Last week we learned a couple of key points on Wayward Pines: Ethan Burke will kill for the family he was cheating on just weeks prior (R.I.P. to a certain ice cream-loving throat-slasher); and there’s something terribly sinister screeching behind the town walls. What weirdness will be revealed this week?
Episode four’s title, “One of Our Senior Realtors Has Chosen to Retire,” is foreboding as hell — and boy does it deliver.
So. Sheriff Pope is dead, done in by a combo of Ben’s quick-thinking vehicle acceleration and Ethan’s pent-up frustration. If you’ll recall, the town’s only cop’s dying words were to warn the Burkes that the truth about Wayward Pines is “worse than anything you could imagine.” Despite having witnessed this (and the subsequent body-snatching of Pope’s corpse by the wall-lurking beasties ... which are decidedly NOT wolves, as Ethan lies to a freaked-out Ben), Theresa is still thinking like a rational person who lives in the real world. “We need to call the police!” she tells Ethan, who grimly informs her that the town is so packed with cameras and mics that THEY already know. Who’s THEY, Theresa asks (which is something everybody watching this show would like to know, by the way)?
“I don’t know,” Ethan admits. He tells her that he was sent to the ’Pines to track down two missing Secret Service agents, one of them being Kate, aka Theresa’s nemesis. And, with more urgency, he imparts the importance of playing by the rules, no doubt thinking of the grim, gory “reckonings” doled out to Agent Bill Evans and Beverly Brown. The latter’s untimely end, of course, freed up a lovely new home for the Burkes, Wayward Pines’ newest residents. Theresa hasn’t forgiven Ethan for his affair with Kate, but she still trusts that he’s looking out for her and Ben, agreeing to keep her head down and “act like we’re a happy family.” Oooh, snap.
It’s up for debate who the least happy Burke is, but teenage Ben might be the top contender. On top of everything, he’s got to prep for his first day at “Wayward Pines Academy,” a school that requires its youth to wear crested blazers, apparently (totally normal to receive a summons to school by an old-timey bike messenger, right?) He’s to arrive at 8am, SHARP.
“Try not to draw too much attention,” Theresa urges him the next morning. “I never do,” Ben mutters. Mighty emo, that one. When they stride up to the school, administrator Mrs. Fisher (Hope Davis, the latest addition to what’s shaping up to be an exceptionally chosen cast) offers a friendly welcome — while awkwardly showing she’s down with youth culture by awkwardly high-fiving her students as they walk past. But as we’ve learned by now, everyone in Wayward Pines is playing a role of some kind, and nobody is really who they appear to be.
But first, Ethan’s got his own new beginning of sorts to contend with, because ... he’s the new sheriff of Wayward Pines? Duh WHAT? Here he is just trying to, you know, raid Pope’s gun cabinet, when along comes the Mayor of Wayward Pines, Brad Fisher (hubby to Hope Davis’ character), bearing a newspaper (finally, a newspaper!) with the headline “Sheriff Pope Retires.” Oh, is that what happened? Riiiiight. They pose for a photo (“Saaay PINES!”) When Ethan demands to know who appointed him sheriff, he’s told not to ask questions. “We don’t really like Nosy Nellies around here” secretary Arlene scolds, before eagerly cutting into a cake frosted with the words “Congratulations Sheriff Burke.”
But! He is informed by Mayor Fisher that he’ll soon be learning more insider info about the town —because “it’s the kind of power that your new position affords.”
Ethan, being a primo Nosy Nelly by way of his Secret Service past, wastes no time searching what’s suddenly his new office for clues. He’s more than likely being watched by THEY, but he’s not interrupted when he discovers a trap door and a box containing files on everyone in town, listing their past history, former occupations, former family status, etc. (Clearly, THEY meant for him to find it.) Arlene, who really did care for Sheriff Pope, is sniffling over his death when Ethan shoves her file into her face. “You’re from New Jersey,” he reminds her. She was once a bus driver, too. But Arlene shrugs and says she doesn’t ever want to go back, deadpanning “I love it here.”
