This episode of Strange Angel opens on a late 1920s party – I have a minor obsession with the 1920s right now to be honest – and it’s a memory of when Jack Parsons (Jack Reynor) courted Susan (Bella Heathcote). He made a lot of promises about how awesome their life would be. It’s Susan’s memory. She’s rereading an old letter from Jack. Jack finds her looking at “their star” from the letter, and sees the check from Virgil. She’s holding on to it. He tells her the team’s going great. It’s nice to have people working for him for change.
Susan is at church, in her choir robe, taking the sacrament of communion. Later at a church pancake breakfast everyone is talking about how vice is everywhere and the “city of angels” is run by the devil. Don’t listen to gossip, Virgil says. Susan’s annoying younger sister uses about half the syrup in the jug and Susan’s mother limits Susan to just a little bit. needs to stop hanging out with her family. They’re jerks.
The phonograph skips so Susan goes to change it. She offers to get a new one, but the priest just wants her to get the same old one. It’s familiar and comfortable. Virgil asks why she hasn’t cashed the check. Susan can work extra hours to repay him. Virgil expresses surprise that Jack doesn’t think they need the money, and Susan says the position at Caltech has come through. He gives Susan the money for the record so she doesn’t spend money she doesn’t have. She decides to walk home, but instead she goes to the record store to listen to records and buy the same old record. While she’s in the preview booth, strange neighbor Ernest Donovan (Rupert Friend) comes into the shop. Of course Ernest is a massive weirdo about it, but then so is Susan, who runs out of the store. Ernest goes to see what she’s listening to. It’s Stravinsky. He listens instead.
At the lab, Jack’s doing chemical experiments and making a lot of noise while the Rich (Peter Mark Kendall) and Chung (Keye Chen) do the math. He’s trying fuel combinations and testing how much energy they create. He knows the chemicals by smell and taste, since they aren’t labeled. He asks Samson (Zack Pearlman) how he got into fluid dynamics. Samson’s dad is in oil and made him work on the rigs every summer. Rich wants him to stop the tests but Jack says they need to do full scale tests because the release of energy isn’t linear. Jack wants Samson to back him up because he’s got real work experience. Jack’s frustrated because they aren’t exploring all avenues.
Cut to Susan at home, chopping carrots. Ernest is playing the Stravinsky really loudly so she can hear it. She follows the sound outside to look at the party Ernest is having in the back yard. Ernest asks her what she thinks of the music and tells her he bought it for the party because he saw her in the store. Susan says it’s a coincidence. But Ernest says that there are no coincidences. He wants her to stay at the party since Jack’s not home and there’s no reason to leave. He thanks her for showing him something he wouldn’t have found on his own.
Jack and Rich come home for dinner. The party is still going on. Jack tells Rich loud parties are the least of it. Susan tells Rich that she hopes Jack thanked him for the position at Caltech. Rich is confused but backs Jack up. Jack says they all have stipends but he had to tell Susan that when the funding comes through he’ll have to be paid. He doesn’t want to work in a chemical factory for the rest of his life. Rich wants to work on the fuel section on paper, not just in experiments, if they are serious about getting funded.
Ernest’s party seems like a kind of early beatnik party. Susan is playing solitaire and listening to the party and opens a window, the better to hear. You can see she’s really conflicted and wants to go. Rich and Jack are working on the science in the shed. Ernest stops by to borrow chemicals to start a fire. He’s messing around with the bottles on Jack’s shelves. Jack makes a fireball in Ernest’s face. For the first time Ernest looks surprised by Jack, and leaves. Jack tells Rich, “I told you he was off his rocker.”
Rich wants to figure it all out on paper, and Jack should be patient. But Jack’s worried his marriage will be over if they don’t speed it up. He’s asking as a friend to do large scale chemical tests. Rich caves, and asks Jack where they’re going to get the chemicals.
Cut scene to Jack at work. He’s watching the loading docks at the plant where he works.
