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Stranger Things 3 - Episode 3: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard

July 19, 2019

 

     Max and El are hanging out in El's room back at the Cabin where Max introduces El to 80s teen heartthrob Ralph Machio, AKA the Karate Kid. Again, it's nice to see Eleven being able to just be a normal girl. Even though El speaks even more than ever before, Millie Bobbie Brown still does a lot of acting solely with her facial expressions, not an easy feat, and she pulls of a real subtle one here. Max asks El if Mike is a good kisser, Eleven says she doesn't know because he's her first boyfriend. When Max insists "ex-boyfriend," El gets this look on her face that makes it clear she's actually still kind of upset about it. Max convinces Eleven to spy on the boys, who are complaining about their girlfriend while acting exactly like teenage boys. New Coke and Doritos are all over the table, complete with the classic logos. Will still wants to play D&D, but Mike and Lucas aren't interested.

     Hopper arrives home, drunk and in a bad mood. When he hears the stereo he immediately assumes Mike is there. He angrily opens Eleven's door (THREE INCHES) only to find Max over. He quickly cheers up and leaves the girls alone. Again, it's meant to be funny, but to me it wasn't. Drunk and angry, the way he bursts into El's room is worrisome. For one, it's a major invasion of privacy, but more disturbing is that he thought Mike was there, and there's a good chance he would've gotten violent with Mike had that been the case.

     The girls play spin the bottle, but instead of kissing someone, it's for who to spy on. They land on Billy. El finds Billy kneeling over Heather, telling her it will be over soon. Billy turns around, sensing El. Eleven pulls her blindfold off. Cue opening credits.

It's raining, and clueless Ted Wheeler is mowing the lawn, something I missed the first time around. Will, in full Wizard get up, wakes up Mike and Lucas and declares a day "Free of Girls," so they can finally play D&D. Mike and Lucas are still not interested.

     A hungover Hopper wakes up when Joyce comes knocking on the door. Joyce comes to explain the magnets, but Hopper is obsessed with being stood up and doesn't react well, especially when Joyce mentions Scott Clarke. "Is he single, too?" Hopper angrily asks. For the record, the answer is no. We found out in Season 1 he has a rather attractive girlfriend. Joyce brings up her theory about a giant machine and that she thinks it's the lab again, she wants to go back. Hopper angrily rants again. He's acting like an abusive boyfriend, and they aren't even an item. However, when Joyce takes the wire cutters, Hopper is all but forced to come along.

     Max and Eleven are on the way to Max's house, El is disturbed about the girl and the screams. Max thinks it's nothing, saying girls often scream with Billy. It becomes hilariously awkward when she tries to explain orgasms to Eleven, who doesn't understand it at all. The girls sneak into Billy's room and finding nothing but some Penthouse magazines. However, in the bathroom they find the tub full of melted ice water. Blood on the cabinet door under the sink leads them a lifeguard pack and a bloody whistle.

     At the Hawkins Post, Nancy shows the pictures to the newspaper club and tries to convince them of her story, it doesn't work.

     At the mall, Robin is still working on the Russian translation. Erica tries to score some free samples, but Robin isn't having it and puts her foot down. Meanwhile, Steve and Dustin are on the lookout for evil Russians "tall, blonde, not smiling." While on their stake out, they talk girls, Dustin tries to push Steve towards Robin. Their back and forth is both adorable and hilarious.

     At the Wheeler's, Will has the campaign going, Mike and Lucas are not interested in the slightest. It's funny, but you feel bad for Will. It leads to a nasty argument. When Mike says, "It's not my fault you don't like girls," Will becomes more upset and Mike instantly regrets saying it. Will angrily leaves, biking home in the rain. Now there are several ways this scene can be read. A popular fan theory is that Will is gay, which is certainly a possibility, this feels like the heaviest hint so far. But it's also possible Will is simply trying to hold onto the childhood that was stolen from him as desperately as he can, which is personally what I think is most likely. Although I suppose there's no reason it couldn't be both as well. Noah Schnapp, Will's actor, has said its up to interpretation. 

     Max and Eleven bring the items they found to the pool and ask the lifeguards who it belongs too. They learn its Heather's and the lifeguards don't know where she is. In the shower room the girls use Eleven's powers to find Heather. Eleven sees a bright red door, inside the door is a bathtub full of ice. Heather pops up and asks for help before being pulled underwater.

Joyce and Hopper return to Hawkins Lab. They begin to search the facility, they don't see the working camera monitor that observes them.

     Back at the mall Dustin and Steve are still on their stakeout when they see a tall blonde, humorless man with a duffel bag. They follow the evil Russian, only to find out he's a Jazzercise instructor. At Scoops Ahoy, Robin receives a delivery from a delivery man. His company, Lynx, has a silver cat logo which gives her an epiphany. Running into the middle of the food court, she manages to break the code.

     At the Hawkins Post, Nancy continues to deal with the sexist jerks who play a prank on her. Nancy decides she needs to get proof, so she and Jonathan head back to Mrs. Driscol's.

     At Hawkins Lab, Joyce and Hopper find nothing. Joyce is still weary, but Hopper opens up and finally says the first sensible thing all season. He tells Joyce that its important she feels safe and that Hawkins can still be her home. This is when he learns Joyce is fixing up her home to have it put on the market. Suddenly they hear a noise, Hopper investigates.

Mike and Lucas bike to Will's home, wanting to make things right, but Will isn't there, he's in Castle Byers, a place he feels safe. He looks at a picture of the party as Ghostbusters and tears it up. He then proceeds to destroy Castle Byers, crying the whole time. It's an absolutely heartbreaking scene.

     Nancy and Jonathan return to Mrs. Driscol. She doesn't answer the door, but its unlocked so they step in. They find her in the basement eating fertilizer. Its insanely gross.

     At the mall, the Scoops Troop watch from the roof as a delivery shipment is made. It seems strange that the guards are armed with submachine guns. Of course, they make a noise and it draws the attention of the guards who speak in Russian. The trio escape just in the nick of time.

     At the lab Hopper is assaulted by Russian Terminator. He lives but Russian Terminator escapes on his motorcycle.

Max and El bike to Heather's house, only to find her (seemingly) fine and having dinner with her parents and Billy. This is also where we learn that Heather's Dad is Tom, Nancy's boss at the paper. Something is clearly off; Billy is acting nicer than he ever does, and calls Max by her full name, Maxine. It's tense scene where something is obviously wrong, but the characters don't know what yet. As Max and El leave, Billy watches them, he remembers El from when she closed the gate. This causes Will to sense him just as Max and Lucas find him. Billy and Heather knock out her parents. Cue credits while "America Pie" plays.

     Another great episode, this is where the season gets noticeably darker. People eating fertilizer, Billy kidnapping people for whatever he's doing, the kids not communicating properly, and a possible Russian invasion. It sticks to the formula of separating the groups and putting each in a different genre. Two of the groups are in a Cold War conspiracy thriller, one is in a horror film, and the other is in a Sci-Fi John Hughes movie. The thing is, it's a formula that works, and while critics seem to be scoffing at it, it's what the fans want. Because the real reason we're here is the same reason so many of us stuck with Game of Thrones until the end, we care about these characters. All of them are interesting and we want to see what happens to them. And since Stranger Things has at least one more season, possibly two, unlike GoT, we might actually get the finale we deserve. 

 

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