheek with music playing to talk without being overheard by the microphones hidden under every bar stool. And Ethan’s got some heavy subject matter to discuss: Evans. Beverly admits that he was trying to escape, and she was planning to flee with him. She mentions a notebook that Evans had detailing his plan. Ethan tells her he knows where it is (it was hidden in Evans’ boot), and he’s going to get it.
As he’s leaving the bar, a delivery arrives. What kind of brew pub, even in an isolated backwater, can function without ketchup for two weeks?
After a quick stop to use the phone at the coffee shop. It’s a frustrating venture. His call home reaches the Burke family answering machine, yet again, with an outgoing message recorded in wife Theresa’s voice. His call to his Secret Service boss reaches Marcy, the unhelpful secretary, who’s also an imposter that falls for the oldest trick in the book. “Are you sitting at the seventh floor reception desk at the Seattle office?” “Yes.” “There is no seventh floor reception desk at the Seattle office!” Ethan crows, but Marcy hangs up without further comment.
Meanwhile, the coffee shop girl watches with curiosity. She’s pretty certain Ethan is a nutcase; in one of the episode’s few moments of levity, she instructs him on how to pay for his beverage. “You give that to me,” she says, pointing to the bill that he’s staring at incredulously, “And I give you this.” (We’ll find out more about why the money looks odd to a Secret Service agent later.) She’s also friendly enough to tell him that the former Kate Hewson, Secret Service agent, is now Kate Ballinger, toy store employee.
Back in the real world, Theresa Burke (Shannyn Sossamon) furrows her brow. She’s having a flashback to Ethan, coming home late from work and assuring her that “it’s over” with Kate. Surly teenage son Ben (Charlie Tahan) jerks her back to reality, vocalizing what she’s been thinking. If it’s between the missing Ethan being dead or being “with that woman again,” which would be worse?
As it turns out, Ethan is with that woman again, but circumstances have changed. Boy, have they. Kate is indeed working at Wayward Pines’ toy store, which is filled with charming, hand-crafted trinkets made by her husband, Harold. She’s taken by surprise, but she’s all fake smiles. Ethan fakes nothing except his first two words in response to her greeting: “I’m great, I think. I haven’t been able to get ahold of anybody since I got here. And the only reason I’m here is because I was sent here to find you and Bill Evans. And guess what? I found both of you. Only, you’re working in a toy store and living in a house with a picket fence and a man named Harold, and Bill Evans’ mutilated corpse is rotting in an abandoned house on the outskirts of town. Which, I found a little bit surprising. But, other than that, I couldn’t be happier!”
When Ethan demands to know what happened to Kate, and what she knows about Bill, Harold appears, briefly, to make sure everyone remembers that there’s no such thing as privacy in Wayward Pines. After he retreats, Ethan shows Kate the $10 bill that was befuddling him in the coffee joint. Every bill, he tells her, is from 1988 or earlier, and beyond that it’s counterfeit. DA FUQ is up, Kate? Her face tense, eyes filled with tears of panic, she directs him to Bill Evans’ widow (yeah, he was married, apparently), offering such a detailed description of the house that Ethan will be sure to find it. On his way out of the store, he spots the rules, hung in a frame like a Better Business Bureau certificate. Kate recites them, robotically, and when she gets to the fourth rule (“Always Answer the Phone if it Rings”), the phone rings. Oooo-weee-oooo!
Ethan finds Bill Evans’ widow, Patricia, with ease. She’s full of bombshells: Bill didn’t work for the Secret Service, he mowed lawns. She has a newborn baby. And Bill wasn’t murdered. He killed himself. She watched it happen!
Ethan hustles over to see the sheriff after that, where another unhelpful secretary (Arlene, played by the great Siobhan Fallon) runs interference for a minute before Pope appears, slurping on an ice cream cone and berating Ethan for banging on the grieving Patricia’s door “like a drunken Bible salesman.” He also blames Ethan’s head injury for giving him all these strange ideas, and advises him not to go tampering with Evans’ body, which is finally tucked into the WP hospital morgue. That means, naturally, Ethan’s next stop is the hospital (which he so dramatically fled last week), where he finds Evans’ secret notebook.
Nurse Pam (Melissa Leo) appears, again with the weirdly-pitched behavior (asking Ethan if he plans to “bang [Theresa’s] brains out” if they ever reunite). As he retreats, skeeved out, he has a hallucination (or is it?) of Ben and Theresa’s bodies being wheeled into a room, draped in sheets on gurneys. He encounters Dr. Jenkins (Toby Jones), who’d really like to treat Ethan’s brain injury. “Every second your condition is worsening. These hallucinations will become more frequent and intense.” Hmm. So how much of what Ethan’s seen, and what we’ve seen through his eyes, is real? How much is brain-injury fog? Or is Dr. Jenkins, who seems mighty shady, telling all kinds of lies?
