First things first: of COURSE a Delta Rho Gamma sister would let a deranged cult follower into her house. An AKO or SDT would have seen right through the ploy and immediately called a house mother, or her crew team boyfriend. But DRGs are just so trusting. You can't be trusting in this day and age, girls, not when guys in Edgar Allen Poe masks are just dousing randoms on fire in the street! At least carry pepper spray.
Last night's episode of The Following was rated DSLV and boy, did it earn those marks! Jordy, the aforementioned sorority-stalking Follower, kicked things off with a brutal triple murder that only added to the headaches Hardy and Co. were already dealing with. Because, as we learned last week, Claire's babysitter Denise and her two gay neighbors had kidnapped her son, Joey. Did I say "gay"? I meant straight as an arrow, at least for one half of the couple who it turns out is actually Denise's boyfriend. The other half may or may not be gay, but he is jealous — and third wheel status can only exacerbate a pre-existing horrendous psychological condition. Or maybe things will be okay? LOLOL.
Debra Parker, an FBI specialist on cult behavior, shows up to Follower Manhunt HQ and questions Hardy's ability to effectively handle the case. "Alcoholics don't get stuff done," she basically says, failing to note both the rich literary tradition of getting plastered and the fact that WHIP WHITTAKER WAS A GODDAMN HERO. These sobriety types, always killing our buzz, man.
Claire decides she needs to talk to Joe in prison to try and learn something, anything, about their son's kidnapping. Hardy's not thrilled at the prospect. And rightfully so, since the former couple's conversation quickly devolves into sexual comparisons ("he made every part of my body quiver" — BACON, YOU DOG) and, you know, choking. The lesson is either never slap a prisoner locked up for serial killing, or never marry someone who very clearly always had serial killer DNA. Again, DRG sisters, take note.
"Is there any news on Joey?" asks Claire after her conversation with Joe, uncomprehending of the mere three minutes that have passed since she last saw Hardy. Calm down, Mom! Joey's fine, anyway — enjoying his "adventure" with a babysitter who keeps calling him honey and the two "gay guys" (SHAWN ASHMORE'S WORDS) giving her non-gay looks. Denise, whose real name is Emma, tries to explain to Joey that his dad isn't all bad. It's just that "we don't understand him." Cue 2004 Flashback, rendering the moment Joe met Emma (and her horny mom) at a book reading and, we can surmise, gained complete and utter psychological mastery over her person. I'm half convinced we're going to learn midway through the season that Joe is either a Jedi or the snake from The Jungle Book. But for now he's just James Purefoy, convincing Don Juan Psychopath.
A tip leads Hardy and Weston (Ashmore) to one of Emma's former residences, where rather than adhere to police protocol, Hardy just says #YOLO and kicks in a side door. The house is, predictably, a complete creep-fest. Loose, trailing Poe quotations on the walls. Collages of ravens, Joe, murder. The set decorators must have sort of a blast with this show! Hardy investigates an upstairs bedroom where a series of Poe masks line a shelf. And before you know it, one of those masks turns out to have a person inside it, who attacks Hardy and cues a commercial break.
While an ad for Stand Up Guys plays, let's take a minute to acknowledge, openly and honestly, that masks modeled on real-life faces are among the more terrifying things produced by man. There's the iconic Jason mask (which was reportedly meant to capture William Shatner), the Nixon masks from Point Break. We can't forget Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre whose mask wasn't modeled on real-life faces so much as it just was real-life faces. And maybe I'm just a skittish bed-wetter over here, but I'd add the Poe masks to that list. Dead eyes and a receding hairline on pale, pale skin? NOT FOR ME THANKS.
Hardy comes to with the strength of 500 alcoholics and continues to check out the paintings and weirdo sketches in Emma's art therapy house. Parker, meanwhile, goes on and on about the pathology of Internet-based cult worship and killing before undercutting the whole speech with an "or some crap like that." Very Sorkin. Very annoying. But she's on point — the very next scene finds our formerly gay neighbors reading about their kidnapping online, and excited by the coverage. Another flashback fills us in on how Emma and her boyfriend met — through Joe, the ultimate matchmaker! So far at least, we've seen nothing the guy can't do. And Emma — she's a real firecracker herself. Who else would murder their own mom? If you said "lots of serial killers," you're both absolutely correct and really blowing up my spot here.
Creepy photos in the creepy attic of the creepy house Hardy and Co. have been exploring send them back to Claire's place, where an armed guard makes sure she gets into her room safe and is looked after with all the craziness outside. Too bad he can't stop the craziness inside — Jordy, by some miracle of human physics, managed to get in through the ceiling and down to neutralize the guard with no noise. Joe taught all his Followers whisper walking! It's not long before Hardy has figured out what's up, and entered the fray. "We've been waiting for you," cries Jordy as Hardy's fellow agent sneaks a gun into the guy's belt. "This is my chapter and I can write it any way I want to!" That is, until Hardy shoots you in the shoulder.
Unsure where to go next, Hardy heads back to Joe, this time with an array of guards to make sure he keeps his cool, baby (last time he broke Joe's hand). And here's where the first truly interesting conversation of the show takes place. Joe admits to Hardy that he'd planned for Hardy to arrive, to save Claire — he's the "hero" after all, and thus his romantic plot has to begin somewhere. What Joe hadn't counted on? Hardy only injuring, and not killing Jordy. Now there's a Follower who's more loose end than pawn, quietly unraveling the very specific control Joe had exerted to that point. Joe tries to keep it together, but his face registers disappointment. As the Rolling Stones said, Joe, you can't always get what you want. You'd know that if you peeked out from under that massive Poe collection every once in a while! Live a little!
In quick succession: Hardy watches over Claire as she sleeps, her alcoholic guardian angel. Third wheel guy watches Emma and her boyfriend have sex while Joey sleeps in a nearby room (again, I'm confident this one will end well). Parker…delivers a complete book of Poe poems to Joe in his cell? Is she in on it? TRUST NO ONE.
Oh, and finally: some guy in a Poe mask (probably the same dude who attacked Hardy earlier) douses a random civilian in gasoline then sets him on fire.