Absentia episode 5 is the series midway point. The episode, called, “Dig” is a bridge to the second part of Absentia. It features a series of events designed to lead us into what I suspect will be a heavy duty chase to the truth of what’s happened to Emily Byrne (Stana Katic).
The episode’s flow felt a bit disjointed compared to the previous ones. It’s only on my second watch that it occurred to me why. The flow of Absentia “Dig” feels more like normal TV, whereas the last four episodes were more movie-like. Being more “TV-like” isn’t a crime – especially for a TV show. It also serves to mirror how everyone within this world – especially Emily – has been thrown off-center.
The good news is that each vignette in Absentia episode 5 offers clues and information that you can tell you’ll need to remember later. There’s no sense of TV “filler” moments, even when it’s just the near-miss capture moments during Emily’s journey to the park. It also makes it impossible to guess who might be involved with taking Emily, the serial killings, and the murders.
By the end of “Dig” the only people I’d cross off the list of possible suspects are: Emily (of course), Emily’s husband, Special Agent Nick Durant (Patrick Heusinger), and her adopted father, Warren Byrne (Paul Freeman). Everyone else…hmmm, we’ll see!
Absentia Episode 5 Recap (SPOILERS!)
Emily and Dr, Vega
Dr. Daniel Vega (Bruno Bichir) is alone closing up his office when Emily sneaks in and surprises him. She makes him go back in and sit down in his chair – where she then zip ties his hands and feet.
Emily explains that her plan is to pursue the clue she got from her former boss Adam Radford (Ralph Ineson) about the bleeding eye.
Since we last saw Emily in episode 4 she’s remembered that the bleeding eye is something she saw as a kid – but she can’t recall specifics.(Yes, this is a leap from episode 4, but entirely possible.) She’s hoping that Vega can help her figure out what and where she saw this.
Bichir is a lot of fun to watch in this scene. Many of his reactions made me smile. The good doctor seems more annoyed than anything by this encounter. It’s as if he’s just tired and wanted to go home – not that he’s being tied up by a murder suspect. Granted, one of the first questions Vega asks Emily about is Adam, to which she says, “He’s fine, I left him safe. The police found him.” That may be adding to Vega’s general calm. He apparently didn’t know about Adam’s murder at the time. Of course, neither does Emily.
Emily’s session leads her to remember that the bleeding eye is a carving on a tree in a park she used to play in as a kid. There are other children in her vision, children she used to play with. …Is is bad that I wonder if that little blond girl with the glasses could be Nick’s second wife, Alice (Cara Theobold)? (Yes, I don’t trust Alice – I just don’t.) Her vision ends with “a fog rolling in.” Given the way her other memories have gone it’s a fair assumption that the fog is symbolic for something yet to be revealed. Once she remembers, Emily leaves Vega to be found by the 6 o’clock office cleaning crew.
Meanwhile, Nick and Boston PD Detective Tommy Gibbs (Angel Bonanni) are at the crime scene where Adam was murdered. Nick looks shocked and dazed – and now believes Emily’s a killer. He tells Tommy that “he’d hoped to bring her in alive.” Tommy tells him, “so much for that. Let’s hope someone is actually processing the full crime scene. Perhaps there will be a clue that can later prove it wasn’t Emily?
We next see Nick go back to the FBI office. There he finds Agent Crown (Christopher Colquhoun) has already been put in Adam’s old position. His first question to Crown is if he’s fired. (No, he’s not.) Crown’s first question to Nick is this.
Why do you think she killed him? I mean, I get Samorov, and I sure as hell get Harlowe, but…
Okay, so Crown has just set up that Emily killed all three. I immediately don’t trust him. Emily had accused Adam of planting her DNA on Harlowe’s body. (Yes, she’d been there but she hadn’t touched him.) Maybe it was Crown? The fact that he tells Nick not to tell anyone about Adam being dirty and to only report to him certainly doesn’t make him look innocent. Plus, when Nick expresses doubt about being able to bring Emily in alive, he makes Nick the point person with Boston P.D. so that Nick can do just that. Hmmm…
With the grief and shock about Adam still being fresh, Nick isn’t thinking too straight. By virtue of what Emily told Nick about where she was at the time of Harlowe’s murder, you’d think Crown’s easy assertion that Emily did all three would give him pause. He knows Emily’s alibi. She’d been at his house, and backed it up with her description of Alice and the dog. This information makes the timeline for her to have killed Harlowe impossible. At some point Nick will put back on his logical FBI hat and realize if Emily didn’t kill Harlowe it’s likely something else is going on.
