You should probably know that Homecoming season 2 starts closer to the end than the beginning. The Amazon Prime Video series is a Memento-like puzzle in which you’re tasked with figuring out what is going on with Jacqueline, played by Homecoming newbie Janelle Monáe, a veteran who wakes up in a rowboat unable to remember how she got there. To be honest, she doesn’t remember anything at all about anything and that’s part of the fun of solving this mystery.
Of course, there are a few things we already know going into the second season of the conspiracy thriller. While Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) is long gone, the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, a pilot program that was erasing the traumatic memories of veterans, has not been forgotten. The program has been stopped (for now), but it’s the Geist Group, the company behind the live-in facility gone wrong, that we should really be worried about. Walter Cruz (Stephan James), one of Homecoming’s patients, is still struggling and still looking for answers to what he can’t remember. It sounds like he and Jacqueline are in the same boat. (Sorry, had to.)
That’s not a lot to go on, I know. But to be honest, the less you know right now, the better. Honestly, all you really need to know is the hair is much better this time around. With that in mind, get ready to unspool this mystery that includes a questionable photo, a fake tattoo, and a farm. Oh, none of that makes any sense? Don’t worry, soon enough it will.
Episode 1: “People”
“Hello, are you there?” Jacqueline (Janelle Monáe) is out cold on a small rowboat in the middle of a tranquil looking lake. She wakes up confused to see a man standing on the shore staring at her. She screams for help, but he runs off. She realizes she doesn’t have an oar so she uses her arms to paddle her way to the shore. When she gets there the sun is almost down and she’s breathing heavy. She finds a set of keys, but instead of feeling relieved, she just seems confused.
Jacqueline starts making her way through the woods. The menacing music adds to the suspense of her forest bathing, which eventually leads her to a road and an SUV. She takes out those keys and hits the alarm, but the car isn’t hers. Without a second thought, she starts walking down the dark road until a car pulls up behind her. While most of us would either be relieved or just plain scared, Jacqueline just keeps walking until the woman in the car, an officer named Donna asks her where she’s headed.
The fact that Jacqueline doesn’t seem to know where she’s been or where she’s going is a red flag for the officer. All she can tell Donna is that there was a man, but since she can’t tell the officer her name or that she’s a veteran until she pulls out the wallet in her back pocket, Donna decides it would be good to take her to the hospital.
It’s there Jacqueline meets Buddy (John Billingsley), a Hawaiian shirt-wearing older man with an oxygen tank who we first hear fighting with the doctor about his bill. Jacqueline is soon fighting with the doctor too. He believes she’s a drug addict thanks to the mark in the crook of her elbow right above her Airborne tattoo, which appears to be from an intravenous needle. It doesn’t hurt that she also can’t remember her address or her birthday, though she denies having ever used drugs. However, the most off putting part about all of this is the doctor’s reaction to this veteran possibly being an addict. As if the doctor has seen this so often before it’s become an epidemic that deserves little empathy from him.
On the other hand, Buddy is intrigued. He pulls the hospital curtain back to inspect the mark on her arm, agreeing that it is clearly drug-related. “I don’t think I’m a drug user,” she says, a little unsure herself at this point. “Doesn't matter what you think, it’s what they think,” Buddy tells her, sounding a little too on the nose. But his words resonate with Jacqueline who doesn’t have a few days or weeks to kill in the ER. She needs to figure out what happened to her and fast, so she makes her great escape.
Very calmly she walks off as if she’s maybe done this before. She keeps a steady pace, not too fast, which makes her seem less suspicious as the hospital staff begins looking for her. She makes rights and lefts through the hospital as if it’s a festival corn maze, she seems unfazed. Walking into the hospital chapel she finds a woman praying before she nervously knocks over something on the altar. Her meek apology makes her seem more disoriented than Jacqueline.
Soon she is outside ready to start walking again, but Buddy pulls up all too eager to take her home. But she’s not interested in going there, wherever there is since she sure doesn’t know. The napkin in her pocket has the word “Skins” on it. She wants to go to there. As they drive off, the camera lingers on a giant billboard of a man who seems to be hawking a cologne or something in a red bottle. “Get Over It” the ad screams at you. It seems a little aggressive, which is why I can’t imagine it won’t pop up again. Especially, since it doesn’t seem like Jacqueline will be following this sentiment anytime soon. “If I did something wrong, I don’t know what it is,” she tells Buddy on the way to Skins. And she’s determined to figure out if she did.
She doesn’t know how she ended up in the boat, but she does remember towels, little red ones that she wasn’t allowed to touch. “Special occasion towels,” is how Buddy describes them before letting her know “that’s fucking weird.” It certainly is a weird memory Jacqueline, can’t argue with him there.
While a middle aged man sings Heart’s ‘80s power ballad “Alone,” Buddy regales Jacqueline with the story of Skins, a family appropriate inn and eatery, which used to be more like a Hooters until some “rich fucking asshole from Calgary” bought it. Now it’s “lame,” he tells Jacqueline, but it used to be a place for the dregs of society who wanted some decent potato skins and maybe a handjob. That’s one hell of a Yelp review, Buddy.
While Jacqueline doesn’t remember the place, the waiter sure remembers her. He claims she was there yesterday, day drinking with her friend. The two started yelling and he kicked them out. Jacqueline’s hoping a receipt will help her get closer to identifying said drinking buddy. This Buddy talks the waiter into letting her rifle through the receipts by reminding him that Jacqueline is a veteran, a real “G.I. Jane” who deserves a little sympathy for what she’s seen. Again, Jacqueline shows off her tattoo, the “Death From Above” symbol, to prove she was really in the armed forces.
