It’s almost as though there has been an “X-Men Blue/X-Men Gold” kind of division going on in the Heroes series so far this season, with episodes centering around one group of characters or another, and never (besides the premiere) seeing everyone in the same episode.
This episode, we get a lot of the team that doesn’t include Parkman and Sylar’s buddy comedy. That’s a shame, as it’s been my favorite part of the season. Other than those two, though, and Suresh who seems to mercifully have been written away, most everyone makes a little appearance. Still not quite everyone, but…the “groups” are mixed up a little bit and we see something from almost everyone. Also, it’s always nice to get a little look at the carnival, since it seems to be a pretty important locale that was all but completely ignored last week.
That said, this episode picks up just where last week’s left off—with Nathan/Sylar crawling out of the grave he was plopped into by a hitman who didn’t realize he was “killing” a metahuman. Stumbling down the road, dazed and injured from having been drugged, shot and buried, he’s pulled over by a passing police officer who think he’s drunk. You can tell the cop will be around at least for a couple of episodes because instead of being a random extra, it’s Ernie Hudson (the black guy from “Ghostbusters”). Noting the blood stains on Peter’s shirt (one assumes, since the cop doesn’t explain himself—maybe it’s the resemblance to a notorious serial murderer), he assumes he’s dealing with a perp and not a victim, so he arrests him. Nate/Sylar, thinking “I’m a US Senator and this will all be fine for me,” or something, just goes along with it.
A second later the crazy, semi-evil circus folk are sitting down to eat blueberry waffles, prepared using people’s heat powers, and discussing the need to expand their circle.
Presumably, when he refers to “one of them” joining the table, he’s deciding between Peter and Hiro, both of whom he’s had run-ins with in the recent past.
Claire, meanwhile, wants to just disappear into a “normal” college life, which is all well and good because she and her roommate/sidekick are sitting around grousing about whether or not to join a sorority. I’ve got to say, as annoying as Gretchen is, I’m totally with her: “Sororities are just social crutches for people who can’t make their own friends,” and her later observations about how a sorority will just try and create “Stepford Claire,” are right on.
However, Claire is a cheerleader. A bunch of pretty girls sharing the same lettering on their shirts appeals to her and she manages to convince Gretchen it’s worth looking into.
Back at the ol’ pokey, it turns out maybe Nathan/Sylar wasn’t so smart to have just surrendered himself. Officer Winston Zeddemore has brought in a specialist to set up a scene by talking about “criminal sociopaths.” Apparently the damage done to the body was enough to shock the system and now he doesn’t remember being Nathan OR Sylar. The criminal psychologist, though, wants to dig and ultimately he does remember a little—that he was lost in the woods, that he was shot and that he was arrested. She, for reasons unexplained, uncuffs him and decides to take his case personally.
Cut to the deaf girl with the crazy light-sound powers and her doctor from two episodes ago. A few theories are floated as to what might be causing her to “see” sound, but nothing much is resolved except that apparently the doctor is actually the deaf girl’s mother. The mother says that the “whole filing girl act is finally getting to you,” which is notable because it’s the same language that Peter uses moments later when he says to his mother, “I think this whole focusing-on-work thing is getting to me.” He has his mother over so that he can “reconnect with his family” or somesuch thing, bitterly noting that Nathan didn’t show for the meeting.
Mrs. Petrelli is clearly preoccupied with his absence, but Peter tries to get her to focus on his problems instead, since he’s the one standing in front of her. It doesn’t work, as the conversation is intercut between his desperately trying to get her attention to focus on his problems and the deaf girl’s debate with her mother as to whether her failed residency should be restarted, as opposed to carrying on “wasting a great mind” as a file clerk in the hospital.
Apparently, someone (probably a husband or something, as opposed to a patient) died and she blames herself for it, but everyone else in the hospital disagrees. Both of them leave their conversations unfulfilled, but a few minutes later they’ll reconnect when Peter rescues her from an oncoming bus. Still not realizing she’s deaf (and too impolite to explain herself), Peter finds her dismissiveness toward his attempts at conversation really rude. When he tries to run off to work, though, and realizes that he’s inadvertently taken on a new power after having touched her, he kinda grins and starts wandering away.
A “getting-to-know-you-speed-dating” session at the sorority house is another setting for the latest in a series of uncomfortable examples of how obsessed Gretchen is with Claire; by the time Claire talks to anyone, they’ve already gotten her bio from Gretchen. Not a great person to have knowing you’re secretly the indestructible woman—and also a little sketchy that she has nothing else to talk about. Getting back to the room a little while later, the girl is helping herself to Claire’s clothing and stalking Claire’s Facebook page, her background and a number of other sites with creepy overtones. A page about murder-suicide pacts combined with a look at the earlier-used jump-push-fall test begs the question: Is Gretchen plotting to kill the unkillable girl before committing suicide, or does she think that Claire really killed her first roommate, and is looking to prove it? Either way, it seems like this wasn’t the best person for Claire to invite into her bedroom. And it puts a pretty creepy spin on her delight over slicing Claire’s hand and watching it heal and slicing it again in the previous episode.
