The Following Recap: Sex Tapes Can’t Keep the Snooze Away

Plus: Where the Fox show stands with four episodes left this season.

With a title like “Whips and Regret,” safe words, gimp masks and sex tapes, you’d figure this episode of The Following would be exciting (or kinky, at least). Instead, it was the most snooze-worthy chapter yet. Bouncing back and forth between Carroll’s hideout and Ryan and Debra’s sex-club sting, the plot didn’t stir up as much scary tension as we’re used to seeing. It was also, for the most part, fairly plausible. Perhaps that’s the problem—we, like the Followers themselves, have been conditioned, and anything resembling reality is just plain boring. So rather than examine the story itself, which didn’t take us very far, let’s take a look at where the central characters stand as we head into the show’s final four episodes.

All it took was being left for dead by his girlfriend and smothering his best pal/lover to death for Jacob to grow a pair, serial-killery speaking. Now the flunky has been trusted with a coveted job—inviting Claire to dinner and very strongly suggesting that she wears the LBD her ex picked out. Carroll even gave Jacob permission to get physical, as long as he don’t mess with that pretty face. When Emma tries to cozy up to him, Jacob blows her off, making it clear he’s a new man. If only these two could find a way to take each other out simultaneously.

It’s not fair to compare this character to the one that Natalie Zea plays on Justified, but Claire’s annoying one-dimensional role is a writing problem, not a flawed piece of acting. She’s the one-note damsel in distress who makes every bad decision available, from trying to ditch her security detail to willingly giving herself up to Carroll’s henchmen. Since it’s beyond comprehension—even on this show—to think she’d consider getting back with Carroll, Claire is little more than a prop to keep Ryan on the case. Her reunion with Joey won’t change much. Wouldn’t be surprised to see an ill-conceived escape plan in their future.

Roderick proves he’s 100 percent loony tunes by pulling a gun on Vince the Militia Guy, punching the Indian dude in the face for no apparent reason, then having a big crazy laugh about it all. He also risks insubordination by telling Carroll it’s about damn time to “get started.” We don’t know what he’s talking about—perhaps act three of this drama—but Carroll is clearly not in a hurry. Why should he be, considering how inept the FBI is? And how much fun it is to call Ryan from a gigantic ’80s-looking cell phone and mock his alcoholism? Carroll seems to overestimate his  own control—and underestimate Roderick’s insanity—when he slugs his right-hand man. Now, Roderick poses a bigger threat to Carroll than the Feds or Ryan.

Her backstory is more interesting than much of what’s happening in the present day. So why aren’t we getting more? I’m still concerned that Debra is up to no good, as we’ll learn in future flashbacks. She pairs well with Ryan, despite their general ineptitude, and there’s something both sweet and a bit suspicious when she tells him how much she needs him. The night’s only edge-of-your-seat moment comes when the pair heads into the darkness of the armory. That scene is best watched with the lights out; otherwise, you’ll miss the subtle moments in the shadows, like the cult member who lurks over Debra’s shoulder.

Remember him? He’s still recovering from the Follower Fight Club bout he lost. Next week’s preview indicates he’ll return, hopefully with some backstory to flesh out his past. Something tells me that either Mike or Debra aren’t who they seem. Even if I’m wrong—which I hope—one of them is unlikely to make it through the season alive. And since Mike has already cheated death once …

As if Ryan’s luck wasn’t bad enough, it turns out his neighbor, ex-girlfriend and current friend-with-benefits is a nurse from Pittsburgh with a body count bigger than Carroll himself. Why does she still have a key to his place? And why would she only agree to seduce Ryan if she can eventually kill him herself? We don’t see Carroll accepting her terms, but we assume that’s the deal. It’s an odd request, and even odder that Carroll wouldn’t want to take Ryan out himself.

Ryan and Carroll
They should talk on the phone every week. It’s amusing to hear Carroll tell Ryan his drinking problem is a cliché; through Carroll, the show gets to laugh at its own absurdity (no doubt the influence of the show’s creator, Kevin Williamson, who mastered the art of self-aware horror in Scream). Both men reveal a different side as they pursue their goals: Carroll dropping the suave act and putting Roderick in his place, and Ryan using the dominatrix as bait, ignoring her safe word in the hope that Vince would lead them to Carroll. It’s a risky play that mostly works—Ryan guns down two cult members and loses Vince, but finds a jackpot of info that should lead him to his nemesis. Meanwhile, Carroll celebrates the reunion of his family like any other proud husband and father would—by watching Molly’s secret sex cam with Ryan. How naughty! It was a fitting end to an episode that was less risqué than it aimed to be and left us, like Roderick, hoping they’ll hurry up and get to the good stuff soon.