The receipt reveals an illegible signature, but does reveal a room number. With Buddy’s rock hammer (he’s looking for gold, but hasn’t found it yet) in hand, the two find the room locked and seemingly empty. Quick thinking Jacqueline pretends that Buddy, “her dad,” needs his pills from the room. The housekeeper lets them in, though Buddy isn’t too excited to be her dad instead of her husband in this scenario. He realizes though that the oxygen tank adds a few years.
No one is in the room, but there is a melon sitting on the bed. Hard to explain that. She finds a plastic baggie with a wad of money and a Geist Lab needle in it that says “lab use only.” There’s also a card with the name Alex Eastern on it. The name doesn’t ring any bells for her, but at least they have a name.
There is also a war photo of her and three other soldiers whose faces are X’ed out, which makes them impossible to identify. Is Walter Cruz (Stephan Jackson) one of the guys in that photo? While in the bathroom trying to calm down she notices that her tattoo is peeling. She starts scrubbing it away while Buddy seems to be contemplating his own escape. “Oh, Buddy,” he keeps repeating to himself. When she comes out to show him the spot on her arm where her tattoo used to be, Buddy hits her in the head.
“I thought you were helping me,” she says, sprawled out on the hotel carpet as he makes off with the cash. “Yeah,” he says as he leaves her a $100 for her troubles. “Fucking people.”
A car alarm blares as Jacqueline lies there taking in what just happened. We get a closer look at the painting above the hotel bed of a small lake surrounded by trees, not that unlike the one where Jacqueline started the episode. Cut to a man peeling a brightly colored fruit that looks like some sort of hybrid. The man is Leonard Geist (Chris Cooper) and this is his farm, the secret one that everyone was looking to get invited to last season. It seems we’ve made it to this monotone gray plot of land that is being tended to by a few workers. Was Jacqueline left on the outskirts of eccentric Leonard’s property? Your guess is as good as mine.
Episode 2: “Giant”
There goes that car alarm again. We’re right back at the hotel. Jacqueline goes to the window, reaches in her pocket and clicks the car alarm key. The sound stops. It seems we now know where her car is.
She inspects the black SUV parked outside the hotel room, going right for the glove compartment. The registration for the Grand Cherokee is made out to Alex Eastern from Oakland, CA. It’s not actually her car. She nervously opens the truck only to find a huge bag of cat litter. Not exactly the smoking gun she or we were looking for.
Jacqueline sits in the booth at a local fast food joint, but all I can see is the paintings on the wall, which once again are of happy little trees. Did everyone in this town use the same interior designer? But the registration does give Jacqueline an address and an idea, which involves a taser. “Have you used one of these before?” The cashier asks. “Probably,” she says.
Alex lives in the suburbs, all that’s missing is the white picket fence, which seems to give Jacqueline pause. She doesn’t knock on the front door, but walks around to the backyard. Through the window we hear Audrey (Hong Chau), an assistant for Geist Emergent Group, Homecoming's parent company, who we met in the first season, talking on the phone. Leonard (Geist) wants to see her and she sounds exasperated by this request.
Jacqueline keeps walking past a cat in the window, who Audrey promptly moves, until she finds an open window to enter the house through. The room she enters looks like a messy office full of books and a photo of former president Richard Nixon, his arm cocked ready to throw a baseball. Taser ready she opens the door to the open floor plan kitchen. Jacqueline hits the deck when Audrey enters the room. “Come on, Alex,” Audrey says. "Pick up.” She lets them know she’s been waiting to find out what happened last night. Is this the guy Jacqueline spotted running away at the lake?
What we learn is that Alex described things as having been “fucked up,” but neither we nor Audrey know exactly what that means. Clearly, things didn’t go as planned or Jacqueline wouldn’t be crouched down behind a kitchen island listening to this. It also seems as if Alex has disappeared since they’re not returning Audrey’s phone calls.
That conversation leaves Jacqueline shook and ready to follow Audrey to the office. Anyone else find it hard to believe that Audrey doesn’t see the truck that’s been following her the whole damn time? I mean, she’s not keeping so much distance that you’d miss the only other car on a dirt road.
Perhaps, Audrey is just taking in the scenery of this vast farm that is the same one we saw at the end of the premiere. Now we’re able to see just how sprawling it is. The building that looks like it was made out of high tech Lincoln Logs is the office Audrey is headed to. Unfortunately, you need a Geist employee pass to get in. The camera leaves Jacqueline behind, following Audrey into the underground lot.
She parks, moving the C. Belfast — C for Colin, who was Heidi Bergman’s (Julia Roberts) supervisor played by Bobby Cannavale — placard from the wall, snapping it as she does. As we learned last season, Colin wasn’t so great at his job. Is Audrey the one stuck cleaning up his mess?
Jacqueline must walk in the main entrance where she checks out a model of a small home surrounded by trees. Nothing much to look at really, but it does look familiar. Is that the house Leonard entered in the finale? Was this unassuming shack the first piece of his empire?
“Strength and endurance,” Audrey repeats to herself in the elevator up to a floor where she’s greeted by a way too happy employee who is giving her the status of “the launch.” Balloon garlands in shades of green are on the ground, but should be hung up already. The DJ still needs the music list. “We need to set the right tone,” she says annoyed. Fun, chill, and optimistic are the tones her assistant thinks they could go for. “What does that mean?” Audrey ask tersely.
Jacqueline watches this tense conversation from afar as someone asks her if she’s there for “testing.” She says yes, only to be scolded for being late. She is led to a room with six other people and asked to offer her left hand. They attach a monitor. A phallic white device rises from the center of the table they’re all sitting around. A man offers a creepy smile and the room is bathed in red light. The mirror behind Jacqueline makes it feel like an optical illusion. Mist starts blowing out from the object in the center of the table. She starts to freak out and pound on the wall. Craig (Alex Karpovsky), another familiar face from Homecoming season 1, enters, “What appears to be the issue?” He says with a smile. “You have to let the aroma diffuse.”