Back at Nick and Alice’s place we’re treated to seeing Alice discover that she’s pregnant. She looks as unhappy as I (or most of the audience) felt. This pregnancy scene was cut in with Nick at headquarters with Crown. When Nick comes home he’s full of sorrow and remorse. He blames himself for Adam’s death.
It’s my fault. Everything she does from here on out, it’s on me.
Upon hearing this Alice makes the leap that Nick slept with Emily – what she’s thinking is all over her face. She waits for Nick to get in the shower to ask him – and takes his silence for a yes. Her next question is if he’s in love with her. Nick pauses, and gives an honest answer to her – and to himself.
Alice leaves without telling Nick she’s pregnant. Instead she goes to the room of Emily and Nick’s son. Flynn (Patrick McAuley) is asleep, and she crawls into bed next to him.
What’s this about? In Absentia episode 4 Alice told Emily that Emily “didn’t deserve” Flynn. This scene has a edge of creepiness. Again, we know so little about Alice….
What Happens That You Need to Know
The rest of the episode is about Emily going to track down this tree with law enforcement on her heels. Katic truly is the standout in all this. At times Emily’s determined, and at others she’s desperate. Regardless of what’s happening though, we’re completely drawn into each harrowing near-miss, horrifying discovery, and scary choice..
Nick and Emily
When Emily sees herself on the news as having killed Adam she calls Nick to tell him she didn’t do it. Furthermore, because the real killer had to have been watching her, she’s worried for Nick and Flynn’s safety. Nick tells her, “she’s not well” and that she should turn herself in – for Flynn’s sake.
I’m not going to let him grow up thinking I’m a murderer. I would rather die trying to clear my name.
Here Katic’s fierce assertion cuts through to the heart of what’s driving Emily. However, I also got a lot out of Heusinger’s performance as he took her call. It may be my favorite scene of his thus far.
Even though Nick’s the agent that wants to bring her in – and he’s angry and hurt by all he thinks she’s done – you can tell he’s also relieved to hear from her. Still, he thinks Emily’s lost her mind, and he’s fighting himself from reacting to the temperament of the Emily he knows and loves. His expressions are those of a man who has to keep stopping to remind himself that despite how she sounds, the woman he loves isn’t really there anymore.
Tommy and the FBI
At the agency roundtable Dr. Vega suggests that perhaps Emily has a split personality. That she’s both the killer and the detective on the case. Even Tommy doesn’t buy that. Vega admits it’s never occurred to him before because he’s never seen the killer side of her. (Note that he doesn’t say he’s now seen it.)
It’s hard to put up with this theorizing because we know Emily’s not the killer. (Seriously, if anyone doubts this, please leave a comment about why.) While watching this scene you want to shake people and tell them not to jump to conclusions! In particular, Nick saw that she was set up for the Samarov murder and knows her whereabouts for when Harlowe was killed. Think, man!
At the same time, because the rest of the people don’t know what we do, it’s easy to see why they think she’s a killer – especially with the killing of Adam. It’s a classic Hitchcockian theme, to have someone accused of a crime they didn’t commit, but only the audience knows it. (The film Frenzy immediately comes to mind.) It’s a special kind of frustration that puts us firmly on Emily’s side. Unlike in Frenzy, we don’t know who the killer is. We want to know as much as she does!
The good news is that Emily’s dad Warren isn’t buying into any of this crap. Her brother Jack (Neil Jackson) goes over to try convincing his father that Emily is guilty and to turn Emily in if she calls. That doesn’t go well. Warren throws him out after calling him out on his drinking. Jack’s bitterness is apparent.
It’s you and her against the world. It always has been. The rest of us could go to hell. Well, don’t worry, I know the way.
What’s the most noteworthy is that, despite that exchange. Jack stops to make a final plea to Warren to turn Emily in if she calls. Like, he really wants Emily caught. Hmmm….
Three Cheers for Daddy!
Since Dr. Vega gave the information that the tree was a childhood memory that involved other kids, Tommy and Nick are looking into her childhood. They decide to start with Emily’s dad first. The reasoning is sound. Not only would he know about her childhood time with him, but he might know something about “Barrett House” – the orphanage she was adopted from.
