Each week Joe (@bstolemyremote) and Terry (@gaylydreadful) discuss the most recent episode of Apple TV’s Servant, alternating between our respective sites — queerhorrormovies.com and gaylydreadful.com.
Episode 1.05 “Cricket”: With Dorothy and Sean gone for the day, Leanne makes a new friend.
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Another week, another mystery, Terry. For the first time in Servant’s history, we get an episode from Leanne (Nell Tiger Free)’s point of view as “Cricket” takes us through a few days in the life of Philadelphia’s most mysterious nanny.
And what an eventful few days they are!
While once again this episode doesn’t do a great deal to advance the plot, I appreciated that there are efforts being made by the show’s creative team to shed light on what staying in this house is like for the other half. So much screen time has been dedicated to Sean (Toby Kebbell) and Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose)’s perspective, that I’ve frequently wondered what it must be like to live in that gorgeous, albeit oppressive house with them.
In that regard, “Cricket” does offer us some insight, though like most episodes, Leanne keeps things pretty close to the vest. I’m not sure that we learn much more about her because Leanne barely reacts, even when the oddness factor is cracked up several more notches. Like, in this episode alone, Leanne discovers that a strange man – Phillip James Brannon’s Roscoe – is spying on her and sneaking into the house using the Turner’s alarm code and that Dorothy’s brother Julian (Rupert Grint) has literally paid a woman to pose as another nanny in order to dig up dirt on her. And yet Leanne remains as cool as a cucumber throughout…mostly.
Since the audience is aligned with Leanne, there’s a lot more mystery to how the episode unfolds. Initially it seems like there is something fishy going on because the front door is ajar when she returns from a trip out. And she hears the sounds of people moving around. And the woman that befriends her, Wanda (S.J. Son), isn’t actually the nanny of the neighbour. A lot of it verges on predictable because we know from “Eel” that Roscoe is on the case and surveilling Leanne, so I found myself paying more attention to how Leanne reacts to each new piece of subterfuge.
The most fascinating moment is how cool and calm and collected Leanne is when Wanda’s charge, Olivia (Justyna Perkowski) goes into anaphylactic shock. Obviously she intended for this to happen, but for her to simply stand at the window, with her back to the scene of a child’s struggle and Wanda’s hysteria…well let’s just say that I’m not sure Leanne is someone anyone should be messing around with. This scene is also surprisingly confessional, as Leanne let’s slip (mostly to herself) how bothered she is by Dorothy’s ploy with the cake to get Leanne out of the house and how baby Jericho cries more when his mother is home. This whole time I’ve thought that Servant was building to a Sean vs Leanne confrontation, but I feel like Dorothy is Leanne’s actual nemesis, if only because Leanne considers her a bad mother. I didn’t see that coming!
So Terry, what did you make of this Leanne-centric episode? Are you surprised that Dorothy is the Turner who is stepping out on the marriage? And how did you interpret the recurring cricket motif: symbolic of Leanne’s witchy powers or Tell-Tale Heart style haunting?
Joe, I absolutely loved this episode. So much that I watched it twice. Well, I watched it twice partially because I loved it so much but also because I’m still a little confused. Did I miss something about Dorothy having an affair? I completely didn’t read it that way and now I’m curious…so you’ll have to elaborate on that for me. But what I did find was a fantastically paced slowburn of paranoia that actually–and surprisingly–warmed Leanne up a bit for me. It’s the first time that I actually felt like she was a real person and one that I cared about.
I do think we learn a bit more about Leanne this episode and what I saw was fascinating:
She Doesn’t Know History
While making small talk with the not-nanny Wanda, she cringe-inducingly tries to talk about her interest in visiting Asian countries. But that’s not the most interesting part. It’s the way she brings up the Hiroshima bombing: “Did you know a whole city was wiped out by a bomb?” The way she touts this tidbit as if it’s not common knowledge has me wondering about her upbringing. Was she part of a cult? Did she run away from this cult and that’s why she’s here with the Turners?
Her Bible Seems to Have Powers
We got pretty concrete confirmation that she has some sort of supernatural abilities. When she discovers that Dorothy only sent her out to get cake to have some sexy time with Sean, she immediately goes to her Bible–Samuel 20:1, by the way…which means nothing to me but might be symbolic?–and writes Dorothy’s name on the edge of the paper. The next morning? She has a cold sore, something Dorothy always believed she could never get.