Audrey is still frantically looking for Leonard. He’s in the greenhouse trying to write a speech. It’s unclear what he’s writing about but this assistant is a mess and everyone seems to want something from Audrey, who just wants to clean up the Alex mess. She’s the boss now, but she seems more flustered than anyone.
As she makes her way to Leonard’s greenhouse, we go back to Jacqueline and her aroma test. Craig is interested in knowing if any of the participants have any negative feelings about the citrus smells. One guy does, he thinks it’s “too easy,” it’s “pandering.” While another thinks they’re treating them like children with this orange scent. No surprise, Jacqueline is a little let down to know this test wasn’t something diabolical, but a product test on the new scents for Geist’s plant-based household cleaners. This feels like a real step down for Craig, who used to be monitoring the Homecoming trials.
Audrey finally enters the greenhouse to meet Nixon, a golden retriever who is ready to play fetch. Another Nixon reference in a show all about powerful people involved in conspiracies, interesting. Leonard, who looks like a single dad on his day off, not the founder of a company, is watching Airwolf, the 1984 TV show about a scientist who creates a super helicopter that the government wants to steal. Another clue of what’s to come? This is the movie that gets him “fired up,” but what Audrey wants to know is why he wants to speak at the launch. Audrey doesn’t think it’s a good idea. She starts talking about jail.
He’s not interested in Audrey’s suggestions. As he tells her, two weeks ago he “didn’t know her fucking name,” now she’s trying to mediate his every move. “You know it now,” she says, reassuring him he’ll get through this with her help. He disagrees, but she wants to cooperate, believing that could be how things get back to normal. “Stop trying to sell me this awful batshit and tell me it’s cookies and cream,” he tells her. What a truly disgusting metaphor.
They have a new partner and they don’t have a choice, she tells him. “They’re in charge,” she says and while he’s not interested in the new management, whoever they are, she says she accepts this new reality and he should, too. “Here’s the reality,” he says. “It’s my fucking company and I’m going to say whatever the fuck I want.” Audrey throws her hands up and leaves.
The test is done and now, along with Jacqueline, we get a chance to check out Geist headquarters, which is selling the Leonard Geist origin story pretty hard. Photos of the founder in his youth line the wall, along with the slogan, “From our farm to your house.” It all sounds so lovely and too good to be true.
Alex is still M.I.A., and Jacqueline is about to be too. This getaway doesn’t go as smoothly, but the taser gets the job done. (Sorry, Craig.) She takes the stairs to Audrey’s office, which is full of the vials she found in Alex’s hotel room. These ones are full. She starts looking through the papers on the desk, but there’s nothing there. That is until she turns her head and sees her photo taped to the wall. It’s not the same photo she found in Alex’s room, but she is making the same face. More and more, it feels as if Jacqueline’s Air Force story is a bogus one.
“What are you doing here?” Jacqueline turns, but it’s Leonard giving his speech on the main floor. He’s talking about the new venture and all the money it’s going to make, but Leonard, hunched over the podium, has another question. “Who likes to go camping?” The crowd cheers. He starts telling the story about being out in nature. “What do you do,” he asks, “you play your flute.” Now, I’ve only been camping once, but flute playing wasn’t part of the experience, but his staff seems to understand exactly what he’s talking about.
The flute playing apparently brings people in the campsite together. “It’s nice,” he says. “Some days I felt like that. Here with you guys, but that’s when the fucking giant shows up. She’s always starving, the giant. She sees food and says, ‘I want it.’ The music means nothing to this giant,” he says. He's losing the crowd who aren’t as into the flute playing anymore. “It’s a fucking metaphor,” he says as Audrey tries to get him to stop.
Leonard keeps speaking, letting them know the new management is the giant in his story and this is his warning to the campers. Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” starts playing, the balloons start to fall and Audrey and Jacqueline see each other across the crowd. Both start walking towards one another. Soon Audrey appears to be running. When they finally meet, Jacqueline is ready to unload on her, “Who the fuck are …,” but she’s stopped by a kiss on the lips. It seems the photo on Audrey’s wall might not be as weird as we first thought it was.
“Alex, how have you been?” Audrey says. Now we’re as confused as Jacqueline is, but Audrey’s next question will make you want to press play on episode 3 ASAP. “Where is Walter Cruz?”
Episode 3: “Previously”
This is not the Jacqueline, I mean, Alex, that we once knew. The real Alex was a high powered mediator in business couture. She’s speaking to a woman who was being sexually harassed at work by a man who was “trying to sniff me like a dog.” The woman is worried, it’s just her word against his. She looks to Alex for reassurance that she is doing the right thing by filing. Alex warns that not all of these cases end with the guy getting what he deserves. She once filed a claim against her boss. He got six weeks paid leave and when he came back she was the secretary tasked with booking his celebratory dinner. “I wanted to ruin him,” she says. “I wanted to destroy him.”
Alex ended up quitting the job and going to India. She shows the woman a photo of her in a sari, the facial expression in the shot is the same as the one in the Air Force photo and the snapshot on Audrey’s wall. She tells the woman she needs to do what is right, but, “You must protect yourself because nobody else will.”
She’s right. See Alex isn’t interested in protecting her either. Before she gets on the elevator, she crumples up the India photo and throws it out.
“It’s done. She’s leaving the company,” Alex says as she walks through a pet store. The episode’s called “Previously” and that seems to be a nod to the hours before we first meet her, before she bought the kitty litter in the Grand Cherokee. “Your crisis has been managed,” Alex says, telling him to look out for her invoice and to stop acting like a dog.
She calls Audrey who is in the bathroom, again. It seems she goes there often after a hard day at work. While Audrey seems very put together, what we see here is someone who is fragile to the corporate structure she’s forced to exist in. “Colin bullshit” is the reason for Audrey’s work toilet cry. “I just want to matter here,” she says, rolling something red (the vials?) onto her wrist.
