The OA – Episode 3 “Champion”

Welcome back to my Series 1 run down and analysis. We are at Part 3 now and it strikes me upon re-watching that so much happens in such a short time, I had forgotten just how in depth this show is.

We return to Crestwood and see Nancy shopping at the store when she is accosted by an Investigative Reporter.  She tells Nancy that she can help the family, that if Prairie told her story she could be set up for life. That she had written a book for another person who had been abducted and held for years, and that it had really helped him.  Initially Nancy is not interested, but takes the book and the journalist’s card.

Prairie browses through clothes and finds a tie dye lilac hoodie with a wolf’s head printed on the front, she holds it close to her and whispers, ‘Homer’. She smiles, and Nancy catches her joy.  Prairie will wear this hoodie at important moments from this point onward. She chose it because it reminded of her Homer, but was it purely because of the similarity to his own football shirt or does this wolf mean something more? Intuitively should the OA be wary of Homer? Is he not to be trusted, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Or is this just her feelings of him, a lone wolf? the leader of the pack? someone spiritually enlightened, strong and brave?

The lure of the money and maybe the thought of some closure for Prairie results in an invitation to dinner for the Journalist. She tells the Johnson family of Jamie, a boy who was abducted aged 8 and rescued at age 15. She tries to convince Prairie that telling her story will exorcise her demons. She says that when they typed THE END, that was it, it was over.  Prairie brings her hands to head in a dramatic manner, her face is red with anguish, pain. “I think this isn’t going to work, I can’t give you what Jamie gave you that’s the problem. His story has an end. This is just the beginning”.  The people around the table look gobsmacked. They don’t know how to deal with this, and I assume think that she has lost her mind.

Back at the abandoned house The OA sits with her five new friends.  “You forget, you wake up a free woman and then you remember you are not. You lose your freedom many times before you believe it”.

Remember now that everything we see is what The OA describes from her point of view, she wouldn’t have seen anything that we hear about next, so how do we know what these people look like? We know that she is not blind when she gets out of this place, we know that she does get out of this place. We don’t know how she does either of these things yet.  What we see of these people must be from a time once her sight is restored.

So this is Prairies life now, locked in a glass box. Eating pellets instead of real food. They look completely unappetising, like rabbit food, and it is apt for that is what they are, caged animals in an experiment. Prairie cannot stomach it and she tells Hap that she will lose her mind down there. There is another girl down there in another box. There are five boxes all linked but separate. They each have a running spring through them and plants growing, and a bed, that is all. Prairie asks Hap if this is part of the plan. He tells her that it is not, that she should talk to the others and that he will get her some braille books.  She tells him that she won’t be able to live without sunlight and air, she’s not like the others, she’s blind. It is of course much harder for her, she cannot see what is coming, she is disoriented with really only with the senses of sound and smell to rely upon.

The dark haired girl shouts, “Where is August? What have you done with her? I need to know that she’s ok, she needs me”.  A male voice replies, “Enough Rachel, you know he’s taken her upstairs”. Rachel is played by Sharon Van Etten, and Twin Peaks fans will recognise her from The Roadhouse where she sings Tarifa. She is the only one to wear dark coloured clothing.  It’s almost as if she’s not quite like the others, like she’s already dead.

rachel

Hap appears to have some humanity left in him despite keeping these humans against their will in some secret experiment.  He invites Prairie upstairs into his living quarters and even outside just for a few short seconds so she can feel the sunlight on her face. She thanks him, and feels around her surroundings.  Her hand steadies on a knife, certainly sharp enough to kill Hap with one plunge but instead she feels around more, finds bread and begins to carve it. Hap realises and watches somewhat dismayed.  Prairie reaches into the fridge and takes out chicken and salad. Even the leaves are a shade of purple.  She presents him with the finished sandwich. He takes half and finds it delicious, and offers her the other half.  She looks pained and he understands that she feels guilty eating this food when the others don’t have anything like as tasty as the food she has prepared.  Hap allows her to make more sandwiches, saying that he doesn’t care if they have good food or not.  It appears then that the pellets are not an act of cruelty but more of convenience. He cannot be bothered to prepare good food for his experiment models, pellets are means to keeping them alive.

episode 3

She takes the sandwiches down to the caged group. We see Homer, he is wearing a purple football shirt with a wolf’s head emblazoned on the front. There is another man, he wears white and grey and his hair in dreadlocks. Rachel scurries back to her bed when the sandwich is passed into her box, she devours it.

Hap tells the three of them that they should show some gratitude, “this is because of her, it won’t be a regular occurrence”. At which point dreadlocks says, ” why did you have to fuck it up with mustard?”.  Prairie looks disheartened and Hap is silently outraged, no doubt dreadlocks will pay the price for this.  It appears that Hap has a soft spot for Prairie already, he trusts her, but should he?

