We are over halfway through Netflix’s fourth season of Stranger Things. Well, at least the first volume of it, that is. Matt and Ross Duffer have proven that they know how to tell a terrific story and that they have no plans of slowing down. We’ve finally hit a point in the season where we are starting to get more answers about what might happen. In “Chapter Five: The Nina Project,” the Hawkins kids try to find clues on how Vecna is connected to the Creel House while El (Millie Bobby Brown) heads off to Nevada to confront her past. Let’s see if this episode provides any real answers!

DISCLAIMER: This is a recap and, by definition, contains spoilers. More spoilers than times Will (Noah Schnapp) will ask to play D&D. So; we highly suggest checking out season four first and then coming back and catching up with our recaps!

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“Chapter Five: The Nina Project” opens with Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Argyle (Eduardo Franco), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will and the injured agent (Ira Amyx) racing through the desert. Jonathan needs to get them to a hospital, but the guy tells them not to. They need to warn Dr. Sam (Paul Reiser) and El before it’s too late. He tries to give them a number but dies before he can write it down. To make things worse, a car is chasing them and sends them off the road. Back at the house, LT. Col. Sullivan (Sherman Augustus) is ransacking the place when he finds El’s note to Mike. He knows that she is definitely alive and heads off to question the other agent.

We jump to El, who is still in the car but heading off-road towards their destination. They finally reach their destination, a shed-looking building. But it is much more than that. The elevator takes them down to an underground facility. The building was repurposed with the intention of holding her in case anything were to happen. Everyone working there has given up everything to be there because they believe in her.

But this isn’t the only surprise that El gets. Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) is back. He thinks he understands why her powers were taken and wants to work alongside her. But El has other plans. She takes off running. But without her powers, she isn’t able to fight off the guards, and they eventually knock her out with a tranq needle.

It’s opening credits time. Get those Hopper (David Harbour) shimmies going.

“Chapter Five: The Nina Project” returns to Alaska, where Hopper is beaten before being tossed back into a cell alongside “Enzo” (Tom Wlaschiha). Hopper isn’t happy to see him in there with him. A few punches get thrown, but Hopper doesn’t give in to the peer pressure to kill Enzo and goes and sulks on the otherside of the cell. All Hopper cares about is Joyce (Winona Ryder). And what is she up to? Well, she and Murray (Brett Gelman) are tied up and getting thrown into Yuri’s (Nikola Djuricko) plane so they can return with him to the Motherland.

Back in Hawkins’, two fishermen spot the door at Reefer Rick’s banging. They think he is out of jail, but really, it’s Eddie (Joseph Quinn) inside making dinner. He reaches out to Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) with the radio they left him to try and get them to bring over food and beer. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) wakes up and gets the call. She finds everyone else sleeping and Max (Sadie Sink) missing. Dustin was supposed to be on Max watch and fell asleep.

Eddie reaching out to the others by radio for more food and supplies.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

Thankfully they find her upstairs coloring and listening to music. Max can’t describe what she saw, so she is drawing it. Nancy realizes that the pieces of this house from Vecna’s realm is the Creel House in theirs. Max might have also found a way into Vecna’s mind too. They need to get to Creel House and figure out if there are any clues that can help them find a way to defeat him.

“Chapter Five: The Nina Project” shifts back to El, who awakens in what looks suspiciously like the Hawkins Lab. Her head is shaved, and we can hear children laughing in the distance. She heads off to investigate and ends up in the Rainbow Room with all the other children. Before she can ask any questions, an orderly (Jamie Campbell Bower) arrives. She tries to ask him if she is back in Hawkins, and the lights begin to flicker and go out. When they come back on, the scene replays with the orderly coming back into the room and addressing her.

This time she tries to leave the Rainbow Room only to find herself back in it and facing the same orderly saying the same things. We think it’s pretty clear that El isn’t in Hawkins. But where is she? Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long to learn that she is under an experiment. Dr. Sam is worried that they should have warned her before throwing her in, but Dr. Brenner seems to have more faith in her. Or isn’t concerned with hurting her.

We shift back to California, where Jonathan and the guys bury the agent’s body. Poor Argyle isn’t taking things well, but we all know that a little purple palm tree delight will make it all better. For now, at least. Argyle’s reaction is exactly what mine would look like if I found myself in this world. After the digging is done, Mike and Will have another heart-to-heart about being scared over being open with friends and family. It’s clear that Will is hiding some secrets of his own, and we wonder what exactly they might be.