In this not so-distant-past, Audrey is a receptionist who is being beaten down by the men who work for Geist. One of them is Ron (Fran Kranz), who was Colins’ boss last season. He’s looking for accolades on his slogan for the topical roller Audrey was using, the same Geist ad we saw in the premiere. Audrey isn’t impressed by his “Get Over It” slogan for a product that’s supposed to limit anxiety and stress. Look close and you’ll notice the guy who thinks Ron is some kind of a genius is Audrey’s hapless assistant in episode 2. The woman she shares her restructuring ideas with is the same one who begrudgingly called her boss.
It’s a phone call from Pam Bailey (Brooke Bloom) at the Department of Defense that changes Audrey’s fate. “Colin accosted my auditor in fucking Tampa, outside the facility,” she tells Audrey. “I won’t be reachable moving forward.” She tells Audrey they “haven’t been in touch ever,” she says. “In fact, we’re not talking now.” The complaints are too serious now, there’s going to be an investigation. “Get a lawyer,” Pam says.
“I’m going to jail,” Audrey tells Alex, who thinks she’s being dramatic. It’s then we see those little red towels Alex talked about in the premiere. “Decor only,” Audrey says. This is the origin of the towel memory she had and gives us a sense of how much Alex has forgotten.
Audrey is worried about being investigated for Homecoming, but yet, she continues to use it. “It’s topical. It’s safe,” she says. “It calms me down.” But we know the stuff can do much worse if you ingest it. Yet, Audrey can’t bring herself to quit. She’s been there from the start, but it’s her “twisted loyalty” that Alex says is keeping her there. Audrey agrees that is part of the reason she can’t leave.
However, Alex sees her time spent there as an asset. “Colin, he’s a tool,” Alex says. Audrey agrees that he is an asshole. But she means he’s a tool to help stave off the investigation. He can be the one who takes the fall and hopefully, that means the company can just go on as normal.
Alex suggests she uses Colin’s weakness against him. He wants a meeting with Ron, so she sets one up without Ron knowing. “So I lie,” Audrey says giggling. It seems she’s not as well-versed in the art as her girlfriend clearly is. What we learn is Alex is the mastermind behind getting Colin fired. Last season when a very confident Audrey bragged about visiting Geist’s farm and got Colin to sign the confession, she was just playing a role. She wasn’t some high powered boss, she was a receptionist. Girl took to lying very easily.
She brings Colin’s signed confession to Geist up in the greenhouse. She looks as nervous as she did the first time we saw her enter his space last episode. He’s having a meeting in which he burns himself with a lighter and rubs something on it. He’s in pain, but the salve he used seems to work. “The scent’s not bad either,” Geist says.
This Geist is still dressed like a farmer, but he’s a little happier. Definitely still irritable though. Audrey introduces herself and tells him of the pending investigation into the Homecoming program and Colin’s confession that he takes complete responsibility for what happened. She thinks this will protect the company. “Hold up,” he says. “What the fuck is Homecoming?”
It seems Geist was left in the dark and now he’s looking for Colin and Ron to fill him in. Both men are quick to deny they know much, despite both having a hand in the project. Ron believes he gave Colin too much latitude, while Colin thinks he gave Audrey too much also. “What we have here is a latitude problem,” Colin says.
The old Audrey might have been too meek to speak up but this is the monster Alex has created. She tells Geist that Colin allowed Homecoming to be ingested, which was not the agreed upon protocol. Though Colin believes they should be in the clear since those who took it all signed waivers. Geist wants to know what happened to the men. Colin tells him “different things,” which concerns him. He fires them both and Audrey steps up to say she can run the day-to-day while the investigation goes on. Leonard agrees, “she can’t do any worse.”
To be honest, he seems way too laissez faire about the news that his company is being investigated by the DOD. He’s way more worried about his gourds than getting ahead of this scandal. It might explain why new management was brought in to take care of things.
At home, Alex is in her very stylish suspenders and black frames. We see that the office she snuck into in episode 1 was hers. It’s full of books and employee passes that let her play the role of helpful mediator. “Any type of negative exposure, I can win it back,” she says, but what she really does is lie to help companies win. Now she’s teaching Audrey how to do it, too.
Audrey is now the “new Ron” as she tells Alex, who couldn’t be prouder. She believes Alex can help the company get past the investigation, though Audrey is nervous. She also needs to grab an ice pack after that disastrous kiss leaves Alex with a bruised bottom lip. Second try is a little better though.
While they get lovey dovey, we get our first Walter Cruz sighting. He’s at the diner where he met Holly (Julia Roberts) in the finale. His hair is a little longer, and he seems to be experiencing flashbacks from his time in the service, you know the ones he was supposed to forget with Homecoming. The visions cause him to crash into a stop sign.
In the emergency room, he tells the doctor that he had a brain injury from when he served, but he’s doing better after his surgery. Just a little memory loss. Still, the doctor finds it weird that Walter doesn’t have a scar from the surgery he claims to have. Or, his mom claimed he had, since Walter doesn’t remember it.
When he gets home, Walter goes through a box filled with papers and photos from his service. Does it jog his memory? He decides to shave some of his hair in hopes he’ll spot the scar, but he can’t find it. He was so happy to forget he never thought to check, but now he can’t deny it is weird that he doesn’t have a scar from the brain surgery he supposedly had.
Now he’s consumed by what this could mean. He paces his front yard as the credits start to roll, touching his head, clearly wondering what else it is he’s missing.
Episode 4: “Soap”
Starbuck “I Got To Know” blares as Alex flips through a book of headshots. She asks if she’s previously seen these men, who all appear to be of Asian descent, before deciding to buy one of them. Concerning, to say the least.
Pam Bailey brings Audrey in for an interview at the Department of Defense. They’re interested in what was going on with Homecoming, specifically the ingestion of the drug. They want to know if the soldiers were told about the possible risks. “We lied. The protocol was unacceptable,” Audrey says, stopping her counsel from giving the same old spiel about the men signing a waiver so technically Geist’s project was on the up and up.