As we ponder, Ethan meets Beverly in the cemetery, because presumably there are no microphones hidden in the tombstones. He shows her Evans’ map, and she informs him that before they try to escape, he’s gonna have to remove the microchip that was secretly implanted into his leg. So all that paranoia wasn’t for naught, it turns out. They dig it out (“I don’t have any actual medical training,” Beverly admits. “No kidding,” he mutters) and close his wound with duct tape.
This scene digs into the apparent time-warp that envelops everyone and everything in Wayward Pines. Beverly reiterates that she’s been there a year, and when she arrived it was 1999. Ethan hasn’t been there a week, and it was 2014 when he left the real world. She’s never heard of 9/11. She was born in 1960. “You look pretty good for 54,” he tells her. “I guess that’s a point in the plus column,” she agrees.
“The more you see, the less anything makes sense in this town,” she goes on to explain. Her life is an exercise in keeping her head down, even though she knows it’s not her real life. The fear keeps everyone in line, she says. The fear of what happened to Bill Evans.
“Who killed him?”
Finally, a straight answer: “Sheriff Pope. He cut his throat... while the whole town watched.”
DAYUMMM. Put that in your commercial break and smoke it!
As Ethan and Beverly plot their escape, they run into Kate and Harold, who’re all, “Aww are you guys on a date?” before inviting them over for dinner the next night, with all the awkward politeness they can muster. Ethan accepts, but Beverly’s not so sure it’s a good idea.
In a brief scene back in Seattle, Theresa announces she’s going to go look for Ethan in Boise. She needs to know if he’s alive or dead. And if he’s alive but with Kate, she’ll kill him herself. (Hey, Theresa has a personality other than “worried face”!) Ben invites himself along. So there’s gonna be a mother-son road trip. Woo?
Back in his hotel room, Ethan studies Evans’ map, which looks like it was drawn by whoever does the art for Wes Anderson’s movies, before tucking his microchip under the blankets in his hotel room. In the bar, gal pals Nurse Pam and Arlene are shit-talking Ethan while Beverly listens in. Beverly’s been in Wayward Pines for a full year but she still makes mistakes, like letting nosy Nurse Pam know that she’s been talking about the past with Ethan. Rulebreaker!
Meanwhile, Ethan is on a secret walkabout near the WP border fence. He sees a heavily armed man shooting at ... something. Hmm. Back in town, he and Beverly walk to Kate’s house for dinner. He outlines the plan, and it involves acting like everything is normal, ditching the microchips in Kate’s perfectly appointed guest bathroom, and getting the hell out of dodge under cover of nightfall. Once again, Beverly’s big mouth gets her into trouble; when she blurts out a mention of her daughter back in Portland, she realizes she done fucked up again. Rulebreaker!!!
Ethan’s much better at playing the game than Beverly (he’s a secret agent, after all), and after she flees in terror after her foible, he begs off dessert, lies about her not feeling well, and says he’ll be taking her home. It’s all very civil (“Can I give you a piece of pie for the road?”), but Kate knows what’s up. “You think they’re gonna run,” Harold asks. “Ab-so-lutely,” she says.
Thus begins the most nutbag five minutes of Wayward Pines yet, as Beverly and Ethan race through the darkened streets as every single phone in town begins ringing. “That’s what happened before Bill died!” Beverly shrieks, knowing she’s being targeted for a similar fate. They split up, but Bev’s no better at running and hiding than she is at keeping quiet about The Past, and is soon nabbed by a pair of upstanding citizens.
Here’s where it gets really dark, and we realize why Beverly was so terrified. Shit, we’re terrifed for her as she’s dragged to the town square where everyone is gathered, “Lottery”-style. Good citizens of Wayward Pines, tonight’s entertainment is a groovy, gory, old-fashioned execution! Yes, of that famous actor you thought was going to be a series regular! Hey, hope you didn’t get too attached to her character!
Kate and Harold are applauded for their civic heroism, and Sheriff Pope delivers a thunderous speech: “It is not just my job to keep this town safe. It’s EVERYBODY’S!” But it’s his job to do the deed, and while Beverly screams in terror, he slices her throat.
Some townspeople applaud. Some look on, barely masking their horror. Ethan sees it all happen from the hotel window. And on a rainy road, Theresa and Ben, their faces set with grim determination, take the turn-off marked “Idaho.”