Ditto the next night, when Leanne tries to dress Jericho in a onesie she discovered, dirty and crumbled, in the basement only to have Sean angrily rip it away. She writes his name in the book and the next day, he’s assaulted by splinters. It makes me wonder if there’s a deeper meaning behind the splinter because it seems like the Herpes/cold sore curse fits the “crime” of Dorothy sending Leanne out in the rain simply to have sex.
Her Cool Facade is a Lie
One of the most fascinating things for me this episode was how we got to see Leanne’s cool exterior crack. This episode was quite a showcase for Nell Tiger Free’s physical acting. When she realizes, for instance, that Julian (and, in her mind, Sean) has replaced her tomato soup with dog food, her face is a mixture of barely concealed rage and anger, but also frustration and sadness. After an episode filled with the pranks and sanity-pushing tricks that brought to mind the meanness of Sleep Tight, Leanne looked ready to snap…and I can’t blame her.
Joe, I’m starting to see the last few episode titles as ways in which Leanne has been tormented. We get the meanness of the Eel degloving, the nanny cam spying of Bear and now the sanity-destroying nature of the Crickets pranks. But what about you? I’m curious why you think Dorothy is stepping out on Sean. Did you feel for Leanne like I did? What did you make of the self-flagellation at the end? Do you think she brought that cricket back to life?
Oh I ABSOLUTELY believe that she brought that creepy critter back to life! Yes, there’s something powerful about her faith; I took Dorothy and Sean’s afflictions to be the result not just of writing their names next to corresponding passages in the Bible, but rather in conjunction with the worship that follows. The visual evidence at the end of the episode – what once was dead is now alive again – confirms that Leanne is, in fact, responsible for baby Jericho’s conversion from doll to live baby.
Now, do these powers correspond to her escape from Wisconsin (which comes up again in conversation in this episode)? Your questioning about escape from a cult, plus this confirmation of her abilities, could be a vital clue as we move into the back half of the season.
As for engendering sympathy for Leanne? Yes…a little? She’s still a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but this insight into her is very much appreciated at this point in the season because we do know so little about her. I hope it continues.
But back to the real topic of the hour: I can’t believe that you DON’T think Dorothy is stepping out. To me, Dorothy’s indignant response when Leanne reassured her that Sean isn’t having an affair is a minor tip-off. Plus the fact that we know Sean will be “gone” most of the week AND the fact that whomever Dorothy is with is never seen, I just assumed that Dorothy paid Leanne to get her out so that she could sneak a gentleman caller in. In hindsight there are plenty of gaps in my theory, but for now I feel certain that there’s a secret affair haunting these halls.
Back to you, Terry, have I convinced you that Dorothy is a big ol’cheater? Do you have any theories about the onesie (aside from the obvious)? And, as always, where do we go from here?
Wow, Joe. I didn’t know you had such a suspicious mind! I can’t completely say I agree, but you do build an interesting case for infidelity. I think the problem is a twofer, for me. The show plays weird with time, so it’s hard to judge how much time passes through the episode. I took the “he’d be gone most of the week” as he was selling his skills and expertise to restaurants in town and needed the car. We do see him a couple times in the episode, so he is, in fact, still in town. I would assume that means he would be home when Dorothy was moaning and groaning.
But you do raise an interesting point: we don’t see who Dorothy is having sexy time with. In a show that hasn’t shied away from sexuality, it is an interesting omission. Additionally, it would tie into Leanne’s social misunderstandings in “Crickets.”
The first misunderstanding occurs when Leanne lashes out at Sean because of the way he rips the onesie away. Sean is probably afraid that seeing the onesie will trigger Dorothy’s catatonia (or…more insidiously, maybe her recollection of what really happened to Jericho?), but Leanne doesn’t know that; she just sees him reacting with malice. Then when he ends the episode by telling her, “Couldn’t do this without you,” she sees a different side of Sean and, consequently, self-flagellates herself in penance.
Likewise, she is so incredibly angry that Dorothy lied to her about wanting cake when Dorothy could have just as easily asked Leanne to leave. Neither Sean nor Dorothy have shown any compunction in ordering her around, so it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary to simply ask her to leave…but if the reason is that Dorothy didn’t want to get caught in flagrante delicto with a paramour…
Ok, Joe. You’ve convinced me. She’s getting some vitamin D on the side. Maybe we’ll discover her supplier when we go back to Gayly Dreadful for next week’s episode “Rain.”