While they chat, Argyle is making a headstone out of pizza boxes for the hero agent man, but the pen won’t work. Mike is confused why the guy would give them a pen to write with that didn’t work. He realizes that there must be something about the pen. And he would be right. Inside they find a note with a number on it.

Back in Alaska, some of the prisoners are cleaning up blood and a hand…because that isn’t ominous while Enzo tries to get answers from another guard. He is willing to pay him to get him out, but it looks like Enzo is on his own since Hopper has given up the will to live. Hopper is having a bit of a crisis. He feels like the more he pulls Joyce in, the more danger she gets in. He shares with Enzo about his past. How he went into the military, the side effects of Agent Orange, what happened with his ex-wife and daughter and how he is the true curse. We want to give Hopper a big hug right now. A really big hug. Curses aside, the growl we were from within the prison is something that is most likely going to kill them.

Enzo and Hopper talking about Hopper's past while sitting in a prison cell.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

“Chapter Five: The Nina Project” returns to Hawkins as Dr. Sam’s agents arrive at Wayne Munson’s (Joel Stoffer) trailer. They spot the crack in the ceiling and decide that he needs to lead elsewhere. No real explanation why. Just that he needs to go. Elsewhere in town, Jason (Mason Dye) and the others attend Chrissy’s (Grace Van Dien) funeral. Patrick (Myles Truitt) is still seeing visions of the clock. Afterward, Jason meets with the other basketball members with pictures from this year’s yearbook. They figure out that Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) has lied about his connection.

They have a list of places to search on their Eddie Hunt, and one of the guys mentions that Reefer Rick is home from prison. There might be a chance that Eddie is hanging out there. Jason adds it to the list. If you pause at the right time, you can see that they have drama class and AV closet listed among the places. Because yes, Eddie has been hiding in the AV closet at the elementary school this whole time.

Steve (Joe Keery) and the crew arrive at the Creel House, and it is even creepier than we imagined it. Robin (Maya Hawke) makes quick work of the locks, and they head in to investigate. Max spots the clock first, the one that keeps appearing in people’s dreams. But maybe it has some connection to Vecna. The true dream team, Robin and Nancy, head upstairs while Max and Lucas check the ground floor leaving Steve and Dustin to wander around together. Their bromance is a bit on edge, so we need them to spend more time together and fix it. Also, lights flickering never means anything good.

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Inside Yuri’s plane somewhere between Alaska and Russia, Murray has to pee. And any inconvenience to Murray is everyone’s problem. But Yuri can’t hear him screaming at him, and Joyce realizes that Yuri must be deaf or at least hard of hearing. She knocks over a box of peanut butter and tries to get Murray to use a shard from a broken container to cut her binds. But he is more worried about what will happen if they do that. He has never fought in a real-life situation. But this one time, he beat Jeremiah, and that is all the motivation he needs to get ready to kick some Yuri tush.

“Chapter Five: The Nina Project” returns to El as she runs through the halls of Hawkins Lab. No matter what door she enters, she always finds herself back in the Rainbow Room. But El is smarter than this, and she uncovers what is happening. Her reflection is of a much younger self (Martie Blair), and she realizes that she is replaying her memories. Dr. Brenner confirms her suspicions. This is how he plans on helping her get her powers back. He needs her to remember what happened and find her own way out.

When she responds correctly to the simulation, it continues instead of restarting. This prompts the memory to continue, and we watch as Dr. Brenner leads the children off to their next training exercise. But even though El is doing well, Dr. Sam needs her to do much better. Things are not looking good back in Hawkins.

In California, Mike and the guys finally find a payphone and try to dial the number they found. But it isn’t a phone. It’s the number for a computer. They know a hacker, but they will have to drive to Salt Lake City to get to her. Dustybuns lady is going to have to help them save the world a second time. But maybe they won’t have to sing that song again. I just finally got it out of my head.

Will realizing that they are going to need to visit Suzie while standing behind the pizza truck with Jonathan, Mike and Argyle.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

Back in Hawkins, Eddie is left trying to entertain himself when Jason and the other show up at Reefer Rick’s house. He stays hidden in the shed, but the guys aren’t going to stop until they find him. Eddie tries to reach out to Dustin and the guys, but they left the radio on the first floor of Creel House.