And there’s not much time to page through secret files, anyway. Nurse Pam bursts in, having identified an insurgent in their midst: Peter, the real estate agent played by Justin Kirk who helped the Burkes move into their new home, who’s now looking mighty beat up in the wake of Pam’s dudes-with-bats-assisted “citizen’s arrest.” We got a sense of his anti-WP sensibilities last week (oh, those loaded references to the house’s state-of-the-art security system!), but now he’s been caught decorating downtown with “subversive graffiti.” (When we see it, it reads “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act,” which may or may not be a George Orwell quote.)
“There’s gotta be a reckoning,” Pam, wearing a super-tuff long leather coat, declares, and it’s up to Sheriff Burke to make it happen. Peter’s committed his “third strike,” you see, and he’s gotta pay. Ethan ain’t about to reckon anybody up in here, but “Ethan darling, if you don’t want to do this, I’d be happy to do it myself,” Pam purrs both condescendingly and threateningly before slinking out. “I’ll be looking forward to how you take care of it.”
While Ethan takes in the horrifying knowledge that his new gig’s responsibilities will include committing imminent murder to protect his own neck (and, presumably, the necks of all Burkes), Ben undergoes a curious entrance exam of sorts with “Mrs. F.” Her questions are odd (“Where are you from?” “Where do you live?” “Where is home?”), but odder still is her insinuation that Ben’s father, good old Ethan, may not be very trustworthy. (A fun fact we learn from Ethan’s files that cannot be irrelevant in this scene: Mrs. Fisher was once a hypnotherapist.) Some of that lingering, icky weirdness from the interview is assuaged when Ben makes a friend — fellow student Amy. They walk home together and Amy subtly picks up Mrs. Fisher’s line of Nosy Nelly questions, but they’re very flattering, along the lines of “I bet you were popular/had a girlfriend back in Seattle, and that’s why you miss it, right?” Ben starts to soften, because Amy is as pretty as she is nice. Hey, maybe Wayward Pines isn’t so bad after all?
Ethan’s trustworthiness is a sticking point for Theresa, though, and she strides down the main drag to confront Kate at the toy store. Kate produces a music box, telling Theresa she has exactly 30 seconds to unload, and she better talk fast before the tune stops masking their whispered exchange. We learn that Theresa was once in training to be a Secret Service agent (interesting!) but she gave up on that career to because she wanted to be a mother. “I chose for my family to come first,” she hisses, and Kate acknowledges her part in the Burke’s near-breakup, but notes that things have changed now that she’s living with Harold in Wayward Pines. She also reminds Theresa that “a lot has changed for you, too. You just don’t know it yet.”
Meanwhile, Ethan and Peter are having a heart-to-heart. With Peter’s secret file in hand, Ethan asks him about the family he left behind when he came to Wayward Pines. At first, Peter denies his past (“You’ve got the wrong person”), but it doesn’t take long for him to crack. He’s been in Wayward Pines eight or nine years, he thinks. The cane he uses to help him walk is because of a rock-climbing accident suffered during an escape attempt. “Why can’t anybody leave this town?” Ethan asks. “There’s one way out,” Peter replies, making a shooting-himself-in-the-head gesture.
It’s time to get real when the phone rings, and it’s the mysterious woman whose voice sounds exactly like Susan Sarandon’s. She has orders: “You must call a reckoning for Peter McCall tomorrow. 10pm. SHARP.” Ethan hangs up, telling Peter it was a telemarketer, knowing full well that Peter is completely aware of what the call was about.
When Ethan and Theresa reconvene at home, he turns the water on full blast so they can talk. “They made me Sheriff today,” he tells her. “I guess when you kill somebody in this town, they give you his job.” He tells her about Peter’s impending execution, which he’s expected to perform or else, and that “everybody is a prisoner here.” He explains about meeting Mayor Fisher, who he thinks was trying to tell him something: “I feel like we could get more out of him.”
Theresa’s more shocked by the nugget of info about Mrs. Fisher’s past (“They made a hypnotherapist a schoolteacher?”), so she shows up to the Academy the next day as Mrs. F is doling out her high-five greetings. Theresa invites the Fishers over to dinner, but Megan Fisher has a better idea: meet at the Biergarten! Burgers and beers in a booth in the back! Theresa agrees as the fake politeness practically oozes off the screen. When Ben sits down for round two of questions, this time Mrs. F likes what she hears (“Where do you live?” “I ... don’t know”), and he’s told he’ll be allowed to start class with the other students tomorrow. Then she gives him a guitar. A bribe-tar.