“What happened to them?” ask army officer Francine Bunda (Joan Cusack). “They completed the cycle,” Audrey answers. It is she who now answers for the bad things other men did. “Cutting them off midstream was too dangerous.” She adds that some men even went back to active duty with no incident. Is that pride in her voice? Bunda seems to sense it too asking whether anyone filed any complaints. It seems as if Bunda just wants to know if there’s a paper trail that could lead back to the DOD. Audrey says no. “We’re good,” Bunda says.
Audrey might have spoken too soon since Walter is sitting in the waiting room at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Not Audrey’s worry yet, though. She is more concerned with telling Leonard about her big idea. I’m concerned about that “nine grain mush” he’s serving her, which he says won’t taste good, but will fill her up for days. I’ll pass.
To get ahead of the DOD’s investigation, Audrey gave them Colin’s confession. The move seemed to work, they appear to be out trouble. Now she thinks they should think bigger than the roller. The juice in there could be used not just for soldiers but for more topical usage, she says. The roller was stress relief for her, but she swears it also allowed her to do things she couldn’t do before. Before she can go into detail, Leonard interrupts to say he’s done with the project.
He can’t remember the title for Lord Of The Rings (Such Peter Jackson slander!), but he knows about Gollum and his ring. He thinks the roller, which is made from berries, are changing people in ways that could be disastrous. Even Audrey has shown she is rather addicted to it. These products make people think they found happiness, but in actuality, it’s just capitalism run amok. Leonard isn’t interested in being a Gollum or serving them. “We make soap here,” Leonard tells Audrey in no uncertain terms. “That’s what we do and we’re gonna get back to it.”
But can Audrey really survive without this magic drug she’s been using? And why is Bunda calling for a tour of Leonard’s farm hours after Audrey left the DOD? The call is coming from inside the house since she’s standing in the Geist entrance waiting for Audrey to come and get her.
Walter is number 39 and he’s finally going in to talk. He’s looking for his medical records to confirm his brain surgery. “I was blown up, they had to have treated me,” he says. The guy working there tells him there’s no record of it, but he was treated by Geist, a private contractor. He has the files in front of him, but he won’t tell Walter what happened.
“What the fuck are you smiling about?” he asks the guy who unknowingly seems to be flashing a grin. It’s almost like the one the guy in Alex’s aroma testing gave her. It has to be connected to Geist’s chemicals, right?
No time to worry about that now, Walter wants answers. He can get his records by submitting a request. He’ll have to wait eight to 12 weeks for them and that sets Walter off. He lunges towards the computer, but now we’re on a tour of the farm. Leonard is showing Bunda the “goat nut,” called that because it looks like a testicle. But Bunda is really just there for the berries that were used in the Homecoming formula, the ones Leonard plans to get rid of.
“Well this is awkward,” she says. “I thought I had good news. We want to partner with you.” The “we” is the Pentagon, who wants to buy the berries and use them for themselves. “The problem was the protocol,” Bunda says. “Not the substance” since the men were helped by that, according to Audrey.
Leonard is not interested, but Bunda tells him he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter. He’ll be compensated and the DOD will have the berries, that’s that. “Toothpaste is out of the tube,” she says. “You can’t go back and unplant.” Leonard leaves Audrey to finish the tour and Bunda uses this time to flatter her. She tells her the berries are “critical defense technology,” and they don’t really need Leonard’s permission to take it. All they need is someone with ideas, someone like Audrey. It’s what she’s been waiting to hear.
Still, Audrey isn’t so sure she can do it until Alex pushes her to believe in herself. Alex is a lot of pomp, but it’s hard not to find her energy infectious, even if she might be full of it. While it’s hard to believe most of what comes out of her mouth, it’s clear she is serious about having a baby. Those photos from earlier were of donors, Vietnamese guys so their little one “will be like them.” She promises she’ll carry the baby, but Audrey still feels apprehensive. “I know you don’t believe things are going to work out,” Alex says, but she is willing to believe for the both of them. She wants to protect Audrey from everything bad in the world and it’s hard not to wonder if that’s how she lost her memory.
Now that Walter has requested his records, Audrey believes the deal with the DOD is done. Her claims that there had been no complaints is no longer true. In her mind, the worst is happening and despite Alex’s request that she just goes back to bed, she can’t stop worrying. “Fine, I’ll call my guy,” Alex, ever the fixer, says with a sigh.
Walter is in jail for the incident at the VA office and Audrey doesn’t think she should lie to Bunda. “Listen to people when they’re telling you something,” Alex tells her girlfriend. “She wants the past to go away.” That means Audrey has to get rid of this complaint, which she sees as a sign that “nothing is stable.” It’s almost a repeat of their baby discussion the night before. Alex goes into crisis manager mode. She becomes Jacqueline, printing out a VA card, a photo of her with her squad, and a fake tattoo. She sees herself as a performer and it is showtime. Before leaving she takes Audrey’s roller away putting it all in the envelope we see later. Now she’s off to con this traumatized soldier.
Before she does, she gets a hotel room by Skins and applies her tattoo. So expertly that not even she would remember it was fake. She throws the berry vial she stole from Audrey in the garbage and goes to bail Walter out, bringing us one step closer to seeing how she ended up in that rowboat.
Episode 5: “Meters”
“1, 2, 3, 4” someone counts in the dark, short of breath. It’s Walter’s cellmate. He’s saved from an awkward Marvel vs. DC conversation by the guard who lets him know a woman is there to bail him out. It’s certainly not his mom, but “Jacqueline” with the volunteer group Vets 4 Vets. Alex is all about the details. She lets Walter know she’s there for him, just like she did with the sexual harassment victim. This is part of the process: act friendly, get them to trust you, and then you pounce.