After Hap is gone upstairs, Homer rushes to Prairie to tell her that she has to get his ring that he had stashed in the bathroom cabinet when he first arrived, once he had a feeling that all was not well at this house. Also a bill for water or gas or whatever. Homer tells his story that one year and thirty six days earlier, “this guy says he’ll give me 500 bucks to participate in a study about NDE’s. Mandy my sons Mom told me she was pregnant, 2 months along, she just found out. I wanted to prove to her that even though we weren’t together I’d be a great dad. I could support our son. 500 bucks for him. The championship football ring I had to leave a trace for someone to find me. I still got the 500 bucks, you could send it to Mandy for me”.  Prairie understandably thinks this is a crazy idea and that if she ever gets upstairs again she would have to find a phone or hit hi over the head or something. Homer thinks that showing his son he cares is more important than that. Is this the ranting of a man who has been locked up too long with that one thought on his mind? The one thing he has focussed on, the hope of a free day, has driven him insane? Or is there a really good reason for his need to contact his son?  “How do you know it’s a boy?” Prairie asks, because of course Homer would have no clue if Mandy had a boy or girl.  This is starting to become a little curious. When exactly did all this happen?

Smoke suddenly starts pouring into the dreadlocked man’s box. Homer tells Prairie to get up on her bed and directs her to cover a vent in her glass wall. The dreadlocked guy, we now know to be called Scott,  falls to the floor unconscious. I guess this is the price you pay for dissing Prairies sandwich.

scott

Prairie sits quietly contemplating what she has told The Crestwood Five whilst sitting in a bath tub in the abandoned house. She peers out of the window at a tree perfectly framed by a Velux window. She couldn’t possibly see it like that from the angle which she was sitting, so again, are we seeing through someone else’s eyes from inside that house? If so, who?  Steve asks her if that’s what she has collected them all for, to save Homer, Scott and Rachel? She nods and he understands that this is dangerous.  He tries to comfort her by touching her shoulder, she flinches and leaps out of the tub, and runs away.  She always said no touching. This does show a sweetness to Steve, empathy for someone else that we have not seen before, and sadly she threw it back in his face.

I guess we think she doesn’t want to be touched because of the scars on her back or the fact that she’s been held captive for a long time without human touch, but there may be more to this.

French who had left the house, returns as he forgot his bag. He bumps into Steve and tells him he just passed The OA on the way out and that she was looking upset. His initial instinct was to accuse him of being at fault for her upset. Yes he kind of was, but innocently this time. The two boys get into an argument, and end up scrapping on the floor. Steve catches French with a punch to the eye, but French is the victor here.  Someone finally stood up to, and beat, the bully.  Steve is softening.

Mrs Broderick-Allen sits in her car before school, listening to messages on her phone. She has a few from the same caller, the Lawyer dealing with her brothers estate after his death. Then there is a message from her brother Theo, that she has saved. This makes her smile. In the classroom she notices that someone has crudely drawn a picture of her in her underwear, in a sexual pose.  She would normally be upset and enraged by this but today she instead decides to draw a box around her caricature. She is changing too. She and Steve share a moment when he spots the picture, they have a secret and he sees the human in her, a carefree side. The real her before the trauma.

BBA

Steve has to attend special classes now for kids with behavioural issues. The bunch of kids in there are extreme perhaps even for him. One girl in particular has a hissy fit, accuses another guy of staring at her chest and proceeds to pour Steve’s water all over herself so he can have a better look.  Steve is only concerned with the fact that she took his water, not the sexuality of her behaviour. A breath of fresh air for her too no doubt.

It is night three now at the house.  Prairie collects the five around her and gets straight back into the story. “Here’s something I can tell you, it’s really hard to kill a man, it’s even harder to let him die”.  She spends a lot of time with Hap now, as his housekeeper, she learns all his ways and he learned to trust her because she was blind and couldn’t see the work he was doing, which was all he ever did.  She discovers that he takes pills to help him sleep, something he only does as a necessity. She has an idea and slowly, slowly she starts taking his sleeping pills, crushing them up and storing them in a little metal box in the pantry.  She asked Hap for ingredients for a stew that her father used to make and he complies. He asks her why Russians like beets so much? “Beets survive frost”, she replies, “of course, something always survives”. This seems like a telling statement. She asks for some fresh parsley from outside. Hap says it doesn’t matter, her face drops, this is her chance to add the sleeping pills to the stew. He misinterprets her expression as sadness that the stew will not be exactly how her father made it, so he goes outside to pluck some. She throws the whole pot of crushed pills into the stew, she doesn’t get caught.