Chung doesn’t want to run large scale tests. He’s worried about being forced to go back to the war against the Japanese, if the faculty won’t approve his visa extension. Chung leaves, and Samson has to decide. He leaves with his friend. It’s just Jack and Rich, as always.
Susan arrives home after work and finds the Stravinsky on her doorstep. She plays it. (My cat, Loki, literally woke up to look around when it came on. The Rites of Spring is a beautiful piece of composing. Loki has refined tastes.) While it plays, Jack steals the chemicals he needs, with Rich, who has been told they are just discarding old chemicals. Rich goes along with it but you can tell he’s uneasy about it. Jack tells Rich to admit he’s having fun and Rich says, “Sure, what’s not to love about grand larceny.” Jack’s glad Caltech hasn’t completely stamped out the Rich he knows and loves.
Back on campus Samson meets up. He can’t contribute until the fuel is worked out and he’s sick of being on the sidelines. He helps them sneak the chemicals on via the tunnels under campus. They’re lucky that the barrels didn’t rupture when it was dropped down the stairs since they would burn like whoa. Anyway, they sneak them on in a fairly comic scene. Chung is there when they get to the lab. They get to the lab and some of the chemicals were burning.
Cut scene to the students and Jack up in front of a disciplinary board, mostly, it seems, because they frakked up the grass while rolling chemicals across it. Rich takes the blame for the idea. Running full blown tests was the only way to get the data they needed. Even Chung says that he understood the necessity even though he didn’t take part. The professors don’t like Jack’s influence. The trail of dead grass basically led directly to them. Jack thanks the team for backing him up. Mesulam (Rade Serbedzija) comes to give them the news: the committee has decided not to terminate the project. They’re on probation instead. Mesulam is pretty angry at the position that Jack put him in, and he says that the written proposal must impress or the project is over. Jack is visibly worried.
Rich tells Jack to tell Susan the truth. She’ll understand. Jack takes the check from Susan’s box, and, apparently, cashes it. Susan only finds out when Virgil confronts her about working late. Susan is leaving on time and Virgil wants her to start working the extra hours to pay off the loan. Virgil is proud of her for convincing Jack. Susan doesn’t say a word.
Susan gets home very late. She’s upset. Jack is on the porch, with her box of letters. She confronts him about the check. Jack says that they’ve had a setback at Caltech and that he knew she was worried about the mortgage. She tries to take her letters and they are blown across the driveway. Susan is furious. That’s not what she’s been worried about at all. She’s angry he deposited it without even talking about it. She wanted Jack to tell her to rip up the check. Susan hates working for Virgil and needs to know if Jack will have a position or he does have a position. She wants Jack to take her away from him. Every penny they take sinks her in deeper. She’s really worried about the dream.
Ernest interrupts the fight to invite them to his group meeting. “If you want something bad enough the world finds a way to give it to you,” like the record Susan wanted. He says to come see what the group is. “Come or don’t come,” he says, and then says “I have made a secret door into the house of Ra and Tum.” Jack and Susan decide to go. Jack is surprised at Susan’s change of mind. They will find out together if this will help. Jack says the people are strange, and be ready. They knock on the door. Susan figures out they need to give the password that Ernest gave them.
The doorman won’t answer any questions but calls someone to say the Parsons are there. The clock chimes midnight and he rises and leads them upstairs. They pass a painting of Alastair Crowley, infamous early twentieth century occultist. They enter through a door marked with a pentacle into an attic. Susan leaves with another woman, who says they have a place for her. Ernest finds Jack and tell him not to worry. The priest and the goddess, in a ghost of the sacrament, administer blessings and a drink of wine (probably wine, right??).
The priest says he’s the giver of life, the flame of knowledge, etc. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” A nude woman is making some kind of offering. Susan freaks out and runs out. She wants to go home – it was more than strange, it was sick. Susan thinks Jack would have stayed. Susan plays a record, but it’s not the Stravinsky. Jack worries about Susan but he can’t stop thinking about what the priest said. “The man of will breaks all boundaries.”
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