Evil S2E8: “B Is for Brain”

A brain falls onto the pop-up book.

Evil S2E8 “B Is for Brain” finally brings back Kristen’s husband Andy from his extended trip abroad for their climbing business. With how much Kristen has been getting up to during his absence, the poor man is in for one hell of a surprise once he starts looking for answers.

This begins with him discovering cross-shaped burn marks on Kristen’s abdomen, which she blows off before initiating sex on the condition that he hurt her by pressing on the wounds, and they both wear gags from “S Is for Silence” and animal masks. As they do the deed, a strange gelatinous substance falls from underneath the bed, burning through two floors and finally the basement stairs. That there’s some strong baby gravy! Actually, I have no idea what that was, and I’m honestly out of theories on that specific front. Nicely done, Evil.

This week, the trio is being sent to Cornell University to investigate a neurological device being developed there. The MTLS–Magnetic Tempororparietal Lobe Stimulator–uses magnetic fields to probe the brain, and the Vatican has taken interest. Around 30% of subjects who participated in the study with the device had a spiritual experience, according to the scientists. The subjects in question describe a hand on their shoulder in a snowscape, a trip through the cosmos, and indescribable beauty, giving them emotions they’d never felt. 10% of subjects converted to Christianity after using the helmet.

Kristen is immediately skeptical of the device, believing that the Vatican has sent them to probe the possibility of using it to convert people to Christianity. “Spirituality is more than just the triggering of a few synapses,” David says. An innocuous line, but on my rewatch it stuck out significantly, given how the main characters each react to the experiment. They debate briefly on the relationship between the spiritual and psychological, which influences the other, and the role the helmet has in both spiritual visions and psychological health.

After getting surprised by the news that the Vatican has informed the University that the trio want to try out the technology, Ben is the first of the three to volunteer as a test subject. “I want to see God. Who wouldn’t want to see God?” Ben is ready to debunk this whole “religious experience” nonsense and more than likely has a psychological explanation in his back pocket. Moments after the beginning of the procedure, however, Ben is weeping profusely in the headset.

Ben weeps in the helmet.

As Ben is the most closed-off of the trio, “B Is for Brain” is terrific in how it finally gives us a really solid look into his past and what may have caused him to pivot away from his faith. He sees his mother in the experiment room with them, and the two debate why he abandoned Allah entirely for science. He counters with “Allah abandoned me.” Ben is wracked with guilt over his dream conversation with his mother, worried about what she may have thought or said about him before she passed away. He’s specifically worried about his rejection of Shahada, an Islamic profession of faith. Each week brings us closer to Ben’s backstory, and I am here for it.

David is understandably a little pissed at the scientist, who uncomfortably reveals that the helmet has not, in fact, been universally successful in creating positive reactions. As they continue to expand their data set, the number of “counter-positive” reactions—grief, sadness, and meaninglessness—has increased as well. One of the subjects the trio interviews describes a nothingness, followed by a beast dragging her by the hand into a pit of tar, after which she witnesses a 10-story winged demon covered in screaming naked people. Yeah, that probably ain’t Heaven.

Clearly still a little weirded out by Kristen’s new sexual proclivities, Andy begins snooping around their bedroom. He finds the little journal with the unicorn, and inside…hand-drawn maps of a house, rendered in careful detail to include furniture placement, with red arrows charting a path through each location. When he eventually confronts her with this, as well as the fact that their daughter Laura walked in on his discovery, Kristen explains that the drawings are a coping mechanism for anger before dissolving into tears. Kristen is definitely not okay, and each episode finds the cracks in her psyche spreading like a windshield chip in the Arizona sun. In a scene that is not necessarily related to the main plot but still important for Kristen, she assaults a man with a bag of frozen fries at the supermarket for rudely cutting in front of her and being a prick about it, in front of an aghast Andy.

We finally (!) get some more of that terrific Sister Andrea energy, and Leland is back too! And with a single, breathless scene, they make up for lost time with one of the most electrifying exchanges of dialogue and eye contact Evil has seen so far. It’s an insanely tense scene, testament to the performances and the chemistry of Michael Emerson and Andrea Martin.

Sister Andrea and Lelenad have a standoff in the kitchen.

Leland has figured out that Sister Andrea’s “holy water” that burned him was in fact ammonia, which to him proves “God has no power on this Earth.” When he demands that she show him his hand so he can return the favor with the ammonia, she responds by producing a large knife. A couple of big takeaways from this scene: first, Leland chuckles and asks, “How have I never heard of you?” Coupled with Sheryl’s phrasing calling him a “demon” earlier in the season, this adds fuel to Leland’s familiarity with the supernatural. Secondly, when he threatens the nun with “your ass is mine,” Sister Andrea hardly breaks a sweat and her response (“You know where to find me”) seems to leave Leland honestly a little shaken. Yet, he immediately runs into David and remarks that the nuns are “sexy.” Was Leland frightened by Sister Andrea, turned on, or both?