She tells him that part of the group’s mission is to evaluate the vets they help. Nothing serious, just a conversation over a beer. She assures him that she was once like him. “When I got back, I knew something was wrong with me, but couldn’t explain it to anyone,” she says. It made her feel like everyone was keeping a secret for her. Like she was in a movie, but “everyone knew we were in a movie, except for me.”
It’s so accurate to Walter’s own experience that it’s hard not to believe that it happened to her too. “You’re just having a completely sane reaction to some fucked up circumstances,” she says. “That’s it.” Wow, she really lays it on thick doesn’t she?
As Audrey prints out pages and pages, Leonard tells his men to pull out every last one of the berries so that Bunda can’t get her hands on them. Problem is those berries are now government property. The farm may be Leonard’s, but the fruit is theirs. We now know the “they” Leonard was going on about is the government. They have made it a crime for anyone to destroy the berries. Leonard doesn’t want to see his workers get in trouble, but he still wants them gone so he starts pulling one up himself.
It’s difficult, by the end he’s winded and Audrey walks off knowing he’s screwed. “We got one shot, to make it right,” Audrey says, sounding suspiciously like Alex. “I’m just cleaning up your mess.”
Alex is cleaning up Audrey’s mess over a beer. Walter is interested in her tattoo and what do you know, Alex has a whole story about how she worked artillery in Syria. She tells him how she ended up in a house under the highway and spent most days cleaning and getting hammered. “Rinse, repeat,” she says.
She tells him about chasing down a man bun in a Tesla, which landed her in jail, too. The story helps Walter loosen up. We see his recollection of the VA incident. He grabbed the computer but wasn’t able to see his files. He’s still in the dark about the treatment and it’s haunting him. Alex tries to convince him that the surgery was just a little white lie his mom told to keep him from re-enlisting. That his mom lied for his own good. Perhaps, that’s how Alex sees her own job. She tells little lies for the good of others.
Alex does tell Walter something true: she has to call her high maintenance girlfriend. She tells Audrey that Walter is a “fucking blank.” He doesn’t even know the word Homecoming. In her mind, it’s over and Audrey needs to move on. Alex might not be reading the signs this time. Walter isn’t a person who rolls over so easily. In fact, he buys her a beer in hopes she’ll stay and chat some more.
Bunda is also back to talk to Audrey about their plans, which don’t include restarting the Homecoming program. Bunda is interested in big ideas and thinks Audrey’s got them. Funny then that Bunda seems more interested in hearing her own. “What if we open the door and let the fucking crazy world in?” Bunda says. “Whatever happens will be better than anything we come up with.”
Crowdsourcing what to do with a drug that causes people to lose their memories doesn’t seem smart. But this is coming from a woman who believes the drug could be used for de-traumatizing pigs to make the bacon taste better. She just wants to sell the berries anyway she can. “Let the best idea win,” Buna says. Audrey isn’t sure, but she doesn’t really have a choice. She also doesn’t have a choice but to throw a launch party for Bunda with balloons, lots of balloons. “This is how big ideas work: quickly,” she tells Audrey. “Before the next guy does it.”
Audrey gets onboard and starts playing the role of tough new boss. She tells Wendy to “Fix your personality or hide it from me.” When Craig questions how fast things are moving, she shuts him down. It’s clear the business structure here is no one says not to the corporate overlords.
Meanwhile, Jacqueline is still drinking and talking. She talks about her dad, for which the bar was “kind of like his office.” It’s why she’s so good at darts. Is this true or just another one of her lies? Does she even know at this point? Walter knows that he needs to drive down to Geist and get answers. Jacqueline pushes back on his need to know and he gets angry. “They treat us like we’re nothing,” he says.
Jacqueline orders another round and spins a few more tales. She shows him the photo of her battalion and starts X’ing out the other three members who she says are in jail or dead. The constant need to get answers is what killed her sniper friend, she tells Walter, who was also a sniper. She’s looking to scare him, but he has questions like what was her sniper friend’s shooting record? She has an answer for that. “1100 meters.” Still, she continues to push him to leave things be, but he can’t. They get into a shouting match and Walter walks out more determined than ever to get answers from Geist.
Alex pays the check, signing her real name and calls Audrey to tell her she won’t be coming home. She sounds concerned for maybe the first time, until she spots the roller in the garbage. Alex realizes she can use it. She heads to the supermarket where we see her studying the produce. She picks up a melon and sits it in the front of the cart, where babies usually sit. How easy is it to stick a needle into there?
Episode 6: “Needle”
The melon is on the bed, but Alex is in the woods near Walter’s house. Turns out, the melon was used to help her with her stabbing. She plans to drug Walter so he’ll forget again. She came up with a whole script in which she was out for a hike and decided to stop by and apologize. It’s then she plans to grab the syringe from her pocket and stab him like she stabbed that poor melon. Alex’s performance needs a little work. Walter is not like the corporate harassers she’s been working for.
She walks up to Water’s door clutching the needle in her pocket, but no one answers. She lets herself into his house and finds the box of photos of his battalion and other mementos from his time served rifled through. Did he end up driving to Geist? She assumes so and calls Geist HQ to warn them that someone might be coming.
Before she can get the doofy kid at reception to connect her to security she finds Walter standing outside her hotel door. She’s scared and hangs up the phone realizing she still has time to make things right with him. He suggests they go fishing, his mea culpa for yelling at her the night before. She’s “literally the only person who’s tried to help me,” he says, and “I went and put all my shit on you.”
There’s something suspicious about his apology, but Alex still agrees to go venture deep into the woods to fish with him. It’s a place where no tourists go, so it’ll be quiet. A very specific detail that seems like an ominous clue, no?