The visit to Warren doesn’t go any better than Jack’s did. Warren stonewalls them through most of the conversation.
When Warren does talk, Nick probably wishes he’d left well enough alone, Warren berates Nick for stopping his search after a year – and for his remarriage. Nick tries to defend his current reasons for looking for Emily: she’s killed an FBI agent. Dad totally smacks the theory down!
Warren: Did you see her pull the trigger?
Nick: She shot at Detective Gibbs and me.
Warren: I taught her to shoot myself. If she shot at you, you’d be dead. Put that in your file.
Warren’s attitude is pretty harsh. Although a year does seem like a short time to give up the search for Emily, Nick had Flynn to think about. Nevertheless, you can tell Warren’s words get to Nick. Maybe the points about not seeing her pull the trigger and that Emily’s an excellent shot will eventually start to cause some doubt about her guilt? Granted, Nick knows that Emily wouldn’t want to kill him. (At least he should!) Still, Tommy was fair game.
Nick and Tommy had better luck with Jack, although, not because he helped directly. Their conversation with him quickly devolved into how Emily ruined his life. However, he does recall that when she first came to live with his family Emily would threaten to run away. (Nick is surprised by this. Just the thought seems to upset him and his first question is if she was unhappy. Yeah, he’s not over her.)
It’s the conversation about running away that gives Nick an obscure clue. Jack tells them that as a kid Emily used to joke about going to live with her merry men in Sherwood Forest. Nick promptly looks up “Sherwood Forest, Massachusetts” and discovers “Nottingham Park.” The two leave hurriedly.
Nottingham Park is, in fact where Emily is going. It’s dark and stormy-like when she gets to the park, which looks like it’s been abandoned for decades. With her flashlight she goes through the forest of Aspen trees. It’s a spooky enterprise since they naturally all have “eyes.”
When she does find her “bleeding eye” tree (it helps that she’d carved her name on the tree as a kid) a twig snap draws her to a spot near the tree that looks different from the ground around it. Emily takes off her gloves (yikes!) and starts digging.
Emily uncovers a skeleton! Her reaction is shock, but honestly though, what was she expecting, buried treasure? She’s not thinking too clearly – which under the circumstances I can go with.
Unfortunately there’s not much time to investigate this because Nick and Tommy arrive with the police. The one thing she manages to do is pull some kind of heart device from the body. Then she barely manages to escape the scene. Her getting away involves having to face the demon of submerging herself in water. She dives into a river and by swimming away largely underwater, escapes. At least for a while.
Tommy informs us that the body Emily found is at least 10 years old. He also notes to Nick that, “she knew where to dig.” So now they’re thinking Emily’s the serial killer?!
By daylight Emily has emerged from the river. Tommy and Nick now have agent Ericsson (Amber Aga) with them. The most interesting thing about their exchange is that Tommy is the only one who doesn’t think Emily is trying to leave the area and escape. This is despite Tommy being the one to point out that she knew where the body was. I wonder what’s going through his mind?
The Wrap Up
Emily ends up at a truck stop. There she breaks into a truck that has a cell phone charging, Her motivation is to call a hospital and try to trace the serial number on the heart device. That goes nowhere, but she then has to hide in the truck because the massive manhunt Nick has going on arrives at the truck stop.
It looks as though Emily will get away, The truck driver comes back and seems to pull out onto the highway. No such luck!
There was one minor thing in this episode that was a little distracting for me in the moment. For the most part I’ve been able to think “New England” when they say Boston, but some of the bus station scenes in Absentia episode 5 had a vibe that felt more like Berlin.
I’m pretty sure the bus station was supposed to be Boston’s Chinatown area – and physically it wasn’t a bad match It was mostly the soundscape that felt off. For Absentia season 2 (and there’s definitely going to be a season 2.) they might want to think about using some ambient sound of American crowds for scenes like that.
Other than that, Absentia episode 5 does a good job of preparing viewers for the upcoming second half of the series. With this body found from years prior to Emily’s abduction and the serial killer we know this mulligan just got bigger! While all of the performances are strong enough to hold your attention throughout. Katic – who has to carry a lot of this episode – is riveting. She’s definitely the linchpin that makes everything work.
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