Speaking of Creel House. It is as creepy and dusty and currently full of one annoyed Steve Harrington. I need whatever is happening between him and Dustin to pass so, they can get back to being awesome. Steve finds some spider jars in a floor vent, and then one starts to crawl up him. He freaks out, rushes out of the room, and runs into Nancy. She helps calm him down until Robin makes it worse by telling him he won’t find the spider till the eggs hatch.

There is a short moment where Steve tells Nancy that he and Robin are not dating. Platonic friends with a capital “P.” He would date her, but they are just friends. Again, Steve being the true friend here and not outing Robin before she is ready. Steve misquoting Sherlock Holmes for Nancy is adorable, but we got more important things to handle.

Downstairs, Lucas and Max continue their hunt while Max jams out to Kate Bush. Lucas is forever a Kate Bush fan now that she is the sole reason Max is alive. I love that Max is opening back up to Lucas and that whatever tension has been brewing between them is starting to settle. Max has a lot to unpack, but it’s easier with people by her side. The moment is broken up when she spots a light freaking out. Whatever is happening seems to be moving from light to light. As if someone is moving through the house.

“Chapter Five: The Nina Project” returns to El in the simulation. The kids are practicing moving lights around a circle. El is sent to follow up 002 (Tristan Spohn) but struggles to get the light to even work. The other kids make fun of her, and we see that El is the odd one out. Dr. Brenner of the past gives her some words of wisdom, and El manages to get the bulb lit. But she still isn’t able to make it move.

El ends up with a nosebleed, but when she goes to wipe it, her hands are covered in blood. She turns to find the room empty. As she makes her way through Hawkins Lab, we see the same vision we saw back in episode one. Blood everywhere, her siblings dead around her. When they realize that El is heading into cardiac arrest, Dr. Sam forces them to pull her out.

El in the Project Nina finding her hands completely covered in blood.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

On Yuri’s plane, he realizes that Joyce and Murray are trying to break free. A fight breaks out, and after some quick thinking, some sweet moves from Murray and Joyce getting her hand on Yuri’s gun, Yuri is knocked out. Except now, who is supposed to fly the plane?! Those finger arrows aren’t going to save them from crashing into the cold, snowy Motherland.

Back in Hawkins, everyone is crowded around a light. Nancy realizes that the light is similar to how Joyce used the Christmas lights back in season one. This must mean that Vecna is in the house but in the Upside Down version of it. Nancy realizes that they can use the flashlights to track where Vecna is moving. Eventually, they can use this technique to figure out where he is going, leading them to the attic. Leave it to Dustin to be the only one worried about this being a trap.

At Reefer Rick’s, Jason forces the guys to keep looking before he spots the boat shed. Eddie continues to try and get a hold of them before taking the boat out onto the water. Jason grabs Patrick, and they head outside and spot Eddie as he is trying to reach the center of the lake. They both rush in after him while Eddie tries to getaway.

Back at the Creel House, the group finds that the attic is definitely the hot spot for Vecna. As they stand around, their flashlights all begin to glow. It increases in brightness as the room flips, and we are transported to the Upside Down, where Vecna has attached himself to these tentacles.

We quickly flip back and forth between Creel House and the lake where Jason and Patrick swim after Eddie. Patrick is eventually dragged down before being thrown into the air and claimed as another of Vecna’s victims while Jason and Eddie watch on. At the same time this happens, the flashlights at Creel House all explode.

“Chapter Five: The Nina Project” comes to an end as El reawakens. She hits Dr. Brenner before rushing off. This time when the guards try to attack her, she is able to use a little bit of her power to blow them all away from her. But that little power is now gone again. Dr. Brenner arrives to collect her and explains that she will never get her power back without continuing this journey.

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El’s journey this season is going to break our hearts. We knew we would have to deal with her past, especially after witnessing the flashback in episode one. But how much more can she take? She is struggling to see herself as more than a monster, and now that she is reliving her past, will she be able to move forward? Will all of this be worth it just to get her powers back? That is, if this even works and she does get them back. We only hope for the best for sweet El. She needs a real spring break trip after all of this.

El isn’t the only one who seems to be having it rough this season. Max appears to be safe for now, thanks to Kate Bush, but how will they beat him without knowing more about Vecna? The investigation of Creel House seems to be providing some answers, but will they be able to take out a creature of the Upside Down without the help of El? And will Joyce and Murray be okay? Can they find a way to reach Hopper? Because we have a feeling that the fate that awaits him isn’t going to be a pleasant one.

Shake a leg, folks; it’s time to dive into the next episode!

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Julia Roth
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