On their car ride, Walter tries to get to know Jacqueline better asking her questions about her service. She keeps trying to change the subject back to Geist, only offering little tidbits about herself like how she grew up in Oakland, but was born in St. Louis. Are these true facts about Alex or just part of the Jacqueline profile? It feels like he’s testing her, looking for her to slip. But, it also feels like the kind of conversation two people might have as they head out fishing.
Walter asks about Audrey. We find out they’ve been dating for five years and kids have become an issue. Audrey had a rough childhood and she’s afraid of what kind of mom she’ll be. But Alex knows she’ll be great. She alphabetizes the cereal boxes without knowing it, which to Alex feels very maternal. But, she worries too much about everything. She doesn’t like risks, which is funny, since Alex seems to thrive on them.
Walter then reads Alex for who she really is, not Jacqueline, but someone whose risk taking might make her a liability. “What if it isn’t the baby she’s not sure about it, what if it’s you?” Walter says. “What the fuck do I know, right?”
Welp, he definitely doesn’t know that Alex intends to drug him. The walk to the water gives Walter a chance to tell her about the interrogation training he experienced when he was a newbie in the military. They forced him to stay awake for hours until finally, his commander came in and asked if he wanted to play ping pong. It was their way of loosening him up and it’s hard to ignore Jacqueline’s dart game seemed to serve the same purpose. Her niceties caused him to spill his life story.
He continues his questioning, which now feels more like an interrogation. He goes back to the sniper’s record, which she said in meters. They measure in yards. Would she forget that if she was really in the service? She says she would, and he agrees that it could have been an honest mistake. But, what about her saying she took the bus when she really drove there? Why did she go in his house when he wasn’t there? Those can’t also be mistakes, can they?
Since they aren’t. she starts running. He follows. She falls allowing him a chance to catch up to her. He just wants to know what she wants from him. He looks so scared. “Why are you lying to me?” he asks.
She decides to get honest, well, sort of honest. She tells him about Geist, that his questions made them nervous. Something did happen to him and she wants to tell him what happened. This isn’t her being kind, but another ruse. She starts reaching into her pocket to pull out the needle, but as she does her cellphone falls to the ground and it triggers something in him. A memory. He catches her arm and ends up stabbing her with the needle. She looks shocked and so does he. She reaches for the row boat, the same one she wakes up in.
As she floats she calls Audrey who looks so composed, like Alex once did. She’s finally confident enough to lead. Alex tells her she’s sorry. “Walter, he knows,” she manages to say before the call drops. “Are you there?” Audrey says. It was her voice that opened the premiere.
Episode 7: “Again”
The sounds of small waves crashing against the rowboat lull us into the episode. It’s Walter’s heavy breathing that snaps us back to reality. Again, we are at that lake. This time we stay with Walter as Jacqueline floats away. He picks up the needle and sees that it says Geist. We learn that Jacqueline wasn’t out for very long, mere minutes before she was shouting for help. Walter runs away, just as we saw him do in the premiere.
Since we know what happened with Alex, we follow Walter to his car. He can barely keep his eyes open as he drives to Geist headquarters, which he previously said was a few hours away. He hops the gate and starts walking towards the main building. As he does Leonard calls to him, questioning if he saw the gate, which clearly is supposed to be a deterrent. “You didn’t drive your truck through it so I guess you saw it,” he says rather calmly being that the guy in front of him appears to be on a mission.
Walter just wants to get in the building and talk to someone, Leonard questions the legitimacy of this claim knowing what time it is. Walter asks if Leonard works for Geist and he mutters that he did “before the assholes got it.” Those are the guys Walter wants to speak to, which gives them something in common.
We’re once again watching Airwolf, you know, the show that gets Geist all pumped up. We’re reliving the scene in which Audrey asks why he is giving a speech at the launch. This time we understand why he’s so angry. We also know he’s right, Geist will never go back to the way it was, this is its new normal. “It’s my fucking company,” we hear him once again yell at Audrey. “And I’m going to get up there and say whatever the fuck I want.” He does, to a crowd that wasn’t interested in listening and it’s obvious they should have.
We watch Leonard leave the greenhouse and nearly cross paths with Jacqueline who was making her way up to the office after tasing Craig the aroma guy. He looks around at the balloons in disgust. He scratches his head like he’s not quite sure what he’s going to say up there. Still he makes his way to the stage to grab the mic. “What are you doing here?”
As Leonard starts to speak we see Bunda talking to two men who are telling her that people don’t even need to digest the Homecoming serum, they could just smell it in the air. The other guy is just spitballing here, but “it can be any color,” he says, “doesn’t have to be red.” These are the big ideas Bunda was looking for; she looks happy. Even as Leonard talks about her, the giant of his story, she ignores him. “He’s a mascot,” she tells the guys when they ask who he is before giving Leonard a thumbs up.
Alex is still confused as to why Audrey is calling her Alex. Jacqueline is their cat’s name. Apparently, there was a dose of sweet reality to this lie. When Craig accuses Alex of tasing him, Audrey tricks him into thinking he’s got it all wrong. He doesn’t even question it, just walks off. Here, people do what they are told and never question it.
Bunda is once again flattering Audrey the way Alex used to. But she also asks an important question: Are the memory effects of the Homecoming serum permanent? We flash back to Walter who is explaining to Leonard that Geist did something to him. It’s then Leonard realizes he is one of the soldiers and brings him in. He hands Walter his file, the one he came for.
Flash forward to Audrey handing Walter’s file to Alex in hopes it jogs her memory. She still doesn’t remember and wants Audrey to tell her what she was doing. The short answer is she was talking to him, but Alex is going to need more so Audrey explains her job to her. “If someone has a grievance with the company, you convince them to back off their claim,” Audrey explains. Alex seems bummed that that is a job description, let alone hers.
She also doesn’t know it was her idea to go after Walter. That she was the mastermind behind that tattoo. All she knows is something doesn’t feel right. “I know I did something, I felt it the moment I woke up,” Alex says. “I can’t say it, but I can feel it.”
