With an opening narration by Noah and a lot of touchy-feely exposition in the “…last time on Heroes…” blurb, it’s safe to think that this episode would center around Claire quite a bit—but they covered a fairly surprising amount of ground, in fact.
The initial minute, though, revolves around a flashback showing the greatest hits of season three’s cruelty and meanness, with Noah wondering aloud (and with some shockingly hokey lines, to be honest) how to tell Claire about all the terrible, evil things in the world without shattering her sunny disposition. This, of course, is a monologue that probably would have been better served by having been placed at the beginning of the first or second season, when Claire was less battle-hardened and cynical, but I guess it’s alright to assume that this isn’t a writer’s mistake, but an indication of how Noah still sees Daddy’s Little Girl when he looks at her. Fade in to a sequence with he and Lauren trying to track down information on the elusive Samuel—as they edge farther and farther back in time and in his life in hopes of anyone who can track him down, Noah’s got them chasing his eighth-grade playmates, and Lauren takes the position that not only is it a waste of time, but that Noah has developed an unhealthy obsession. She wants to call Claire and try to borrow the compass to get to the carnival, but he refuses and blows up at her. Before they can kiss and make up, the computer starts blinking away and Lauren has tracked down Vanessa, the love of Samuel’s life. They call her and she denies knowing Samuel altogether, then hangs up on him. “Looks like I’m going to California,” Bennett declares, and leaves his girlfriend’s apartment, partially of his own volition and partially not by the sound of their awkward conversation.
Back at the Carnival, Samuel is writing a letter at his “drawing Vanessa drafting table,” and asks Lydia to pick him up some ink. He asks her to be patient with his plans, acknowledging that it’s been hard lately but telling her how close they are to achieving their dreams. When she challenges him on whose dreams they are, he just gives her the shopping list, and then tells Lydia (when she asks about a drawing) that she’ll get to meet Vanessa soon enough. Brief conversation with her daughter causes Lydia to start contemplating whether she can call Peter Petrelli in to replace Samuel as head of the “family.” She closes her eyes and moments later, Peter wakes up with one of those very stylish, functional compass tattoos on his arm.
Back at Chez Parkman, Matt is working on a ratatouille recipe and happy being a stay-at-home dad, when his wife comes in and starts pushing him to go work for her brother as a software salesman. He insists he’s perfectly happy working at home and not at all stuck there because of fear. A minute later, Noah is in his apartment, trying to recruit him to go look for Samuel. At first it’s a non-starter, but when Matt hears that Samuel is trying to recruit Claire, he’s all ears. Despite a little initial snark, he seems to come onboard when Noah invokes the “protect tomorrow for the good of your son” principle.
At the lunatic asylum where Hiro had shanghaied Mohinder ten weeks ago or so, Hiro has himself admitted so that he can gain access to Suresh. At first, Ando sits outside in the waiting area, but quickly runs out of patience and, when he hears Hiro shout something, he uses his red-lightning-powers to make the security door open for him. Seeing a name on a door that sounds a lot like what Hiro had just shouted, Ando looks inside, sees Suresh, and figures out who they were there to save.
Cut to the front of an orchestra hall, where Matt and Noah have found Vanessa. Noah starts up the stairs, with Matt protesting behind him that he never agreed to help. She tries to brush past Noah, though, and at the last minute, she stops short. Matt reaches into her brain and implants the idea that the two of them are trustworthy.
Just for kicks, read that last sentence again. It makes me chuckle.
While they’re talking to her, trying to work around not having a compass to find Samuel with, Noah and Matt are missing a phone call from Peter who, walking down the streets of New York, is calling to tell them that the compass tattoo on his arm has returned (I forgot he had it for a while already). He stops and looks up, while Emma sits in her apartment playing the cello that was meant for Vanessa. He decides, on a whim, to go visit here, apparently giving credence to the idea that her music calls superhumans to her. She tells Peter at the door that she had thought about him while playing, and explains that Samuel had given her the necessary information, and the cello, to make it happen. Peter looks all shocked-like, and compares the compass painted on the cello to the one tattooed on his arm. Has anyone else noticed, by the way, that when the thing is stationary and not functioning as a compass it looks a little like Jack Knight’s tattoo? Anyway, he asks some details about Samuel and shows her the tattoo he woke up with this morning.
Vanessa explains to Matt and Noah the complicated history that she shares with Samuel—puppy love, separation, a brief, intense affair, and now stalking. Noah asks her to call him, with the idea that instead of finding Samuel, maybe he can bring Samuel to them.
Peter and Emma sit in the apartment, talking about Samuel. Peter produces the old newspaper featuring the doctored photo with Samuel in it from the second or third episode, and says that he had called himself by an alias when he visited Peter. He asks what Samuel had wanted from her, and she gives him a preposterously simplified answer (“Nothing—he just wanted to find a homeless man”) before showing him her compass. Peter tells her that she should stay away from Samuel, citing that the last time he saw one of these compasses, Noah was stabbed. She argues that Samuel is a good man, but he persists. Before they can settle the argument, Angela knocks, and then lets herself in. This is the first time the camera has panned out from close-ups, establishing that between scenes, Peter and Emma moved to Peter’s apartment. This makes a whole lot more sense, given that while Emma carrying the compass in her purse isn’t exactly beyond the pale, it does seem remarkably unlikely Peter would just be carrying that newspaper clipping around with him. Angela seems very upset at meeting Emma, and her sudden, jarring change in tone (from “let’s go to Moxie’s for lunch” to “How do you know this woman?”) scares Emma off.
