HBO’s The Outsider (an adaptation of the Stephen King novel) has aired its eighth episode, “Foxhead.” The drama series combines King’s infamous adoration of supernatural touches with a murder mystery to chilling effect. We’ve talked about all of the deepening plot twists and mysterious scratches and spooky dreams that have unfolded along the way. Now it’s time for everyone to come together and stop El Cuco.
Last week’s episode of The Outsider finally made Ralph a believer, which seemed like a ton of progress after he gaslighted everyone all season. However, the group’s troubles may have only begun from the looks of this week’s closing moments. That scene gave the season’s penultimate episode, “Tigers And Bears,” an honest-to-God cliffhanger ending. There was an impossible-to-see flashback cave story about the Bolton family, but the cliffhanger was the biggest thing to discuss in this episode while we wait for next week’s big El Cuco showdown. So, let’s talk about those last few minutes.
Unsurprisingly, the ending developments all come down to Jack. Last week, I wondered why everyone had inexplicably forgotten about Jack, even though the group (led by Holly) now accepts that he’s El Cuco’s slave. Sure enough, Jack ends up being the biggest physical threat of the episode. After El Cuco (who’s taken up residence within the Claude doppelganger) was presumably tipped off — through the eyes of O.G. Claude, thanks to his obnoxious brother, Seale, who couldn’t stop blabbing — about the group’s impending arrival at his cave hideout, Jack staked out the entrance from above, sniper-style. Clearly, Ralph was in Jack’s crosshairs for a few seconds, and it makes sense that Ralph and Holly would be El Cuco’s primary targets.
Strangely, though, Jack’s first shot did not hit Ralph. Instead, he hits Alec, who goes down with a bullet to the head. It looks like Alec’s previous hunch was correct, given that he initially resisted joining Holly when she rallied her troops to go monitor Claude. In doing so, Alec cited the taste of copper in his mouth, which he associated with an impending sense of doom back during his military days, and for solid reason.
Should the fact that Jack “missed” Ralph feel unbelievable? Perhaps. We recently learned (when Ralph told Holly) that Jack yearned to become a military sharpshooter, and he had actually proved himself to be a top marksman during sniper training. However, Jack’s hopes were crushed when he failed the psychological exam, and that’s only one of the ways that life’s kicked Jack in the ass (and in turn, he became proficient in atomic wedgies — it’s still the most bizarre thing in this whole unsettling series). Jack could have taken Ralph out first, but maybe I’m making too much of a fuss here. Visibly killing Ralph might have also killed the drama of the scene, hence his survival? Sure.
Following a fade-to-black, we heard more gunfire, and it’s safe to assume that there were more casualties. In the preview for next week, HBO showed Ralph and Holly together in the cave, and I’m fearing the worst here for the rest of the party. I gotta say that it’s not looking good for Andy, given that he and Holly are finally in a romantic groove, and he’s a character who was created (presumably by Richard Price, who did most of the writing/development) for the series. His purpose has mostly been to draw some visible emotion out of Holly, so my hunch is that he’s a goner. The “let’s get this thing over with” kiss does not bode well for Andy’s survival.
I suppose there’s a chance that Andy, who made a pretty big “cowboy” deal of arming himself, somehow managed to evade death. But six shots fired (after Alec went down) means that, yeah, there’s gotta be a body count, and we should probably make peace with Andy not making it out of that scenario. However, I will not feel very peaceful if Yunis doesn’t survive, but he’s likely sustained more than a flesh wound.
So, where do we stand with the group? Holly and Ralph will live to see the next episode, and the preview for next week showed Seale still alive, at least for a quick flash that essentially means nothing. We know Alec is gone, and as mentioned above, we’ve got no clues about Andy or Yunis. To take out the latter would be brutal, given that he’s been the most levelheaded character of this series and essential to pushing Ralph to a point where he was finally able to believe in El Cuco. Yunis is also the audience-POV person, so it wouldn’t be cool to lose him (my favorite must die another day).
More on Andy and Holly: The Outsider has periodically dwelled upon talk of viruses. HBO and Stephen King clearly didn’t plan for this show to run while the Coronavirus was starting to spread across the globe, but man, this episode’s discussion of the Spanish Flu of 1918 zapped the escapism factor. (So much for supernatural horrors allowing us to forget real-life for an hour, right?) This history lesson happened when Andy mused about the romantic nature of spouses who die within days of each other (“one just decided to follow the other into whatever came next”), and Holly busted in with her encyclopedic memory to dash hopes of conjoined souls.
Is this more foreshadowing? As in, if Andy does bite it, we shouldn’t expect Holly to freak out for too long. She does like the guy, but she knows that the El Cuco mission cannot fall by the wayside for some mourning time. As for the bogeyman/Tear Drinker/Grief Eater himself, we didn’t see El Cuco do anything new this episode. He’s waiting inside the cave for the action to go down, and everyone figured out he was there because of Seale’s story about his relatives that got trapped inside while searching for some lost boys. Those unfortunate folks were also, of course, related to Claude, who’s now in two places at once: (1) The doppelganger host of El Cuco; (2) The O.G. Claude, whose consciousness somehow feeds into El Cuco also.
I’m guessing that the cave story was mostly meant to propel the group to the El Cuco hiding place, not to draw some sort of conclusion about El Cuco possessing someone whose family members were killed by the same presence back in the day. It’s all very circular, but perhaps in a coincidental way, much like Holly’s assessment of Ralph’s death-song story last week.
Other than the buildup to the cliffhanger, not much else of importance happened, other than Glory telling Jeannie that she appreciates her kindness. I can’t begin to guess how those two will figure into the finale, since they’re so removed from the cave action. Only one more episode remains, and King warned folks to be prepared to be blown away by the season finale. Six days to go, and the real fight to contain El Cuco shall begin.
HBO’s ‘The Outsider’ airs on Sunday nights at 9:00 pm EST.