Any viewers that felt bad they couldn’t predict who would be seduced to the carnie-folk dark side earlier in the episode might feel a little better when it becomes clear that even the ringmaster doesn’t know who he’s going to invite to their table—something that frustrates the tattooed lady who can see through him.
Back to Nate/Sylar, who sits in the police office waxing intellectual about how he’s never experienced the sensations of hot and cold before. But then he notices that the shrink’s watch and the clock on the wall are slightly off. He’s still not sure how he can explain that, but he knows it—and she assures him that means that, buried deep inside, that means he’s still inside his body. One wonders, though, since that’s a Sylar thing: Did the hitman successfully kill Nathan Petrelli? At any rate, the fingerprint match finally comes back and the embittered cop drags the shrink out of the room to take a look, leaving Nate/Sylar there with his feelings and his confusion over clocks.
Next stop is back to the hospital, where Peter and Emma share a moment over the fact that they’re the only ones who can see the music in the air while a group of children sing. So apparently that’s how that power works. Peter has that goofy, schoolboy-crush look on his face as we cut to a commercial and then come back on the pair of them sharing an awkward conversation wherein she can’t hear him, he’s talking what seems like nonsense to anyone who hasn’t been watching the last three seasons of Heroes, and then finally she breaks and calls him crazy.
So, of course, they sit and play piano together and watch the pretty lights.
If the season were really about people getting normal lives again, and not just people trying and failing to, I have to feel like Peter would just stick with this girl’s ability, and they could run away together and be happy watching the Aurora Borealis come out of dog pounds after midnight. Instead, he invites her on a date to get her “out of the file room” and she takes it as a slight to her job and runs away. Her character is quickly becoming less and less endearing and more and more insipid.
Speaking of insipid, the next scene takes us to a sorority mixer where Claire, after having sent her obviously-crazy roommate ahead, ACTUALLY makes an appearance instead of, as logic would have dictated, calling her dad to get the Haitian down there ASAP. When Claire stands on the stairwell and starts socializing with a fellow former cheerleader, their conversation is abruptly ended by a falling flagpole, sharp enough to impale a person (thereby killing anyone else or exposing Claire), which Claire sees coming and manages to save her friend from. When she looks up to see Gretchen standing by the empty bracket on the wall that should have held the flagpole, she freaks and leaves…which to me only makes her seem sketchy and either petrified or suspicious.
Presented with the notion that he’s a watchmaker who killed his mother, Nathan/Sylar starts to panic. He latches onto the “watchmaker” part, given that it jives with what little he remembers of himself, but tries to disconnect from the rest. When the security camera is disconnected and he’s threatened with physical violence from the cop, he accidentally uses his powers to throw the man through the two-way mirror of the interrogation cell. Moments later, he’s outside and pounding on the car window of the psychologist. While she reads Sylar’s rap sheet, Nate/Sylar is holding a gun, on the verge of tears and reminding her that she “promised” to help him. She has one of those pregnant pauses that you just know means she’s going to help him, and probably become the latest in his line of “people who helped Sylar and ended up with no skullcap or something.” Anyway, I kinda hope so. What kind of moron takes a murderer OUT of police custody?
When Gretchen returns to the dorm room, Claire immediately leaps on her, accusing her of all sorts of things, from attempted murder to stalking. Gretchen’s self-righteous “You invaded my privacy?” demands seem a little preposterous given that she doesn’t at any point reject the basic premise that she was doing intensive Internet research on her “friend,” but she’s full of excuses as to why she’s clearly not crazy and Claire is just paranoid. In the first of two odd twists for the pair, Gretchen plants a huge kiss on Claire and admits that she’s stalking—but only because she’s got a crush, not because she’s a killer. The conversation doesn’t go any further, since the sorority sisters barge in to offer the pair membership. The second twist comes a second later, when we find out that Samuel’s daughter, apparently an invisible girl, has been secretly manipulating everything from behind the scenes; she’s the one who called Gretchen’s computer to Claire’s attention, she’s the one who dropped the flagpole and, Ooh! By the way: She’s the sorority girl who approached the two in the beginning, as well as the one who killed roommate #1 and left the postmortem suicide note that had bothered Claire so much. And while Samuel is knocking on his daughter for not getting Claire to the circus yet, an unseen image appears on the back of the tattooed lady that prompts him to declare they’re pulling up stakes, and grin.
There’s a bit where Nate/Sylar and his shrink lady evade the cops for a while, and then a musical interlude wherein Emma plays a cello and looks at the pretty music go by. It plays for the viewer under images of the sorority girls walking down the hall, rejoined by the invisible girl, and Hiro appearing in Peter’s apartment, only to collapse into the latter’s arms a second later. The cello music finally ends when, angry and crying and staring at her expensive diploma, Emma blasts a little music from the cello, which turns into yellow light and cracks the wall from floor to ceiling. Oops.
Nate/Sylar runs from the cops more. The girl had hung back to stay with them because, apparently, she’s stupid but not suicidal. Well, anyway. He’s running, she’s chasing him, the cops are chasing him, dogs are chasing him—and the carnival appears out of nowhere with a science fiction noise and a pop of light. Samuel beckons Nate/Sylar in, Nate/Sylar follows him in and the carnival winks out of existence before anyone else can arrive.