Somehow that feels like it might be the most problematic aspect of the serum, that numbness that remains even though the memories are gone.
“He was a threat,” Audrey says. “You were taking control of the situation, that’s what you do.” She sounds like Alex trying to fix the problem, but then she says the quiet part loud. The choice was “between what he wanted and we wanted, between winning and losing. We chose us.” Homecoming should probably have that embroidered on a pillow since it seems like the program’s motto as well. “We take care of each other because no one else will,” Audrey says.
In her mind, it’s done. She’ll take Alex home and she’ll try to help her get her memories back. But back in Leonard’s little shack, Walter wants to know if he can fix him. If he can restore his memories like he’s a failing computer drive. Leonard can’t. There is no magic berry for that. “Then finish it,” Walter tells him. “Take the rest.”
Leonard feels uncomfortable with the request, but Walter just doesn’t want to be half a person. He remembers parts of his life: his Scorpio ex-girlfriend with all the scorpion tattoos, his mom being a Marxist, though he can’t define what that means. It’s only the service and the coming home part that is gone. This just reminds him of what he’s missing. It’s an “ache” that he needs to get rid of to live.
Leonard doesn’t want to do it again. He wants to forget, to throw up his hands and complain about the company as if his name isn’t on it. As if this won’t just continue when the DOD gets their hands on the berries. “I’m old,” Leonard says, an excuse Walter doesn’t buy. “You’re not old. You just got a shitty attitude.”
Back at the party, Leonard and his shitty attitude is gone and Bunda is giving a speech about Audrey being her partner, her “fucking Helen Keller,” leading her through this. Or is it just the blind leading the blind on this one? Either way, Walter is there, dressed as a caterer wheeling a cart with empty jugs of red juice on it. He locks eyes with Alex but keeps on wheeling.
Everyone’s cups are full of red juice. This is how Walter and Leonard get back at them. They all toast the new leadership, but once they finish their cups they begin to look disoriented. Alex seems to understand, putting her juice down, but lets Audrey keep hers. “This is what we wanted,” Audrey says. The camera watches Alex as she watches Audrey lift the cup to her mouth and drink. Alex doesn’t stop her.
Flatware and then people begin to hit the ground. They’ve all been dosed. Audrey looks up to see Leonard on the upper level watching them. He salutes her and walks over. His speech was a warning that no one wanted to listen to. Perhaps he was right, the poison has already set in long before they chugged those drinks.
Audrey doesn’t drop right away. Maybe it’s because she had already been using the serum for recreational purposes. “Is it gonna hurt?” she says. “I don’t remember,” Alex replies as Audrey goes to sit down. “We should have just gone back to bed,” Audrey says laughing through the tears. It’s a callback to Alex’s request after Audrey gets all worked up over Walter's request for his files. “Olive, that’s a pretty name,” Audrey says to the name Alex had chosen for their future daughter. Alex looks sad, but she doesn’t really know what she’s losing.
Bunda does. She lays in the field of berries waiting for Geist. “This stuff really works, huh?” she says. He doesn’t know how much time she’ll have, but it doesn’t really matter anyway. “My daughter's getting married next week. I’m supposed to give her away,” she says, wiping her tears. Maybe she’s realizing just how much we lose when we lose not just our memories, but our consent. Yet, she’s still more concerned about what he’s going to do with the berries. When he says he’s going to rip them out, she tears up saying, “what a waste” before eulogizing what could have been.
This was her “fucking moonshot,” and he ruined it for what? “I fucked things up pretty good,” he says. “This was the best I could come up with.” It’s unclear whether he liked this plan or felt he had no choice, but now he must live with it. “You’re stubborn,” she says. “You only see things your way.”
“I don’t think there’s more than one way to look at this,” Leonard says. In her mind, the fact that these soldiers were able to forget and go and serve again seemed worth it. Walter Cruz would disagree. “That’s how new ideas happen,” she says. “It takes nerve,” and though she doesn’t explicitly say it, it feels as if she believes human sacrifice is all part of the process.
“Yeah, well, those are just fucking song lyrics. Sound good, don’t mean nothing,” he says. “See you’re just stubborn,” she says again. “I used to be like that,” she says, the serum finally hitting her. She lays down.
He looks up at the sky. “You’re gonna get sunburned laying out here.” He has taken everything away from her, rightfully, perhaps, but he isn’t cruel. “Give me your fucking hat,” she says choking back tears. He does, gently setting it upon her head. She pulls it down over her eyes. “My hero.” He looks at her again and keeps walking, leaving her there in the field. When she eventually wakes up, will he tell her he is the one who did this to her? Will he let her wander in the dark?
Walter is walking through the red juice carnage, stepping over bodies and kicking balloons. He sees Alex or Jacqueline, who knows who she is now, sitting next to Audrey, who is slumped over from the poisoned red drank.
She doesn’t remember him, but he sure knows her. He scoffs at this. She, like him, only knows part of the story, but there is no file that will help her regain the knowledge of her past. “Who’s that?” he asks. While she told him about her girlfriend — one true thing she did tell him — he doesn’t know her name. She barely knows it. “I don’t know really,” she says. Literally, yes, but also figuratively. This Audrey she met was not the one she used to know. (Cue the Gotye.) Audrey was also playing a role.
“You should go now,” he tells her. She will, but not yet. “I just know what it’s like to wake up like that," she says. "Alone.” This experience has made Alex a more empathetic person. She is looking for the truth, instead of relying on lies.
As Nina Simone’s version of “My Way” plays, Walter goes to his car and sees his file. He has proof of what happened. Not only to him, but to those who Heidi Bergman also treated. The names are all there. There’s a sense his story isn’t over yet. He needs to help those who also had their memories stolen from them. So he drives, no longer looking back. We go with him, wondering if we’ll get a season 3.