Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E7 is titled “Cave of Kelpies” but I wonder if it is meant to be Cave of Kelpius given the fact that the show is set in Philadelphia. I don’t think this was a location for the filming of the episode—in part because it’s not clear that we know where it is—but it does seem to serve as a source of inspiration for the imagery involving monks and the like. Of course, it is also possible that this is an intentional reference to kelpies who are supposed to be shape-shifting water creatures. But I’m not sure what to do with that in relation to Dispatches from Elsewhere, exactly. I suppose it could be taken as a reference to the shifting nature of the game/reality on display, or something like that.
The Cave of Kelpius, on the other hand, was home to “The Society of the Woman in the Wilderness,” which apparently claimed to be above sectarian divisions, and this jibes with the climax of the game that occurs in Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E7. It is revealed that Ocatvio and Commander 14 are indeed both Richard E. Grant, who is purportedly playing twin brothers who are both named Chuck.
So Dispatches from Elsewhere doesn’t cease to be weird just because the game ends in S1E7 (if it has indeed ended), and the mystery of Clara has not been fully resolved either. The episode ends with Lee (Cherise Boothe) telling Janice that Clara was real, but now she’s dead and it’s all Lee’s fault. Further, Fredwynn, Simone, and Peter can’t find Janice at the after party by that point. So we really don’t know where this is going.
It seems fair to be suspicious of Lee for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it appears that she was the architect of the game our friends have been playing, and although the official line at this point is that it was all just a game, we still have things like the fact that they found files containing data on all of the participants, and all of the details of the creepy apartment the gang explored in S1E6.
It would seem that this was all a part of the game, and that while they thought they had begun working outside of its bounds they had in fact just found another level, or a different path to the end. And this works at least to a large degree as an interpretation. The Milkman (Joe Forbrich) had been following Janice and Simone. He arrives at the penthouse apartment, and when he flees and they chase him, they end up at the closing ceremony of the game. But that doesn’t change the fact that things got dark for these four, and one can hardly blame Peter for holding to the belief that Clara truly needs their help. So perhaps the game is not over if they choose to persist, as they seem to be doing.
We might also be suspicious of Lee because she was featured in S1E5 as Clara’s abductor. Though this raises an interesting question: we learn in Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E7 that Cecilia Balagot’s character is not the “real” Clara but has been hired as a part of the game. Her big role—which Peter ruins twice—is to sing for the participants at the end of the game, first descending from the rafters with a rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and then providing entertainment at the after party.
Her attitude is very contrary to that of the Clara we saw in S1E5, but while that creates a moment of clarity for Fredwynn, it doesn’t create any continuity problem for Dispatches from Elsewhere. It makes the most sense to think of the Clara of previous episodes as a being in the imagination of one or all of our friends. They see the painting of Clara, after all, and that gives them an image to work with as they read her story.
To make this same move work with regard to other characters in that story, we probably have to read it as one person’s imagination, but that still doesn’t create much of an issue. Lee, however, is not someone our friends have seen before, so her appearance in S1E5 stands out.
Perhaps I am making too much of this in a certain way, but it remains the case that we, the audience, recognize this character at the end of Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E7, while Janice does not. And, Octavio did tell us at the beginning of the hour that we’re a part of the story.
Elegant Sasquatch Abides
After Peter ruins Clara’s performance of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” the rest of the participants in the game basically hate and mock him. It’s almost surprising that he attends the after party as opposed to running away. I suppose he doesn’t quite know what to do. He is trying to absorb the shock of none of it being “real” and so he sits there on the couch alone. Maybe he is hoping that somehow, some way, there will still be a sign that he was right, or that the game isn’t over.
Because this whole experience broke Peter out of his mundane reality. It made him feel like there was magic in the world, and then it gave him a sense of purpose. No longer going about every day exactly the same, he quit (or was fired from) his job, and immersed himself in this new reality perhaps more than anyone else. How could he suddenly believe that it is all over, and was just a lesson in cooperation? As Simone says, “barf.”
That the others mingle instead of sitting with Peter also makes some sense. For one thing, he is being quite a bit of a bummer, but also they are each coping with the fact that their experience differed from perhaps everyone else who is there. Or they are trying to figure out to what extent it did.
Fredwynn is still trying to get to the bottom of things. He says he accepts that it was a game, but wants to know all of the details. Janice tries to mingle, but gets condescended to about her age and begins to feel like Fredwynn, Simone, and Peter aren’t really her friends. And then there is Simone, who has decided to have a drink with Elegant Sasquatch (Sean Patrick Folster).
He’s trying to hook up with her, but when she starts talking about Peter it becomes clear to him that this is who she is into—Elegant Sasquatch has no chance. And as much as he frames things along those lines, he’s actually pretty cool about the whole thing. He encourages her to go to Peter at the end of that day.
Simone is clearly nervous about this, as she downs some shots and practices what she will say to the bartender. She’s over-thinking it. So rather than just going over and talking to her friend who is sitting alone moping at this party, she asks him to dance.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but Simone and Peter are clearly not reading one another well during this scene. Peter probably would have liked her to just come talk to him about what had happened, and an opening may have arisen through that for the romantic stuff. Instead, they dance and he thinks she is taking pity on him. When he tells her he knows what she’s trying to do and it doesn’t make him feel good, it is a punch in the gut.
Enter Elegant Sasquatch to tell Peter what an idiot he is being. Again, he frames it in terms of his own self-interest, because “Elegant Squatch is all about the rebound,” but he’s not unsympathetic to Peter’s position. He’s willing to tell him he needs to make a hell of a move to correct things, as opposed to trying to shut him out.
And so Peter grabs the mic from Clara once again, disrupting her performance of “On My Own” from Les Miserables. But this time he doesn’t make a speech. Instead, he continues the song as a serenade to Simone, and it is touching. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see these two get together when Dispatches from Elsewhere opened the possibility early on, but their relationship has been executed brilliantly. And it was also nice to see Fredwynn (Andre 3000) giving Peter some silent advice from the audience (just say no to the falsetto, buddy!).
It has been striking to see how the fact that Simone is trans has not been made a big deal of in Dispatches from Elsewhere. She is a person. This is a fact about her as a person. And it was presented, but without fanfare. I worried that it might become more of a thing if this romantic angle with Peter were pursued, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. I kind of hope they don’t even talk about it.
I’m happy to see Simone and Peter get together in this way. I’m not afraid to admit I was tearing up a bit as the scene played out. And this gets to a point that I’ve made before: that even if this has all been a “game,” the effects on the lives of the people involved are very real.
The Point of No Return
But what about the game? Before he realized he was being a bad friend, Fredwynn was obsessed with finding its architect to ask some questions. Surely he still wants those questions answered. Janice seems to have found said architect in Lee, but the others can’t find her.
Is Lee a threat? What is it that she hands to Janice at the end of the episode as she says that Clara is dead and it is her fault? How much, if anything, of what we saw in S1E5 accurately depicted reality?
Octavio and Commander 14 have been revealed to be twin actors named Chuck, but what of the Octavio who has been talking to us throughout this whole thing, including at the beginning of this episode? Dispatches from Elsewhere has sucked us into its narrative from the start. What kind of payoff are we in store for there? After all, there are several episodes left.
And what’s up with the Clown Boy? Surely it would be a mistake to forget about him.