The tension is high as he takes his time to start eating, but he does and within seconds he starts becoming unwell. It’s not the pills though, he is choking. She wasn’t aware but he is allergic to the tomato paste she added to the stew, he had been allowing her to order the groceries and had taken his eye off the ball. He reaches for an epi-pen but it fails. She runs down the corridor to the bathroom as he begs her to find another epi-pen. This is her chance. In the bathroom she reaches inside the cabinet and finds Homer’s Championship ring. She clasps at it but it drops into the bath. She scrambles inside the bath tub which is filled with a liquid, lilac in colour, and there’s dark hair. There’s a body in there. This is August. Of course Prairie could not see any of this, so what see is a body of a young woman, but is this really what she felt or what her mind interpreted in that panicked moment?  Hap crawls into the bathroom and grabs off her the epi-pen that she has found.  He stabs himself with it. “She died before you got here. Her name was August, that’s what they called her because she arrived in August”.

august.png

My feelings here are that August was not a grown woman, but an infant.  She arrived in August and they named her, she didn’t tell them her name herself. I would guess that Rachel was pregnant when she arrived at Hap’s place and it didn’t turn out well for her at all, this is not the environment for an infant at all. Or there is a chance that she was impregnated whilst she was there. The latter is less likely perhaps, but we really don’t have any idea what sort of experiments Hap is carrying out on his subjects.

Prairie did manage to find Homer’s ring and she also grabbed a hold of a bill which she stuffed into her apron pocket as she was returning to her box. She weeps in her box, Homer and Rachel show concern, Scott makes a crude comment, and then whilst emblazoned in a purple light, she shows Homer the ring and the bill. “He’s burying August in the morning” Prairie tells the others.  Rachel looks upset, but maybe not as upset as a mother would on discovering their child had died.  However, if you had experienced at least one, maybe more Near Death Experiences and have seen that there is a better place to be, then death might be a sanctuary.  Especially if the other option is being contained within a box with no light or air or proper nutrition or sanitation. All Rachel wanted to know was how she was, now she knows she’s somewhere else.

If August was not her child and she was another test subject like the others then her death would have been a disappointment for Hap presumably something went wrong with whatever experiment he was doing.  It’s a choice to stay or return, and perhaps August chose not to return this time.

The next morning the four of them keep a look out as they watch Hap on CCTV carry the body of August outside. What we see is the body of an adult woman, but again this is just the story how The OA is telling it, she didn’t see this herself.  They have a short window of opportunity. Prairie struggles but manages to pass the ring and the letter underneath the glass upstream to Homer’s box.  They decide what they are going to write. The plan is that they will write notes that will have them discovered, by sending it to its return PO Box in New York. They all tell of what they know of their surroundings.  Scott doesn’t remember how he got there as he was too wasted and he has no-one to write home to.  Homer says that he travelled along a two lane highway by car. Prairie flew by plane, it took six hours and they had to re-fuel, so wherever they are it’s a long way from New York. Once their note is written, Homer attempts to pass it back to Prairie. She tries to catch it as it rushes through the current but it slips through her hands, off out into Scott’s box, he can’t get there quick enough and the note and ring both drift away into the drain never to be seen again. Their hopes utterly dashed.

But this is where Homer really shows his inner strength.  Prairie is so despairing with what she feels was her failure but he will not let this drag her down. He encourages her to stand up and do jumping jacks. Before she knows it she’s smiling and Rachel warmly joins in.

homer

“If we ever get out of here I want to sing something for my little brother”, Rachel says.  “I used to sing in the church choir. I snuck off with my little brother, my father was like the all of them in the town”. Another hint that she may have been pregnant. “I stole the family van and headed to Nashville, I thought I could raise my brother myself. The van flipped on the highway, it collapsed all around us. But I was floating above the van, I could see my brothers red back pack in the middle of the road”. “You died and came back?” Prairie asks.  “My voice changed after that, it became something else. He never got to hear it”.

Scott says that he just wants a cup of coffee and a cigarette out on the stoop in the sun, in the morning in the city before the sun comes out. Homer wants to take his son places he has never been before, see things together for the first time like the Pyramids or Northern Lights. Prairie says that she’d like to swim so that she could be surrounded by something other than the dark.  This is a strange request for someone that had such horrible childhood premonitions about drowning and the cause of her first death, the one that took her sight. To want to be in the water now, is she wishing for another death?

Rachel turns away and starts to sing the song for her brother, her voice is that of an angel, perfect pitch and like velvet. She climbs up to the vent in her box so that the others can hear more clearly and they are mesmerised, especially Prairie who relies on sounds for so much.

Hap notices that Prairie has plaited her hair differently. Is this a sexual or familial attraction he has to her. Most men won’t notice something like that on a person that they have no interest in. She takes this opportunity, she realises in that moment that she does have some power over him, to ask what he did to August. What happens after the gas?  He tells her that is his part of it. What happens is so that they don’t have to worry. “Look Prairie, all great work, important work comes at a great cost”. And with that she heaves him down the stairs with a massive thud. The others scream at her to run. She stumbles through the kitchen, smashes a pan through the window and jumps out. She blindly runs through a wooded area with no idea where she is going.  The voice of Rachel singing Wonderful World plays in the background. She arrives at the edge of the world, we see a huge canyon, a massive drop below. Where can she go? She turns and his swiped by the handle of a shotgun. Blackness.

Was this Hap? Did he survive the fall? Is there someone else there? Did Prairie fall off the edge? If this was Hap then things are about to take a dark turn. I hope to see you next week for Part 4.


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