Kristen is next to volunteer for the helmet, although right before she straps in she notices her boot buckle is undone. David suddenly requests to go first, and upon doing so, gets a front-row seat to Kristen brutally killing LeRoux with the ice axe. He confronts her about it later, causing her to rush to Dr. Kurt, who suggests coming clean to David. Glancing down at her feet, she sees that her boot buckle is undone…again.

Somebody got some Inception in my religious demon show! What follows is a terrifically horrific fake-out where Leland answers the door, cheerfully munching on David’s severed arm as the priest in training cries out from the floor. Kristen unleases a blood-curdling scream and finds herself back in the helmet, which means David still doesn’t know about LeRoux and still has both arms safely attached to that absolute beefcake chest.

My initial reaction to this sequence was a firm confirmation that Kristen murdered LeRoux, until the reveal that David’s helmet vision was in fact hers. It still keeps things muddy. It could be her fear of David learning what she’s done—which Dr. Kurt recommends during the dream sequence. But the theory remains that she may not have killed him, and the fantasy of doing so is seriously starting to mess with her.

Ben talks to his deceased mother in a dream.

Dude, I love Dr. Kurt. Or at least I thought I did, until what he said right after I took that note. Dr. Kurt is a terrific therapist. He’s genuine and insightful, and even when Kristen discusses the helmet fake-out he rationalizes what she had seen while in the dream state. But the conclusion of this session made me take pause. He points out that Kristen regularly mentions David in their sessions, but has not yet talked about Andy since he came home. He proceeds to advise Kristen that if she “chooses” David, and his path to priesthood could interfere with that relationship, what if he just didn’t become a priest? So did my man Dr. Kurt just nudge Kristen towards sabotaging David? Something doesn’t pass the sniff test here. Remember back in the pilot how Leland just “happened” to access Kristen’s file through unsecured cabinets? It’s just something I’m starting to think about, that maybe Dr. Kurt may not be the beacon of support Kristen thinks he is.

David, when donning the helmet, sees…nothing. No visions of God, no visits to hell. He confides in Sister Andrea, who reassures him that his visions don’t come from “regions of the brain,” they come straight from God. This can hardly be reassurance for David, since throughout Season 1 struggled with a similar problem night after night and had to resort to hallucinogenic drugs to get his visions. And now, after the experiment, his drug-free meditations no longer yield anything. Using the device, Sister Andrea posits, has rewired his brain, but they need David’s “abilities” to combat the looming threat of Leland.

“Abilities?” That’s a very specific and very interesting choice of words. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sister Andrea knows more than she is letting on. She’s certainly a force for good, but her phrasing appears to set up a major showdown by the end of the season.

We may actually be getting some significant conflict between Kristen, David and Ben regarding this device. David, pending his showdown with Leland with Sister Andrea, is vehemently against the device and the damage it can do to people, especially when it shows them Hell. Bishop Marx is having none of it, countering that visions of Hell bringing people into the fold is no less of a valid form of faith. Ben is torn, but his vision has definitely caused him to confront where he shed his beliefs and whether or not this is a good thing for him. Kristen, surprisingly, is all for it. Her enthusiasm, especially given her reluctance at the beginning of the episode, could very well be the beginning of her official attempts to derail David’s path to priesthood.

Kristen and David talk in the university hallway.

Evil S2E8 concludes with an explanation for the cross-shaped burn marks Andy found on Kristen’s abdomen: she’s been taking the rosary—the one in the bathroom that burned her hand in the Season 1 finale—and heating the crucifix over a stovetop to burn herself with it. So if Kristen is manually heating the rosary to harm herself, does that mean that the burn from last season’s finale was also, as Ben suggested, a chemical reaction as opposed to a spiritual one? Is Kristen simply beginning to fall apart from stress without demonic influence? If that’s the case, what about the djinn? And where’s that guy been anyway?

“B Is for Brain” is a terrific episode that brings us back to the main elements of the show, and is one of the best of the season so far. Like a lot of the first season, the relationship between psychology and religion is one of the driving themes of the episode, and there are some extremely juicy developments for each main character. We’ve got five episodes left in the season, and it looks like the pieces are starting for fall into place for some big things to happen soon.

Written by Hawk Ripjaw

Hawk Ripjaw has been sharing his opinion on film and TV since his early teens, when the local public library gave away prizes for submissions to their newsletter. Since then, he's been writing for local newspapers, international video game sites, booze-themed movie websites, and anywhere else he can throw around some media passion. He watched the Mike Myers Cat in the Hat movie over 50 times in two years, for science.

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