Back at the police station, Peter’s flipping through his file, counting down the hours until he meets his end. “I forgot how much I forgot,” he tells Ethan, before launching into the tale of how he came to Wayward Pines. For once, it doesn’t involve a car crash on the outskirts of town, but a drunk hookup in a hotel with a hot brunette named Denise while attending a conference in Los Angeles. He blacked out, and when he woke up, he was in a different hotel, and the “brunette from the bar was still there, but she was older, and her name wasn’t Denise. It was Pam.” Shudder.
It’s soon dinnertime, and the Fisher-Burke double date is on (as Peter’s 10pm SHARP execution lingers over everyone’s heads). The Biergarten is bumping (Kate and her hubby are there, too ... awkward), and the dinner conversation is thick with subtext. Being a sheriff is like being a schoolteacher, Megan opines, because you have to set clear boundaries, and make sure that all involved know there are consequences for misbehaving. When the ladies take a bathroom break, the menfolk get to talking. So, how does Ethan like Wayward Pines?
“Oh, I just love it here. The mountains, the pine trees, the look of fear in everyone’s eyes...”
The mayor gulps. “Wine?” is all he can muster in response.
Back at Casa Burke, Ben sneaks out to meet Amy (whose friendly act is clearly part of the indoctrination process) while Mayor Fisher tells Ethan that Wayward Pines’ main focus is its younger generation. The school — where, yes, his wife works — is very dedicated to “shaping the mind of the child.” And he leans in with one more bit of info: “Be careful.”
The dinner convo returns to normal for about 15 seconds before Ethan drops this bomb: “So, what does everybody think about the public executions?” Megan’s reply is that “We don’t make the laws. We just follow them.”
The camera pans to a trio at the bar: Arlene, Pam, and the blonde guy who runs the local hotel. “What an ice cream cone-eating bastard,” Arlene whines; either she believes that Sheriff Pope really retired and left town without saying goodbye, or she’s putting on a convincing performance of being really, really oblivious. Pam takes the opportunity to lead the entire restaurant in a toast to the new sheriff, reminding Ethan and all assembled that “Great power requires great responsibility. Someone who understands that those who break the law need to be punished swiftly and whenever necessary, severely, to the fullest extent of our laws.” (This toast starts off like a scene from Spider-Man, and quickly becomes a rather terrifying lecture/warning, no?)
Ethan breaks in with a lecture/warning of his own, promising that as long as he’s sheriff, he’ll do everything in his power to make sure that the true evils of the town are brought to light, and that the true criminals in Wayward Pines are brought to justice. Hey, good luck with that!
As Theresa and Ethan walk home from dinner they encounter Dr. Jenkins, who’s futzing over “my latest species: a crossbreed of two species of pine.” He’s sympathetic, almost sorrowful, when Ethan tells him about Peter’s impending execution, but he’s also got this bon mot ready to deploy: “Perhaps the best things in this world require the biggest sacrifice.” In the background, fake crickets chirp, and piano music begins to emanate from the hidden speakers in the trees.
Ethan picks up Peter from jail and tells him he’s not gonna kill him, he’s gonna hide him in the woods. “Take me to the fence,” Peter says. Meanwhile, Theresa gets a delivery in the mail: a job offer, since there’s a new opening at Wayward Pines Realty Associates. Peter’s old job, natch. (And with that, the title of the episode suddenly makes all kinds of sense.) She’s to report the next day at 9am...SHARP.
At the fence, Peter quotes Robert Frost before asking Ethan if the wall is “keeping us in, or keeping something out?” It’s a melancholy moment that turns to horror when Peter explains that his past has finally caught up to him, and it’s time for him to leave Wayward Pines. “I suggest if you want to survive this place, you give me a little push,” he tells Ethan, before launching himself into the electric fence.
After a quick stop at home, where Ethan once again tells Theresa to keep playing along, he finds himself right back at the police station in the same position he was in at the beginning of the episode: grabbing all the guns he can lay his hands on. Pam enters, and grins widely when Ethan tells her she’d make a much better sheriff than him. In addition: “I know you let Peter McCall do your job for you. You might have fooled everyone else, but I’m a registered nurse!”
And now, she’s sheriff, too, as a heavily armed Ethan makes his way to the town limits yet again. But this time, he’s not alone ... because something is watching him from among the trees.