Discovering that the only reason Suresh hasn’t used his super-strength to escape the asylum yet is that he’s being doped up, Ando sets about stealing Mohinder’s medication from the hospital’s cart and switching it out with aspirin. All seems to be well until he ends up in an awkward conversation with the orderly in charge of the medications, which ends up with Ando inadvertently swallowing the pill.
At Vanessa’s apartment, Noah and Parkman have the building staked out while waiting for Samuel; Vanessa also, as a failsafe, has a GPS chip on her person somewhere. Nobody sees them enter, but suddenly Samuel and Eli are there. While Eli duplicates himself and distracts the good guys, Samuel is making his exit with Vanessa. Noah makes it outside and finds Samuel, but not Vanessa, and when he holds a gun on the badguy, Sammy just takes this as a chance to create a little earthquake and a dust storm to make his escape. Noah gets in Parkman’s car and they start tracking Vanessa’s chip.
Back at his apartment, Peter is talking to his mother, who has had one of her prophetic dreams about Emma. She tells him that he can’t save her, but can save himself by staying away. After an impassioned plea by Peter for more details, she tells him that Emma will be complicit in killing thousands of people—that it has something to do with a cello—and that she won’t say anymore. Peter, of course, doesn’t really need her to tell him; he just copies her power with the idea that he’ll have the dream himself.
Back in Florida, Hiro is shouting outside Suresh’s door to wake him; moments later, he’s up and broken free from his restraints. Breaking down the door, the pair sneak to the visiting room, where Hiro has hidden Ando in the closet. Ando, of course, is as high as a kite and his red lightning powers are sparkling like mad. It’s worth noting that, since Hiro is effectively batsh*t insane and the others were fully human in the first season or two, this particular scene is one that would make absolutely no sense to many viewers seeing the show for the first time in a while. When orderlies show up to stop their escape, Ando blasts the security doors with his lightning, and Suresh punches out the biggest of the three; the cumulative effect is enough to startle and confuse the remaining two orderlies and afford the trio an escape.
Riding out to the middle of the desert, Noah and Parkman arrive at what used to be the site of the carnival. Presently, Vanessa’s signal disappears from their screen and the two argue about the same thing everyone’s been arguing about—why Noah doesn’t just make things right with Claire and get her compass. Back at his apartment and making dinner, Matt tells Noah that he’s out, and that he should stop trying to save the world until he can at least get his own life together.
That night, Peter dreams of the Carnival—where Emma is playing the cello in the Hall of Mirrors, looking like she’s in pain, until she stops, starts crying, and Sylar arrives, claiming he’s come to save her. Snapping awake, Peter rushes to Emma’s apartment and, the moment she lets him in, smashes her cello to bits so that the dream can’t come true. Given that it’s not the most polite entry anyone’s ever made into her apartment, Emma never really listens to any of what he says about his dream, and instead just kicks him out. After he leaves, she breaks down crying.
With the sound of barking dogs behind them (because apparently escaped, nonviolent mental patients are enough to bring out lynch mobs in Florida, or something), Hiro, Ando and Suresh make their way through a swamp, stopping only to argue a little and to let Suresh know that Hiro is dying. Ando explains that they can’t teleport out without first “unscrambling” Hiro’s brain, and Suresh suggests using his red lightning for electroshock therapy, leading to the best bit of dialogue Mohinder has ever participated in:
ANDO (hesitating): Hiro once saw a future where I killed him with my red lightning…! MOHINDER: Was it in Florida? ANDO: No, Japan. MOHINDER: Then we’re good to go.
They do it and, at the last possible moment, Hiro wakes up, remembers that they’re working to stop Samuel, and teleports them out of there, leaving a gaggle of very confused-looking German Shepherds sniffing around the tree they just left.
At Claire’s dorm, Noah has gone to finally straighten things out with Claire, by way of a long and tortured “burned bridges” metaphor. She blows him off for “something she’s late for” and he mopes away, leaving the viewers to wonder if he might just forget all that stuff he just said about trust and faith, break in and take her compass. You know, while he’s in the neighborhood.
Back at the Parkman house, his horrible wife is prattling on about her work drama, and Matt, who’s obviously not really listening to her, asks her if she thinks he’s a coward. He gets up to go, and she again gives him the speech he gave Noah about looking after your family instead of going off to be a hero…but Matt clearly doesn’t buy it.
Back at the Carnival, Vanessa is sitting uncomfortably in a chair outside Samuel’s trailer; she tells him she wants to go home, and the two of them start to argue; they stop abruptly while he makes creepily-romantic gestures, then tells her that she’s got to see something—that if he shows her and she still wants to go home, he’ll take her “back to California,” which puzzles her, but he moves past it.
At Noah’s apartment, he’s tacking up a photo of Vanessa on his Big Board O’ Samuel, and taking a pull at a bottle of beer alone in his misery until Lauren shows up. He apologizes and they start to kiss…but are interrupted by the sudden appearance of Hiro, Mohinder and Ando.